What unschooling and unconferences have in common?

by Lilia Efimova on 11 November 2015

When talking with people about our choice to educate our kids outside of a school, there is a moment when I mention unschooling as the basis of our approach. And then it’s a real challenge to explain what is actually about. When I say that there is no curricula that we follow, no list of things to be done for a day of months, and that we follow the interests of our children, it looks like a chaos, where achieving anything is a challenge.

The easiest for me then is to draw on the parallels between unschooling and unconferences. With the usual idea of a conference is a structured content, unconferences might look chaotic until you experience a good one. With unconferences it’s not the content that gives structure, but shaping the environment (who, where, when) and the process (how). In this way ‘the content’ can follow where the energy is, often in ways that are difficult to predict in advance.

In a sense, unschooling is the same: we shape learning environment and processes there in a way that can follow where the energy is.

However, things are not that simple. The first thing is that I can’t easily articulate how exactly do we do that. There are good books, experienced others and even bits of research to learn from, but it’s hard to make generalisations to follow. It is still a very private ‘business’ that  has to adapt to the kids and parents in a family and to their broader context (e.g. legal regulations for homeschooling in a specific area could make a lot of differences).

The second one is that with school-age kids we deal with a shifting responsibility and a growing degree of independence. Younger kids need more structure to feel safe and nurtured and giving them choices without boundaries is often counterproductive (see also recent FB discussion). But giving ‘too much’ or ‘wrong’ structure is also counterproductive. And there are different subject areas that need different degrees of structure on a particular moment in time. In my mind I see the whole thing shifting constantly between different Cynefin domains with me juggling different management facilitation strategies simultaneously.

By now I am in the point where I have a need to articulate and to structure my experiences and thoughts on this whole thing, so I expect more will follow. Hopefully I can fix the comments that do not show up soon. If you can’t wait you can see them via http://blog.mathemagenic.com/comments/feed/ (thanks, Matthias, for the tip).

{ 1 comment }

Right brain to do list

by Lilia Efimova on 9 November 2015

In a long and winding way I’ve got to reading stuff on ‘right brain’. A lot of it is still fussy and I’m stuck with sources in three languages this time, but I need a placeholder for the things to dig further:

  • visual-spatial learning – links and how-to
  • visual and spatial as two different things
  • aha learning <-> willpower for difficult stuff <-> imagining stuff more difficult than it is
  • parallels between right brain, visual thinking, informal learning and operating in the complex domain
  • learning strategies/styles/forms mapped to Cynefin
  • need for structure vs. complex thinking
  • how would you ‘teach’ right brain learners outside of the system? how far/when/how to go outside of the Complex to Complicated and Obvious?

Some people like to make things complex. Instead of just following a manual to deal with a practical challenge they start to work on a theory :)


It comes back

November 7, 2015

A few days ago we talked about polar night and day, and watched videos on relationships between changing seasons, length of the day and position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. Today Anna played with animation software on iPad and came up with a little winter movie. When she came to show it […]

0 comments Read the full post →

One game with three kids

October 28, 2015

Playing a 6+ board game with 8, 5 and 3 years old kids is a patience-testing endeavour. We managed for quite a while, but now they have to spend their energy outside of the house (and very conveniently there enough leaves to be cleaned in front of it). This is what I wrote on Facebook. […]

0 comments Read the full post →

A learning party and what’s next

October 13, 2015

Just a few days ago I celebrated 40, with a nice mix of guests at something that I called a learning party. A learning party is something a bit more than just a party and a bit less than an unconference birthday (thanks, Ton and Elmine for the inspiration!). It’s a party with fun, food […]

0 comments Read the full post →

On homeschooling, integration and Dutch

September 16, 2015

While the common view might be that homeschooling is “hiding from the society”, in my case it is pretty much the opposite. It provides me with reasons to learn more about Dutch language and culture, an environment to do so safely and lots of helping hands on the way.

0 comments Read the full post →

The magic of connecting the dots

August 22, 2015

What I love the most about facilitating learning is seeing how the eyes light up when kids connect the dots. Like today with dinosaur fossils and archeological excavation we have seen in Veliky Novgorod.

0 comments Read the full post →

From butterflies to pie charts

August 18, 2015

This is how learning usually happens in our family: we start at one point and end up somewhere totally different. This time Anna wanted to draw a butterfly and we ended up with making graphs.

0 comments Read the full post →

On reading

May 29, 2015

You recognise an unschooling house by its space and materials… This time I pick up ‘How children learn’ from a shelf and start reading on reading. Between other things Jonh Holt writes about the complexity of a language that children learn by themselves and how reading compares to it.

0 comments Read the full post →

Using Cynefin for learning design?

April 26, 2015

I’d like to play more with using Cynefin framework when designing/facilitating learning experiences, so I’d be very happy with pointers to relevant reading and experiences.

2 comments Read the full post →

Holding the space

April 25, 2015

I often find it difficult to pinpoint in traditional terms what exactly I do. As I read about holding space it becomes clear that this is the biggest part of my job in facilitating unschooling.

0 comments Read the full post →

Scaffolding on a slide

April 18, 2015

I posted this on Facebook, but want to have it here, because FB is new email, where knowledge goes to die together with memories, classification and ability to find your own stuff back. *** Anna was scared to go sliding. So those two boys had built a sand ‘dam’ for her to shorten the slide, […]

0 comments Read the full post →

Learning to read: full sentences and whole books

April 16, 2015

Witnessing how reading can come without formal instructions is magical. It shows that learning that comes from within can go way beyond our expectations. Especially if we let expectations go and let it unfold while holding the space and giving a hand when needed :)

0 comments Read the full post →

Learning highlights: March 2015

April 1, 2015
Learning highlights March 2015

Eventually I’d like to get into portfolios that kids make for themselves, but that is still ahead. So I’d start small with keeping monthly “learning highlights” posts and then see where it gets us.

0 comments Read the full post →