Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cheap Unschooling

Time after time, I hear people saying that they can't afford to unschool. The concern is that it's too expensive to pay for lessons (that at public school are often free). Supplies are too expensive, going to fun places is prohibitive.
I understand. Expenses can seem insurmontable. The thing is, if you think that way, you are getting ahead of yourself. You are also setting yourself up for failure.
What's needed is a change in mindset. In this post, I am offering ways to think about unschooling and its innate opportunities--that make unschooling a great choice, even when you don't have a lot of money. I for one, didn't when we were unschooling our three kids. We had one income--and even that was very modest. So let's look at unschooling in a new light.

Time is money
Time is a very precious commodity. What unschooling means, more than anything else, is having more of it. When you are unschooling your family you are offering them an opportunity to marinate in curiosities and adventures and quests. If they like to read, or watch films, or go on hikes (binoculars are affordable if you know where to look) and study natural history, or local history etc they have that time to go as far as they want to.

Volunteer. Volunteer. Volunteer.
There are no ends to volunteer opportunities in your community.
Not-for-profits like environmental groups, theatre groups, art galleries and museums are always seeking people to help (older kids especially). Soup kitchens, community gardens, markets could use a hand. Civic engagement is always welcome by local groups who want to see improvement in government. Get involved in community planning.

Use the community resources. Explore your community.
When my middle was around 9 she wanted to join a violin orchestra. We were able to get her into the local school strings program even though she was unschooled. All three girls took a foreign language (Mandarin) through the free language programs at the school (for kids who wanted to learn their heritage language. We were able to attend even though we aren't Chinese).
My oldest joined a homeschool choir at very little cost.
The library offers all sorts of courses. We used to do Mad Science courses at the library before we'd sign out materials (for free).
Our community centre offers swimming, cooking, piano and soccer lessons. Skating is free. Sewing and craft courses are available at most local community centres.
Our local university has very affordable dance classes taught by university students. Rock climbing as well for a very affordable price. There are free lunch hour concerts a the local college and university. Plays and performances are often cheap for youth. Public Lectures are in abundance.
We have a canoe and make use of it, especially when the kids were smaller. It would be an easy 'day out.' We use the bike trails or go down to the harbour for an outing while stopping for an ice-cream.
Learn your local history and connect it to the wider global histories. Also, museums are often free at some point during the week.

The internet
The internet is a readily accessible kingdom of knowledge. Research all sorts of free curriculum (Khan Academy, MIT courses for the older kids). There are countless offerings for 'Do it Yourself' (DIY) to make things with very affordable materials. Kids can learn how to build forts out of branches, cardboard furniture, clay, found materials. Knitting and crochet is all the rage and you can even learn these on line.

Basically--there is no excuse in a world of plenty to claim that unschooling is too expensive.
If you child really wants something expensive, you will find a way to get it. I got a piano for free by posting in my local paper (I put an ad saying I could afford $300) and someone offered it to me for free.
Sometimes it means waiting--which is not a bad thing since the kid learns that they can't get everything they want right away. Sometimes it means saving up for something. Sometimes it means asking grandparents and family to give $$ instead of useless plastic toys.
If it is really that important, like a dream trip, it might mean taking a loan (proceed with caution). What I'm saying is that where there is a will there is a way--in time.

As the kids get older, they can start earning for what they want (one daughter (16) teaches violin and with the money she earns, she can pay for the fashionable clothes she loves to wear etc. She is also saving up for a higher-end violin).

More cheap fun ideas:
Badminton. Ping pong. Thrift shopping. Tobogganing is free, and ice skating and road hockey is cheap etc.
So take heart. Courage. It can be done for very, very little.
I welcome your thoughts/advice. Let's keep the conversation alive.


Anonymous said...

I agree with what you've posted. Unschoolers should look at bartering skills as well. That's what i do--I get horse back riding for french lesson.

Anonymous said...

The beach or the River - we live near the beach and spend at least 2 days a week there , winter and summer - ever changing - ever interesting. Local BMX track - a total favorite with our bike loving daughter and any friends who come round. Open days - usually listed in your local or community newspaper. We went to the riding for the disabled fundraising open day last weekend. $2 for 10 minute rides. Fabulous - husband had a go too .. First time on a horse !! Airport is another go to place for us. 1hours parking $2.50 .. wander round heaps to see and talk about.

beatrice ekoko said...

@anons-Love these comments! We used the university like crazy (and still do) for the library, trails, and lectures, concerts, etc etc

Mama Squirrel said...

I don't know if you had already submitted this to a carnival--but if not, could I include it in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling? Thanks! (I will check back later.)

Anonymous said...

The reason many people say unschooling is expensive, is nothing to do with cost of resources/activities, but to do with the loss of income by being there to unschool. For so many people the loss of that income is impossible, it doesnt matter how cheap activities/resouces are it is the income loss that matters. I am surprised that 'unschooling' sites and literature seem to largely ignore this or suggest very 'helpful' things like getting rid of a second car, downsizing or not eating out - like obviously everyone who can't live off a single income are living in a lap of luxury.

Anonymous said...

If unschooling is so expensive, does this make Classical Conversations cheap? Food for thought here, folks.

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