Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parent's awesome role

It is so exciting to be a parent. We have so many options and avenues to explore. I just read a really awesome article written by John Andersen. I used to belong to his Yahoo! Group, Unconventional Ideas. I found out about it because I get Google notices when something is written about unschooling. I love it when parents are fired up about the role they play in their children's lives--rather than waiting for other people to step in and make things happen. We each have the honor of showing our kids the world through following passions and fascinations of theirs or our own. Below is John's article from the "Home Educator's Family Times" for some awesome ideas. As my boys get a little older I am really looking forward to trying out the experiences we haven't tried yet:

The Parent's Essential Active Role in Unschooling by John O. Andersen

I strongly believe in unschooling; the "curriculum" of freely following one's interests.

Yet, when it comes to unschooling children, parental involvement is a must. This is because children often won't know they have an interest in something until after their parents give them a glimpse of the many fascinating ideas and pursuits the world offers.

Wise unschooling parents expose their children to the community, to complex issues, to a broad spectrum of people, to the greatest minds, and so forth. There is a variety of ways they might do this. Here are a few concrete examples:

Take your children to an art museum. Interpret a painting for them. Then ask for their interpretations of that one or another painting. Go home and create your own oil paintings. Attend public meetings. Arrange for your children to meet the mayor, or a senator, or congressman. Take your children to a street demonstration. Discuss why people demonstrate. Take them to the zoo. Sit on a bench for awhile and watch a particular animal. Talk about what you see. Let your children tell you what they see. Volunteer at a library, or other community organization. Show your children how rewarding it can be to give service to others. Take walks together through nature preserves. Intentionally slow down and truly notice the plants, and wildlife. Both of you record your impressions in your journals when you get home. Seek out interesting and creative people in your community such as inventors, authors, scientists, and poets. Visit with these people in their homes, attend their lectures, write letters to them, or perhaps persuade them to be your child's mentor. Read books together everyday. Talk about ideas and philosophies while eating dinner. Be a passionate scholar yourself. Visit historical sites. View films together about historic events. Write letters to grandparents and other people who are much older. Help your children establish strong connections with the past. Go camping. Take guided tours whenever you can. Write about what you learn. Arrange for pen-pals for your children; perhaps same-aged children from other countries and cultures. Travel often locally and, if possible, internationally. When appropriate, make a point to talk with people on the street and in the shops. Ask them questions and listen carefully. Be endlessly curious. Taste the joy of having many diverse interests. Be actors in a local play. Join a gymnastics club. Take fencing lessons as a family. Learn to play a musical instrument.

The list goes on and on and on.

Unschooling doesn't mean doing all of that at once. Rather, it has to do with being active learners, with creating your own intellectual stimulation, with sincerely believing you can actually learn something without tests, tuition payments, classroom time, or grades.
And it is anything but passive and directionless. On the contrary, it is arguably one of the most demanding of all learning methods and potentially, the most stimulating as well. For it to succeed, parents need to be their children's facilitators, constantly seeking ways to harness the endless learning resources of their local community, and ultimately the world around them. It's not a job for the fainthearted or those who are happier following instructions from degreed and certified experts.

Essentially, it's about lighting a fire within yourself and letting it burn brightly enough that your children naturally desire to become engulfed as well.

Visit for more essays and ideas from the pen of John O. Andersen.

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