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To introduce the idea of unschooling, I want you to imagine you are a kid again. Place yourself as a young child that has been attending a traditional school every day. Then one day your parents tell you that you no longer have to get on that smelly bus every day and go to school. From now on, life is school. You can learn whatever you want. Learning will simply take place in everything that you do.
Does that sound totally awesome to you? It does to me.
That is the basics of unschooling.
How Could Life Be Different With Unschooling?
Think about how your life would be different if learning was weaved into every part of life from an early age.
I know that my life would be completely different if I had been given the opportunity to learn freely.
Rather than drag myself out of bed every school day only to sit in a desk and be expected to regurgitate a set group of facts, I could have been in nature learning about the things that I loved to surround myself with. In college, I may have known what I wanted to pursue, instead of settling on basically a generic degree. I imagine that unschooling would have shown me the vast opportunities life can offer, resulting in a career I loved.
To have seen and experienced more than my cement classroom walls and the softball diamond would have been a memorable experience. I can only imagine the possibilities of how unschooling learning would have changed my life for the better. There is not an option to go back and change my childhood, but as a parent, I can change my children’s educational experience.
As parents, we can decide how our children are educated.
So What Is Unschooling?
The unschooling theory is that kids will learn on their own timeline, as they explore and take interest in the things around them. Life is learning.
There is no curriculum for unschooling. As a child becomes interested in a topic, they use everything around them (people, videos, games, books, nature) to learn about that interest. The parent role is not that of a teacher but rather resource finder, life coach/guide, and partner in learning.
- Learning becomes part of who the child is, everything in life is a learning opportunity.
- The responsibility for learning is shifted to the child, allowing the child to develop the mentality of responsibility.
- Allows more parent freedom to learn alongside a child, rather than having the structured “teacher role.”
- Prepares a child for real life and real work, since children learn to take initiative and teach themselves.
- Can save you hundreds of dollars on typical curriculum materials, since it is a very hands on a real-world way of learning.
- The transition from traditional school to unschooling takes time for both the child and parent. Unschooling is a completely different mentality and takes getting accustomed to.
- Visible learning results could be slower, since topics are covered as the child takes an interest.
- There is no set structure, which may be difficult for some parents (and even children).
- Ridicule from others that do not understand that your child is learning, just at their own pace.
- Potential for the lack of documentation that your state may require, since unschoolers do not take tests or complete worksheets, etc.
- Requires a lot of trust between parent and child.
How To Start Unschooling
If your kids have been in a traditional school environment, the first thing you need to do is TAKE A BREAK.
Seriously, allow your kids to have some time to let go of the need to rush to school, sit in a desk, complete homework, and read boring textbooks.
Just let them be kids for a short bit: sleep, eat, play, and start sharing the responsibilities around the house.
Allow yourself a mental break from the school rush. Whether you recognize it or not, you are in the school routine too. You are responsible for getting the kids to school on time, packing lunches, volunteering your time, ensuring homework is done and enforcing bedtime. Doesn’t a break to breathe sound nice?
Take a break and enjoy your kids: laugh with them, play with them, and take an interest in what their interests are. Let yourself relax and settle into your role as a parent, not a drill sergeant. (Or maybe that was just me!)
How To Unschool
Well you make not like this or you may love it….. there is no set way to unschool. That is what makes it unschooling!
You simply allow your children to pursue their interests and help provide them the tools to learn. These tools may be books, movies, youtube videos, neighbors, family members, or specialist.
Teach your preschooler to read simply by reading to him or her. Learn math facts by playing games or cooking. Develop your highschoolers math, design, logic and analytic skills by studying architecture. These are only a few examples, but they provide a narrow glimpse of how the unschooling approach works.
The time may come for your high schooler to take the ACT or SAT if they are going to attend higher education. At this point in their education, it is just another opportunity to learn from ACT/SAT prep courses.
Do We Unschool?
I try to weave the unschooling theory into everyday activities and extracurriculars. But, as much as I love the unschooling theory, in all honesty, I don’t have enough confidence in myself to be a patient and unstructured guide for the typical subjects: math, reading, grammar, spelling, history.
We are relatively new homeschoolers and the thought of rocking my entire education experience is a bit too scary for me right now. I do have high hopes of moving toward more of an unschooling approach, especially if we get the opportunity to travel more.
Want to hear from a few unschoolers? Check out these great videos.
Learning Through Unschooling | Callie Vandewiele | TEDxCambridgeUniversity
This is a great Ted talk from a woman that is a product of an unschooling education. She provides an awesome perspective on an unschooling life and provides some positive statistics that support an unschooling decision.
Hackschooling Makes Me Happy | Logan LaPlante | TEDxUniversityofNevada
“When 13 year-old Logan LaPlante grows up, he wants to be happy and healthy. He discusses how hacking his education is helping him achieve this goal. “
Unschooling: Making The World Our Classroom | Lainie Liberti & Miro Siegel | TEDxAmsterdamED
If you have an extra 15 minutes to spare and have ever considered road or worldschooling, this video is a great watch. This Ted talk is from a mom and son that set out on a “Say Yes to Anything” challenge when he was in fifth grade. That challenge turned into ditching traditional school for good and using the world as his education. (WARNING: May cause travel bug. This video made me want to sell our house and hop a plane with the family and start exploring!)
John Holt interviewed on New England Today
John Holt was a pioneer in the unschooling movement. This is one of his last interviews before he passed away. In this interview, he is joined by a homeschooler that attended Harvard University. They discuss the theory of unschooling and the advantages.
Additional Reading Resources
Radical Unschooling – Website Dedicated to Unschooling Resources
The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling – Blog Post from an Unschooling Dad
Do You Think Unschooling Is Right For Your Family?
As we wrap up day 3 in the homeschooling style series, let me hear from you. Do you think unschooling is a good fit for your children? Or have the Classical or Charlotte Mason methods appealed to you?
Like I have said so many times, how do you pick? What are your thoughts on the methods we have covered so far?
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