This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Unschooling Does Work!

Unschooling does work!

I decided when the kids were young, to homeschool with an unschooling style. Unschooling is really a relaxed style of homeschooling that is child led. It’s up to the parent to put learning opportunities in front of their children. I worked very hard to do just that. We went to museums and the zoo, we traveled, we took nature walks, rode bikes, did crafts, sang, went to drum circles, and did role playing. We took trips to the library almost every day in the summer and joined in on the formal presentations and activities for children there. I taught a sign language playgroup to homeschoolers and we joined other homeschooling families for field trips. We hiked and danced. The world was our classroom.

Every weekend, we’d head to the Colorado mountains and played in the snow. Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies near Winter Park offered free cross country skiing lessons including equipment for children, so every Sunday, Dan and I would pile all three children in the car with a tremendous amount of snow gear and clothes and make the trip to Winter Park. Dan would put Annabelle on his back and we’d spend the day on the trails while Rebekah and Joel learned to ski. I took up cross-country skate skiing and would make my way up to the top of Snow Mountain Ranch’s mountains and ski down.

Eventually and almost naturally, the three children learned how to downhill ski. We’d took trips to Ski Cooper and one yearly trip to Vail. I’d hold Annabelle between my legs and ski with her down all of Vail mountain holding on to her since I was worried she wouldn’t know how to stop. Joel and Rebekah skied in Sled Dogs, a unique invention where a skier can ski down an entire mountain without long ski boots attached or poles. They’d jump and spin and head down the mountain with tremendous speed on their sled dogs. I liked skiing in traditional skis, but once in awhile I would join them on my Sled Dogs.

On the way home from those ski trips and also on the way home from the Ice Arena at Chapel Hills Mall, we’d listen to stories and music in the car. I’d put on math songs on CD. The kids and I “read” the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, the Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Ben Hur, Silas Marner, The Christmas Carol, Billy Budd, Les Miserables, and other great classics by listening to those great books in the car. We learned about the Civil War by listening to the American Girl book series Addy.

I also exposed my children to musicals. I enrolled them in dancing and acting classes. We’d watch videos of every classical musical over and over again. My children know all the words to the musical Gypsy by heart, but also know every line to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mame, the Music Man, Sound of Music, Carousel, Cats, and others. We’d act out stories at home in full costume. We’d make our own costumes.

My dad bought our family a beautiful one-hundred year old upright grand piano, and I taught the children to play the piano. Eventually, Susie Essing, a homeschool mom of five, eventually traveled to our house and gave the children formal piano lessons, but I did much of their early piano instruction. We played ukuleles, guitars, and recorders. I took musical keyboards with me to the park and even to the rink for the children to play. We pounded on drums.

When the weather was good, we’d ride to the park as a family with our bikes. We’d play basketball in front of the house. In the winter, we’d ride sleds or just play in the snow. Once I went to the top of Vail mountain with my roller skis and tried to ski down during the summer. That venture did not work, so I joined Dan and the kids at the bottom of the mountain and joined them for some skating on the bike path. We rented bikes in Vail and also went to the famous Boulder bike path and did some inline skating. We went on picnics. We went to live musical plays, the circus, movies, and concerts. We invented our own recipes and tried to cook.

Joel and Rebekah went to reading tutoring classes through the University of Colorado and began to read quite well. I bought a reading, social studies, science, and math curriculum called Teach Your Child Well from Canada and used some of that to teach them formally, but much of what the children learned was through hands on experiences.

Skating was only one of the many things my children were exposed to.

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.