| About | Photos
| Topics | Links
| Lists | Recipes
Adjusting from school to Home Learning
I took my 13 yr.old son out of public school in March of this year.
He had become frustrated, bored, and totally turned off about "learning".
I hope to reawaken that desire to know, to explore, and to discover that
he once had.
At first, to my great delight, he was asking more questions and showing
more interest than I've seen him do in a very long time. But he's still
programmed to wait for an assignment before "learning" can begin. He hates
textbooks and worksheets, and I've watched his interest wane as I've used
these techniques. So we've moved into less structured schooling, with an
eye towards eventual self-directed learning. But as he's realized he's
free to choose what he wants to learn, he just bounces from one subject
to another, never really delving very far into anything, and getting bored
My concern is that when he is free to choose what he wants to do, it's
always video games. He will only read if I tell him he has to read something
everyday. Is it possible that some children, if given total freedom to
decide for themselves, will never choose to pursue a topic to learn more
I really like the concept of unschooling/self-directed learning and
believe it could be a great adventure for my son, but I'm afraid to just
let him drift along, hoping he'll become interested in something.
Any words of advice or encouragement from you experienced unschooling
It sounds like you are describing my son a number of years ago. My
son reacted negatively to anything described as schooling or education,
however if we found something that he was interested in, he would naturally
start asking questions. If he shows a natural interest or aptitude in a
particular area, use that as a starting point, and look to see how you
can use that to stimulate interests. He can take a while, because he has
to get that negative view of education as being something that you are
forced to do out of his mind and get back to enjoying learning naturally.
In my son's case, his interest and aptitude is with respect to computers.
He wants to get into computer maintenance and support. To help encourage
his desire to learn, we modified the computer that he used to make it easy
to make changes to the hard drive, etc., and he was now free to experiment.
Once he started experimenting, he realized that there were many thing he
could not do and that he would have to start reading and learning to be
able to address his questions, along with guidance from us. Once you start
down this path, suddenly he realizes reading is important, and math is
necessary to address some of what he needs, and other things naturally
start to come into play.
As to how to get started, that varies from child to child, depending
upon their personality and interests.
I hope that this helps.
First of all, does your son like to read? If so, what? Some people
like to read books; some prefer magazines or comic books. Schools
have reading lists that give little consideration to a child's personality
and tastes, and if he doesn't know his own, it's going to take time to
find out what they are.
Try reading to your son. Does a chapter book keep his attention?
If he doesn't seem to have the patience, it's either the wrong book or
not his style. You can also try books on tape. My children
love these at bedtime.
Video games aren't necessarily bad, but we have a rule in our house,
"no tv, computer games until sit down work is done." My 7 yos, who
would spend his life on the computer, is the first to the table and the
first one done. Highly motivating. Pick one or two subjects you consider
especially important (like math and science) and tell him he's free to
do anything he likes that's not electronic until these are finished.
Then he gets an hour or whatever before he has to move onto something else.
Again his choice, just not electronic. He'll either find something
to do or he'll stare at the walls, which may lead to him wanting to paint
them and that's the start of a hobby. (That's how interests and learning
begin, isn't it? As hobbies?) :)
Check out the "Motivating Learning" page
and a couple of others under "Topics" on this web site. There are some
past answers there you might find useful.
Give him time. For most of his life, school has been his life.
You can't expect that to change overnight. I know it's tough because
you feel all these expectations when you're first starting out, but that's
just the way it is. This is a major change in lifestyle. It
may take a year or more to make the transition.
Lynda in NY
What you describe is a very common thing. Have you ever read
Real Lives? It is a good book to read to let you know what
some kids have done when allowed to. You might also read The Teenage
Liberation Handbook. I don't agree with all that is said in it,
but it has some good info in it.
Give your son time. He will find an interest and then take off,
but it could take a year or more. It took longer than that to get
him to this point!
Best of luck to you, and congratulations on your decision to unschool!
I agree with what Lynda and Tom already said. A very good friend
of mine and I started homeschooling at the same time. We met because
both of our children had the same kindergarten teacher. Mine in kindergarten
was my oldest child, hers in that class was her youngest. When we
started homeschooling, her oldest was 12, and what a difference that made!!
He was an "A" & "B" student (knew how to play the game well).
I remember helping him with algebra (that he already finished in public
school with a good grade) He knew no real information at all
and was just nodding and parroting what I said. I have moved away,
so I don't get to see his struggle up close anymore, but her exact words,
OFTEN were- "All he is interested in is Nintendo!!!"
