Amy Bell's Natural Learning Page

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What books should I read?
I have a list of recommended books on my website. The newly-released The Unschooling Handbook:  How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom is a fantastic resource. It's by Mary Griffith. There is a review at

The first book I read about unschooling was John Holt's Teach Your Own. I just had such a feeling of peace come over me as I read it. Linda Dobson's The Art of Education is not exactly an *unschooling* book, but it addresses some unschooling issues. Matt Hern's Deschooling Our Lives is a fascinating collection of essays about unschooling

How much freedom do you give your children to choose what and how they want to learn?
Complete freedom.  That's what unschooling means.  Some people use unschooling as a method for a few subjects, and that's fine.  But that's generally called relaxed homeschooling.  Unschooling is defined by the child-led aspect of the learning.

A dear online friend, Glen Appleby, said the following recently on the Radical Unschoolers List:  "The process of unschooling has this amazing benefit --it allows kids to see that they can learn anything that they want to, any time that they want to learn it.  It helps kids to learn to trust themselves. In the process of the kids learning these things, the parents learn the same lessons. Relax and enjoy the ride.  Don't forget your sunglasses, though, because you will be dazzled by the brilliance."

From Eric Anderson's Unschooling Undefined
again:  "Homeschoolers unschool to varying degrees. Unschooling families do not set up miniature classrooms, with time set aside for studying, a parent playing the role of teacher, formal lesson plans and imposed curricula. Beyond that limit, we differ in how much order we try to lend to the learning process. "Radical" unschoolers impose little or no structure, though books and such are available to act as guides. Others allow children to learn what they wish, but provide strong organizational assistance to help the children reach their goals. (Assistance can take the form of lessons, or workbooks, or even assigned projects.) Some families use curricula for some subjects (often math) but are freer with others. Most try to squeeze learning out of the activities of everyday life. The common bond is acknowledging that the enthusiastic participation of the child is the most important single factor in the child's education."

I want to unschool, but how do you satisfy the state requirements?
A lot depends on where you are and what regulations you cope with.  However, I can tell you that there are happy, successful (maybe that's the same thing!) unschoolers in every state and in many countries. 

The answers to your questions would depend on the ages of your children, whether or not testing is required, and so forth.  If your requirements include a certain number of hours--unschooling takes every hour of the day!  Check that one off.  If you have to keep attendance--same thing.  If you have to submit to testing, you'll have to evaluate your particular situation.  Can you submit a portfolio of work (including pictures of projects, activities, etc) instead?  How well do the kids really have to score to avoid ps intervention?  You may have to do some "teaching to the test," with the clear explanation to the child of why you are doing it--to satisfy somebody else's idea of what's important, not in order to really learn.

You can simply document what your kids do. For example, baking: measurement (math), life skills. UNO: sorting, counting, working in a group. TV documentaries: science or history. Reading: this can cover any subject, in addition to language arts. Biking or playing outside: physical education. The point is, anything you do--even a trip to the dentist--is an educational experience. You turn it into "eduspeak" and record it. Once you get started, you'll find it easier and easier. [Fighting with siblings: psychology of groups, teamwork (failure is a lesson, too!)]
Others break their "learning" into standard subject categories, and then make lists of books in their house or from the library. Just list them. Some people write specific dates and activities under the headings.

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1998 Amy Bell

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