Thursday, March 14, 2013

So Goes the Deschooling...

We are nearing the end of our first two weeks of deschooling.  Daddy has left and we spent last week dealing with the emotional upheaval of that as well as flittering off to all of Punky’s normal obligations which include:  Voice lessons, Tap lessons, Library Writing class, Co-Op class, and rehearsals for ‘The Music Man’.  We also spent some time with various friends.  Over the weekend we spent our time revamping our school room.  I didn’t want it to look like a school room, so to speak, anymore.  Rather, I wanted to create a space that was inviting and engaging for learning.  I’m not so sure I’m on the right track because on one hand I *personally* love libraries and books and bookstores and feel they encourage learning and exploration, Punky isn’t me.  On the other hand, I know that learning takes place anywhere anytime and there isn’t really a ‘learning room’.  Yet again, (I know, I’m out of hands) I still like the idea of having a space that we utilize where our tools for learning can be stored in an orderly and easily accessible way for Punky.  So, long story short – we created a ‘learning space’ this weekend.

I’ve got pictures too!  I know, you are beyond excited……

Punky was in on this project with me as I wanted her to feel invested in the space and for her to make choices about how she would like things to be organized and set-up that would work best for her.
The first thing we did was take down everything from the walls that looked like school.  All those posters that remind children what the parts of speech are, what a preposition is, how to multiply or divide….gone!  I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with them, especially if children like them or find them useful.  For Punky though…..they didn’t help and they just made our space look more like school, so they are gone.

Next we removed any book that was curriculum, with the exception of the one curriculum book Punky wanted to keep – her math book.  All other books that were ‘schooly’ yet not actual curriculum were placed on one shelf of the make-shift bookcase by the window and she knows they are there if she so desires or needs them.  That bookcase now houses all the books that are ‘hands-on’ learning books and activities, with a shelves of their own, and one shelf is mine (general homeschooling reference books).  The longer bookcase that covers most of the wall was labeled for easier finding.  The shelves were divided into categories – History/Social Studies; Math/Art; Language/References; Science; and General.

Then, we moved clear storage stack bins into one corner and sorted through all the countless bins I had (upstairs where they were out of sight/out of mind) to find those supplies she was most interested in having on hand for crafting/art/projects.  We organized those into the bin with the three long drawers and they are now filled with all sorts of art supplies and projects supplies organized as she set it up.  The very tall white bins that are stacked quite high are each labeled:  Science, Language/Writing, History/Geography, Reading/Library, Computer/Video, and Games/Puzzles.  These contain ‘hands-on’ resources such as games, activities, kits, manipulatives, etc… for Punky to use alone or with me.

We then put a stool in another corner and stacked it with some of Punky’s favorite games to play – so they’d be right in our line of vision – as well as a couple of new ones I’d purchased that sounded fun and interesting.  I plan on swapping out every so often with other games to keep that corner ‘fresh and exciting’.  Right now, in that corner, we have:  Dominoes, Pears and Pairs, You’ve Been Sentenced, Yahtzee, Smart Mouth, Mancala, Distraction, In a Pickle, Apples to Apples, and Othello.

Lastly, we decided to clear our ‘desk table’ off of everything and have this been our open space.  It’s a great desk from Ikea that actually drops down on both sides leaving a table that is only 6 inches wide but when fully opened is about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide.  This is where she can do work, if she chooses to, and it’s also where I’ll ‘strew’ items that I think might be of interest to her.  Leaving them there on the table for a while and then swapping out for other things after a time.  Mostly I’ll swap them out for things from the ‘hands-on’ bins in an effort to spark her memory of what we have available, but I’ll also pick up interesting things here and there that I’ll leave for her as I get more in tune with her current passions.

During the course of this reorganization we discovered several things that we both forgot we had.  Two things struck Punky’s interest.  A large wooden puzzle (seen on the desk in the picture) of the Presidents and a book on how to draw.  These were the only two things that she’s focused on since.  The puzzle isn’t a jigsaw one – you merely match the piece to the correct name – but it has the President’s term year under the pieces and lists their party affiliation as well as birth and death.  She’s messed with it a bit on and off.  The learning to draw book though sent her down a path of high interest.  She spent her free time over the weekend, and still, working on her art.  First it was drawing animals.  We have a cat, a wolf, and a few other attempts.  Next came city streets.  She’s done five in total of those.  I know that she’s figuring out all sorts of things by doing those city streets, even if I can’t identify it all myself.  She's also perused a few different books on different topics along the way, not lingering too long on any one of them (no difference there), but without me commenting on it at all except when she remarks to me first, "I think I'll read this" and I look at it and say, "Sounds interesting, hope you enjoy it."  THAT is very different than how I responded in the past.  I don't even want to detail how much I harped on reading because I'm a LOVER of books - the written word and it just kills me she doesn't have the same passion (or any) for it that I do. 

Punky has made two proclamations in the last few days.  The first was that she thinks we should still do math lessons, which I know would make her father very happy.  She had a look in her eye though when she said it and something told me I was perhaps being tested.  I said, “Sure, if you think you’d like to continue math lessons we can do that.”  She looked at me with a glint and said, “I thought I *should* do math lessons.”  I shrugged and said, “Ok, if that’s what you want” and walked away.  A couple of days later she came to me and said, “I think we should also continue doing English lessons as well; spelling, writing, grammar, stuff like that.”  I said, “If you’d like to have English lessons we can do that.”  This time she just starred at me and then she walked away.  It was a HUGE leap of faith on my part to let it rest on her what choices she’ll make regarding her learning.  HUGE.

That is how our deschooling has gone so far.   I will admit, I struggle some.  When I ask her, ‘Hey would you be interested in doing _______________?” and she says ‘No thanks.’  I smile and nod and say ‘ok’, trying to prove to her that I meant what I said when I said I wasn’t going to push things on her any more.  Inside though I still cringe a bit after dangling a few things out there and getting rejected each time.  I still shrug, nod, and smile…….but sometimes it feels like I’m dying a little inside each time.  I have no idea if I’m doing this ‘right’ or not……but I’m not sure there is a ‘right’, except what’s right for us.  And other than my internal cringing….all seems to be going well.  In the next week or so Punky and I are going to sit down and talk about what she wants her learning to include and how she’d like to carry it out.  I’m fully prepared to let her take the wheel of her learning and be her facilitator, guide, mentor, and when needed coach.  At least, I think I am.

~Mari B.


  1. I know your room is full, but if you want her to read spontaneously, you might want to add a big cozy reading chair or a little sofa... or even a blanket and pillows in the corner. My daughter mostly read under a table on blankets.

    I am not an unschooler by any stretch of the imagination, but if I had to do it over, I like to think I would spend the pre- high school years doing math and language arts in the morning, and child-led in the afternoons.

    1. She has one....but in her room, which is where she wanted it! Thanks for the tip!

  2. I would have loved a "school" like this! What an exciting way to get children to love learning. So glad you have incorporated the You've been Sentenced! game for fun... and learning!

    Susan McNeill
    McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds
    creators of the You've been Sentenced! word game

    1. How cool is that - the creators of a game read my blog!!

  3. Sounds like the whole process is going well. We're finishing up week 2, and it's okay. However, today, he just watched Beakman's World on Netflix. I know that's a lot of science, but it's still hard sometimes to let that happen. Oh well...we'll continue through the middle of May like I promised him, and then we'll reassess the situation. Continued good luck to you all, and I can't wait to read more. :)


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