I was reading a message board thread that touched upon something called "radical unschooling". I'd heard of it in the past and decided we're not "radical" anything. But the more I read about it, and the more I hear it described by different families, the more I think we could possibly fall into that category. My kids have no set bedtimes, are free to choose what to eat, are free to wear whatever they choose, are free to choose how much tv they watch, and how much computer time they have. And of course, how to go about learning.
It feels weird to type that. It just doesn't "sound" right in our society, does it. But it was just the normal progression from the attachment parenting they all received from birth. Are my kids running amok, eating tons of candy and sugar, watching tv til their eyes blur over, and staying up til 3am every night? No, not even close. I have noticed that allowing these freedoms create children who self-regulate, are independent, and have high self-esteem and confidence.
For example, in the past I have given the girls $5 in the supermarket to spend on whatever they wanted. I was really shocked (but didn't show it, lol) to see they picked things like fruit, crackers, and canned ravioli. Where was all the candy and chips? There weren't any. K snacks on fruit and salads very often when we go out. J chooses fruit, veggie booty, or soy chips. W is still learning how to make healthy choices, but he'll eat anything and is getting a good example from his sisters.
As far as tv, I'll admit I have the parental block on anything PG-13 and up. But that's as far as my intervention goes. The kids watch a medium amount of tv. They actually prefer imaginative play, dancing, doing artwork, or going out somewhere. I grew up with the tv always on - mainly for background noise. I tend to do the same thing now and it's the kids who go over and shut it off several times a day.
Bedtimes are a big issue for people. I never understood that. We have no bedtime rules and yet W is asleep by 8:30, J by 9:30, and K by 10:30. My 5 y/o tells me he's really tired and ready for bed - he does this for naps too. I remember I fought my mother every night about bedtime - probably up until at least age 10. If there's something going on early the next morning, I will remind the kids that it will be difficult to get up if they don't start winding down now. But it's still their choice. And the next morning when I'm dragging them out of bed to get to a homeschool event they were looking forward to, they will remember this the next time.
I don't even make my kids wear a coat when it's cold. If they choose not to, I'll just bring one in case they want it later. They know if or when they're cold. I don't see the point of turning something like that into a battle of wills. My kids have gone coatless many times - and I probably have the healthiest kids in the neighborhood.
Oh and as you've seen, learning without coercion is very effective. My kids gravitate toward academics and are very curious and interested in the world. All the kids love being read to, love educational computer websites and CD-ROMS, have asked to learn Italian (all 3 of them! So I'll be purchasing Rosetta Stone soon), and J and W are "workbooking" a grade level ahead. Last night, W and I did Brainquest cards and read a book called "What If...". B was listening and couldn't believe how much W knew about the human body, animals, and space. The kids ask questions about any and everything all day. The answers I give them or that they find out for themselves do not leave them, it seems. And J has started reading a new book. K has decided to start working on 9th grade subjects to get a head start on high school. Fine with me! I'll take her to the bookstore to choose things she'd like. I'll also find her a bunch of websites and put them in a K folder.
I couldn't imagine this all working out any better than it does.