I advised her to sell it- hard advice, I know, but if it is a true stumbling
block in his life, if that is ALL he will think about...I told her in his
case it was the same as an alcoholic with liquor in the house. (But
I am dramatic at times :-)
Anyway- we do a similar thing as Lynda- NO t.v., computer games (other
than educational), etc...during our school day- until the whole day is
OVER and it's night time. I don't make them finish sit down work
before they do what they like, it's just that during the day, sometime
we try to do some non- fiction reading by me (science or history type stuff)
and we try to do some math. We do work out of a text some, but we
also "mix it up" with homemade LONG word problems, and "outside math challenge"
Which is a 3x4 ft. dry erase board- we have a stop watch & time each
other on problems, total the score after 10 or so & low score wins!
There is a penalty of 20 sec. for incorrect answers. My oldest is
supposed to do independent reading sometime during the day also- They know
what is expected of them, so they mill about and do things on their own,
when It's time to read they gather around (I let them draw or build things
quietly while I read- No wars with men -too noisy).
They can't go play with other children (round about 3 pm) until we are
done with what we are supposed to accomplish for the day.
I would also suggest you check out some videos from the library- history
& science stuff, or what ever you think he might be interested in-
this may give him some ideas to pursue. How about building something
with his hands? I think we are going to build our own window box
for flowers this week. How about a fish tank or terrarium?
My 9 yo was really interested in biospheres & the concept or everything
surviving in a sealed space, so he made a miniature one in a plastic juice
bottle- it work pretty well, but boy did it stink when we took the
cap off! Discovery, TLC, History Channel, HGTV & others like
that are great to fertilize the mind.
Some homeschool moms and I just talked about this same subject
at the park last Fri. I limit our t.v. and video games but I'm not
seeing an interest in reading in my youngest two. My two oldest
daughters love to read. When they were young we put away our t.v
for 4 yrs. I think it was one of the best things we have done.
I have been trying to limit instead of totally getting rid of it
but I'm just not seeing any improvement. Meanwhile we have been
going to Borders ( bookstore ) on Saturday nights, everyone can buy one
or two books of interest. We all really enjoy looking at all
the books together. I think this has encouraged some interests.
Another thing I'm going to try.....is to have some books and other
things to do ( puzzles, games, maps etc. ) at tables and have the boys
go do something for an hour a day.
I'm looking forward to hearing what some of the other moms on the list
have to say about this.
Some of what your son is experiencing is the age, itself. At least
that's how it seems from my perspective. I've been hs'ing my son
since the end of; 3rd grade (he's now 13.5) and this past year has
been a real struggle to get started. I'd liken him to starting
a Dodge (my mom; drove a Dodge the last forty years of her life
and it always had a false start. We'd hear it turn over and die and
we'd say, "Starts like a Dodge"). We're heading into his fourteenth
year and 8th grade and thinking of different ways we can approach
Levi prefers to have an assignment, but if the idea is child-led schooling
and he, being the child, desires an assignment, then I'll give him an
assignment and consider it unschooling. After all, HE chose to do it that
We're still feeling our way through this and I certainly have no answers. I do think we'll try
to concentrate more on auto mechanics and drafting
this coming summer and into the school year. His interests. (Who
said their boys were just discovering cars? I deleted yesterday's
mail already but my son has always been car crazy. Problem is, he
gets about half the facts wrong. I try to be interested and
carry on a conversation with him, but I swore off mechanics when
I was a girl and my brother was fast on his way to becoming a grease
monkey... I prefer horses.)
Anyway, we'll try to muddle through this teenage time with boys together.
As well as the other very good advice to allow your son time to "deschool"
and allow him time to find his own interest (while you gently direct,
of course) ;-) I wanted to mention I remember reading -way back-
that about this time of a young adults life their growing spurts also interfere
with their desire, drive, concentration, energy, etc. in learning.
And I have found this to be true. (As well as hormones, esp. for
our young ladies) No problem though because as home educators we
can allow them to have the time to grow and then they're back to exploring
and investigating life. I find audio book tapes and music history
great during these times.
So when you find them not doing too much, to ease your mind, measure
them and see if they've sprouted up some more. ;-) No laughing, I'm
being serious here. =^o
In HIS service,
Well, I was an unschooled kid, do I count?
I would say first, that he probably needs some time without school.
Not necessarily without learning at all, but at least without the kind
of learning that 'feels like school'. I know that I, personally, am totally
burnt out right now from 'doing school' (I go to the local community college),
and I need some time to unwind over the summer. I love reading,
but right now, even the books I have right now to learn stuff I'm totally
interested in are hard to get started. That said, I have two conflicting
pieces of advice for you.
