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What My Unschooled Kids Learned Last Year

admin May 28, 2015

When I thought about this post, it initially seemed very hard to me.  Since we unschool, trying to quantify what my kids learn year to year isn’t exactly simple.  We don’t have unit studies, worksheets, grades, etc. to point to.  (Of course — none of that actually means kids learned, anyway.  It means they at least went through the motions.  They may remember none of it.)

Instead, I’m pulling from conversations we’ve had, skills they’ve demonstrated (some of which surprised us!), projects they’ve chosen to do.  The difference, of course, is that I know that they truly learned.  I didn’t test them on these things at some arbitrary time, and they weren’t just regurgitating information.  They demonstrated these skills on their own, when they wanted to, in a real-life setting.  That’s true mastery.

I have to say that, not to knock other forms of schooling, but to explain that we’re coming from an entirely different perspective than those other forms.  Not having “paper evidence” of learning does not mean no learning took place.  (And using a formal curriculum and having such evidence doesn’t mean that it did…or didn’t.)  Any form of schooling or education can lead to learning.  No form guarantees learning.  I just want everyone to remember that.

However!  My kids have learned quite a bit.  Sometimes, even things we weren’t ready for!

What My Unschooled Kids Learned

I’ll be focusing primarily on my older two, who are in “elementary” school right now.  I’m not so concerned with the smaller ones yet, although they’re clearly learning!  My youngest, who was 18 months at the start of the school year (turned 2 in March), didn’t talk really at all, and now speaks in sentences with a huge vocabulary.  The words he understands and uses correctly really do surprise me, sometimes!

Reading

This is not their favorite thing.  All my kids seem to be more oriented to math and science than to literature.  But nonetheless, my daughter went from not reading at all to reading basic level books and knowing a couple hundred sight words.  My son (5 YO) went from not reading at all to knowing quite a few words — I’m not sure exactly how many, but he’s been able to read almost half of his early reader books to me at times.  So they’re definitely making progress here, slow as it is.

Math

As I mentioned, they love math.  Mental math is done around here quite frequently, like “Hey mom, six plus seven is thirteen, right?”  My son went from being able to count to 20, to being able to count to over 100.  They do both addition and subtraction of 1 and 2 digit numbers.  They’re good at picking up on patterns.  They count by 1s, 2s, 10s and possibly other forms of skip counting.  (They can pretty much do all of “first-grade math” anyway.)

Time

My daughter learned to read both digital and analog clocks correctly and understand time.  For example, she’s now able to look at a clock and see 10:53 and say “Mom, it’s almost 11.”  They also have a sense of what happens in our day around what time — that noon is about lunch, two is about naptime, etc.

Money

Most of the kids learned to identify different coins correctly, and my oldest has learned to count them correctly and how to create a small budget and spend the money she has available.  She’s also keen to find a realistic way she can earn money soon.

Compass

Somehow (we’re frankly not quite sure how), my 7-year-old learned to read and use a compass correctly.  She does so when they go geocaching in the local woods, to help lead everyone to the “treasure.”

Puzzles

My daughter has done increasingly complex puzzles, now working on ones with 200 – 500 pieces.

Cooking

My daughter has learned to bottle and re-start kombucha, feed a sourdough starter, cook eggs and pancakes, prepare salads, cook pasta, and more.  My son has improved his knife skills and slices veggies and cheese for meal components.

Technology

These kids are better than I am at using our Kindle Fire to find the various shows and apps they use.  They use the iPad well, also.  The older three used the ABC Mouse program sometimes for letters, numbers, colors, etc. (which was really below the level of the older two by mid-year).

Minecraft

All the older kids play (3 and up).  My 5 YO especially has gotten good at it, learning to gather resources, create future plans, build various structures (including some that are rather complicated), and more.  He’s learning some basic programming language in order to do some of this.  He has also played various “special” games within the game online and has done quite well, even against people much older than he is.

