How much do you steer young unschooled kids towards your own interests if they aren’t yet clear about theirs? Month 4 of Learning at Home

I’m enjoying reading an unschooling blog in New Zealand. Jane recently posted a question in it: How do you know whether unschooling works? I love that she’s very sure of her approach; it gives me a lot of comfort! Jane answers her own question ‘How do you know whether unschooling works?’ because her kids are happy and she feels it likely they will continue to be, into adulthood, because they are having the opportunity to find out about themselves, find their passion/s and  hopefully learn how to live them. “I know so many adults who are searching for their passion, realising that the only thing that does really matter is to be happy.  I meet so many adults who still don’t know what to be when they grow up.  I talk to so many adults who come from a place of fear and won’t chase their dreams in case they fail, or they are too old, or don’t believe they can afford to.


All I see I am doing is giving our children a head start.  They should hit adulthood running.  Becoming adults who know themselves, know what they like to do, trust in their ability to create the life of their dreams.   They won’t be needing to attend workshops and read self help books, they will be showing others and inspiring them to lead a happy and passion-filled life.  Because they already are themselves
.”

I concur.

I made the following comment, “I’m finding my approach/my way based on my son’s happiness barometer (but a little on mine too, if I feel he’s OK with it, I might do something that makes me happy too).” I feel a bit worried about doing this. I worry that I’m steering him in one particular direction when I should be gently guiding him in another, but I honestly don’t know what direction that is, so I feel I have to offer him some direction at age 7. If he showed a particular interest in something, I would certainly encourage and facilitate that.

Jane answered, “I learned a big lesson my first year that unschooling is all about you! And being a great role model for your children by pursuing your passions too. That is a very healthy place to be operating from. Plus you, and your interests are a big part of establishing your family culture, which is unique and wonderful!

This is very interesting. It’s not an idea of read about before, in all the unschooling material I’ve ever read. I hope Jane’s right! I would love to hear what other readers think. With young children, how much steering do you do, if they don’t have a strong interest in anything yet other than e.g. Lego and action figures, which is great, but not all day long! Actually, my son doesn’t want to do this all day long anyway. How much do you steer young unschooled kids towards your own interests if they aren’t yet clear about theirs?

For instance, I am really interested in art history and we’re going to Paris and the Netherlands this month which will be a great opportunity to see a lot of art. So it seemed a great opportunity to ‘study’ some art and then see it for real! I am open-minded about pursuing what art catches the kids’ interest. But at the moment, we’re looking at the obvious ‘favourites’ from the Mona Lisa to Impressionism. It’s all very gently done and the kids are very receptive but aren’t running off to draw their own pictures or anything.

So far I’ve found that the kids listen to a ‘lesson’/discussion and seem interested but don’t play with that interest in their free time – well ‘freer time’ really because all their time is pretty free and not imposed upon. I find this a bit unsettling because I hear so many other homeschooling, especially unschooling stories, of kids playing with their learning in their ‘own’ time too which seems to me to be a sign of real interest. Maybe it’s just early days? Or maybe Edward (and I) aren’t deschooled enough for this to happen. Or maybe I’m not unschooling enough?

As much as I’d love my kids to share my interests, because that’s such a bonding experience, I am totally open to not only supporting their own interests but also getting psyched about them too. All I can say is, with regards to these first months of learning at home, I have the best of intentions. I read. I research. I keep an open mind. I am enthusiastic. I am excited. I am happy. There are a lot of books around. We discuss life all the time. We spend our days together, cuddling and laughing and occasionally working out ways to navigate unhappiness as kindly as possible.

I say again, I have the best of intentions with regards to home educating my kids; to not foist my own expectations on them but to allow them to flourish as their own people. But there are a lot of negative quotes about good intentions, some better known that others (“Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too”, Aldous Huxley). They all say that good intentions are not good enough; you need to do the work too e.g. “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them” by Liberty Hyde Bailey.

