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RLL #107: Learning as an Unschooling Family with Robyn Robertson

 

I truly believe that the best way we can educate our gifted and twice-exceptional (2E) kids is through homeschooling with self-directed learning and unschooling.

Self-Directed Learning vs. Unschooling?

Self-directed learning is a self-motivated pursuit of knowledge not based on a required set of circumstances but learning for its own sake. Using an unschooling approach to learning simply means that activities and lessons are not structured or required.

Children constantly learn through their interactions and experiences with the world around them.  Many families find that creating their own flexible homeschool and allowing their kids to be the driving force in their learning is the very best educational option for our above-average kids.

RLL #107: Learning as an Unschooling Family with Robyn Robertson

Self-directed learning and unschooling is better for gifted and 2E learners

Our kids aren’t cookie cutter, why would we think a one size fits all of educating will fit them? An example might be a kiddo who loves math and excels ahead of his same-age peers but is also struggling with reading. We could encourage his reading through the “strewing” of picture books about math, making them available for him to discover. This would likely be more interesting to him than a remedial reading curriculum. 

A lot of gifted kids are energized by making “dive deeps” into areas of interest. In our family, there is a genuine need to go into detailed study! Just because measures like tests or projects show mastery has occurred doesn’t mean our kids are done with learning about the subject. With self-directed homeschooling, limits are easily removed in open-ended learning at home; there is no timetable to follow. By exploring those tangents, our kids are motivated to learn more in depth and with greater passion.

The benefits of self-directed learning and unschooling point to just how good it is for gifted and 2E kids.

There’s a confidence that comes to children when they have buy-in to their learning. Self-directed learners are motivated in their learning and hesitate less to investigate new things.

More flexible learning gives us a way where overexcitabilities and asynchrony are less of an issue. Home is a safer environment in which to learn strategies to handle differences and adjust behaviors.  Homeschooling parents are readily available to give our kids the support they need if they’re asynchronous. Scaffolding can provide for areas where our child might struggle, so that they can continue to learn and create at their level. Take for example the child who has difficulty with handwriting, but who has a great imagination and concocts wonderfully imaginative stories. Allowing her to dictate her story to a parent to record is a way of giving her space to explore her talent as a “writer” while supporting her as she works on penmanship.

Unschooling benefits the whole family by creating space to create.

Grace Llewellyn explains, “You don’t need a schoolteacher to get knowledge – you can get it from looking at the world, from watching films, from conversations, from reading, from asking questions, from experience. When you get down to it, unschooling is really just a fancy term for ‘life’ or ‘growing up uninstitutionalized.’” 

Unschooling gives us more room to explore interests and have wonderful life experiences in the safest of environments, within the family, those relationships will always be their very best teacher. Important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, fostering authenticity and lifelong learning take time and attention which we can adjust and focus on while we homeschool.

Ultimately, as parents of these “outside-the-box thinkers,” we learn to trust our children better and respect their learning needs. All kids have an intrinsic desire to learn and create; but our kids tend towards MORE of everything. In self-directed learning and unschooling, we can be our kiddos’ greatest champion, cheering them on to becoming the very best people they can be.

unschooling life learning grace llewellyn

Families who already use self-directed learning and unschooling provide support and encouragement.

This week’s podcast episode is a conversation with Robyn Robertson of Honey I’m Homeschooling the Kids. She shares the background of her unschooling family and makes an important analogy of self-directed learning as being a journey we travel on with our entire family.  Some of the ideas Robyn and Colleen share in this episode are:

  • Travel together as a family in your learning, even if everyone is learning about different things.
  • Keep going back to knowing why you’re doing it and adjust as needed.
  • Experience life together, share stories as a family. This will cause you to build connections through these shared experiences.
  • Take field trips, have family projects, attend independent classes and enrichment programs, enroll in online courses and exercise programs, and leave room for a lot of personal time. If the individual wants to pursue a formal class, that can be unschooling as well!

Learning Mindset Happiness is goal Robyn Robertson

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

            

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 

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The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

There’s been a lot of discussion about medicine and how the human body works in our homeschool lately.

Honest questions generated by our world today, coupled with a little bit (ok, a lot) of anxiety around getting sick, increased my kids interest in learning more about how our bodies work.

Knowing they learn best with hands-on, creative activities, I set out to find the best homeschool human body study available. Knowing that my time is limited and there’s only so much one homeschooling, work from home, mom of four can do, I also needed options that made it easy for me to plan and prep.

