I came across the term “unschooling” when reading up on homeschooling families. My personal interpretation is that it means child-interest-led learning, with the parents’ guidance and support. Then it dawned onto me that it’s what we’ve been doing all along.
Even though we started homeschooling with The Shichida Method (Vee at 14 months old) and added on The Montessori Method later on (Vee at almost 3 years old), we never had a structured curriculum.
For Shichida home practice, I make or buy materials based on Vee’s latest interests, such as food, vehicles, colours, etc. Whatever he’s interested in, I try to link it into our home practice. We don’t learn languages or math in a structured (left-brain) way, though we do read widely.
With the Montessori Method, I’ve access to all of Karen Tyler’s albums as part of the teacher training course. For several months, we covered many Practical Life and Sensorial activities, then I got busier with Baby Jae and stopped progressing on the album activities. (We plan to do so gradually over the next few years.)
Learning takes place anytime, anywhere
Over the recent months, there have been so many distractions in our lives that “unschooling” seems the best way to continue learning.
In late July, Vee was hospitalised due to fits from sudden high fever. After he recovered, we got back to learning momentum.
Then hubby was hospitalised for a week due to dengue fever. We went into a mosquito-busting frenzy at home, mastering all ways to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
He recovered, travelled for work, then we went on a week-long vacation to attend a friend’s wedding in Hong Kong.
What the children learnt / experienced in Hong Kong:
- language: Cantonese immersion programme
- saw pandas, penguins & other marine animals at Ocean Park
- experienced various public transports (plane, MTR, train, tram, bus, taxi), something we miss in KL due to driving
- lots of walking exercise, again something we miss due to driving
- social interaction with our Hong Kong family friends
- celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
- sat through a late and long wedding dinner, dressed to the nines (Vee wore a tuxedo suit & he was supposed to behave like a little gentleman. Expectedly, he became cranky near the end of the dinner. Oops!)
We returned last week and I decided to spring-clean our rooms — to get the loads of learning materials organised and dump the junk that have accumulated in many corners. At first, spring cleaning while managing 2 energy-packed kids seemed like a daunting task. Once Baby Jae goes down for his nap, I spring into action, while Vee continues learning.
What Vee learnt / practised today:
- took the table calendar to revise months of the year
- helped me sort notes and coins from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong; recognised the amounts
- compared the pictures on the various currencies
- understood when to use which currency
- helped me choose the right-size screw driver
- unscrewed and screwed battery cover for a toy
- chose the correct type and number of batteries needed
- learnt to sharpen a pencil using a crank-type sharpener
- listened to CDs from new music class; sang the songs spontaneously
- he wanted to see Mummy’s breastmilk when Baby Jae was nursing, so I gave him a live demo: hand expressed excess milk into his cup and let him have a try. He was quite amazed and said the milk’s tasty! (By the way, he was directly breastfed for 18 months, so to him, this is a novel way of drinking Mummy’s milk.)
- introduced to Russian dolls by granny; amused when taking them out and tried putting them back
- read a new book on food chain
- succeeded in changing into his pyjamas all by himself
Besides the above, he also did his usual free-style playing. When I look back, it’s amazing how much a young child can learn in a day, as long as we engage him purposefully in the day’s activities and make good use of learning opportunities present around us.
Relationship / character-building / values / attitude / soft skills before everything else
Most importantly, we ensure a solid parent-child relationship and sort out all the issues we have on character, attitudes, etc. before engaging in any learning activities.
So at least from our experience, young children really don’t need any structured curriculum and can thrive on unschooling. Just have fun!