Archive | February, 2011

Unschooling is hard and dangerous work

26 Feb

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

I love unschooling. But it is very hard sometimes. So often I want to jump in and try to manipulate the learning process. And every time I do that, learning stalls. It is hard to be patient and let my kids learn what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it.

Just recently my husband was talking to me about Pumpkin and how she needed to start working on her multiplication tables. Sure, she is at the age when they start learning it at school. So we picked up some books at the library and proceeded to instruct her. What a Stonewall Jackson she can be.

“I don’t want to.”

“I already read that book.”

“Why can’t I do [insert any other activity] instead?”

Bah. Headache followed frustration.

And really. Was this all necessary? I just recently talked to her Sunday School teacher. She had nothing but glowing praise for Pumpkin. How much better she was at reading than the other kids. How Pumpkin was able to look up Bible verses without any help, unlike the other kids. And how she noticed that Pumpkin went almost instantly from not reading at all to being almost totally independent.

We had the same frustrations with reading a couple of years ago that we are having with math now. We kept trying to MAKE her read. Kept trying to force it because we were afraid that she was somehow BEHIND. But once we left her alone and backed off, suddenly she started asking about reading books in the older kids section of the library. Suddenly she started talking to us about different books that she had read (that we didn’t even know she was reading!) Suddenly she was asking to look up more information on little tidbits that she had read here and there. (Like “Are there any reptiles that don’t lay eggs?”) Suddenly she was an independent reader. All without any headache, any effort, and distress. She became a reader because she wanted to and because she was ready for it.

This, for me, is the hardest part of unschooling. I want to be involved. I want to do something. I’ve got years of pedagogical experience. Come on! I’m important. You can’t learn without a teacher!

… or can you?

Knowledge is fixed in time, whereas, knowing is continual. Knowledge comes from a sourse, from an accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement.”

“The additive process is merely a cultivation of memory which becomes mechanical. Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.”

~Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Learning a new language?

23 Feb

How do you learn a foreign language when you don’t know anyone who knows the language?

We are getting ready for a big move to Europe. One of the biggest obstacles for travel… and homeschooling… is learning a foreign language.

Our family is learning Czech. It’s not the most common language out there. I don’t know anyone that speaks it. There are no local college courses to learn it. (And I am working on a limited budget, so even if there were classes available, cost would be an issue). So what to do. Rosetta Stone is a very popular program available, but the results are iffy and the cost is steep. So I did some searching and found Byki. They have a free express program that you can download right onto your computer for over 70 different languages. And, of course, upgrading to a paid and more indepth program is available.

They use the typical flashcard method. Very effective and very easy. And it incorporates both reading, writing, and listening. (Speaking if you talk to yourself or other family members out loud!) They have an easy to use special character system that allows you to type in the words using the special characters. So no need to invest in a foreign keyboard or rework your computer. And even though the express program is free it is jam packed with words and phrases. And you also have the option to download more free lists from their server. Very cool.

Once the program is downloaded, you can add other users onto the same computer. So me, my husband, and each of the kids can have their own file on one computer. You go through the list practicing the words and phrases. And it saves all the words you’ve learned. Then, when you go back another day, you can start a new list or review an old list. It is very easy to use. And I like that you are learning to read and write the language as well as speak and hear it. Typing in the correct answer can be a bit of a pain sometimes. For example, “I am will be considered wrong if the program recognizes “I’m”. But with just a few clicks of the mouse you can have the computer remember it, as well as excuse a couple of typos or forgotten punctuation.

They even have a “stale items” list that helps you to stay fresh on words that you don’t use very often. I’ve been really impressed with how easy and effective it is to use. I haven’t purchased the upgraded version as I am still working through the free lists. But I can’t believe how much WOW there is on just the free version.

So if your home schooler is keen to learn a new language, or if you are getting ready to do some traveling, I highly recommond Byki. Even the youngest kids (4 and 5) have been using it.