But I’m going to hang my hat on this one instead, “I’m delirious with joy. It proves that if you confront the universe with good intentions in your heart, it will reflect that and reward your intent. Usually. It just doesn’t always do it in the way you expect.” by J. Michael Straczynski. It’s OK with me if “It just doesn’t always do it in the way you expect” because I try to limit my expectations to the kids growing up to be happy adults following a passion, as Jane says in her post. I confront the universe with good intentions in my heart, as I think I’ve made clear in my last post about what sort of people one should consider friends (not bigots and racists for example!). I want to do what’s right in the world by other people and especially my children. I care about what’s right. I care about doing my best. But in the case of home educating, those flowers (my children) should perhaps not be the subject of too much “patient labor and attention” but rather left to grow in their own direction – fed, watered, nurtured and given particular care based on the needs of the particular plant, but not expected to look like the perfect, stereotypical flower on the seed packet and perhaps left to go a bit wild at times in order to find its own perfect way, a way paved by the gardener’s best and most loving intentions. My children are my most precious flowers and I their gardener with most loving intentions. I hope this is good enough.

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!

Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster  – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! 

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is pjmontford@hotmail.com. I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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10 Responses to How much do you steer young unschooled kids towards your own interests if they aren’t yet clear about theirs? Month 4 of Learning at Home

  1. Sounds like the kids are being patient with you and possibly they have limited interest in the art. After visiting the museums they might even become more interested. Sharing your interests isn’t harmful but you making the effort to share their interests also seems necessary. They might miss out of opportunities to become interested in various subjects if they don’t get the exposure. Exposure does not require in depth lessons or pushing an agenda. Sometimes it is simple looking at pictures (from a book or in a gallery) just because Mummy wants to get to see them. Some times it might mean attending a concert because son or daughter is interested in a subject. My daughter has become interested in dinosaurs because her brother is passionate about them. My eldest has developed a significant interest in sewing after I had an urge to learn quilting. I have learned to enjoy football and cars because my husband is interested. We all follow our own interests but we support each other in theirs as well.

    As long as you are not trying to force your interest on them, I am sure sharing your art history interest is ok. I would say that from what you said I would guess that this is not going to be their passion…at least not right now. Can you think of anything they have showed interest in? Perhaps a common theme to a make believe game or a sport. A tv show they love? Music the particularly enjoy. For instance, if your son is interested in football then you might jump into a vague hint of geography to help him know where each team in the Euro cup (currently happening) is from. Or perhaps using the Olympics later this summer. If he is really interested in a particular country you might help him learn more. Try and keep the geography to a game. Also, try buying educational board games and see if any sparks fly.

    • Hi! Thanks for the feedback! I am really interested to see if the kids get into the Olympics. I feel sorry that we won’t be there, given it’s in my home city. I hope we can get coverage of it here w/o some expensive satellite package, although it might be worth it if we can pay for just one month. We’ll see… I don’t like teaching patriotism, which is what the Olympics is about a lot. I like to teach that may the best sportsperson win, but w/o knowing who that is in any given event and their biographies, it’s hard to make that interesting. I used to love learning athlete’s biographies (and that of the horses in horsey events, which I used to love) but they were usually specific to one’s own country because the media of that country was producing them. If we’re to get into the Olympics the way I think is ‘right’ I’d have to do a lot of work first. We’ll see! We’re not a very sporty family so it would be a bit of a forced interest. Anyway, what I’d LOVE is some suggestions for educational board games. There are so many on the market! Thanks so much! Best wishes, Penny

  2. Laura Weldon says:

    When they are very small they’re highly influenced by parents’ interests. They’ll want to do what we’re doing, so in a way it’s a bit of a pressure to be doing something interesting! I did a lot of things that went beyond the view of my kids when they were small (teaching non-violence classes in the evenings, for example) so they didn’t benefit from what I was interested in. What they did see me do, they wanted to do. When I sewed I had to let them have a turn. My boys in particular were taken with the sewing machine, and got pretty good at making pillowcases and little bags. But even in their early years some children just develop their own passions for dinosaurs or race cars or drawing rainbows, in which case the whole family sort of goes along for the ride of the child’s fascination.

    When they get older they’re much less easily steered toward a parents’ interests, which I think is natural. But it’s so good for them to see that parents themselves continue to do something that fascinates them, like your delight in art history. I took my kids to lots of museums (not in Paris!) and found it was easiest on all of us when I had them think of questions in advance, or of what they hoped to find on a particular theme (one child would look for things that fly—birds in one painting, an angel in the next statue, etc). Here’s our fine arts method: http://lauragraceweldon.com/2010/09/08/six-ways-introduce-fine-arts-using-the-happy-idiot-method/

    I have to say, I love this quote of yours. We’re on the same wavelength!

