An Experiment In Unschooling

An Experiment in Unschooling - The Classical Unschooler

Everything I’ve been reading about homeschooling / unschooling has been making me think about motivation to learn. So last week, I tried an experiment on the kids.

On this journey toward a true philosophy of education, I hope to instill that in my children, or rather, hope that I don’t kill their natural curiosity and love of learning and finding out new things.

I have noticed, however, that my daughter seems to do things less out of a desire to learn and more out of a need for approval. The minute doing something gets hard, she gives up. I know, I know, she’s only four but this quality comes through loud and clear.

She is driven by a fear of failure way more than I’d like her to be. So for one day last week, I decided to take away (mostly) all approval and / or disapproval. I did not suggest any activities or crafts, I did not stop her from doing what she wanted to pursue (as long as it wasn’t potentially dangerous to herself or the others.) I wanted to see what she would do.

Answer? The results were mixed.

Two things happened. One, she actually did pursue something I wouldn’t have necessarily suggested in an area of potential difficulty for her (spatial reasoning) and was completely thrilled by it but, two, with the lack of response from me, the kids’ behavior was quite bad. They were completely driven by just having fun. Once I had spent most of the day not expecting better behavior from them beyond just not hurting themselves or others, that set the tone for the rest of the day.

So, in the end, I think, the experiment was successful. It showed me what I needed to see.

When Bombie was driven by her own motivation to put four magnets close to each other around a heart-shaped sticker without having them jump on top of each other (Talk about fine motor skills! These are strong magnets!) she worked so hard at it, continuing to try repeatedly after many failed attempts, far longer than I would have pushed her by encouraging or dissuading her.

I timed her; she was working on those magnets for close to fifteen minutes straight, lips pursed, frowning determination; it was quite amazing to watch.

Conclusion: hmmm. I don’t know yet. Do less with them, I think. Less is more. Pick my battles. Leave lots of time for free play but don’t sidestep parenting completely.

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at – unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

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