Unschoolers- How to Hone Your Translation Skills
Translation is an essential skill for every parent of an unschooler. Those of us who understand and value self-directed education may chuckle as our kids slide through the mud, searching for earthworms, thinking, “well, there’s our science for the day!”. However, those looking over your paperwork may be less amused with this interpretation of the day’s events. Translation skills are what build a bridge between the unschooled and the traditionally schooled.
Here are a few ways to really level up on your translation skills.
Practice wonder and curiosity over what your child is doing. Wonder and curiosity don’t actually come naturally to grown-ups. We’re a pretty boring crowd much of the time. We forget that caterpillars, rain, sexuality, and chemical reactions are all things our kids have to discover and experience for the first time. Taking off your grown-up goggles and seeing things through your child’s eyes allows you to recognize even small moments as educational adventures. Your kid discovered and watching a caterpillar for 45 minutes is actually science for the day. You just have to start recognizing it.
Get familiar with the language in the NYS Homeschool Regulations. If you want to communicate effectively, know your audience. Your audience is the DOE and those people love those regulations. If you want them to “get it” when it comes to what your kids are doing, speak their language. You can find further examples of what I like to call “educationese” by taking a gander at the “benchmarks” or goals for the grade your child(sen) would be in. You’d be surprised by how many of those you can use in your paperwork without even slightly stretching the truth.
Use well-meaning “concerns” to your advantage. Every unschooler has plenty of stories of “concerned” relatives, friends, and strangers who are sure we’re setting our kids up to live in our basements indefinitely, playing video games, allergic to the sun. Next time someone brings a concern your way, thank them. They’ve probably just handed you insight into exactly what the folks reading your paperwork are concerned about. Address that concern before it sees the light of day and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Aunt Cindy is worried your kid’s socialization? “Sally attends ballet and gymnastics weekly for physical education. She has not only made gains in strength, endurance, and focus, these classes have also allowed her to continually practice her already excellent social skills. This has made physical education an extremely positive experience for Cindy this year!” Uncle Joe thinks Simon isn’t learning “real science”? “Simon has been developing his understanding of the scientific process this quarter. Through experimentation, hands on exploration, and some book based research, he’s really been able to conceptualize the practical application of the scientific method.”
Brag. NYS homeschool paperwork is not the place to be humble. Your kid has written a complete volume of songs that she sings and plays on the piano herself? Brag. Your kid has spent so much time digging in the dirt that he can now identify 20 local mineral specimens? Brag. Your 9 yr old competed in a science fair usually attended by high schoolers…and won? Brag. Be selective in what you leave out and don’t downplay anything. It’s all awesome and it can all be the basis for an excellent snapshot of what your kid is up to.
Translation is one of the most important things you’ll do for your kids as an unschool parent. Hopefully, the tips above will help you hone and develop that skill so that you can do it with ease!