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Category Archives: Unschooling

Trying to Teach a Child vs. Being a Facilitator of Learning

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When I was doing my teaching degree, we learned that ‘gone are the days of blabbing in front of a classroom of students, whose minds are empty vessels‘. The teacher needs to stop spoon-feeding information. We learned that the better roll of a teacher is to step back and let the students take charge of their learning. Facilitating learning, rather than ‘teaching‘, supposedly makes learning more authentic and more meaningful to students. The students are supposed to become more self-motivated and the learning becomes fun and self directed. It sounds awesome, right?

But, I never really ‘got‘ it. Mostly due to the sheer number of students in my classroom, along with having to meet deadlines and deal with behavior, overcrowding, underfunding and disengaged students. I often found myself standing at the front of the classroom, spewing out content. Exactly what they taught us NOT to do. Even now, at my university job, where we teach the value of being a ‘facilitator of learning‘, I find myself ‘teaching‘ way more than ‘facilitating‘. ‘Teaching‘ takes a lot of energy and makes you feel tired. Read the rest of this entry

“There’s No Skill in Playing Candy Land”

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A few weeks ago, my brother and I were asked by my 5 year old, to play Candy Land. We both sort of rolled our eyes. I used to love playing Candy Land as a kid, but as an adult, we both agreed, Candy Land seems sort of boring because there’s no obvious skill in playing it, from adult’s perspective. You pick a card from a pile and you move ahead or behind according to the card you pick. It’s especially boring because my daughter’s starting to play much more interesting games, but she still asks to play Candy Land. Read the rest of this entry

Go Ahead, Mix Brown

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Who am I to tell you what your creative process should look like?

As a kid, I was probably taught to keep my colors separate. I can’t remember exactly.

I certainly remember being told to color in the lines.

I remember being taught the right way to draw things… and guess what?

I suck at painting and drawing. Suck bad at it. I was a sensitive type, so every time someone would correct my creativity, without me asking for advice, I would get pulled out of the creative process and start to question my ability. I started thinking that I sucked at painting and drawing, so I stopped.

You can paint however you want, sweetie.

It’s just paint.

It’s just paint.

Whatever you create is perfect.

I let your older sister paint brown and draw rubbish.

Now, I love her drawings and paintings. They are so hilarious and unique. She knows how to keep her colors separate and I never had to teach her that. Actually, she yelled at you today because you were messing up her purple.

So go ahead, mix brown, draw scribble and paint squiggles… be my guest.

It’s just paint.

It’s just color.

Whether you learn to keep your colors separate or not, I don’t care. Because keeping colors separate is not as important to me as your confidence.

 

 

 

Home School: The Rolls-Royce of Education

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We overheard this conversation at the beach, just about a week before school holidays were over:

Boy: “Mummy… I don’t want to go back to school! It’s so boring!
Mother: “Now, don’t be silly, when you get back to school, you’re going to be so happy to see all your friends.”
Boy: “I don’t care about my friends, I just want to stay home! I hate school!
Mother: “But, I have to go back to work, you can’t stay home with me!
Boy: “I hate school! It’s so boring, all we do is work work work and we never ever get to play! I don’t want to go to year 1!
Mother: “So, do you want to go back to kindergarten?
Boy: “No!!! I don’t want to go to kindergarten OR go to year 1! I want to stay home with you!Read the rest of this entry

Why I Let My Kids Interrupt My Conversations

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A while back, I read this meme that said, “Stop your child from interrupting in 1 simple (and respectful) step.

I thought, oh wow, great! I mean, it’s so annoying when you’re trying to talk and your kid comes up to you and just HAS to tell you about the most unimportant and irrelevant thing! Ugh!

The method is to simply take the hand of your child when they want to say something and you’re having a conversation. You teach them not to speak until you’re ready, but you still hold their hand, letting them know that you will be available for them shortly. It seemed gentle enough, and I didn’t think it wouldn’t hurt to try it… Read the rest of this entry

The Moment You Realize You’re Way More Unschooly Than You Thought You Were

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Right before we were about to leave to meet twenty people we didn’t know, Margo, 4 2/3 disappears into the bedroom for a few minutes and proudly emerges with black facepaint all over her face. Not like nice pretty color facepaint. Like smeary… black… can-barely-stand-to-look-at-her facepaint. I said, “Oh! You painted your face! Ok, we’re leaving as soon as I get dressed!

My little one, Goldie, 2 1/3, who had been wandering around naked, also disappeared into the bedroom and emerged, showing off her own outfit. Every article of clothing she had on had stripes. Striped shirt. Striped pants that were 3 size too big for her, but functional, as they were not falling down. A mismatched pair of socks, both with stripes. Oh, and a tutu on top. No undies. Read the rest of this entry

Why This School Teacher Thinks Tests Are Really Stupid

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Please tell me of one single job on this entire planet where you would have to recall facts all by yourself, without talking to anyone, without LOOKING at anyone, without the help of resources and without the help of the internet or technology.

