Reconsidering Curriculum Choices
If you've been using a certain type of curriculum or teaching style, but you've noticed a lack of interest in your child or an obvious resistance to home-schooling, it's time to make a change. Try unit studies for a while (these are lots of fun for everyone) or explore the concepts of unschooling (a wonderfully natural way of living and learning). Your children will love it, and they'll be bubbling over with excitement once again.
It can be difficult to release your hold on a curriculum (whether it's one you designed or a prepackaged plan) and adopt an unschooling form of education. It can be difficult to trust your children to learn in their own way. But it can be done — and done successfully.
Try an eclectic approach to learning by using a textbook from one publisher; a couple of activity books from another; unit studies for certain topics; learning games from the Internet; board games, construction sets, and hands-on projects; and lots of books from the local library for inspiration and ideas.
Evolving into Unschooling
In our personal homeschool experiences, we did a lot of pigeonholing of activities as we tried to follow a specific course of study. We'd decide that this learning activity could be classified as science, that one as social studies, another as logical reasoning skills, and yet another as life skills. Finally, it clicked. They are all life skills, logical reasoning skills, social studies, and science, because they are all a part of life, and life is made up of all these skills. When the light finally came on, when that connection finally clicked, the need for pigeonholing every activity and fitting it into a specific subject area no longer seemed as important. That's when unschooling, or natural learning, became a normal part of everyday life.
For us, it wasn't a conscious decision to unschool. It just evolved that way, and it suddenly made the most sense. When I first heard of unschooling, I didn't give it a lot of thought. It seemed like a very unusual way to get an education, and I gave it no further consideration at the time.
Trusting Interest-Led Learning
As things evolved in the unschooling direction, and I eventually realized that ours was, indeed, a form of unschooling, I was past the point where I would have had doubts. I was already in the process of seeing the actual results of my son's learning and improvements in all areas of his education through his own style of unschooling, or interest-driven learning.
Today, Devin is a professional computer programmer in a highly reputable company. He went to college and excelled in class and on tests — even though he hadn't been in a class or taken a test in years. Most important, he developed the desire to learn, to follow his true interests, and to self-educate himself — as much today as he did when he was twelve years old — a skill that will benefit him the rest of his life.
Unschooling may not work for every child or family. However, a modified version may work for yours. Test the waters by incorporating certain aspects of unschooling, while relying upon your main curriculum as a foundation. The Unschooling Handbook, by Mary Griffith, provides hundreds of examples of unschooling experiences from dozens of families.
Looking to Your Child for Direction
As previously noted, it can be hard to relinquish your dependence upon a curriculum. And if your child is truly motivated and stimulated by it, happy, and enjoying the learning process, there may be no need to change directions. But do keep in mind that children will not be following curricula the rest of their lives.
How well they'll learn and how productive they'll be in college will depend upon them and their desire to learn. No one will be helping them through a packaged curriculum at that point or leading them through pre-established guidelines. Their success in college and beyond will depend upon their level of self-motivation, fostered by their enjoyment of learning.
Therefore, even if your homeschool curriculum still works for your child, strive to introduce interests and learning challenges not included in the current homeschool program. Most important, encourage your child to explore areas that interest her, to follow the many paths that may branch out from those areas, to spend plenty of time learning on her own and in ways that work best for her.