This blog is where we share our homeschooling journey. Our style is eclectic, employing strategies like notebooking, workboxing, and some relaxed unschooling I like to call organic or free-range learning.

Friday, June 11, 2010

When Workbooks are for Unschoolers

I talk a lot on this blog about how for unschoolers, the world is our classroom and life is the curriculum. Now I have a confession to make: We use workbooks and assignments sheets. A lot.

Does this mean we're not unschoolers? Nope. In fact, the reason I started using these was child-lead: Bri wanted them. Not always and not for everything, but they come in handy to augment her "life curriculum."

Just a few of the workbooks we use.
How I use worksheets/books in our "unschool" setting

In our unschool we believe strongly in teachable moments and child-lead learning and use these far more often than rote instruction-on-schedule. However, I also like to bring opportunities to Bri's attention, because one never knows what could become the next big interest. So while many of our activities involve topics she herself has expressed a desire to learn, she will also often respond to prompting with an interesting "potential" activity of many types, including worksheet learning.

Sometimes I'll spot nifty looking workbooks while I'm out shopping. I've picked these up at Barnes & Noble, Discovery Toys and Joann's, as well as for a steal at places like the dollar store and Wal-Mart. I also have some favorite websites I browse for interesting activities and worksheets, and I save loads of them to folders on my flash drives as I run across them. Then when Bri is working on a particular topic, I'll browse my files and print out sheets that look promising. Or, I'll browse when we're in between her specific topics to see what might tickle her fancy, and I'll offer it to her.

Our "in" and "out" boxes for assigned and finished work

Often Bri will pull out a book and ask to work on it together, but because she sometimes likes a "school" feel I might "assign" a page to her (generally before leaving for my swing shift job). We have an inbox for assigned work, and when complete she places it in the outbox for me to check over. I don't force a page on her if she sees it and tells me she is disinterested, nor do I make an issue of it if I come home and she has not completed her assignment. However, I will ask her to identify why she didn't get to it, so we both have increased understanding of how, when, and for what she feels best motivated to do her work.

Do I feel that by not requiring completion or keeping her to a deadline that she is failing to learn about timeliness? No. She has many other opportunities to learn this, such as getting up on time for a special activity, keeping appointments, bedtime, chores (she loves cleaning her room with a timer set), and games involving a time limit.

All in all this has shown me that workbooks and assignments are not necessarily out of the question for an unschooler. Different children have different ways they like to learn, and if a child wants to use these tools, then chances are very good they will learn from them.

Here are a few websites I use for worksheets: