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Monday, April 4, 2016

Unschooling: How Does a Child Learn to Read Without Instruction?

One of the Inevitable Questions you'll get as an unschooling parent is "But how will your child EVER learn to read, if you're not teaching them?".
The answer is actually quite simple: a child in a written culture will learn to read - and write - just as he or she learned to walk and talk. By being exposed, we soak up and integrate that this is an essential skill.

But often, this answer proves to be quite unsatisfactory. We've all been so indoctrinated to think that reading and writing needs to be taught. Heck, we've all been taught reading and writing ourselves, when we were little? Or haven't we?

First of all, I want to address teaching reading to children. Many of us who have been taught to read in school, could actually read before this skill was introduced. I could read when I was four, in several languages by the time I was a little over five. I - and children who can read before teaching occurs in the regular curriculum - was an early reader.
Natural reading, as it occurs with children who are unschooled, happens between the age of 4 and 14.

With reading being taught at about 6 (but earlier and earlier nowadays, called reading readiness *sigh*), you can quickly see that this does not come at the right time for most kids. Hence, lots of kids having to "catch up", getting extra lessons and what not. And the early readers, being bored and frustrated, because they're ahead and don't understand why there's so much emphasis on a skill they already master. SO already at this early age, you get division and people falling out of the boat - either way.

But back to the question: "How do kids learn to read".

As I described in an earlier article, learning isn't linear. As an unschooling parent, you won't know where exactly your child is in the learning curve of reading. It doesn't easily build up one block on top of the next. You might at times think your kid is nearly there, and then the next week, they don't seem to remember anything or aren't the slightest bit interested. That's ok, that's how natural learning occurs.

Children have very diverse approaches to learning, and the same goes for reading.

My daughter is now close to 8 and can't read. Not in the way we intend with mastering the skill of reading. She does recognise letters, she can spell out words, she can write some letters. But her interest rises and wanes...
She's also highly perfectionist, and prefers to hide her learning as long as she doesn't really master it. She'll get frustrated at doing writing or reading related exercises, even though she's interested, but because in doing so, she shows she isn't there yet.

Another child might actually like reading exercises and follow a more comprehensible path. And yet other kids just pick up a book and begin reading.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Importance of Global Citizenship

In 1974, only 3 percent of Americans had a passport, according to Road Warrior Voices. Now, 38 percent have passports. While the 35 percent increase is laudable, it still is small in comparison to citizens in other countries. For instance, 60 percent of Canadians and 75 percent of people in the United Kingdom have passports.

Does this mean that Americans are not interested in being members of the global community? Not necessarily. Fast Company explains that technology is enabling people to lead more global and connected lives. The study shows that Americans are more willing to adopt social technology and interact with people in different countries.

What Is Global Citizenship?

While people technically can’t be citizens of the world, global citizenship transcends the standard definition of citizenship. It is more about social justice and how people treat everybody in the world, regardless of their nationality. People being aware of the world around them is global education; however, a global citizen is not only aware of world issues, but is also concerned and involved with those issues. It’s about action, even if it is just a tweet or Facebook post.

Technology and Global Citizenship

Updated smartphones with strong connectivity, like the latest Samsung Galaxy S7, and worldwide social media platforms, like Twitter, are leading the charge in helping youth become global citizens. Technologically savvy individuals are leading more globally connected lives because they use social media confidently to engage with others around the world and to promote face-to-face communication. They believe that the online presence promotes bonds between people from all over the world.
Connecting with people on social media is similar to the idea of writing letters to other students within the United States or in other countries. These used to be handwritten letters that necessitated envelopes and stamps. But now, even teachers in underfunded schools can connect their classrooms to those around the globe through social media networks and video conferencing. Students can friend and follow people from every corner of the Earth, enabling them to keep in contact with a slew of international associates 24-hours a day. This is a drastic change in how kids can learn about global citizenship from just a few years ago.

Global Products and Global Citizenship

Branded products provide another path to global citizenship. An article published in the Journal of International Marketing claims that branded products promote “cultural openness and consumer ethnocentrism.” For parents and teachers looking to lead young minds to becoming global citizens, global brands offer many teachable moments. Kids can study the brand's origins, controversies surrounding the product, the manufacturing of the product and how the product fits in with the culture and politics in the United States and around the world.

Global citizenship is important and needs to be instilled in future generations. It connects people to the rest of the world and keeps them engaged with world issues, many of which directly affect the United States. It also helps citizens think more critically about their place in the world, pushing them to become better as a whole.

