Retreat Workshop: Unschooling when your child chooses School?

Ami and Russell Campbell have always had their 3 children close.  As their babies grew they moved from Attachment Parenting to Unschooling and cherished the fact that home-education allowed them to spend so much time with their children.  The Campbell kids thrived as they were allowed to follow their interests, enjoy friends and other activities and play all day.  So Ami and Russell were a bit surprised when, at age 7, their daughter Aelish expressed a desire to go to school.  Despite their concerns, the Campbell’s supported their daughter’s choice and began the search for the right school.

After looking at the neighborhood public elementary school, Aelish instead chose a very small and homeschool feeling Montessori.  Her goals were to learn to read, to learn some math, to make new friends, and to see what all the fuss was about.  Her parents were pleasantly surprised with her enthusiasm, and with her quick progress from total non-reader, to reader, and at her quick grasp of the concepts in the classroom. Her teacher was unsure at first how to approach and teach this freethinking, unschooled kid, but she soon became a favorite of his, and he frequently spoke to the Campbells after school about her “surprising” progress.   By Spring, Aelish had learned what she set out to gain from school, and had also had enough of the school social scene and was ready to come back home.  Her parents were often amazed by her thoughtful insights about how the students were treated, how the students treated each other, and how her own mind was treated while in school.

Come hear Ami, Russell and Aelish share their experiences of giving school a try.  Aelish is THRILLED to share the insights she gained from her year in school and her return to home-education.

Click here for the Speaker’s page to read the Campbell’s Bio.

Click here to see other Workshop Topics planned.

Click here to REGISTER for the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat.

Retreat Workshop: When it comes to learning: Is “early” always better?

Donna&LuisWe are so pleased to announce that Donna and Luis Gonzalez will be leading several sessions at the retreat!  Donna and Luis have always Unschooled their three children, ages 21, 18 and 12.  They offer thoughtful and practical advice and insights regarding Unschooling, Attachment Parenting and Life in general.  I am lucky to call them my friends, and am so excited to share them with you!  Here’s just a sampling on what they will be presenting:

Is Early Always Better?
We live in a culture that thinks when it comes to children’s learning, “starting early is always better” whether the skills they are learning are academic, musical or physical (learning to walk, sports) etc.

Donna and Luis will share their experience Unschooling their kids who have been allowed to pursue their interests at their own speed.
Here’s one example from their family:
Donna and Luis are talented musicians, so originally their plan was for their children to start Suzuki at age 3.  When this resulted in tears, stomach aches and vomiting, they decided to listen to their kids desires and follow their leads.  Their oldest son, Bobby, eventually decided to take up violin at age 12.  Everyone said it was “too late.” They said, “successful violinists have to start around age 4.”  The Gonzalez’s decided to just go with Bobby’s interests and “trust” as best they could.  As an Unschooler he had time to practice 4-5 hours a day (without coercion).  He “caught up” to all the other kids who started so early and is now a junior in college majoring in music and has been hired as a full-time member for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra!

Join the discussion exploring concepts like the value of practice (or not to practice), allowing kids to quit, parental panic attacks, admitting when Unschooling is “hard” and more.
Ask questions and hear how Donna and Luis have muddled their way through this Unschooling life through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Click Workshop Topics to see more descriptions of the various sessions we are planning for you at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

If you haven’t registered – do it soon!  Discounts and available campsites won’t last forever!  Contact me if you have questions.

Heaps of Love,
Christina
469-733-7175
ChristinaWester @ mac.com

Retreat Workshop: An Unschooling School? The Sudbury Model for a Democratic “Free School”

We are pleased to announce that Mike South, co-founder of the  Clearview Sudbury School in Austin will be presenting at the retreat!

He will discuss the history and evolution of the Sudbury Model, based on the Sudbury Valley School (est. 1968 in Massachusetts).
From the Sudbury Valley Website:

Sudbury Valley School . . . has been a place where children can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they grow up in the newly emerging world. From the beginning of their enrollment, no matter what their age, students are given the freedom to use their time as they wish, and the responsibility for designing their path to adulthood.

In our environment,students are able to develop traits that are key to achieving success: They are comfortable learning new things; confident enough to rely on their own judgment; and capable of pursuing their passions to a high level of competence. Children at Sudbury Valley are adaptable to rapid change, open to innovation and creative in solving new problems. Beyond that, they grow to be trustworthy and responsible individuals, and function as contributing members of a free society.

