How did they learn to do that?

First, a quick welcome to my new WordPress powered blog.  I’m still working out a few details, like how to add the RSS subscribe option, but basically we’re up and running!

Two big developments on the unschooling front since we returned from England on Saturday.   First, Maya has been doing a lot of journaling and writing, and yesterday she told me that she is working on her handwriting because “it was really awful”, to quote her.  The back story to this is that in my old structured homeschooling days I would try to get her to work on her handwriting and was always met with fierce resistance.  She could read it, so everyone else should be able to as well!   She would totally ignore lines on writing tablets and write down and across the page with no regard for form or neatness.   This used to make me crazy.

Then we started unschooling, and I let go of my desire to control her and FORCE her to learn to write neatly!  (I really think that as parents we feel society will look at us and judge us as parental failures if our children do not do everything perfectly).   A year later, she decided on her own to improve her handwriting.   I have not said word one about it since we stopped using a curriculum.  It has happened without coercion.  In fact, coercion was a sure fire way to keep it from happening.

Secondly, Ben suddenly, today, began reading chapter books.  I’m not kidding.   We went to Barnes & Noble, and he quietly came up to me and said, “Mama, where are my books?”  When he says  his books, he means the beginning reader books.   We have a slew of them, from the Elephant and Piggy series to the Fly Guy series.   But in this Barnes and Noble, the easier chapter books are across the aisle from the beginning reader books, and Maya took it upon herself to mention to Ben that he might like the Magic Treehouse Books.    He looked at the first one, and I was prepared for him to put it back and tell us it was too hard.   Instead, he sat down and read for almost an hour.   He would stop now and then and tell us what was happening, so I knew he understood it.    We bought one to take home, and tonight I had not one, but two kids reading in the room after bedtime.

Here’s the thing.   Ben and I have done almost no work on reading.   He resists any kind of instruction on the subject, and his phonetic spelling is, well, creative, to say the least.   Teaching reading was the hardest thing for me to let go of when we started unschooling.  I want both my kids to be great readers, and sometimes had to bite my lip and leave the room to keep myself from launching in to teaching mode with Ben when he would tell me he couldn’t read something on the computer or in a book.   And now he’s in the next room reading Knights at Dawn.

So how do they learn these things?  Without formal instruction?   In a world where we are brainwashed to think that after walking and talking nothing can be achieved without the benefit of compulsory schooling, it almost seems like magic.   But it isn’t.  It is part of the natural process.   With Ben, reading came later than with Maya, but it came.  Ben walked younger than Maya and spoke earlier.    It’s great to see kids do things at their natural pace, with no pressures to perform too early.     It’s unschooling in action.  It’s life learning.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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