When I first started homeschooling my preschooler, I thought, "I've got this." I wrote out a daily schedule. I put together weekly lesson plans. I had craft supplies and art projects laid out for months at a time. Everything went pretty smoothly. My kids had fun doing unit studies and learning bits of information each week. All seemed well in the homeschool venture.
Marley was almost four years old when I started to emphasize reading curriculum. After all, that's around the time when a child should start reading, right? I was a very young reader. I was able to read Early Reader books at age 3. So I figured my children would be on the same track. She knew her letters, and she knew her sounds. I thought, naturally the next step is to read. That's what I thought.
She wasn't getting it.
Sitting down and trying to figure out phonics together was awful. She knew the letters. She knew the sounds. But for some reason, putting them together did not make sense to her. I tried getting her to memorize sight words. She knew a few words, but her interest level was so low, that it was difficult to get her to focus her eyes on the page. Soon, reading time turned into a time we both dreaded. She just wasn't getting it. I was frustrated. She was frustrated. At some point I got fed up and said, "I know you know this! Why can't you remember?" She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I don't know why I can't do it." That was the moment my heart broke.
My mom instinct raged - this wasn't right! I was pushing her to do something she wasn't ready to do. I knew she would read eventually. Why was I so determined to make it happen on schedule? Because people might think my daughter isn't smart? Because they might think I'm not a good mom? Who cares! My baby was hurting and she was starting to think she isn't smart.
No and no.
I immediately put a stop to it and stopped pushing her to read. I continued to read picture books to her and we had fun enjoying the stories together. I didn't stress about her skill level and I didn't bring up phonics or reading to her again...
...until she brought it up to me!
It was only about six months later that Marley started asking me how to write words and how to spell words. I decided to write words and phrases on her chalkboard easel each day without telling her anything. She would ask me what it said and many times she would copy what I wrote. It was awesome! She was pursuing knowledge all on her own! She learned so much more and at a quicker rate, when she was ready for it. I realized that stepping back and being more of a facilitator or a mentor was more beneficial for the education of my children. That's what I did. I started asking Marley what she wanted to do or learn about and I would provide activities or information to encourage learning. I abandoned the idea of schooling at home and I became what's known as an "unschooler." I didn't know I was "unschooling" at the time, but it wasn't long before I met other home educators who took more of an interest-led learning approach.
Here is an article that gives great examples of how unschooling can be applied:
The most difficult part of unschooling has been getting over the comparison. I need to keep reminding myself that it doesn't matter what other kids their age are doing. Even if they are behind in areas, I aim to make sure they are making progress and maximizing their full potential.
So that's where we are now.
Even though I still consider myself a homeschooler, homeschooling technically didn't work for us, but unschooling or "freeschooling" (I've recently starting saying) has been amazing!
As unschoolers/freeschoolers we are free to make up our own schedule and curriculum as we go. We are constantly learning together at all times and in all settings. My kids love learning and it is working wonderfully for us. They are learning at their own pace and they are always excited to learn more, because I follow their interests. And most importantly, they are happy, they feel loved, and they are becoming caring people who are confident in their abilities. I couldn't ask for more. <3