At Sudbury Valley, students from pre-school through high school age explore the world freely at their own pace and in their own unique ways. They develop the ability to direct their own lives, be accountable for their actions, set priorities, allocate resources, deal with complex ethical issues, and work with others in a vibrant community.

There are currently 35 “Sudbury Schools” in operation in the US and around the world.  Mike will describe the set up at a few of these schools and the challenges they faced in getting Clearview going.

Can we put the Sudbury Model to work in the Dallas area?

We will discuss this possibility and creative ways that we might create a co-op or other “group Unschooling environment” for our kids using principles from Sudbury Valley.

Click Workshop Topics to see more descriptions of the various sessions we are planning for you at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

If you haven’t registered – do it soon!  Discounts and available campsites won’t last forever!

Can limiting “screen time” HURT our kids?

Last week I attended the Rethinking Everything Conference and was fortunate to see Dr.Peter Gray speak.  It was a highlight of the conference for me since I have enjoyed his Blog on Psychology Today for a while now.

I also highly recommend his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.KidsUsingiPad

Ever since the conference, something he said about limiting screen time has stuck in my head.  I wanted to share it since there seems to be such a push in “mainstream” parenting advice to limit children’s time in front of the various screens we now have in our homes.

Dr. Gray talked about hunter-gatherer societies and compared the way children learn in these societies with the way they learn in Sudbury Schools and in Unschooling.  In both environments children are free to play almost all the time.  Gray said that in these environments there is an “extraordinary indulgence” and trust in children ages 4 and up.  Kids choose how to spend their days and often choose to play with the tools that adults in their respective societies use.  They pretend scenarios that they see in the adult culture.  Through their (mostly unsupervised) play in mixed age groups, they are able to practice and learn many of the important skills that they will need in adulthood, from interpersonal and relationship skills to problem solving and technical skills (using the tools of their society).

Dr. Gray said, (and I’m paraphrasing from my notes) “It’s no wonder that the children in our society have a strong drive to ‘play’ on devices with screens.  Screens are tools in our society.  Parents often ask me if I recommend that they limit ‘screen time’ for their children, and I say no – limiting screen time in our culture would be like limiting ‘bow & arrow time’ for a child in a hunter-gatherer society.”

This struck me so deeply.  In the past few years I have embraced (almost fully) unlimited screen time for my 3 children, but occasionally I wonder if I “should” work harder to re-direct their attention or encourage other activities when I’m feeling like they are using screen devices too much.

I fully appreciate all the advantages of trusting our kids to make their own choices, but have worried that there might be some deleterious physical or psychological effects from using the screens.  I can see many ways that activities using screens will prepare kids for the future, but I still had that nagging doubt that resulted from always hearing about the “latest study” on screen time and ADHD or sleep disorders.

Dr. Gray’s point showed me yet another way that imposing my agenda (based on fear or influence from society) could possibly hold my kids back.  I accept without reservation the idea that trusting my children to choose how they spend their time will give my kids the gifts of self-confidence, self-regulation and trusting themselves fully, but I sometimes felt conflicted in putting this theory into practice and always honoring their choices when it came to “screen time”.

I see now that by limiting my kids’ opportunities to fully explore activities they enjoy because screens are involved, I could not only undermine their self-confidence and self-trust, but could be thwarting some learning that is preparing my child for the future.  After all there is no way to know what skills and knowledge will be useful 20 years from now, but if they continue to practice activities that utilize the tools of our society as society and technology changes, they will always be “proficient” in the current technologies and will be well placed to make the leap to the next level of advances.

I will still continue to provide opportunities for my kids to get outside, connect with nature and partake in social and other activities that don’t involve screens.  I do think balance in our activities and connection to nature is VERY important for all human beings.   But I also appreciate deeply Dr. Gray’s perspective which has quieted those nagging doubts and supported my instinct to allow my children to learn freely in the ways they choose.

Invitation to Share:
I believe that there is no ONE correct way to raise or educate children.  We each have to find what works best for our children individually and for our families as a whole.  My experience is likely to be different from yours and I believe that in sharing our experiences we can help each other find the way that fits our families’ needs best.  Please share your own observations and experiences on “screen time” with your children in the comments below.
(Or click the comment bubble at the top if you’re viewing this on the Home page.)