* Don't push him into doing something he doesn't want to do. I understand
that you want him to be reading, but why? Think about that... It sounds
to me like you're telling him 'read some every day'. Well, if he doesn't
enjoy the reading right now, I don't think you should force him to read
for the sake of reading. He may get frustrated and resentful, and in the
long run it can make things worse. Everyone I've met who hated reading,
or who couldn't read at an older age, or similar problems, it has been
because when they were in kindergarten, someone decided that they should
know their letters. Period. Or, in first grade, they should know how to
read X number of words (there, some algebra, too :), because that's what
every first grader should know. Well, they would rather have been outside
playing, and doing other 5 year old things, and were forced to read simply
because they were supposed to be able to, and because of that, later in
life they hate it. That rant aside, I just want to say be careful how you
approach subjects like that, decide first if something is important now,
then, why it is important... If possible, try to lead him to come
to 'why' on his own instead of having to read because you said so.
* Child-led schooling, in my opinion, doesn't necessarily mean he literally
picks what he wants to learn and when. To me, it is more along the lines
of recognizing his strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes and
planning 'school', whatever that means, around that. I really like what
Tom suggested, about the computer to 'fix', and it's an excellent example
of how the kid saw 'why' he needed math and 'why' he needed to read on
his own. Probably without even realizing it was 'reading', he wanted to
know more about how to configure a hard drive, and so he looked it up.
Maybe your son doesn't have any strong interests right now... Fine. It
could be that he is 'bouncing around' subjects because he is trying to
figure out what he likes. I know that I personally have sort of a 'jack of all trades' personality, I am curious to know a
little about everything, but I can't concentrate too long on anything before
I get tired of it, or more interested in something else (think of Chet
from the hardy boys books, with a different hobby every book. That's sort
of how I am). The trick is for you to be in charge, but doing things that
he enjoys doing. Some examples of things that I learned a lot from and
didn't even realize it until later... Cooking. There is a lot of
stuff involved in cooking, from math, (Y'know, I never quite understood
'canceling' in fractions until I realized I was acting it out by using
the 2/3rds cup 3 times to get 2 cups), problem solving (Hey, there's no
milk!), organization skills, and lots of other things if you look for them.
4-H. There is lots that I learned from 4h, and I think it's a great
example of how you can get him started and then he takes it from there.
If you get him into a 4h club, then let him choose what project he wants
to be involved in... It depends on the teacher and the project, but most
projects will be mostly hands on, fun stuff, with additional reading if
he wants to get into it.
Like I said, these two points do seem to contradict each other, I guess
this is where I tie them into one thought. Don't think that 'child-led'
means you yield control to the child, but that you lead based on the child's
Well, here are the ramblings of an unschooled graduate... Take them
or leave them, they are my observations of my own family, myself, and others
around me, from various schooling backgrounds. Above all else, though,
you are the parent in this situation, and you know what's going
on better than my, or anyone else's guesses... and that is the beauty
I don't have much problem with video/computer games or even television
viewing. Learning does happen!
In my own experience with a now-14-year-old, the games led him into
research and reading. He quickly progressed beyond the basic shoot-em-ups
and into strategy games. He needed to research to find "cheats" and, of
course, be able to read and comprehend them. Good spelling and keyboarding
skills were vital to the success of his missions. He, my non-reader, began
buying gaming magazines and reading and reading and reading. One night
I found him surrounded by several volumes of the Encyclopedia. He was researching
what would be good countries to take over when he grows up and becomes
dictator of the world. Okay, so that isn't such a great life goal -- but
he had made a list of what would be good to have in a country (I think
a good oil supply was one of the things) and he was reading up.
His gaming binge lasted less than a year (about 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 - that
growth spurt time). He still enjoys the games once in awhile, but has progressed
on to other computer-y things. This summer he will take a class in Web
Design and another in Interactive Animation (both are classes for highschoolers
offered by our local community college).
No, he didn't become passionately interested in any one thing as a result
of this and pursue it to excellence. That always seems to be the unschooling
success story, right? Those kids don't live in my house. I'm actually hoping
for well-rounded kids and I do think his gaming interest worked toward
Btw, my children are 21 (homeschool grad, girl), 18 (entering senior
year homeschool, boy), 14 (entering sophomore year homeschool, boy) and
7-almost-8 (homeschool, boy). This is the beginning of our 14th year of
Have I mentioned yet that David (the above referenced 14 yo) is now
sporting a mohawk? He waited until the musical was over (Bye Bye Birdie,
where he played a cop and a 50s style dad) before cutting his hair. He
used to have spiky hair which he cut about 6 weeks before the play.
Welcome to the list!