Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
Powered by Squarespace
Live and Learn Categories
Live and Learn Tags

Entries in unschooling (3)


Learning tools: Math (age 5)

Math in our house looks like a little bit of everything. Calvin does a few sheets from a curriculum a few of times a week, but most of our math now comes in the form of games or real life usage. I am finding that the real opportunities for learning math come when a question presents itself and, instead of simply answering it, we work with Calvin to reach the goal, doing all the steps together along the way.

In fact, the more comfortable I become with the unstructure of the unschooling life I always wanted but was afraid I could never do, the more I find that I am able to leave the curriculum behind and seek learning in life itself. Calvin has never been the problem—it's me who keeps getting in the way. (and I have many unschooling bloggers to thank for my increasing courage, especially Stephanie at OLM—thank you for sharing what you do).

So here is a list of math learning tools from a mom that desperately wants to be unschooling, and is getting closer every day.

Math in everyday life:
Keeping a calendar for library books
Measuring and building, or measuring and making crafts
Recording the savings and spending of allowance
Telling and measuring time

Lollipop Logic (books 1-3)
Math-U-See (blocks and books—now on Beta)

Board games:
Any game that requires adding up a score
Blokus Junior (Mattel)
Math War (School Zone)
Monopoly (Hasbro)
Qwirkle (Mindware)
Shut the Box (ours is by Melissa and Doug)
Totally Tut (Learning Resources)

Other games and activities:
Making games, graphs, mazes
Pattern Play (by Mindware)
Piano (now on Piano Adventures, level 2A)
Tangrams (Puzzles by Chris Crawford, and Grandfather Tang's, by Ann Tompert)

Internet games:
Feed Fribit (addition and subtraction,
Math Lines (addition,
Count the Cubes (
Turtle Pond (graph manipulation)

Shut the box

Puzzles (Dec 2011)

Cooking (February 2011)

Math-U-See (Sept 2011)


Qwirkle, and keeping score (Aug 2011)

Legos (July 2011)

Piano (sept 2011)

See other great lists of math tools over on OLM.



Being unschoolers at heart the idea of having a lesson based learning program is not top on our list of things to do, so I was a little sceptical back in March when Jon's bosses wanted to have Calvin on board for the piloting of their still in development preschool piano program. The program included weekly private lessons as well as weekly group lessons. It was of utmost importance to me that Calvin not feel pressured but self motivated to play the piano, and how can we assure that when we're carting him to lessons twice a week at night quite four years old?

We put our concerns aside, however, agreeing to the proposal, and at the same time started taking some measures at home to help it along. It's Rousseau who advocated that the teacher (in a one on one context) should learn, or at least pretend to learn, each subject along with the student. I can't get entirely on board with that—not only is it just not feasible all the time, I don't believe in lying to him to achieve an effect—but there are times when the genral principle makes sense to me, and since I really don't know anything about playing the piano I decided to take it up as a hobby right along with my son. It can be a little daunting to pick up a completely new subject at an older age, especially when sharing the learning process with someone so much younger, someone who most certainly will show you up, but we've had fun "arguing" over who gets to practice now.

My years of musical training are the only thing saving me right now from utter embarrassment. Well, that and the well written adult lesson books Jon brought home for me. I'm making progress and enjoying the evolution of a skill I have long coveted, but it is nothing compared to the leaps and bounds Calvin has made over the past months. In March he knew what the piano was and seemed to show an ability to keep a beat. By June he could play a multitude of his lesson songs from memory with one finger, keeping a steady beat and singing right along with them. By August he'd learned the names of all the keys on the piano and could play using all ten of his fingers, reading note names from a book. Now in October he is he reading music on the grand staff and playing two handed piano and is quite the accomplished sight reader—Im sure a video will be coming soon.

So how does this fit into our unschooling "method"? A common misconception is that unschooling is synonymous with unlearning, or that it means completely avoiding the process of learning by specific method. In fact, some unschoolers might agree with you, but for the most part unschooling just means letting the learner lead the way and fitting the process to the student instead of the other way around. Calvin has shown a remarkable interest in learning the piano. He enjoys practicing and doing the workbook exercises, and he is always hungry for more. In fact, while the original method is spread over a several month period, Calvin showed such eagerness to learn that he swept through it in half the time, something we did not slow down or discourage. That meant that he moved into the next book much sooner than expected, graduated into the next book just as ridiculously fast, and is now on his fourth. Since he is mastering the skills before he moves on we are remaining true to our student instead of to the lesson plan. That has meant being a little inventive along the way, but thankfully his teacher, Jon's boss, has been very flexible in working with him (and just as eager to teach him as he has been to learn from her, which makes the pairing work). It is his eagerness and his work that has made this a success, and that is what unschooling is all about.



I thought about titling this post "the best laid plans" and still think it is probably the more likely title. When we embarked on our homeschooling journey about a year ago, it was with the particular purpose of not schooling at all in the strict sense of the word; we consider ourselves unschoolers. A large part of homeschooling, however, specifically of home unschooling, is the ability to be flexible and to let the child lead the way.

After reading several books by David Elkind, and my favorite education book, Emile, I felt very at ease with the idea of reading and writing could and should wait. I had no qualms about Calvin eventually becoming a reader—he is surrounded by books, people who loves books, and people who love reading to him, not to mention that he, himself absolutely loves to be read to and to "read" to himself and his friends and toys. We'll get there eventually, I figured, and until then, no pressure.

So what happens when the kid starts pressuring you? When he first wrote his name by himself over a week ago it was really just the start down a slippery slope of sorts. I dragged my feet. Sure he could write his name, but I didn't think that meant open season the the first two of the three Rs. It was the very next day, though, that he started asking me to help him learn how to make other letters by writing them out so he could trace them. I grudgingly complied. Then I started to write my letters out in dots and dashes so he could truly trace over them, and then, as he was asking for more and more letters while I was trying to make lunch, I gave in fully and found a few preschool letter worksheets online and printed them. He seemed to find them almost as exciting as his train, and I had to convince him to put them aside to eat lunch.

It was then that I had to remind myself of my original goal: to let the kid lead the way. Well, here he was, leading the way while pulling me along behind him, my feet dragging all the while. Sure I'd set out to save him from rigid educational structures and from being a slave to worksheets such as these, but enjoying them wholeheartedly at his own pace was far from being enslaved. You could say that I'd missed the forest for the trees, or perhaps the learning for the worksheet, but I'm back on track...for now.