That’s right.

There are no such jobs.

Well, if there are, there’s not many. Yet, we make kids sit silently at their desks so they can ‘recall‘ information. How far from reality is that? Read the rest of this entry

How to Unthink a Volcano

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*embarrassing parenting moment alert*

I wasn’t sure what to do with ourselves today, as it was all rainy, until a friend of mine sent a message that it would be a great idea to make home-made volcanos. “Aha! YES!” Now, seeing as I haven’t made homemade volcanos in a while (I’m a high school science teacher), I had forgotten the perfect baking soda to vinegar ration needed to make the best explosion. I quickly googled ‘how to make a volcano’ and a million blog posts and wiki’s came up on how to make one. I instantly felt my mind get overwhelmed.

Oh geez, we have to actually ‘make a volcano’. Look these people have made theirs out of clay… well, we have clay… oh but it will take an hour to dry… and these people made theirs out of newspaper… oh, but then we have to paint it and it has to dry… and these people put yellow and red food colouring in theirs… well, we have red and yellow food colouring. And, what really made it worse, was my chemistry teacher mind started to analyze. I was thinking, a ‘homemade volcano’ doesn’t actually stimulate a volcano at all, with molten lava, it’s really a chemical reaction. So, then, I started thinking at it from a chemist’s point of view… which one is the limiting reagent (meaning which one will stop reacting first), etc. My mind got so caught up in making ‘the perfect volcano experience’ that before I knew it, the kids had started fighting.

I starting getting really mad at them, telling them they needed to stop and in my head I was screaming, “Would you shut the f*ck up, I can’t even think!!!

Then, I stopped.

What was I doing?! My kids are 4 and not even 2! What. The. Hell. They don’t care what their stupid volcano looks like! And, what would they learn if I had gone through all of this trouble to make sure that we made some perfect volcano replica chemistry/art project? What, that I get stressed every time they have to ‘learn’ something?! (My friend who reminded me to make volcanos is probably laughing at me if she’s reading this). Oh, dear me…

So, I got off Pinterest or whatever I was looking at, and asked Margo what sort of container she would like to use. “A CUP!” She exclaimed. Ok, so, I got a cup. I said, “Here’s baking soda and vinegar, let’s see what happens if we put them together.” I also grabbed a big plastic tray to catch any overflow. She poured some vinegar in, then she put the baking soda in and voila! A volcano!

LET’S DO IT AGAIN!!!” She cried. (the little one was scared and only wanted to watch).

Ok.” I said.

We did it again. And again. And again. By the end of it, do you know that she figured out all by herself how to find the perfect ratio of vinegar and baking soda to make the most impressive reaction? Not Pinterest. Not me (the chemistry teacher). It was her, a little four year old, who by trial and error found out how to do a chemistry experiment without me telling her a damn thing. To her, she was practicing her pouring skills and her coordination just to try and not spill anything! Maybe if she were 16 years old, then we could talk about what was really going on. And, if she were really keen, maybe one day she would want to make a volcano out of clay and paint it and pretend that it was real. But, for now, she was just happy to overflow her cup. Over and over again until all the vinegar had been used up.

It’s really amazing what kids can do if us stupid adults, with our preconceived notions of how things should be, can just step out of the way. She had such a blast and her mind was free to come up with her own conclusions based on her observations. Next time she asks to do this experiment, I’ll be sure to buy a much bigger bottle of vinegar!

What This School Teacher Has to Say About Unschooling

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Exactly two years ago, I was happily teaching science in a very respectable high school with intelligent and well behaved students. A colleague friend of mine and I were yapping away during lunch and she told me about this thing called ‘unschooling‘. I’d never heard of it.

You know,” she said, “Like ‘no-schooling‘. Like, the kids don’t go to school, they get homeschooled, but it’s even more radical than that. They can learn whatever they want and whenever they want.

BUT… BUT… WHAT?!?!” I replied… “That’s crazy!!!

Read the rest of this entry

Got Your Knickers in a Twist Over Your Child’s Playtime? Expectations, Learning and Playing.

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Children see no difference between playing and learning, as long as the learning is fun! ‘Fun‘ does not mean things have to be flashy, shiny, loud, expensive or exotic (although they certainly can be). I swear, give a kid a cup and some water and they might play with it for half an hour. This learning while playing thing is not an easy concept for most adults to comprehend because we are so used to making meaning out of an activity. We are used to setting up purpose made activities to encourage a particular outcome. And, often, we feel like every activity must have a purpose, otherwise it’s a waste of time. Adults can get very VERY bent out of shape if our child does not respond well to the task ‘we‘ want them to do. Read the rest of this entry