Yesterday my DAR group met and heard a program about 4-H in our county. The director talked about the opportunities in 4-H for children to learn many life skills, including public speaking, setting and reaching goals, good decision making, and leadership. Older kids have an opportunity to be of service to younger children, being trained in such skills as conflict resolution and sensitivity. And of course children work on projects which follow their interests, such as animals, sewing, cooking, robotics, theater arts, creative writing, and woodworking, among others. Beezy is old enough now to join 4-H, and I will soon be hearing from an advisor! This is one of those resources homeschoolers can point to when people ask about socialization, by which they often really mean socializing. It is also a group that unschoolers in particular can use to support the philosophy of open source and child-led learning.
In the evening I took Beezy and her friend to the McDonald's Play Place. When the girls told me they were ready for something to eat and drink, I gave them their money and pointed to the line! They were both uncertain, having expected me to do the ordering for them. I gave them few instructions beyond, "Stand in line, tell them what you want, give them the money, and get back your change." They both ended up doing this twice, also learning where they needed to stand and wait for their orders. This was a simple but perfect example of a real life learning experience, the practice of responsibility and self-sufficiency. I dare say they enjoyed it! Since I had my DAR meeting, lesson time yesterday was a little short, but the physical activity at the Play Place counts as gym, and the experience ordering one's own food was also educational. Just having a conversation with a friend provides a chance for personal growth and self-expression, politeness, waiting your turn, etc... There were tons of kids at McDonald's, so the girls interacted in a large, mixed age group. At bedtime I read to Beezy, as usual. Learning is certainly not limited to a designated "school time"!
I am finding that all of the things I think are good about the unschooling philosophy--child-led learning and auto-education, pursuing personal interests, respect and gentleness toward children, giving children freedom to be who they are, trusting the natural learning processes, and restraining from overly interfering in the education of children--can all be accomplished without proscribing to unschooling as the particular homeschooling method used. These tenets can be incorporated into a wide range of homeschooling styles and methodology. In the unschooling literature I have read, there seem to be only two camps acknowledged--either unschooling or school-at-home. There are so many other viable choices, and in truth, I see a certain rigidity at both ends of the spectrum. I think that as long as I build my homeschooling on a solid Catholic Christian foundation, the rest will fall into place, for I will be guided by the Holy Spirit, who indwells my husband, my child, and myself. Here is found the true origin of trust.