There was a story on Sixty Minutes last week about unschooling. There is a lot about this kind of home education that appeals to us, though I know we couldn't go down the path of handing over all of the children's life choices to them. Especially their diet and bed time. I am pretty sure given the chance they would live on ice cream and chocolate and stay up until they can no longer keep their eyes open. I know I would! Actually I did when I first moved out of home but I soon began making better choices. And getting more sleep. I know the unschooling advocates would agree that most children would go through the same thing I did with my new freedom though would soon realise that life is better when they have a good diet and lots of sleep. While this is probably true, I am not going to let my monkeys eat what they want or go to bed when they want. They can wait until they are out of home to do that and only have themselves to blame for being tired and cranky.
The one thing I have learned from the term of distance education is that Lily will not learn something she is not interested in. Yes, I know we all have to do things we really don't want to but I think for an active six year old the essentials (literacy and numeracy) can be taught in ways other than repetitive busy sheets and cutting and pasting words that have no immediate meaning. So this is the path I am researching and the approach I am building our curriculum on. I am looking into interest lead learning and we will cover all they need to know while learning about topics they are fascinated in. When I think about it, all the knowledge I have as an adult is retained because I was interested in the topic at the time. I am actually learning about basic grammar as I teach Zoe because I was either never taught it at school, or it just didn't stick. I now know there are other ways to teach grammar, ways that will create and maintain interest and lead to better retention.
So for now, I guess we are 'unschooling'. We fill our days with playing (oh so much playing!), building things with paddle pop sticks, sticky tape and straws, reading together (thank goodness we have finally read all the not very edifying Captain Underpants and are moving on to Swiss Family Robinson), listening to audio books (The Chronicles of Narnia is getting a good work out!) baking yummy things, doing the chores, visiting friends and parks (oh and the free for an hour playground at Ikea! I like that one;), shopping (they are learning about the cost of things, especially treat food), watching wild life dvds (yes and kid's movies:) but more than anything we are just hanging out being a family.
It seems as with all approaches to home education - and parenting - there are extremes. I have always thought of our family as mostly conservative but perhaps we are 'weird' after all. Home education is becoming more mainstream but we are still part of a minority group. I am ok with that because I realise this is not the first time I have done the opposite of what is expected by society. However, being a rebel is not the reason we are home educating. After having the children at home full time for nearly four months, we have discovered we love these little beings! We love being with them. We love watching them learn and grow. I can't imagine going back to the stress of the life we had because I know this life is for us.