People often want a step by step how transition to being a more Relaxed Homeschooler. I mean let's face it. Most of us start VERY much in the box. We emulate school sometimes down to creating a classroom and decorating the walls with all the school supply gear we love. Believe me I get it. I did it. I loved it. I wanted to play school. The truth was it was a lot like me trying to play school with my friends. They didn't listen for long either. They got bored sitting in their seats and they wanted to be the teacher and decide what we did too!
Trying to explain to someone how to shift their paradigm is a little like nailing jello to the wall.
See it's not like switching from a Classical Method to a Charlotte Mason Method. It's not a curriculum. There aren't books and a checklist of materials to purchase. It's not a step by step measurable system. That's extremely frustrating for moms who do not want to fail their kids. Those systems and curriculum offer measurements, something they can put their thumb on and know their kids are learning. This, isn't that. Not even close.
This is you being so in tune with your kids that you know what they know, and what they don't. You know how to reach them better than anyone. You know which kids prefer a straight on approach and which kids like to be gently led. Which kids are afraid to fly and which ones you are peeling off the roof.
This method, means you have to rely on your own instincts. Your own judgment and you will have to trust yourself and your kids. That's the scariest part for most people. What? No planner? No grades? No testing? No lesson plans? No "what my kid should know at this age?" Seems crazy but it's not. No one knows your kid better. If you aren't there yet, then no one has the potential to know your kids better than you.
For starters, we are interest driven people in my family. Every last one of us in this house. We are curious, industrious, we are entrepreneurs. We are community minded. We volunteer, help out neighbors and we LOVE carefree timelessness. We love the outdoors, we love adventures great and small. We are together. Sounds great? It is.
Before I try to nail the jello to the wall and explain a little "how" to make this work, let me explain the most common reason why I see this lifestyle not working out for people.
Mom wants her kids to be self directed, curious and interested but the parents didn't lay any of the groundwork. It takes some time to foster this kind of lifestyle and nature in a child. Mom has to be "in" on the adventure for some time before kids learn or in this case relearn how to be curious.
Moms often want to unschool or Relax but their kids have no idea how to go be curious in the world, how to track rabbits down rabbit trails (figuratively speaking) and so they do what's easy and rewarding - screens - tv, video games, ipads, iphones, screens, screens, screens.
The idea of Relaxed Schooling sounds marvelous - and it is. No bribing, cajoling and coercing kids to do curriculum you've changed 12 times in 12 years. Kids that are passionate, interested, excited about learning. Mom has some free time, life is good. But the early years were spent with mom really engaged, modeling an interest driven life. Radical unschoolers probably wouldn't really see that as true unschooling which I why I don't call myself that. Parental interference is kind of a thing for many who identify their learning environment that way. Unschoolers are sometimes very protective of the term and I leave them to it. I don't fit the mold and I'm cool with Relaxed Schooler, it describes us much better.
For me, Relaxed Schooler that I am, mom, is essential. Mom plants seeds, lights sparks and lives a curious life of things she can share with her kids and vice versa. The family learns and explores together until it's really taken root.
Children begin life curious. School, school at home and many traditional school methods, for most kids drums the curious right out of them. You can reignite it but it's a process.
What I like to do is start our mornings over a good breakfast and what I call Round Table. Most meals are prepared together. I believe we all contribute like a team or a Tribe. Everyone can contribute and so they should down to about 3 years old. Then over our meal, we have Round Table. Round Table is where a lot of the sparks happen. Not all but many initially.
Round Table is like a fabulous, exciting, brainstorming session, team meeting. Sometimes we write all the ideas on post it notes and everyone has a different color and we stick them on the wall of the dining room and then later put them in a journal.
What they are interested in can be anything - something they want to do, want to learn, place to go, want to try. If they don't have any ideas get some fun science-experiments-at-home books or download some things from the internet for them to look through. Get a Dangerous Book for Boys or a Daring Book for Girls and let them dive in.
Spend a morning building paper airplanes and kites and understanding why some fly better. Look up aerodynamics on Youtube. After I typed that sentence I decided to pop over to Youtube and search paper airplane aerodynamics. GOLD! Great, short, videos even ones with the school word/idol - STEM - in the title! If a classroom did this the teacher would win an award - homeschooler does it - lazy!!! um, no.
We use Youtube a lot to access information. Short little bursts to get what we need and get back to life. The kids don't realize it but you are training them to use this technology the way it was intended - as a resource for life. Not THE SOURCE of life. Initially don't make this schooly. Let them just enjoy it. But if you want you can have them start an Adventure Journal (that's what I call it) You say to them, "All I ask is that at the end of the day you write down whatever was most important or interesting about what we did in your journal. I'd like to read it but I won't be correcting it."
When the pressure of instant correction is lifted they become writers.
Sit at Round Table one morning and say, "I had an idea for a story and I wanted your help..." Give them a story starter. "It's about magic rain boots. This brother and sister find them one day exploring in their grandma's attic but I can't decide on the magic power the boots give them, what do you think?" Let them tell you stories. Write down the highlights sometimes or not. The goal is to spark their imagination. Become storytellers. Tell it together or let them each tell their own version through words, pictures, write it or tell it orally. No grading, just stories.
My best advice on "How to do this?" Is to start with Round Table. I really need to finish the Round Table post. It's key for us.
Spark them, facilitate the real life learning and enjoy learning with them.