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When I first read about unschooling, I wanted to learn more. I eventually stumbled across an unschooling discussion board. The parents in that particular forum appeared to be only semi-literate. I was a bit horrified. Their discussion did not reflect positively on the homeschooling movement. Fortunately, I discovered the Homeschooling board here at the Fool -- a much happier place!

You mentioned television? No matter how tired or bored I get, it is hard for me to turn off a TV. For my own health, I eventually gave away my television. Even today, if I'm visiting friends and they leave the TV on, nothing else in the room can hold my attention. Television (and some computer games) may stimulate the instinctive human orienting response. Here is an old Scientific American article.

You may need to restrict or eliminate the TV in order to get things going.

If that doesn't work, you may want to study other things in the environment. As long as there is air, shelter, water, warmth, and food, there really isn't much reason to get off the couch.

Three suggestions come to mind:

1) As a family, do you frequently engage in the kinds of activities that might stimulate a child's curiosity to learn?

Modern life can become routine. As adults, we worry about the bills and the laundry. We forget to go to museums, parks, picnics, plays, air shows, or the zoo. As adults, we can draw strength from pleasing memories of years past. We can dream of that great vacation in Hawaii that we took ten years ago. Children don't have that source of strength. They may not be old enough to remember what life was like ten years ago. We have to help create those memories for them, for the first time.

2) Is your family environment completely shielding the children from exposure to real world consequences?

There is a difference between "knowing" and knowing. Most of us know the value of education, work, and the dollar because we've gone hungry for want of them. Children may only "know." In the coming years, you may need to gradually, gently, introduce real world consequences (or proxies) if your children are otherwise shielded.

3) Does your family (including step daughter) get regular, strenuous exercise?

Maybe it's because I'm getting old and have a desk job, but my mental acuity is badly impaired if I don't exercise strenuously almost every day. The problems are worse if I don't guard my diet. (Those Little Debbie snack cakes are like crack cocaine! Run away!)

As for homeschooling, I'm not a big fan of "teaching." It's practically a dirty word, to me. I can't tell you how many history teachers wasted years talking at me. It didn't work. Later, as I approached voting age, I began to ask questions. By the time I was in my mid twenties I began to have a real appreciation for history. But by then, I'd long forgotten everything they tried to teach me. To a lesser extent, I had similar problems with advanced math (taught in a context-free environment with a never-ending stream of problem sets). These "teaching" experiences are what turned me toward homeschooling. And for these reasons, I would be reluctant to use a pre-packaged curriculum, except as a back up or loose framework.

So there probably is a lot of wisdom to the unschooling principle of not trying to teach until the child is ready to learn. The challenge is to create situations where your children will want to learn.

That's my $0.02,
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