Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unschooling: Following your child's lead

I remember one Valentines Day, many years ago.  I had two young sons and I was babysitting their friend also.  I was so excited that my kids were at that age that I could finally do arts and crafts with them.  So I went to Walmart and splurged on stickers and paper and ribbons and markers and glue and... the boys had absolutely no interest in the activity.  I made Valentines myself that year.  It made for a great story though, about why I needed to have a girl (which, thankfully, #4 was).

Strangely, years later my third born son seems to really enjoy "activities" of that nature.  And even though I've transitioned into a much more laid back unschooling mother who doesn't lesson plan like some of my dedicated mother-friends whom I admire greatly- the root of the unschooling philosophy is that you follow your child's lead.  And lately we've done one hands-on project after another. All spontaneous.  They're even better than a planned one because he is absolutely impassioned about the activity at hand. And his little sister, who copies his every move gets to join us with delight. Once he wanted to make a bird-feeder, so we cut a big hole in a two liter soda bottle (one for each child).  Then we glued cotton balls around the edge so they wouldn't scrape themselves going in and we filled it with bread crumbs.  It was a hit.  Another time he wanted to do macaroni art, so I pulled a box of macaroni and cheese out of the cupboard, some colored paper and some Elmer's glue.  We did it right on the living room floor.  There was macaroni everywhere when we were through but nothing a five minute sweep couldn't fix and absolutely worth the fun, fine motor skill enhancing, creativity inducing, individuality promoting activity that my son and daughter engaged in.  Well, I'm not so sure that it promoted any individuality in my two year old daughter given that she (as usual) copied my son's heart design exactly.  Another fun activity he initiated was creating a mouse trap to catch the mouse we saw running around at night.  Without my help he gathered a bunch of supplies: string, cheese, a broom, a dustpan.  We ended up suspending a garbage pail over the cheese, ready to drop at the sight of the mouse.  Another time he did an experiment his brother had told him about involving inflating a balloon using an empty soda bottle, baking soda and vinegar.  Finally, my daughter enjoys coloring in her coloring book, an activity I never got to do with my first two boys. 

This interest in hands-on projects and arts and crafts is, in my opinion, a rare treat for a mother of a son.  But "following your child's lead" is so important regardless of where that interest leads.  Dimitri's passion for skateboarding is the other interest I support.  When I was a little girl, my passions included gymnastics and writing and (strangely) politics.  Every child is unique and that's what makes society a diverse place that succeeds.  If we were all architects, who would fight fires?  It's the major disadvantage of public schooling which, by necessity, must be very cookie-cutter. Sometimes support just means letting your child do what they need to do; like my second born who spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer.  This breaks the good parenting "rule" that says you need to limit media time.  But this kid is a computer genius.  I don't know how he figures it out, but he teaches me all sorts of things that I don't know how to do.  He has an uncle on both sides of the family who make good money as computer programmers and why would I want to squelch that if his strengths lie in that field? 


  • At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi! Deena, I LOVE this. Henry is only 11 months old, but he is already really independent and trying to do lots of things on his own. I let him do all of the things he want that wouldn't result in horrible injury, and it's nice to feel like that's not a bad call on my part. As you said, every kid is different. Both Adam and I were really shy as children, but Henry is the most outgoing and friendly baby I have ever met. I can't wait to start doing more fun hands on stuff with him


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