Because I adore these crazy, curious learners of mine, I went all in on our human body study, and I am so glad I did! It has become one of the most memorable, and genuinely interesting studies we have done together. 

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

 

Strewing Anatomy Materials to Build Interest

Starting any new learning or unit study can be challenging sometimes, for my kiddos and for me. I never really know exactly what will pique their interest and what might derail the learning entirely. 

An important point that I want to mention, before I introduce you to our human body study – I rarely force learning on my kids. This is especially true when it comes to science, because it naturally lends itself to more curious, self-directed learning. I have also discovered, over and over again, that this self-directed approach actually increases comprehension and retention for my kids. 

Because of this, I like to begin any unit study with simply strewing materials around our learning spaces. While it’s true that the very philosophy behind strewing insists we don’t approach the learning with any expectations, I’ve learned over time what my children naturally gravitate to and what will pique their interest enough to kick off a full blown unit study. 

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

One of the very first things I strategically put out for the kids were items from Homeschool Science Tools How to Examine Patients Course & KitThe stethoscope was of particular interest. It fostered all sorts of unplanned conversations around previous illnesses and an exploration of the tools and techniques doctors use when finding out what patients need.

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

Since these discussions, my kids also watched documentaries, dived into websites, and listened to each other’s heartbeats for weeks.

My budding scientists were hooked, and we were ready to get started with our full Human Body Study.

Related: Awesome Extras For An Immunology Study

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

Hands-On Activities for a Human Body Unit Study

One we got started, I realized there are about a million great ways to approach a human body unit study! The truth is, even with these hands-on activities, my kiddos are just scratching the surface.

Given all that was available to us, we began with the one that I thought would generate the most interest for my younger kids.

Our Skeleton, Pelvis Presley

If you are going to do a human body study, can I please recommend starting with a half-size human skeleton?

The sheer delight my children experienced when I first showed them that the model has a moveable jaw, a skull that opens, and appendages that move and can be removed for study, has not diminished. In fact, it’s only intensified.

Yes, they named our skeleton Pelvis Presley. He also is currently sporting googly eyes and spends his days migrating around the house like a new member of the family. 

Real X-Rays And Broken Bones

After studying the human skeleton in it’s entirety, we moved to on specific bones and bone structure. In order to make this as hands-on as possible, I added real human x-rays, including ones of broken bones to the mix.

We do have a light table, which helped, but I know of other families who have simply placed a white poster board behind the x-rays, and are just as easily able to see the bones and interpret the findings. 

These were a huge hit with my kiddos. It led us to a discussion about a type of x-ray that I have often as someone with asthma – a chest x-ray. 

Lung Volume and Pulse Oximeter

The chest x-ray discussion became a natural transition to our next activity. We used Homeschool Science Tools Lung Volume Kit to increase our understanding of how the lungs work and what naturally occurs in our body as we take in oxygen. 

My kids were startled to learn that we can increase our lung capacity over time with daily exercise and activity. Moreover, being able to actually see and measure our individual lung capacities helped explain some of what can happen to the body when viruses invade the respiratory system. 

It was a perfect mix blend of current events and scientific study, in a way that was accessible and understandable for my children. 

Related: The Best Homeschool Geology Study Ever!

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

 

What’s Next When it Comes to Our Human Body Study?

Because most of this homeschool human body study focused primarily on the skeletal and respiratory systems, I plan to continue our learning with activities around the body’s various organs and the nervous system.

There is a really cool magnetic human body model that’s on my list, along with countless books and other experiments. 

Unit studies like this are foundational in how we approach learning in my home. Hands-on, interest-led, and self-directed learning makes all the difference for our children and it makes learning so much more interesting and fun.

Just ask Pelvis Presley! 

The Best Homeschool Human Body Study Ever

Looking for more engaging activities for your learner?

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics, and engage in activities just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them cope and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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Books for Animal Lovers

Whether we’re strewing or following an interest-led unit study, I love having stacks of books around on topics my kiddos are excited about. We’ve gone through some pretty interesting obsessions, spent years following rabbit trails, and immersed ourselves in a pretty varied number of topics. One of the most enduring interests, however, has been animals.

