I wrote this post on one of our local homeschool forums a few days ago to clarify how we do "school" and I thought it was worth posting here for those that were wondering exactly how we do it.
Firstly some background:
When we first started homeschooling, I was very relaxed about how we did things - after all it was "only" kindergarten and he could already read, write his name, knew his numbers and could do basic sums. We took it easy and just did fun things.
This year we hit 1st grade and I thought we needed to get more formal with our school work. I tried to go with curriculum and structure - and caused more stress than it was worth. So now we're back in a relaxed, "natural learning", "unschooling" style - and he is learning just as much, if not more than before!
I class us as "relaxed eclectic". I actually love this term of "tidal homeschooling" - http://melissawiley.typepad.com/bonnyglen/2006/01/tidal_homeschoo.html
* Disclaimer - this is what works for us and I'm in no way saying that everyone should do it this way! *
I think "natural learning" or particularly "unschooling" is quite misunderstood because it means different things to every family that does it! John Holt first coined the term "unschooling" to be "life without school" - it does not mean there can be no learning, or education or teaching. Generally it seems to mean that much of the focus is on what the child wants to learn - ie child-led or child-directed.
I'm finding more and more that if I try to teach Billy something that he has no interest in it is like bashing my head against a brick wall and is not enjoyable for either of us. And more importantly, he retains very little of it - so why bother??! If he is interested, then he's like a sponge soaking up everything he can!
That certainly doesn't stop me from finding ways to make new subjects interesting to him! Or introducing him to new ideas and concepts. But it means that I need to be prepared to accept that he's either not interested or not ready to learn something yet and to drop it on go onto something else.
We do informal unit studies in things he is interested in - atm he wants to learn more about Captain Cook, so we've been to the library to get some fun books that will capture his interest. I try to do things in a hands-on way or through living books - even Maths can be done via living books!
We don't follow a "scope and sequence" (although I do admit to having a list of concepts that I'd like to cover this year just as a mental checkpoint for me to reassure myself that he is learning!) My point of view is that "scope and sequence" is a very artifical concept that has been introduced by someone to make life easier in schools - and if the Australian states can't all agree on what to learn when, why should we??! I think every child learns things in a different order and at a different time! As long as kids have retained a love of learning, they will learn what they need to when it becomes important to them.
We don't sit down at a particular time of day though and "do school". He's learning from the time he gets up in the morning to when I tear him away from his computer to go to bed at night! He learns to handle money by actually paying for things in the shops, to weigh things by weighing the fruit in the vege shop. We try to make things relevant to "real life".
It also certainly does not mean (for us) that there are no rules. We do not "unparent". While I *try* to parent in a way that respects Billy as a person and give him choices about many things, there are still some things that are non-negotiable!
So that's where our school work is - incorporated into our everyday life.