This is one of my favourite topics and something I have read quite extensively about over the years and come back to time and time again as I believe in constantly tweaking our approach, anyway feel free to switch off…
The structure v’s unschooling/autonomous split is one of those things that rears it’s head fairly regularly in the HE community. Not so much in the flesh as when you are out playing or doing activities it is irrelevant but on forums. It can get heated at times as unfortunately I think the most critical people of home eders are other home eders, we all get used to having to defend our choices to outsiders and have a habit of turning that on each other.
Following this article from the Daily Mail, I’ve been discussing the merits of unschooling with some friends on Facebook. Now hoping I haven’t upset anyone as I know I come across as quite anti-unschooling and while I’ve tried going down that route and it didn’t work for my family (result weepy meltdowns from insular children) I am most certainly not anti it (was my goal when we set out on HE as a journey) and the friends who came down on the unschooling side have lovely, bright, well mannered children so it obviously works for some.
The whole article is written to be inflammatory and as for the comments shockingly narrow minded (:0) – really not positive propaganda.
In practice I suspect the majority of home eders fall between the extremes and labels are arbitary. I call us structured but in reality besides handwriting, mental maths and group stuff we have done little that could be construed as ‘structured’ since June as life has taken over. Feel a bit guilty but he is still learning loads.
What makes us ‘structured’ in my mind is that I do limit screen exposure (too much = glassy eyes and meltdowns and inabilty to engage with anything else in this house) and I do try and have a routine where we do activities together of a morning for a few hours (games/stories/crafts – little that many would recognise as ‘school’). In practice it doesn’t always happen but generally the days go a lot smoother if we follow this routine.
We also have some things we believe it important/essential for our children to know. I see knowledge as building blocks and it being my responsibility to make sure the basics are covered, I just don’t have the faith to trust that they will learn all this themselves (and here I am referring specifically to my children). But I don’t aim to teach as I firmly believe that children learn best when they want to learn. My role is to make them want to learn and to give them the tools and opportunities to do so. They are given lots of control over how the basics are covered workbooks, games, computer, books (we cover an awful lot by just reading), groups, discussion, crafts, documentaries, and lots of opportunity to follow their interests beyond the basics.
To use the analogy of leading a horse to water…
I can lead them to water but can’t (and wouldn’t want to) make them to drink. I need to make the pool enticing to tempt them to drink. I might need to try several ways, we may go away and come back several times and sometimes I have to pick and choose which pools are important to spend my energy on and which to let go. If they run off to drink from another pool I certainly won’t pull them away, I’ll do my best to top it up as long as they want to drink.
I do own various curricula but I see these as something to refer to, a suggestion for me rather than something to rigidly adhere to. We work best with flexibility.
Even at our most structured we’re never talking more than a few hours 3 or 4 days a week sneaks up as they get older (less if extra group events) steered by me so still plenty of space and time for play and mental processing.
So our approach really is ‘a little bit of structure‘ (link is my favourite home ed forum – lovely friendly people, welcoming to everyone).