What unschooling looks like for us

I know I often say I mostly write this blog for me but today that is really, really true.  I'm having one of those weeks/ times where I'm trying very hard not to freak out about all the stuff I feel my boys don't know.

I'm thinking about what the boys would  be doing if they were in school and feeling bad that I haven't covered all the topics they "should" know.  I'm feeling like I have seriously neglected our school work lately and I'm starting to worry they aren't learning enough.

As much as I want to fully embrace unschooling I just can't help worrying.  So, to make myself feel better, I'm going to go through each subject area and think critically about every single thing we've been doing over the past few weeks to see just what they are learning and applying when I'm not teaching or planning lessons.

    1.  Math-- I can't remember the last time I've taught my boys math.  This is one area that is really starting to scare me since I feel like we never do any math.  I think it was one day last week when I was feeling really bad we hadn't done a real math lesson in ages that I made them all do a worksheet or two but I figure they must be applying math in real life.  They've just go to be or else I'm a total failure at this homeschooling thing!  Let's see... 
  • Alec took the cards out of the memory box yesterday and wanted to lay them out in a nice grid.  He counted that there were 10 cards in a pile and 8 piles so he had 80 cards.  We all worked together to figure out that we could use 10 rows of 8 to make our grid.  (multiplication and division).
  • When reading the Weird School Book Ms. Patty is Batty we stopped reading long enough for the boys to figure out that if the kids had 10 Twix bars, 5 Nestle Crunch bars, and 7 Baby Ruth bars they would have 22 bars.  Alec quickly added 10 plus 7 to get 17 and then added 5 onto that, while carrying the one (all of which he thought about out loud) while Ian just quickly computed the answer in his head.  (adding, word problems)
  • At the grocery store the boys compare food pricing labels.  Evan pointed out the isle markers- telling me which number isle we were in and which isle came before it.  (counting backwards to start subtraction)
  • While reading the Weird School Book Ms. Todd is Odd, Evan figured out AJ's math lesson question-- "if I had 10 chocolate ice cream cones and gave away 5 how many would I have?"  Using his fingers Evan told me 5!  (subtracting, word problems)
  • Ian has been helping build the basement room and has been using a tape measure.  He measures, adds and subtracts.  He has even had to use and write fractions.  (measurement, fractions, addition and subtraction-- he's even added and subtracted fractions)
  • The boys had to add up their purchases and subtract what they were spending from the $100 their grandmother gave them for Christmas spending money at Target the other day.  They compared prices, looked for sales and tried to compute what the savings would be.  (adding, subtracting, budgeting, money)
  • Alec and Ian have been asking me at Karate (or at our Theatre workshop yesterday) what time it is and I've been directing them to the wall clock to figure it out themselves.  We've reviewed O'clock, the five minute intervals around the clock, the minute hand and the hour hand.  (telling time)
  • Watching TV shows and playing video games (not all of them but quite a few require problem solving and some math concepts) like Cyber Chase, Lego Batman (or Indiana Jones or any video game where they earn money to spend and have to determine if they have enough coins or not).   
  • Constructing buildings and vehicles out of blocks, Lego sets, dirt, wood, rocks, etc.  All methods of construction require problem solving.  (problem solving)
  • Evan and Alec were playing with the calculators the other day figuring out how to turn them on, add, subtract, making up "new" big numbers and trying to read them.  They tried to figure out how to make the numbers larger and smaller.   (numbers, ordering numbers, using a calculator)
  • Ian and Alec were arguing over how many pieces in a dozen while watching TV this morning.  I have no idea what prompted their discussion but I have to guess it was the TV show.  (names of numbers and groupings of numbers)
  • Cooking and baking  (reading temperatures, measuring out ingredients, using fractions)

2.  Reading and Language Arts-- I don't worry so much about reading.  Reading is something we seem to do all the time.  The only one I tend to fret over a bit at this point is Evan since he's still not really reading on his own, but I am seeing huge strides in his reading ability. 
  • Each of the older boys read for 30 min. each night after "bedtime" until "light out" time. (reading)
  • Evan has been practicing 5 different sight words each week.  (emergent reading)
  • Evan has been reading simple repetitive texts with one sentence on each page like I Can See or Jan Can (reading)
  • Alec and Ian have taken turns reading chapter books out loud to us all. (oral reading)
  • We have been reading a few books each week together for school and listening to books on CD in the car. (reading comprehension, listening skills)
  • Evan has been trying to read instructions to his video games as they pop up on screen in both his Wii and DS games.  (reading)
  • Learning about plays and William Shakespeare.  (English Literature)
  • Learning about superlatives and comparatives and playing computer games about them. (Grammar)
  • Playing scribblenauts, Words with Friends, and a myriad of other computer and video games. (spelling)
  • Telling stories (something they do all the time) (story telling)
  • Talking about stories they read and teaching others about what they have learned and read (reading comprehension, retelling skills, summarizing books)
  • Playing with Mad Libs (grammar)
  • Discussions about genres of books, deciding if texts are fiction or non- fiction. (literature)
  • Library field trips.  Learning about the Dewey Decimal system, reading books, taking picture walks to see if it's a book they'd like to read. 
  • Comparing and contrasting different books about the same subject, books and their movie counterparts, books within a series. 
  • Cooking and baking (reading recipes and instructions)
  • While watching Lego Batman we learned that the plural form of Lego is always Lego not Legos.  It's Lego sets, Lego pieces, etc. but never Legos.  (grammar)
  • Ian and Alec had lots of fun reading all the Snapple caps to us.  We learned such interesting facts too.   I had no idea plants would run a fever when they're sick just like we do or that the dots on a Domino are called pips. 
  • Evan has been practicing sight words using magnets and cookie sheets.  I found these great FREE printable sight word sheets that leave plenty of room to create the words next to the sight words.  I make sure to have him read them to me as he works. 