    “All I can say is, with regards to these first months of learning at home, I have the best of intentions. I read. I research. I keep an open mind. I am enthusiastic. I am excited. I am happy. There are a lot of books around. We discuss life all the time. We spend our days together, cuddling and laughing and occasionally working out ways to navigate unhappiness as kindly as possible.”

    • That was a hit Penny, for me on the least. It strikes chords for me because I am always thinking about what I am doing with Tarek and Fares and whether it is the right thing to shape their own minds or I am trying to mold their minds into mine unconsciously! The point is they are still 3 years old and all what they do is play with cars, run, fight, teaze each other, teaze me … etc. I try to insert something of value into their lives and to open new horizons so I clinged to their admiration to the solar system video and worked on that (reading to them, repeating the video over and over, using glow in dark planets to play), I tried to introduce the alphabets without much didactic approach (sticked cards on the wall, brought them a board with magnet alphabets, sing and sign with them) …
      Sometimes, I just leave them to do what they want so as not to be the pushing silly mother. Two days ago, we were in toys are us, I stopped at shapes legos and writing boards and I found my husband telling me ‘stop! You cannot buy all their toys educational!’ Yes, I am being silly, but I am so afraid they won’t be interested in learning anything …
      Currently, I am reading ‘Free Range Learning’, and I am fascinated but in the meantime perplexed! I think it isn’t only about letting yourself with their wind, but it is of how to generate and create storm ideas of their tiny breeze!!!

      • Hi Imane, thanks for this! The comment below yours is by Laura Weldon who wrote ‘Free Range Learning’!! I know, I am soooo privileged to have her visit and comment on my blog!! As you can see, she is very keen on kids being introduced to your (and your husband’s) passions and interests, as long as it isn’t pushy. Don’t worry, Imane. Your boys are so young now and being boys, they are probably less academically inclined than girls the same age. BUT they will soon be such a joy, especially the way you bring them up. They will dazzle you with what they’re interested in or at least, like my son, be really open to anything I’m interested in introducing him to. We’ve just been looking up facts about the Eiffel Tower and he was also interested to see the old photos of how it was built. But now he’s having a teddy bear’s picnic with his sister! It swings to and fro like this in our household between pure play and more academic learning. And that’s just fine with me! It’s only frustrating sometimes because, as an adult, I have more stamina to continue learning and learning and I LOVE sharing it with Edward so when he naturally loses interest after a while (sometimes after a really surprisingly long length of time though) I feel disappointed. Not in him. But because I feel a bit lonely; I’ve lost my learning buddy!! The joys of home educating! And I love that feeling. I don’t think too many kids get to feel that shared fascination when they’re being taught by a school teacher. Keep on with the book! I’ve been leant another one which I think you might like but I’ll read it first and see!! Best wishes, Penny

    • Hi Laura, I love “it’s so good for them to see that parents themselves continue to do something that fascinates them, like your delight in art history”. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it fascinates me, but it absolutely does and that reminds me of having the wonder of a child and how I’ve lost that too much (some people are better at retaining it than others). I think always retaining this ability to wonder is so important so I’m happy to think I might be modelling it in a non-pressurizing way for one interest at least. My kids are super-observant, so an easy way to get them interested in asking them to find things in pictures (so far in books, soon for real). When I’ve read about kids tours at galleries I’m finding this is their way to engage kids too so it’s nice to think I’ve been on the right track! I like the idea of suggesting they each choose a theme to look out for or thinking of questions in advance too. I look your post about fine arts and I’m going to read the comments next. I’m sorry to say, that man sounds like he was English. It’s such an English think to say, so rude! So pleased he left the concert! He was obviously determined your daughter was going to annoy him and so, however beautifully she behaved, she would. Despite the fact she would be the kind of person who might fund future performances for his son!! Anyway, I will use your experience to remember to brace myself in case we come across the same thing, although I think kids are generally a bit more accepted everywhere these days.

  3. My boys are unschooled and I have found that they are finding “educational” things to do all by themselves. Like, for instance, last night. They spent HOURS on an online karaoke site, singing to their hearts content. Now normally this is something we frown on but, as WE learn, it’s become more and more easy to LET them be THEM instead of who WE want them to be and THAT’S the idea, to let them be their own individuals. I’m ecstatic that they are into singing now because, before last night, I couldn’t get Dan to sing a note!

What do you think? Please do let me know. I would love to hear your opinion!

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