Help For New Unschoolers/Homeschoolers

I am a natural researcher. When I am interested in something, I dive deep into finding out as much as I can about it. So, if you are just starting out, like me, here are some of the resources that I have found absolutely invaluable in helping me understand that 1) this crazy idea was maybe not crazy, 2) what is homeschooling, unschooling, school from home and all the other terminology, and 3) what do I do now?

I started thinking about unschooling because I want J-man to get to experience true student-centered inquiry based learning, which is becoming increasingly incongruous to the direction that state and district mandates are leading public schools. As an educator, I spent eight years focusing on increasing inquiry in the public school class room with inspiration from the likes of Sir Kenneth Robinson’s hugely popular Ted talk (if you have not seen this stop everything and watch it now) I knew I wasn’t doing enough fast enough.

This Ted talk really spoke to me, and when I got a chance to hear him in person at a last spring, I felt my resolve to jump off the bandwagon grow stronger. You can watch his video here:

I was super fortunate enough to see my geeky super crush, Alan November, at a conference last summer. He made my brain explode about the ways in which schools could be using technology. When I first saw this talk I listened for how to use tech in the traditional school setting, after stripping away the construct of the classroom, I could see how learning real technology could blow the world of research open, not just for me, but for J-man as well. This keynote speech is over an hour long, but it is totally worth it, if you are at all interested in the role of technology in learning. Seriously, if you think you are using google correctly, Alan November will blow your mind. I watch this video about every three months to remind me. Did I mention I am crushing on him. Seriously. I love everything about this guy. I could listen to him for hours. And I have. 🙂 Here is the video from his keynote address where I saw him last summer:

So, once we decided that we really want to create the learning environment that Sir Ken Robinson and Alan November inspire, off we went to Barnes and Noble! Sadly, our store did not have much that looked helpful to me so I settled on The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith. Get the handbook here.

The Homeschooling Handbook gave some fundamentals that I needed and helped me with terminology. I skipped the chapters on the legal stuff, because I already knew that we were probably going to enroll in an umbrella school (https://sites.google.com/site/floridaunschoolers/ for more info) and the chapters on education theory were pretty familiar to me, as I had to learn this to be a teacher. This is a great first read though for when you are trying to decide if this choice is for you.

I then moved on to The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings, here’s the link: Learn Dangerously! I love this book, even though I don’t really think it will have informed my practice all that much. I felt a real connection to the author. I can be pretty anxious (if you know me well and are reading this, please do not elaborate in the comments section). She discusses some of my worst fears and big concerns in her book. So while, I didn’t get a whole lot of “how to” I felt like there was a treasure trove of “it’s totally OK ifs” Hopefully, when the school year starts and the magnitude of this decision hits me, I will be prepared. I will perhaps revisit the chapter where she is hyperventilating in the laundry room, and I will realize that she made it and I can too.

I have also visited many, many blogs. The one that I felt was the most comprehensive for my needs was Blog, She Wrote, written by Heather Woodie. Maybe it’s because she was a teacher, but this source was, perhaps the most reassuring source so far. It not only showed me what homeschooling looked like (what to do with the stuff) it also shared what the stuff was. There were history quests and book study ideas. There were art projects, math work, and science experiments. While I might not use the same materials she has chosen, the sheer amount of information she shares is remarkable. You should visit her sight. No, really do it now: http://blogshewrote.org/

I would venture to say that none of the homeschooling or unschooling parents I have met jumped into this without research. I am sure if you are still with me after my shameful Alan November musings, you are probably either trying to decide or are looking for support. Where are you in this process? What resources were the most helpful to you? Let’s talk pool our resources and help each other!