- School is authoritarian: schools are designed "for the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce . . . human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled" (Gatto Dumbing Us Down 23); in school, children are discouraged from questioning adults and school rules, and are often punished when they don't obey.
- School is contrived: learning takes place away from the real world, and children often have difficulty making connections between what they learn in school and how that knowledge can be practically applied in the world around them (my own experience with math attests to this).
- School segregates: children are grouped by age; class and race divisions in the community often determine that most schools are homogenous, rather than heterogenous; and adults are present as authority figures, not as friends or allies. Thus, children's socialization is artificially homogenous in comparison to the diversity of ages, classes and races they will come into contact with upon leaving school.
- School does not provide children with healthy lifestyle options: children (even Kindergarteners!) are tied to their desks for many hours per day, recess and physical education are being reduced and in some cases eradicated all together, school food is over processed, fatty, loaded with sugar and has little nutritional value.
- School encourages consumerism: in addition to the fast food options available at lunch, children are the targets of marketing everywhere in their schools, from the vending machines, to the curriculum materials, to the advertising on their sports equipment, to bus radio.
- School is not for learning: children are forced to read and perform according to a uniform curriculum - they have no voice in curricular choices; their intellect is not respected nor is it encouraged; their love of learning is strangled and "learning" (facts, dates, correct answers for standardized tests) becomes work; they focus on extrinsic rewards, which inhibits learning and makes what they have learned difficult to translate into practical situations.
- School teaches competition, rather than collaboration: "
- School teaches patriotism (read "nationalism"), rather than civics: if a thriving democracy depends on it citizens to be critical thinkers, who understand the necessity of questioning, critiquing and, when necessary, actively seeking change, then patriotism is a thorn in the side of democracy.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We just discovered a wonderful new resource online thanks to one of our unschooling friends: Storybird! It is a free resource for creating stories to share online. The artwork is inspiring, and you can collaborate with others in writing your story. Sy has chosen to start with the artwork of Victoria Usova, who states that her inspiration is a mixture of Rublev, Chagall, Hokusai, and Dr. Seuss. Be sure to check it out! Sy's first storybird begins, "the trees have faces. happy, princess faces." We'll let you know when the tale is all told!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
So we've decided to participate in the "Outdoor Hour Challenge" posted weekly at the Handbook of Nature Study blog. A friend in our 0-5ish Playgroup, Del, put us on to the blog, and the amazing book it uses as its "textbook," the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock. It's a wonderful way for us to be a bit more schematic with our nature study, even though we're outdoors almost every day and the kids seem to need little motivation. However, the first challenge asked us to read the first 8 pages of the Comstock text, go outside and explore, and then discuss what we observed. Here's what we did:
- While gardening/weeding, the kids discovered some snails, tent caterpillars and various bugs living in and around the rotting stump of a dead tree. We watched them, picked some up, and talked about what we saw.
- The next day, I made two terraria (glass jar, moist soil, leaves, cheesecloth and rubber band) and sent the kids out to find a garden snail; I had already found a tent caterpillar that morning while filling up the bird feeder.
- After the kids collected a snail, I we put the snail and caterpillar into two different terraria and started watching our new "pets."
- We watched the tent caterpillar explore the terrarium, climbing on leaves and wall; I pulled out the Comstock and read to them about the different body parts and Sy identified his head, thorax and abdomen, counted his legs (3 pairs of “true legs,” 4 pairs of “prolegs,” 1 “propleg,” called the "anal proleg" below), observed his head w/mouth, watched him eat some of the leaf, observed his movement, and identified his coloring (black with red spots) and his hair. We looked for his spiracles (holes on the side of the body for breathing), but we couldn't find them.
- The snail soon dove down into the soil and didn't emerge for a couple of days, despite the fact that we've given him a nice chunk of sweet apple to nosh on.
