Unschooling Rocks!

24 Apr

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Well, I am quite childishly excited today. This unschooling approach has really worked wonders!

Parents, grandparents and a never-ending stream of teachers have sweated blood and tears trying to get my (epically) reluctant writer to put pen to paper for more than two seconds at a time.

So I almost fell off my chair when he piped up, “I’m going to create a folder in my Essays and Stories folder called Aliens. And then I’m going to invent some aliens and put them in there.”

“Oh!” I said, not quite believing what I was hearing. “Are you going to write about the aliens or draw them?”

“I’m going to write about them,” he says.

So, down he sits, and starts writing. I pop out to pick up my Mac charger from the scared-looking chap at the PC repair place. I return, and he is still creating. Nary a computer game in sight. He wrote it, edited it, and when he was done, he was done. It is, apparently, the first in a series.

The problem with Z and writing is manifold. He is left-handed. His father struggles with handwriting. I had terrible handwriting and went through three years of intensive — and mind-numbingly tedious — handwriting exercises to acquire the current scrawl.

Z taught himself to write aged three. Shortly after mastering letters, punctuation and simple words, he lost interest in working with them further.

By the time school got around to showing children how to shape letters — current educational theory holds that younger children should just make shapes — his own methodology was ingrained.

He was taught letter-shaping the right-handed way (left-handers are supposed to hold the paper at an angle, and shape some letters differently), and I further muddied the waters by introducing a Left-Handed Handwriting book.

Ergo. Hates handwriting. Comes under pressure. Resists writing of all kinds, though he’s much more articulate on a laptop than on paper. Goes into a sort of sulky dream space. Drives family and teachers up the wall.

Which is weird, because his language is very inventive, he spells and punctuates well, has a great vocabulary, etc, etc.

Anyway, we have some boundaries in our unschooling experiment. I’ve told him that he does need to do some writing as part of his learning, because writing is important, and that we will also need to do some maths. So today I asked him what sort of learning he fancied doing. He wandered off, drew some spacecraft, then decided to write about aliens. Result!

I mentioned that we managed to do some maths the other day, as well. He’s been reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything and was talking about how the evolution of technology interferes with the human evolutionary tree — is it a branch up, or a branch down? — so I mentioned Moore’s Law, which I explained as computing power doubling every year.

Anywise, we did a graph. Plotted doubling (exponential growth), then plotted increasing by two (arithmetic growth, I hope). I managed to introduce angles. He was interested. He engaged. I was interested. Such an improvement on previous maths experiences

While writing this post, I’ve found out that I got Moore’s Law wrong. It’s more like every two years. Getting maths and science wrong must be an occupational hazard as an unschooler, at least one without a stack of books and easy access to the marvels of t’interweb, so I guess we need to learn from it.

I’m going to try and look at it in more detail, by way of correcting it. There’s a lovely graph on Wikipedia, which has introduced me to the concept of a logarithmic scale. So we could learn about logarithms and logarithmic scales. Or the technical bits of the computer that Moore was talking about. There’s a lot of room for both of us to learn things, outside of the wonderful things we see and do as we travel around the world.

We’ve done some probability, in the form of playing whist. And he’s been using the graphite drawing pencils my auntie gave him to draw some amazing pictures based on scenes from the Artemis Fowl series, which Granny and Grandpa gave him.

This is the troll scene from the first book of the series, which I think is really nicely composed, with great movement, and a nice sense of detail.

Drawing of the troll battle in Artemis Fowl


The other piece of writing he has done and enjoyed was a piece of Vogon poetry. We’d been watching the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which he loves, and talking about the Vogons.

We talked about what made their poetry so bad. I suggested writing a Vogon poem. We read Jabberwocky a few times, talked about how that worked as a poem, the nature of nonsense words, metre, scansion, structure.

The results, I think, were great (although he does not want them reproduced). And the most amazing thing is to see someone who has rejected any form of writing, in particular creative writing, for the last four years, begin inventive writing of his own volition.

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5 Responses to “Unschooling Rocks!”

  1. Helen April 24, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    I love it, all of it. Well done both of you!

    • MummyT April 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

      I will pass it on to the young master! He has been stung by a jellyfish and chased by scary dogs, but is bearing up brilliantly. I have found a moron’s guide to particle physics. Wish me luck…

  2. Rana May 2, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    How exciting finding writing on his own terms. That’s great.


  1. Carnival of Unschooled Life—May 2010 Edition « The Expanding Life - May 1, 2010

    […] thinks Unschooling Rocks! at Travels With a Nine Year […]

  2. All Things Family Blog Carnival - May 11, 2010

    Stories: MummyT presents Unschooling Rocks! posted at Travels with a Nine Year Old.

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