Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unschooling Algebra

It is rare to come across apps for maths which don't adopt a schooly-type approach to teaching maths by hiding it rather badly in games which end up stiff and boring. Soooo when I came across DragonBox app I read some reviews first before purchasing the first one (DragonBox 5).

Here is a review on it -

I am definitely hooked. It takes a puzzle approach to teaching the abstract thinking skills of algebra. It has levels and 3 star ratings a bit like Angry Birds. As you advance through the levels, you learn the rules of the game (algebra) by either being told by the game at various points, or by intuitive reasoning eg. you get full stars if you solve/remove fractions first before continuing to problem solve the puzzles.

It is very deceptive : ) You start off playing with picture cards and getting them cancelled out and what is left over goes in this box. As the game progresses letters and numbers start creeping in with the pictures and because your brain is operating from picture puzzle solving, you just treat the numbers and letters the same way.

The kids and I are enjoying it and best of all, we get our own avatars, so our progress is saved under our separate avatars. No sharing of progress like we have to with Angry Birds! I'm glad I forked out the 6-7 dollars for the app, and will definitely pay 11 for the next - DragonBox 12 once we max 5 out.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What is Deschooling?

The idea behind deschooling is to let go of traditional, schooled beliefs, where learning only happens when someone is taught. Usually it is the home educating parent who needs to deschool and alter their perspectives of what it means to learn and have an education. However, there are many children who need to go through a deschooling period after they are removed from school, and before formal home education begins. This deschooling period gives children back their time and freedom. A bit like a holiday only one that never ends and gradually changes into an unschooling lifestyle.

As a family who has engaged in natural learning from birth, the last thing I expected was for the children to need a deschooling period.  After a discussion with 10 year old Kalea, I realised something. There is no escaping school in this society. Kalea is under almost constant pressure from others rooted in the schooled mind, philosophy and lifestyle. She does not know what to think when adults tell her school is good for her, will help her, and is full of fun things like crafts and playing with other kids and visiting the school library. This fluffy image painted for her is nothing like what she hears from her school friends who turn around and tell her they hate school and don't like going, how their favourite part is lunchtime to play with other kids. They tell her all about peer pressure, bullying, lying, and how children group off and how you aren't supposed to play or be friends with other kids who have a different skin colour. Then she is confused when her friends then tell her she "needs to go to school".

We had a long talk about it all and it turns out she really values her home ed friends because they don't tell her who she can or can't be friends with. She really values having the freedom she does not going to school. She feels insecure about herself when others tell her she cannot read (when she can read, just not every single word yet!). She feels like she is missing out on something when other adults undermine my decision as a parent to home educate. When asked what appeals to her in what is said about school, her first reply is usually that the school has a library. Our solution to that is to go to the library more ourselves. When she is made to feel insecure about what she knows, or what she can do, we use it as an opportunity to learn more. When Kalea is personally motivated to learn something, she picks it up fast. And frankly that is what unschooling is all about. Giving children the trust and freedom to do that, in their own time, when they are ready, regardless of what we, or others may think about what they should know.

This brings us back to deschooling ourselves as parents. What we think we know, and what we think our children need to know, is often modelled on a school perspective, and based on a distrust of learning and a distrust of our children. It is not easy to face society on your own, so it helps to have access to the local homeschool network so you are exposed to a diverse variety of different home schooling families. Deschooling is much easier when you have other parents to talk to who get it!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why do your kids go to school?

So, why do you send your kids to school? What are your reasons for schooling your children? What is your plan for their education? What about socialisation? I can't say I've heard a parent of a school kid asked questions like that. Typically a person who might ask something like that would be a homeschooler... and lets face it, most homeschoolers are too polite and accepting of differences to go around questioning or undermining a parent's decision to send their children to school.

So here I am, where for the upteenth time, I've been asked why I homeschool my children. I've spent a lot of time thinking about a standard response to people who question me and frankly I haven't been able to come up with a short, encompassing answer. That is because there simply isn't one. My reasons for home educating are so numerous, each equally important to me. I could write pages and pages on the whys.

I keep coming back to the idea that if others are just asking to find starting points to challenge me on or to defend school as being equally as good if not better.... then there isn't much point wasting my energy. It doesn't matter what other people think of school, or the supposed benefits they believe school confers on children... I beg to differ.

I spent my childhood in school. I know what school is like from a child's (and teen's) experience. My experiences by the way, weren't negative. I was good at school. But that didn't mean I liked it, or that it met my needs, or gave me what I needed for real life. I witnessed peers group off and engage in anti-social behaviours which excluded others that were different or didn't meet their requirements. This is socialisation as school offers it. Kids learn to conform or else (rejected/outcast). Society works nicely if people conform and go to 9-5 jobs like good little peons and for that, school offers socialisation to meet this.

I also spent over a year working in a school. I wasn't overly impressed, but it did give me a new appreciation for all the planning and work teachers have to put in before they can even step in a classroom.... and for what? Teaching does not equal learning, no matter how good of a teacher you are. Learning cannot be forced, compelled, coerced or manipulated. The more you push for learning, the more likely you are to meet with resistance.

Finally, I met heaps of parents who had children in school and ended up pulling them out of school, going on to home educate for years and years. They had something to realistically compare against. Our family on the other hand, has been a natural learning family since the children were born. You'd think that we, well the children at least, wouldn't need deschooling. However, my children don't have that measuring stick to realistically compare school with the freedom to learn, play and simply be that they have at home.

Thanks to undermining done by others, my children need to be deschooled. It is impossible to escape from school in this society. There is pressure to conform, pressure to school, everywhere we go. School is the one size fits all, answer to life, the universe and everything. It is enough to make one cranky, and then along comes the question - What is your reason for homeschooling? Yes, do explain yourself! School is good for kids, it is vital for development and preparation for life why are you doing this?

It is pretty rude if you ask me. Probably along the same lines of demanding to a hospital birther - why are you having your baby in hospital!? What are your reasons for doing this? Explain yourself!!!