- After adding a bit more water to his terrarium, he resurfaced and we were able to check out his really long eye stalks, his feeler stalks, and look at his striped shell.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
The biggest challenge (and joy) in growing without schooling is learning to trust our children, to respect their desires and to allow them to take the lead. Sometimes it is difficult to say, “it’s fine that Sy doesn’t want to write this week,” or “24 hours of just make believe play is learning!” Yet, both of these statements are true. The problem is simply that we’ve all grown up in an educational system that removes us from the world we are supposed to understand, where only certain forms of knowledge are valid, and those are compartmentalized and stripped of all contexts. Sy and Violet are learning and they are learning a lot. Certainly, they are both amassing what one might consider “book” knowledge: Violet is already counting to 10 and saying her ABCs; Sy can read words with various consonant blends and vowel combinations, count to 100, and tell you the difference between carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. Yet, what is most interesting to me are the ways in which they have come to understand things and to do so in great depth. Sy knows more than I ever did about dinosaurs because he wants to know. No amount of coaxing, rewards, direction or punishment could move him to delve into a topic for so many hours per day the way his desire to know and learn can. This is how we came, today, to do research on amoebae. Before the nap, we read The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, about a giant squid that thinks it’s the largest thing in the ocean, but ends up being eaten by a whale. At the end of the book, a small fish on the copyright page says, “I’m bigger than plankton,” to which Sy responded, “Plankton’s not bigger than anything.” I responded by saying, “Well, a plankton is bigger than an amoeba,” which was enough for him to decide that we needed to look it up after the nap. We spent about 20 minutes on the internet looking at drawings and photos of amoebae, learning about how this single-celled organism can eat without a mouth, stomach or digestive system (using pseudopods and a food vacuole), learning about where they live (fresh water, salt water, in the soil, in other organisms - “like us!” Sy said). While it seems ludicrous that an almost 4 year old can assimilate such knowledge, I know he’s learning because it interests him, because he relates what he learns to experience, because he returns to the things he likes over and over again, and because those interests lead to other related interests (the discussion of amoebae actually led to research on hammerhead sharks - there is a shark in the book - which led to an attempt to identify all of the sea creatures on the final page of the book - eels, rays, sharks, squids, octopi, various fish, etc.)
Here’s just a brief glimpse of the things we worked on this week:
Music: Violet and Sy have both been singing A Rum-Sum-Sum and High and Low in music class this week (tapping out the macro and micro beats, changing words to fit various actions/scenarios, incorporating the names of friends into the revised songs); Sy has been playing Twinkle A-D, Honeybee, Hänschen Klein and Cuckoo on the piano, he’s supposed to start Mary Had a Little Lamb this week.
Art: “Flag of India” - at Indian buffet on Monday night, Sy saw the flag of India and decided to look it up online, he then made his own version; observational drawing (bananas, pencil can, lollipop drum, cardboard box); painting: batik (dripping wax onto paper, painting over, ironing off wax); window ornaments: tracing, cutting (star, heart, oval, circle from batik painting)
Storytelling: weaving parts of The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat, Hänsel & Gretel, Rotkäppchen and various dinosaur facts, Sy is beginning to create “jokes” and “stories.”
Science: dinosaur, amoeba and shark research
Math: Uno (counting, matching, sequencing), Sy’s game of “I love you 160 million degrees” (we try to increase the number and form of measurement to the best of our ability)
Reading: “Word Card Game” (reading and matching words ending in -an, -at, -ay, -e, -ee, -ick, -in, –ish, –it, -on, -op; consonant blends ch-, cl-, cr-, dr-, fl-, kn-, pl-, sh-, sl-, spl-, st-, th-, thr- )
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Our trip to Cincinnati for the holidays was lots of fun. In addition to trips to the Natural History Museum, Children’s Museum, and Newport Aquarium we attended two lectures offered by the Hamilton County Park and Recreation Board.
Raptors at Woodland Mound!
We observed 4 raptors that day: the Red-Tailed Hawk, Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl. We learned about their predatory habits (day/night hunting, use of eyesight vs. hearing, size and types of prey, use of talons/beaks), their physical characteristics (feathers and markings, facial features, size and weight), and we discovered that that awesome sound an eagle makes in all of those Hollywood westerns is actually the call of the Red-Tailed Hawk! Who knew? Later we hiked on the nature trail and pretended to be owls hunting different small rodents.
Snakes, turtles and brumation at Miami Whitewater Park!
We observed 3 turtles (2 Box Turtles and 1 Red-Eared Slider) and 2 snakes (Black Rat Snake and Fox Snake). We learned all kinds of things: Box Turtles get their names from their ability to pull all of their body parts into their shell, as if retreating into a box; they are omnivores (like us), who live mostly on land; females have flat bellies, males have a thumb-sized indentation on the belly; the scutes (circular scales on the shell) are shed like skin and grow in rings (like a tree trunk) each year - you can estimate a turtle’s age by counting the scutes on its shell; their backbones connect their soft bodies to their shells (which means that if they lose their shells, they die); Box Turtles can live up to 100 years! Brumation is the hibernation-like state that cold-blooded animals use during the cold weather: their circulation slows down, they become very lethargic and sleep, but not so much that they have to expend a lot of energy in order to eat, if they have to. They typically brumate in a burrow, rock crevice or, in the case of the Box Turtle, they use their back legs to dig deep into the leaf litter and cover themselves up.
For the rest of the week, we were playing “snakes in the cage” in Nana’s living room. Exhausting, but more stimulating than Super Mario.