The last installment of four-part series will be on Homeschooling (curriculum based) Co-Ops & and "Others" that will be posted sometime next week!
Where to start? I feel that is an appropriate question when answering 'what is unschooling'? It is also an outlook an unschooler would take when thinking about his or her next project! Unschooling is the theory that children are capable, natural learners, and have the will and desire to be self-starters in an area of their liking, going at their own pace. Unschooling IS essentially homeschooling...without the books, tests, and grades of a followed curriculum.
Unschoolers have the most freedom in a schooling environment because they do not have to follow standardized requirements (except, check your local state, some states do require strict following as in a daily chart, or loose following like an "end of the year" test, or even nothing at all)
Unschooling is actually very hard to define. It is flexible, more unstructured than a curriculum-based pedagogy, and so open for experimentation and completely child-led.
The term "unschooling" first became popular in the newsletter "Growing Without Schooling" written by the father of 'unschooling', John Holt. I have read many books by John Holt and what he has found (by being an educator & a big advocate for homeschooling when it was illegal in many states) through his observation of how children learn. His name and another, John Taylor Gatto, are very well-known in the unschooling circles.
I will try to define my understanding of unschooling in examples of what it is and what it is not instead of a Pro's & Con's list.
What it IS:
- What it IS, is child-led, and this means, whatever subject the child wants to learn-- whether it be finding leaves & then making a book & researching the different trees they come from-- or electronics, and taking apart old, broken appliances to understand how they fit together; the child is interested, the parent or adult just facilitates more learning to keep the learning process fluid for the child. This may be answering a question by researching it themselves on the Internet, finding books about said subject at the library, or calling an adult who works specifically in that area and getting a tour/lecture/lesson from that person!
- It IS flexible, some days being declared reading days, some days being for exploration (out in nature or a field trip to a museum).
- It IS finding something to learn in anything and everything we humans experience on a regular basis, and the things we'd like to learn. Ever want to learn about horses? Call a local farm or boarding stable and ask if you can volunteer your time brushing and cleaning up for a few lessons or just for the experience!
What it is NOT:
- It is NOT (generally) curriculum-based homeschooling. For example, the parent is not just handing out a worksheet or reading a chapter from a science book everyday. A more 'normal' unschooling scene would play out with the child finding a science book at the library, and sitting for an hour devouring the entire thing...then moving on.
- It is NOT for all people! Let's be honest, some parents just can't imagine being with their children the 5 days a week for the 7 hour increments that they are in school. In that case, you would not like to unschool, or home school for that matter!
- It is NOT for the faint of heart! In all the books I've read on this topic, the #1 fear (and usually, the only one!) is "Are they actually learning by themselves?" It is a trust issue, one that I am to ask myself many many times until my children go off into the world themselves. Just because a child doesn't want to spend 45 minutes, 5 days a week (+ homework!) in English or Math does not mean they are bad at it or don't understand the concepts! Usually, it means they completely understand the concepts and have moved on to the next interesting subject, OR they aren't ready to learn it yet. (See resource for "what if that happens" questions. John Holt books are great at answering those!)
- It is NOT something you have to choose for their entire schooling period! If you feel it isn't going well...by all means, do something else! Homeschooling is great in that respect, you can always always change course if it just isn't working out.
I hope I didn't leave you with more questions...it is almost hard to describe unschooling unless you've had some homeschooling experience or read up on it yourselves. Some great resources I've found are:
- Any book by John Holt.
- Wikipedia summary page of unschooling.
- Any book by John Taylor Gatto.
- Soulemama's blog. Although she doesn't talk just about unschooling, it is a big part of her family's life, and therefore, it peeks in every once in awhile. Like the post card series she is doing now! Head on over for some beautiful writing and excellent photography.
- Blue Yonder blog and Vintage Chica blog (and The Magnifying Glass!) have excellent resources/pages dedicated to unschooling. Read up! (don't forget: Home school Style Bytes :another unschooling blog--not updated as regularly)
- A book that is an entry-level explanation of other unschooling parents is The Unschooling Unmanual.
If you haven't guessed thus far, THIS is the option we are planning on choosing for our family! Ever since I've started researching schooling options about two years ago from my own interest, I have kept coming back to this, which is the best of all worlds, in my opinion. We can take a week's vacation in the middle of the school year and learn about anything from marine biology to geology; see it up close and personal without having to worry about being absent from school, and missing all that dreaded homework. We can use the Montessori "small tools" and celebrate seasons the Waldorf way without the expense. We can spend more time together and learn as adults, too! I am very excited about this in the next few years, and in fact, I think we do a pretty good job of it at an entry level already, teaching our children (mostly, Lukka, right now) about everything from chores, to responsibility, cooking, manners, and by going to the library, museums, and zoo! If this sounds like you, take the plunge and look into it more, you might just find something new you're passionate about!
Disclaimer:As always, I am a firm believer in "Mamma knows best", just to say whatever works for your family is the best option for you and your children. This post is only to show what I've come across, am interested & passionate about, and what we thinking of maybe, 'planning' to do.... doing what we feel is right for each individual child in the child's season of life.