Art Projects

The kids have created various art projects.  They have created robots out of cardboard (including robot costumes for themselves), drawn and cut various shapes, used paint, tape, glue, and other materials to create.  They often work together on such projects and create elaborate backstories for them.

Farming

The kids have learned where meat comes from, specifically which animals.  (My 2-year-old learned to ask “Animal?” so that I would tell him the correct name.  Most kids this age simply call all 4-legged animals “dog” for example, but he knew this wasn’t right when we met some cows, so he asked.)  They learned where milk and eggs come from and how to milk cows.  They learned how seeds grow and have grown some of their own plants.

Sports

My 5 YO is currently on a T-ball tea and is learning a lot.  He was able to hit when I pitched to him at age 3, so he’s doing very well with hitting, throwing and catching now.  We’re working with him at home, too, to learn the fundamentals of the game (when to run, safe vs. out, etc.).

Field Trips

The kids took several field trips this past year, to a chocolate factory, science museums, local Indian caverns, farms, and other tours and museums.  At most of these they got a chance to be hands-on with various materials, including building their own race cars out of K’Nex, creating art projects, learning how chocolate candy is made (and tasting it!), panning for gold and gems, and more.

Random Stuff

The kids picked up on a lot of random facts from watching “How It’s Made” videos as well as taking tours of many local factories, farms, garden centers, and other locations.  We visited the library every couple of weeks, including attending “LEGO club” once, where the kids competed to design based on a theme.  They’ve written and (mostly) illustrated several books.

There’s probably lots more I’m missing, but that hits the highlights.  The kids made great strides in their understanding of basic math, reading, science, and the world around us.  And they really learned these things, because they wanted to, not because they were given worksheets and tests and told they should.  We’ll be continuing with unschooling next year, as it is really working well for us!

What did your homeschooled or unschooled kids learn last year?

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4 Comments

  1. You may already know about this series of TED talks, but I found them fascinating. http://www.npr.org/2013/04/25/179010396/unstoppable-learning

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  2. We are unschoolers as well and it has been fantastic to see things start to come together for my oldest, who is 7. He couldn’t even read three letter words before Christmas but now he is reading like crazy and continually amazes me with the words he figures out. His understanding of numbers has expanded hugely too. Animals are a big topic of interest to him (we are watching Planet Earth on Netflix as I type this) and he loves to draw and paint. His favorite things to draw is anything Minecraft related.
    My middle boy is 4 and wanted to do the same number stuff as his brother. Son he has been. They both love Mathseeds and my 4 year old will do 3 levels in one morning sometimes. So strange for me because my eldest wasn’t even able to count to 5 until he was 5. He is also reading 3 to 4 letter words. Such different personalities.
    I also have a toddler. 3 sons and they are all so different. His favorite thing to do is play with his brothers or bring books to me and my eldest as he signs for more and more stories.
    Ask me what my kids have learned and I can go on for hours. Ask me what I have taught my kids and I’ll have to think more creatively 🙂

    Reply

  3. […] I shared a post about what my unschooled kids learned this past year.  The single most common question I got was, “But what about preparing them for […]

    Reply

  4. My granddaughter is currently in public school rising 7th grade but I never put her in pre-k. I taught her myself. She was reading at 1st grade level when she was 3. They immediately put her in the gifted program when she started kindergarten. She’s not gifted, she was taught by someone who actually knows how to assess how an individual learns and makes learning a game. I did this with my children and they did well in school. I would have stayed home if I could have afforded it. Even now, I totally get Common Core math. Its stupid, convoluted, but I do understand it and have explained it to my granddaughter along with the right way to do math. It would be great if we could all stay home with our children. I did with my two. But raising my granddaughter, I have to work. Not old enough for Social Security and Medicare, I have to pay for my own insurance, all of our medical and dental. That requires working a lot. We also find time to grow a lot of our own food. You guys are really fortunate to be able to be with your little ones.

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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