April 01, 2011 — TLC for Your Family #26 – Unschooling Ourselves

TLC for Your Family #26 – Unschooling Ourselves
April 01, 2011


I am so excited for my eldest son! He has found what I believe may be a life-long passion!

Now that I’m clear he has this passion, it makes so much sense to me. I just wish I had seen and responded to it earlier.

That might have happened, if I hadn’t been taught that learning is about out-of-context study of academic topics.

Unschooling books have helped me change my perspective on that.

Yet, my day-to-day choices have often still been based on my deeply ingrained childhood experience of education.

Hence, when my kids have seemed bored, I’ve often encouraged them to sit with me and do “fun” academic things. I’ve often done this rather than offer to help them get farther along on specific projects they’re interested in. That’s been especially true when those projects haven’t seemed “academic enough” to me.

It’s only as I’ve helped my boys expand on their existing interests when they’re bored, that I’ve really realized just how much academic learning there is in everything.

This is what all the unschooling books talk about, but it’s different experiencing it first hand: Everything we can learn through traditional academic study is there in real life, which is why it’s there in schools.

So, we inevitably find whatever academic concepts we need to know in pursuit of our passions. And we learn them with more ease, depth, and retention than we ever could outside of the context of those passions. For information about why that is, see Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes, by Alfie Kohn.

I only wish I hadn’t struggled so long to fully grasp and apply this in our unschooling. It’s struggles like mine that have spawned books with names like, Unschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves, by Alison McKee. [emphasis added]

My only hope is that all of us struggling in this way find patience with, and compassion for ourselves. I’m confident that this kind of patience and compassion can help us gradually and joyfully unlearn our ingrained habits.

And I believe that as we unlearn these habits, we’ll be able to notice and respond to clues about our children’s passions earlier.

In the case of my eldest son, I now realize that the clues pointing to a movie-making passion have been there for years:

  • From as young as 2 years old Keegan’s been routinely recording himself on tape recorders, making up stories and songs.
  • Soon after, he began book writing. Over time he’s created countless characters, about five of which have been long-lasting and the subject of numerous books.
  • Next came pretend-play, as his younger brother aged into a playmate. Their play now features an entire entourage of stuffed animal characters. Each has its own distinct personality and voice. Over time, an entire “Stuffed Animal City” has evolved, with rules, special jobs, and a fully operational market economy, with a bank, stores and restaurant!
  • Next came actual movie making.

Keegan’s interest in movie making actually started about 5 years ago. Around that time he received a simple digital camera as a gift and started using it almost daily. Yet, because at some level I didn’t see his interest as academic enough, it only really took off about 6 months ago, when I started helping him more.

With my help, Keegan now has a YouTube™ channel, filled with Lego™ stop action movies, stuffed animal movies, movies of his books (photographed and narrated), and much more, with more still on the way.

And he has been learning much more about academic subjects than when I was trying to offer those subjects outside of the context of his passions.
For example, he’s been learning how to draft, read, and follow detailed, multi-step directions for making movies. He’s been learning about decimals (to set the length each frame of his stop-action movies stays up). He’s been learning about interfacing with and presenting to a public audience. He’s been learning about organization. And he's been learning about the structure of storytelling – plot, climax, etc.

And that doesn’t get into all the “non-academic” skills he’s been learning, specific to movie making. Nor does it get into all the movie-making and academic skills he’ll learn as he expands the scope of his movie making (with computer animation, for example, which he wants to learn next).

Plus, he loves his life more! He’s so energized now, with my help on his movie making.

And, as I’ve finally given myself over to it, I’ve been amazed at how much more joy and fulfillment I have found in proactively helping my sons expand upon their true passions, rather than spending that time trying to “fit more academic things in.”

If reading this leaves you intrigued with the idea of unschooling, but you are either unable or unwilling to homeschool, I invite you to check out Guerilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School, by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver.

Or, if you’d like to consider full-on unschooling, I propose you start with the book Unschooling: A Lifestyle of Learning, by Sara McGrath.

But whatever you decide, I hope this has been inspiring to you. And, in any event, I wish you and yours “Happy Family-ing!”

Tiffany Clark
Family Communication Instructor
Family Lawyer-Mediator
Family-Life, Parenting and Conflicts Coach

Discover What Might be Possible in Your Family Life!

PLEASE NOTE: The rules governing my profession advise I inform you of the following. Issues of this ezine may periodically contain messages concerning Tiffany L. Clark’s availability for professional employment within the meaning of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400. In any case, no statement in any ezine issue is intended to guarantee any result in any individual case. And neither viewing the information contained in this email, nor communicating with Tiffany, nor attending a talk or workshop series, establishes any duty of confidentiality, mediator-client relationship, coach-client relationship, or attorney-client relationship. These can only be established with a signed client fee agreement for mediation, coaching, or legal services respectively. Please also note that Tiffany is not a psychologist or therapist. Therefore, she is not capable of diagnosing you or any of your family members, or providing any other services only a licensed mental health professional could provide. You are advised to turn to such professionals if you desire such assistance.



You can leave comments by clicking here, leave a trackback at http://www.family-life-possibilities.com/2011/04/01/april-01-2011-tlc-for-your-family-26-unschooling-ourselves/trackback/ or subscibe to the RSS Comments Feed for this post.