Think like an Educator

by Beverley Paine

Deb's son is an avid PS3 player. It's all he does, or so it seems. Three months into unschooling and she's starting to worry... She's happy for him to play PS3 all day everyday but as a registered home educator she'll need something to tell the moderator come time for review.

This comes up a lot in unschooling groups.

What I find is that as parents we tend to notice only a fraction of what is really going on. I usually tell people to keep a log of everything, science or sociology experiment style, for a few days. Tell t
he child that it is the quickest way for the parent to learn that a lot is happening when a child is apparently 'doing nothing' or only one thing 'all day'. Most kids are okay with that - so long as it doesn't mean they have to do anything to help.

List everything, from getting out of bed, getting dressed, cleaning teeth, mopping up spilled milk, reading the competition ad on the cereal box... Does he read comics in the toilet? Did he ask a question about an ad on telly? What did he talk about with his siblings? Note when he starts playing PS3, when he stops playing and when he starts playing again. Ask what games he played, how long he played them for, what his score was, etc.

Okay... you've filled a page (or two) with what he did in one day. Get some coloured highlighter pens and using blue for maths, highlight anything, absolutely anything that required any kind of calculating, problems solving or spatial skills. Think patterns, symmetry, fractions, whatever. Science is easier (I'd pick green!) English: think communication, listening, speaking, reading, writing. Any new vocabulary? If he talked about the PS3 game, that's narration. If he asked about the cereal box competition, that's comprehension.

Learn to think like an educator.

Our children don't have to do school for them to learn stuff, but it helps us to think like an educator for us to recognise the education in what they are doing.

The way I see it, we help our children stay at home and avoid all that garbage and time wasting that goes on at school. They can't organise that themselves, they need our help to ensure they continue to have that freedom. So it's okay for me to ask for a bit of cooperation in making sure the situation doesn't change.

I might ask for a poster about a topic they are interested in - something that shows they can write whole sentences, organise information for publication, retell a story or offer instructions. I might ask for a photo collection with captions about their last holiday, what they saw, what they did, what they thought. I might ask them to write a shopping list out for me when my hands are covered in flour. I might photocopy the birthday card they made for Grandma.

Thing is, it's okay to ask them to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops too. After all, they are going to spend the rest of their lives needing to jump through the odd bureaucratic hoop, just another skill they need to learn.

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