My name is Lisa Bentley. My husband and two daughters and I live in Southern Arizona (U.S.A.) on 10 quiet acres in the desert. Zoë is 12.5 and Teagan is 8.5.
We've considered ourselves homeschoolers since Zoë was 2 or 3, but we officially became homeschoolers when Zoë turned school age. From Zoë's birth we were Attachment Parents and we've continued this method of parenting as the children have grown. I write about our lifestyle on http://www.doliferight.com/
Shari: Are homeschooling and unschooling the same thing? If not, how do they differ?
Lisa: Technically, unschooling is a subset of homeschooling. We are legal homeschoolers who homeschool without any of the trappings of school or school-at-home. We don't use a curriculum, special textbooks, or a specific schedule for our days. We follow our children's leads and are facilitators for their learning. We consider our children to be learning all the time and as their parents we strive to never stifle their natural learning. We allow them to follow their interests everyday of the year at all hours of the day.
Shari: Why did you choose to homeschool/unschool your children?
Lisa: We found that school was going to be very limiting to our older daughter. Her knowledge at age 3 was already far greater than most 10 year olds and we didn't want school to hold her back. We also didn't want her to have to deal with an environment that was completely different than the real world.
Shari: Are there real benefits to this other than religious ones? Tell us please.
Lisa: I don't personally see any religious benefits to homeschooling, although I know that many people choose to keep their children out of school so they won't hear about certain things. This was never my goal, so I don't understand that mode of thinking. In fact, my desire for my children is the exact opposite of that. There are so many real world benefits to the Unschooling way of homeschooling: freedom to learn whatever we want (all of us, not just the kids), freedom from harassment/bullying, freedom of schedule, freedom to grow and learn at our own pace.Our goal for our children is to make their worlds larger, not keep information from them. This is one way that unschooling and"school-at-home" families differ. Unschoolers make their children's worlds larger. School at home families often try to protect their children by making their worlds smaller and "safer". We are always opening new doors for our children and inviting them to partake in all the world has to offer as they are ready and interested.
Shari: Are there real drawbacks? Tell us about them.
Lisa: None that I can think of! This lifestyle does require parents to actually be present in their children's lives. This often means they can't work as many hours and often times one of the parents doesn't work outside of the house at all. Thus, homeschooler's finances are often a bit tighter than families with two full-time incomes (once children are school age, before that daycare expenses usually eat up most of a second income). For my family, this hasn't been a drawback at all, but an opportunity for my husband and I (with our children's help as they've gotten older)to get creative with our income sources and our personal finances. It's been just another opportunity to live and grow and learn with our kids.
Shari: How important is reading to homeschooling? Did your children read early?
Lisa: Reading to one's self is overrated for the early years of a child's life. There are many ways to learn and reading is just one of many of those ways. My older daughter learned to read extremely early(children's novels at age 3), due to her own personality and temperament. My younger daughter reads at a more age appropriate level, which is also due to her own personality and temperament. I've not found one child to be smarter than the other at all and due to this and the hundreds of other Unschooled children I have met, I conclude that reading alone is not an inherent benefit to a young child. It is,however, important for all children to be raised in a literate environment and be allowed to learn how they learn best -- no matter the style. I believe this strongly and I write children's books! (My younger daughter gets more out of my reading to her than she does from reading to herself.)
Shari: What ideas did you incorporate into teaching your children to read? Did you use games, puzzles, etc.?
Lisa: We did nothing beyond living in the real world for helping our children learn to read (and write and do mathematical problems and cook and sew and everything else in life). When learning comes naturally, knowledge is actually gained. When teaching is forced, true learning doesn't often happen -- only temporary memorization of facts. However, in the real world, my kids and I love to play games (video, board, and our own made up ones), play puzzles, read and write books, and much much more. Words are everywhere and curious children (like all children are naturally born as) wonder what it all means. As my children have asked questions, I've given them answers (including the very common "I don't know, let's look it up.") My older daughter just saw words and immediately understood how the system worked. My younger daughter has been taking more of ananalytical approach to reading -- phonetic rules and special exceptions are interesting to her.
Shari: Are your children avid readers? Did you have any reluctant readers in your family?
Lisa: My children are both heavy readers. My younger daughter, Teagan, is a kinetic learner, however, and prefers being read to rather than sitting and reading something herself. She's just too busy to sit still and read a book to herself very often. This is usually what a "reluctant reader" is and I don't ever use the term because I find it demeaning to those who don't learn best through the medium of books. All children are inquisitive -- they just all learn differently. Teagan prefers audio books on her iPod while she does ballet, rather than being confined to a chair holding a physical book. On the other hand, my older daughter prefers long days reading in a hammock. :)
Shari: How did you choose books for your children or did they do the choosing?
Lisa: Since I'm with my children nearly all the time, I am acutely aware of their individual interests. I pick books for them based on their interests of the day, plus books that look like fun to me (I'm usually right, but not always). They also enjoy picking books out for themselves (from the library, bookstores, and Audible.com), and my younger daughter likes reading what my older daughter recommends, too.
Shari: Do they read both fiction and nonfiction?
Lisa: Yes. They both have a wide variety of interests.
Shari: How has reading enriched their lives?
Lisa: Reading opens up worlds to them that weren't open before. Watching television and movies, playing on the computer, or going out into public and meeting people and/or being involved in new situations all also open up new worlds. Reading is just one additional input source for all of us.
Thank you, Lisa, for another Homeschool View!