Whether it was oohing and ahhing as toddlers or memorizing interesting facts to spout off at the dentist’s office, animals have always been an easy interest to embrace. There seems to be no limit to species, habitats, diets, and more to learn about, so animals are a solid choice for unit studies, science subjects, gifts, art projects, or just entertainment! I’ve pulled together lists of books that range from educational to entertaining, something for the toddler and the teenager, books that are breathtaking to look at and interesting to read. Go wild! 

 books for animal lovers

Books for Animal Lovers to Learn More

Not all animal books are created equal, as any animal lover will attest to. Often they’re full of colorful photos and short paragraphs, but nothing new to feed the interests of a creature nut. The Horse Encyclopedia is a beautiful volume covering everything from the history of horses to their care and breed standards. A fun and quirky book, The Truth About Animals is packed full of interesting – and sometimes hilarious – stories about how animals behave outside of cute viral clips. Vanishing is a stunning book featuring vulnerable and endangered species that will surely be appreciated by the most avid of animal lovers. A gorgeous gift, An Anthology of Intriguing Animals is full of great information, where on the other end of the spectrum is Ugly Animals, a hilariously fun and interesting book packed with less attractive members of the animal kingdom and wildly interesting facts about them. Another interesting angle is The Wildlife Detectives, which details the science of overpopulation and how ecosystems can be affected by just one species.

      

Books Featuring Animals as the Main Character

There is something so comforting and timeless about snuggling up to enjoy a tale told by a character with a tail. Many beloved stories of my own youth featured animals as the main characters, and I’ve loved sharing them with my family and finding new classics! Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH begins a trilogy of lovable and gifted rats that are downright human. More recent favorites, The One and Only Ivan and The One and Only Bob are moving and engaging stories of animals experiencing emotions we can all relate to. As a bonus, The One and Only Ivan was recently adapted into a movie! The Redwall series is packed full of action, historical fantasy, and lovable rodents, with so many books that your animal lover will be engrossed for months. A fun and lovable classic, The Cricket in Times Square is a must read, and Call of the Wild graphic novel is a unique way to enjoy another standby animal story. One of my own favorites as a child, Black Beauty has sequals, numerous movie adaptations, and a beautiful story. Something new and fun, The Finn Chronicles: Year One is a quirky collection of stories told from the perspective of a therapy dog. My own animal-loving kiddos loved Pax and the enormous collection of Guardians of Ga’Hoole books, another series that will enthrall for months on end. 

         

Books for Young Animal Lovers

It’s a simple fact – kids love animals. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids of all ages are entertained and excited by furry, flying, scaly creatures. The Fascinating Animal Book for Kids offers tons of interesting photos and facts, and Jake the Growling Dog uses a pup to discuss emotions and the control we have over them. Perfect for the youngest of animal fans, First 100 Animals and the  Alpha Tales box set are colorful and educational, promising plenty of repeat readings. After Dark is full of poems about nocturnal creatures, and the DK readers like All About Bats are great resources for emerging readers who love animals.

      

If you’ve got an animal lover in your life, you’ll want to snap up several of these titles! Whether you use them to entertain or educate, your whole family will be certain to enjoy them. Use them in a strewing stack, a morning basket, as an animal unit spine, or just the fun of reading a good book together. Enjoy learning about so many interesting creatures, and be sure to let me know in the comments what books for animal lovers you’ve enjoyed!

books for animal lovers

More resources are now available for your child, and for you!

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children with intensities and help you as you help your child learn and grow. We provide resources just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

Latest posts by Jennifer Vail (see all)
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RLL #96: Finding Learning Opportunities with Dennis DeNoia


Our quirky kids become happier and more willing learners when they are allowed to pursue their own interests beyond any academic requirements. Today, Colleen speaks with extraordinary math instructor and friend, Dennis DeNoia of Mr. D Math, about seeing learning opportunities in many different places and how giving his kids the freedom to pursue their interests has helped them be better learners.

RLL #96 Finding Learning Opportunities with Dennis DeNoia

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

                     

EPD

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 

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RLL #92: Building Self and Setting Goals with Suki Wessling


These quirky gifted or 2e kids of ours are often “square pegs in round holes” everywhere they go, not just in school. Bringing them home helps them to thrive in their own way and often a self-directed, child-led homeschool approach helps them to discover who they truly are and what they want to learn. In this episode, Colleen speaks with Suki Wessling, homeschooling parent, writer, musician and online instructor at Athena’s Advanced Academy about helping our kids learn to set goals and flourish as authentic individuals in lives of their own design.

RLL #92: Building Self and Setting Goals with Suki Wessling

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

            

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 

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Out of This World Astronomy Finds

One of the most beautiful features of our new home has been seeing the night sky away from city lights and pollution. What my kids once always knew as dark has since become brilliantly illuminated with stars, constellations, meteor showers, and sometimes even planets! And since homeschooling offers us the flexibility to learn whenever we […]

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