3.  Writing--  do they ever write??  I'm really not sure I can find evidence of writing in their everyday lives.
  •  Ian wrote his Tenants of Tang Soo Do out to memorize them. 
  • I have assigned a bit of school work over the past few weeks and the older boys have practiced cursive while Evan wrote out some sight words.
  • They've  been adding items to our on- going grocery list as we run out of their favorite foods.
4. Science-- is something I never worry about.  My boys gravitate toward science and it's something I think we cover every single day. 
  • Watching documentaries or series on TV and Video like Saving A species, How it's Made, Mythbusters, Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, etc.
  • Playing Animal Tracks memory game,
  • Making our presentations for the science fair-- reading all sorts of books about mummification, bubbles and pandas. 
  • Attending our Homeschool Science fair and seeing all the display boards, watching DNA extraction experiments and talking to other kids who are interested in science. 
  • Reading books like Bugs and Bugsicles, any of the non- fiction animal books the boys read on an almost daily basis.
  • Running their own science experiments-- like yesterday when Ian tried to tape some plastic wrap together around his hand to make a waterproof mitten.  He then put his hand in water to see if it would work.  When it didn't he brainstormed ways to try and make it work.
  • Nature observations.
  • Cause and effect relationships.  I'm constantly hearing "what do you think will happen if we..."
  • Cooking and baking.
  • Playing with their stuffed animals (and treating them as real animals)
  • We stumbled upon this website about animals last night and had a very quick mini- lesson after dinner just because they were interested in what 20 animals they might not know existed. 
  • Reading Archimedes' Bath and running our own water displacement tests.

Ian read it aloud to us all and then all the boys played with water,
bowls and toys to see how many they could fit before the
water overflowed.  The larger the item; the more water it displaces.
They also learned a lot about which toys float and which ones sink.

5.  History/ Geography-- another thing I have noticed the boys just seem to pick up on.  I am amazed at how much geography the boys seem to know, especially Alec.  He's so interested in where everything is found.  I catch Alec looking at our wall maps all the time. 
  •  Learning about William Shakespeare at the Theatre workshop yesterday.  It led to a discussion of Old England. (history and geography)
  • Reading Dogs on Duty and learning about how they train military dogs, what the dogs do and which dogs have earned medals of bravery.  The book talked about Iran, Iraq, and the middle east.  (geography and history)
  • Reading Miracle Mud and learning about the history of baseball.  I had no idea they soaked major league balls in a special mud that was discovered by an old coach.  (history)
  • Reading and looking at the wall maps (geography)
  • Playing the Scrambled States of America game (geography)
  • Playing Hail to the Chief board game and learning about all the U S presidents. (history)

  • Researching for our Science fair we learned of history about ancient Egypt and mummies, we looked at maps to see the ranges of the Lesser and Giant Pandas. (history and geography)
  • When Alec read his non- fiction animal books most of them have maps showing the animals habitats.  (geography)
  • Reading books like Around the World; Who's Been Here?   (geography)
  • Watching TV shows like Yukon Men, Alaska the Last Frontier, Gold Rush, American Pickers (and American Pickers on the road), Pawn Stars, etc. (history and geography)
  • Watching travel videos (geography and sometimes a bit of history)
6.  Physical Education--
  • Trampoline classes each week
  • Karate lessons a few times a week
  • running
  • jumping
  • races
  • riding bikes
  • riding scooters
  • playing baseball
7.  Foreign language--
  • They learn Spanish words through some of the TV shows they watch
  • They're learning Korean words through their Tang Soo Do classes
8.  The "arts"-- I'm lumping music, theater, photography, film making, and fine arts all into one category here.  I think they're all important to help the boys be well rounded but we do seem to take these in small doses here and there.  Despite my promise to do art everyday we really haven't had a planned arts and crafts lesson in a while but I know we'll be doing a lot once Thanksgiving has passed and we move onto making holiday gifts.
  • I've recently discovered Pandora and the boys and I have been experimenting with creating our own favorite music station.  There's been a lot of talk about why we like certain music and we've been listening to a lot of music
  • They had music playing during their trampoline class this week and we talked about genres of music and why certain types of music are played at weddings, while working out, while driving, etc.
  • They've watched how several different kinds of musical instruments were made on How it's Made and why instruments make the sounds they do
  • They sing-- a lot!
  • They learned a lot about theater at our theater workshop yesterday
  • They practiced being on stage, using props, and learning lines
  • They watched how stop action photography films are made and are experimenting with making their own.
  • Alec has been playing with his camera, taking pictures, learning to create interesting photographs and making sure the camera doesn't move when he takes pictures.
  • They put together some crafts for (and at) the homeschool science fair.
  • They build and construct with Lego sets and blocks which I consider a form of art.  They're still thinking creatively.
  • They set up animals, Lego sets, or toys and act out scenes-- giving the animals lines to say, actions, and making them come to life.  I look at this as a form of theater and think of it as great practice for stop action photography films.  They think of it as playing. 

  • We read Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! and had fun creating funny Picasso- like masterpieces using picassohead.com.

Ian's finished Picasso head-- with a nose for it's mouth!
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