Image source


Friday, March 11, 2016

Can a Pet Help an Autistic Child?

Pets bring joy into our lives in so many ways. If you have had a bad day, a dog is always there to

greet you with a wagging tail and lots of excitement. Cats are less demonstrative, but as many cat owners will attest, cats can be very affectionate and loving with their owners too, and it is lovely to have a cat to cuddle up to on a cold winter’s night.

Children and pets usually go together like peanut butter and jelly. One compliments the other and children get a great deal out of pet ownership, not least a sense of responsibility. But autistic children are different to other kids. They dislike changes to their routines and often lack social skills. So can a pet help an autistic child adjust to the world?

Research into Autism, Pets and Kids 

Research in the field of pets for kids with autism is fairly limited. A lot of the research carried out to date has involved dogs, but a study in Australia looked at how autistic children interacted with guinea pigs. Of the studies that have taken place, preliminary results are positive, and researchers found that introducing a pet was a positive experience.

Unconditional Love 

As we know, pets love us unconditionally. For an autistic child who struggles to find acceptance from his peer group, this is a very positive thing. Pets help build a child’s self-esteem and confidence. The child can spend time with their new friend without fear of ridicule or bullying, which for older children is very important.

 Reducing Anxiety Levels 

Autistic children are very affected by external stimuli. They hate loud noises, lights, people, and all these things can produce a stress response. When a pet is introduced, the child is distracted from the things they don’t like and concentrates on the animal instead. This reduces their anxiety levels because stroking the animal is comforting to them.

 A pet at home can help an autistic child develop a sense of responsibility. Even the smallest of pets require careful looking after. Allowing an autistic child to take care of a pet (under close supervision of course), will teach them empathy and responsibility. These are both skills autistic children will benefit from learning.

 Every Child is Different 

Not all autistic children respond well to a pet. Some find the experience frightening or react in an aggressive manner. Others can’t cope with the extra sensory stimulation being with a pet entails. The important thing is to do what’s best for your child. Have a trial run by taking them to a petting zoo or round to a friend’s house that has pets to see how they react. If the reaction is not what you were hoping for, persevere and let them watch the animal quietly for a few sessions before you suggest any petting.

 Pets such as Dorkie puppies from can really help autistic children in so many ways, so it is worth arranging some low-key contact sessions to see if your child is receptive.

Image: Cia de Photo


Monday, February 15, 2016

5 Life Skills Your Child Needs Before Leaving for University

If your child is preparing to leave for university, this is a really exciting time for everyone involved. But before your son or daughter heads off to live independently for the first time, there are certain life skills that he or she should have.

 Good Driving Skills 

Provided that your child plans on traveling by car, he or she will need to pass the driving test and get plenty of practice on the road prior to leaving for university. This will give you the peace of mind that your child will be safe at all times behind the wheel.
 The good news is that your son or daughter can take advantage of Top Tests to fully prepare for the driving test and pass it with greater ease. But if your child won’t be driving on his or her own, learning how to use public transportation is imperative.

 How to Cook 

Cooking is yet another necessary life skill required of every university student who will be living on their own. This will ensure that your son or daughter eats healthy foods rather than junk foods, and that your child can save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on foods prepared by the university and by restaurants.
 Make sure your child knows not only how to shop for food, but also how to prepare a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get all of the nutrients necessary to remain healthy, energised, and focused.

 Knowing How to Manage Money 

Prior to leaving home, your son or daughter should also know how to properly manage money. In this way, he or she won’t end up overspending on unnecessary things or activities, and will know how to save money for the future. These skills will be valuable not only while at university, but also throughout the rest of your child’s life, so it’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to be financially responsible with both cash and credit.

 How to Do the Laundry 

Another necessary life skill that your university bound child will need is a full understanding of how to do the laundry.

 Your son or daughter should know that light clothes should be separated from dark clothes, and that the clothing should be folded right after being taken out of the dryer in order to prevent wrinkles. He or she should also know how to iron clothes, and should know some basic sewing skills to repair hems, buttons, small holes, etc.

 How to Set Priorities 

Because your child will be living on his or her own at university, you won’t be there to constantly make sure that priorities are being met. Therefore, teach your child how to organise his or her to do list in a way that puts top priorities front and centre. This will ensure that work comes before play and that your child will be a successful, responsible student.

 By implementing the five tips above, your child will definitely be ready to live on his or her own.