Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unschooling...and record keeping?

When people ask me what I use for curriculum, I shrug and say “Whatever presents itself during the day.”

When people ask when we will be finishing up our school/learning for the year, I jokingly ask them when they plan on being done breathing for the day.

Unschooling makes me giddy. Excited. And never ceases to amaze
me. I’m finding that the most beautiful things happen when I toss a bunch of opportunities out there…and just watch. The boys find something delicious to lose themselves in and want to soak up everything they can possibly know about that thing. I’m ecstatic to be join them in the adventure. Its good to be free!

Then again…

There’s that pesky issue of record keeping (and norm referenced standardized testing) that comes with living in certain states. Mine included. So as awesome as it is to have come to a completely different definition of what learning is, and to know that every second my kids are learning millions of things….as far as the state is concerned, if I don’t document that learning, it never happened.

I remember being at the Minnesota Homeschoolers’ Alliance conference last year and hearing the keynote speaker talk about the lovliness of unschooling…and yet she was from out of state - a state that didn’t require record keeping or annual testing. So while the whole premise of unschooling was absolutely enthralling to me, I didn’t really see how it could work in a state that was regulated or monitored like ours.

So…how does one unschool…and keep the state happy?

My first idea:
What I first came up with was since there are only five required areas of teaching in our state (per the MHA handbook and several other sources), I figured I would just record the things we did in our daily life that fit into those areas: Communications, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health/Phy Ed. (All other areas of education are optional, or so it says.) So I made up something on Publisher that was basically a chart of those five things which I intended to keep notes for the week on various things we did…and plug them in where they fit. Great, right?

Amazingly enough, there was an issue. And it wasn’t necessarily a bad issue to have.

There wasn’t enough room.

After one day of using this system, really looking at what the boys were doing in a day, and how it could be written down to appease the state…the chart that was intended to hold a weeks worth of learning “stuff”, couldn’t even handle what we’d done in a day.

So, back to the computer. I did a little research about other unschoolers who need to keep records and was brought to Leaping From The Box. Her method of recordkeeping is a great idea, and is something we have put into practice here (with a few tweaks for our own usage). Its been working well. The front of our page has Communications, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health/Phy Ed. The back has Art/Music, Foreign Language, Religion/Philosophy, Independent Living Skills, Out and About, and Misc.

We've been using this system for the past week now and it seems to be a good fit for us. It should work fine for the state, and other inquiring minds (relatives)who want to know what we could possibly be learning. Its also a nice reminder for me, should I (when I) fall into a funk of thinking somehow we just aren't doing it right/doing enough/etc. It amazes me to see how much learning you can pull out of one day of just "being". Its a completely different way of seeing the world.


Ruralmama said...

Awesome! I am really impressed with her system, especially since it's so mellow. I think instead of 3-ring binders though I'll just keep it in the computer. Plenty o' space that way.

BTW--sweet play date yesterday. The girls were sacked out afterward and are sleeping like logs (still!)

MamaTea said...

Mellow, yes. That's why I like it :)

The boys slept all the way home yesterday...and Ooky is still sleeping this morning.

Beverly said...

I wouldn't discourage your record-keeping because it's nice to have a journal for your own use. But I'd mention, too, that education in Minnesota isn't compulsory until age 7. So before that, you're not legally required to do anything.

MamaTea said...

You're right Beverly! Thanks for pointing that out. At this point, I don't really have to do anything at all. :) I just figure if I "practice" using things now, it will be habit by the time I am legally required to keep records. Plus, like you said, the journaling aspect of it is awesome. Thanks for the reminder about age 7 though :)!!

s t a c y said...

Thanks for resource. I started keeping a journal this year, using my own categories and a notebook. It was a nice eye-opener for me to see all that the kids are doing, and neat to have something to look back on. I forget so much of what happens if I don't write it down!