Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unschooling in a school focused world

After having a bad run with public school when I tried to send David to special ed and early intervention pre-school I joined a support group for homeschoolers of kids with Autism.  While there I learned a method of teaching they like to refer to as "unschooling" which is basically you teach the children as you go about your natural lives.  For example, I
have been focusing a lot on sign language, numbers, and letters with them lately so we play our Signing Time videos and practice signing things we know when we see or experience them throughout our day.  For numbers and letters we try to point them out when we see them on signs or books, or when we see them on a shelf at the store, etc. 

One of the ways we do this the most is best shown through a recent example of a numbers "lesson" we did while at Wal-mart.  We were walking around and happened to pass through the birthday isle so we came across all the birthday candles.  Well when David noticed some of them were shaped like numbers he got all excited and pointed to them saying, "numers!" (numbers).  We then stopped and counted using the number candles and then I would ask him and Joshua to point out the number 3, number 5, etc.  We had a blast and the kids got to practice their counting and number recognition all at the same time. :) 

We do similar things with the letters.  Our most common is I will point out a simple or familiar word to them on a sign or book cover and we'll practice saying the letters and then sounding out the word.  Both can read/recognize small words now and most of their letters without any help. :)  And David has shown ability to read his own starter books to himself and some times I could swear he can read parts of mine based off of what he's shown me and done with them. :) 

Another way we practice their letters is with an ABC chart done in sign language.  We practice saying and/or singing the alphabet first while following the chart, and then on our own. :)  David has almost the entire alphabet down without any help. :)  And with mild prompting he can get the whole thing himself. :)  Joshua is still learning most of it, but he's also only 2 and can't hear well so we can give him some more time. :)

Yesterday they both did something to show how much they were retaining too that got me all excited.  Joshua tends to break out in sign language everytime he sees something he recognizes or when he sees me and David sign and yesterday, while we were at Taco Shop for dinner, an ambulance drove by with it's lights and sirens on.  One of Joshua's newest signs is "firefighter" which we all learned with a Signing Time dvd and in the video it shows the truck all lit up and blasting it's sirens.  So when Joshua saw the ambulance rush by he got excited, got my attention, and signed "firefighter". :)  It's not quite the right one, but considering we don't know a sign for ambulance yet, I thought that was pretty good recoginition and labeling. :)  And of course it got him started on signing again which David joined in on and we spent the last half of our dinner pointing out all the things around us that the kids knew how to sign. :)  It was a pretty cool moment. :)

And as if that wasn't cool enough, when it was time for bed later that night, David layed down and was playing with a nearby toy net that was hanging down.  He was batting at it and counting!  All by himself, no prompting, no help, and he was counting CORRECTLY from 1 to 10! :)  That's big over here. :)  I was so excited and proud. :)

Seems to me that this unschooling concept is the best thing that could have come around for our family right now. :)  And with how well it is working (David used to struggle quite a bit with everything and Joshua used to not retain anything at all even if he did manage to "learn" it) it makes me wonder why more families don't do this.  Also, why the schools haven't given this a try yet.  At least with the special ed kids.  I know this kind of thing won't work for everyone, but it sure is making a world of difference for my family. :)

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