Periodically, Sue Patterson takes questions that come in through the Texas Unschoolers’ website or Facebook group. Do you have something you want to ask? Contact us and we’ll get Sue to answer. We’ll leave your name anonymous. If you have a question, most likely there are others with questions just like yours.
Questions From December 2014
Q. Hi y’all. I am STRONGLY considering transitioning to unschooling. We were fairly structured in our approach, then we moved to structure only for math and some of my ds12 english lessons. Presently, I have stopped all but math.
A. You’re stopping all your lesson plans except math? Why not math? It’s everywhere! I could be wrong, but maybe your own math insecurities are getting in the way?
Let’s look at where kids can learn more about math in every day life:
Double a recipe.
Use measuring cups and spoons.
Notice shapes and patterns in architecture.
Measure how far you can jump.
Divide up the pizza, cake, cookies among everyone eating.
Use a stopwatch to see how fast you can run… for how long?
Play with the computer to create a graph of your progress…at anything!
Create something with fabric, learn to sew from a pattern.
Create probability games – heads or tails? Then move to more options and what’s the chance?
How many cans of paint will it take to paint the bedroom?
What are interest rates at the bank?
What are the interest rates on credit cards?
Show them your electric bill. Does the company share graphs about useage?
What time should you put the pizza into the oven if you want it to be ready when the movie is over?
Comparison shop for cars – look at gas mileage, odometers, age of cars, depreciation costs.
Weigh the fruit at the grocery store.
Learn how to figure out price comparisons by looking at the cost/weight.
Figure out the tip for the waiter.
How much gas will it take to fill the tank?
How many miles did the car get on that tank of gas?
What’s the distance on a map to someone’s house?
How long does it take to get to your friend’s house?
Learn the Roman numerals on a clock. Is the Roman numeral for 4 correct?
Make change at the local convenience store.
Save money for a video game or pricey toy.
Look at a bus route, figure the cost and time to get across town.
Look at a calendar. How many weeks until their birthday?
How many days until their favorite holiday? Is it quicker to count in weeks?
Earn money and keep track of it.
Practice rounding to the nearest dollar.
Play card games.
Play dice games.
Play board games.
Play computer games.
Play with phone apps.
Measure for a new rug.
Measure if the couch can move to a different wall.
Measure pictures for a frame.
Figure out the tax on your purchase.
Read construction plans to build something…start small, get bigger!
Help them sell something on Ebay they don’t want anymore.
Give them money to purchase something they could sell on Ebay and see if they can turn a profit.
How long will it take the dogs to go through all the dog food?
How much did the bag cost? Divide it up – how much does it cost to feed the dogs everyday?
Check out great books about math concepts and ideas.
Count all the coins in the Change Jar (start one if you haven’t already!)
Order The Homescholer PDFs and read all of Pam Sorooshian’s columns, What About Math?
Work on a jigsaw puzzle with the family.
Notice the change in the sunrise and sunset times throughout the year. Did the Farmers’ Almanac get it right?
Count your heartbeats. How many per minute? What about breaths?
Math is really all around us. And if you’re not sure how to do something, GOOGLE it! Show your kids how to do that too. Go to the TexUns Facebook page and let’s see what other math ideas we can recognize from everyday activites.
Q. “When I ask what THEY would like to do, I seem to get no good answer. My dd16 likes to draw and will soon be volunteering for a theater. My ds12 *was* interested in weapons, Magformers and Minecraft but he doesn’t seem interested in pursuing any of these.”
A. Time to stop asking that question then, right?
Instead, spend some time focusing on what they DO, what they talk about, what they enjoy. OBSERVE them for a while. From there, take your lifetime of experience (that they don’t have) and think about what you could do to offer something in those arenas of interest. It could be something in the community, something online, a memory from your own history. You could talk to them about planning a trip or creating something new in your home.
Don’t rely on them to come up with it. You are the Family Tour Guide – it’s time to do some research about what’s available that you can share with them. Think about creating memories WITH them. What would you do if your long lost friend showed up and wanted to see your town – where would you take her? What do you wish you had been able to do when you were a child? Share that with your children and see if they have any of those same interests.
Create a home environment where they know they can explore, experiment, fail and try again. Remove the pressure and the judgement. Maybe they’re experiencing a dormant winter period in their lives right now. Comfort, soothe, and nurture. You can’t rush these things, and yet seasons, in nature and in life, continue to roll on. Who knows what Spring will bring?! 😉
Q. I have been doing a lot of reading about unschooling and it seems as if everyone else’s child is neck deep in projects they are excited about. What is wrong with our family?
A. Oh dear! I doubt there’s anything wrong with your family! Parents always worry. There’s a reason we have so many cliches about making comparisons though.
“Comparison is the death of joy.” (Mark Twain)
“Compare and Despair”
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
Sure, some kids find their niche early on, while others appear to dabble for years. Part of the joy of unschooling is knowing that your children can progress at whatever speed is right for them. They don’t have to excel at something because the same-age kid beside them is good at that particular thing.
Trust that they’re exploring and discovering and right where they need to be. Continue to expose them to a variety of things – through activities at home, adventures in the community, and even simple conversations with them. Interests change over time. Allow theirs to morph without feeling judged. Comparing them to other people brings obstacles into your relationship with them and doubts into their thoughts about themselves.
Focus on the joy, not the fear.
Sue Patterson, wife and mother of three grown unschoolers, lives in Pflugerville, just north of Austin. She has been an active homeschooling advocate at the local, state and national level for nearly two decades. Her newly released book, Homeschooled Teens, is available now!
Sue is the Managing Editor of The Homeschooler Post – an online quarterly parenting journal focusing on learning for home educators. She manages the Unschooling Mom2Mom Facebook group, blogs at Lifelong Learning, speaks at various conferences around the country, works as a Life Coach and Unschooling Mentor. Find out more at SuePatterson.com.