Explaining Unschooling…

UnschoolingUnschooling is simply living a full rich life, offering opportunities to your child to learn and grow. For unschooling to work at its optimal level, the parent must be engaged with the child, probably more than if they chose another learning modality. Children are natural learners. They want information. But they do not necessarily know what’s out there in the world. That’s the parent’s role in unschooling. The unschooling parent keeps one ear to the child listening for their interests and questions, and the other to the community, and now with the internet, the world, searching for creative opportunities that feed that desire to learn more about a topic.

Before you say, “Hey, that’s just good parenting!” I would agree that many good parents do this… on Saturdays, or in the summer, or during the school breaks. The difference is that unschooling parents recognize the benefits of doing this full time.  So maybe you’re asking yourself, Should You Unschool? Or you just want to read more about unschooling.

Learning only happens when the learner is engaged. If the learner is not engaged, an incredible amount of time is wasted – wasted time on lesson preparation as well as wasted time on trying to impart knowledge to someone only halfway listening.  I’ve heard people say, you cannot just pour knowledge into a child’s head and expect it to stick. That’s the truth.

So instead, unschoolers have broken free from the notion that curriculum and scope and sequences are necessary. They’ve realized that quizzing, grading, and artificially dividing life up into “subjects” are props that schools use.  It’s familiar to us, because most of us went to school. But it’s about the mechanics of “school”, not the essentials of learning.   Opportunities abound in everyday life for parents and children to interact on a variety of topics. It’s very clear to parents whether the child grasps what they are talking about.  A real conversation allows for the topic to be explored and expanded upon – certainly this is a richer assessment than a 10 question quiz.  One could even ask the necessity of quizzing at all.  When we, as adults, want to learn something, we simply explore the resources, reading and practicing. We don’t set up quizzes for ourselves to see what we learned. We simply learn. Quizzes were set up to replace conversations that would find out how much a child knows.  And they are poor substitutions.

Setting up the learning plan is an aspect of teaching not learning. Teachers need lesson plans to be able to show their principal that they are “keeping on track” with the predetermined curriculum plan. These are contraptions that the teaching profession needs in schools, not in home schools. And because in unschooling, the focus is on the child’s learning, and not the teacher’s teaching – they’re completely unnecessary.

Unschooling is trusting yourself and trusting your child; and that takes a good amount of nerve. When a parent sends a child to a school or even decides to go with a particular curriculum, they are handing over their trust and their child to the school/curriculum. A “leaving it to them!” mentality sets in and for many families, this is a relief. Unschooling families don’t want to go that route.  They are willing to shoulder the responsibility for the education of their child, because they have faith that learning is something that humans naturally want to do – and their children are no exception to this rule.

Read More…

One Little Word: WITH

The Antidote for Animal School: Unschooling

Or subscribe to the Unschooling Blog Carnival to read other unschooling parent blogs!

5 thoughts on “Explaining Unschooling…

  1. Paula says:

    I want to try unschooling but i’m worried my son who is aspie and highly video game oriented will show no interest in anything other than playing games. i’m not sure i can trust that he will actually be interested in anything else. traditional homeschooling isn’t really doing much but exposing him to information that may or may not be useful to him in the future. he doesn’t do well in testing – usually gets 50% of the answers correct – has trouble with math, reading comprehension – hates to read unless it is involved with his video game. His anxiety starts to climb when he is faced with any type of report where he has to read something and pull information out of it. If anyone has any suggestions on what I can do to help him, I’d really appreciate any input.

  2. sue patterson says:

    Hi Paula,
    I’m so sorry I missed this comment last month! Unschooling can be a tough concept to grasp, and then with extra circumstances to work with, I can see how it might even seem harder.
    You didn’t mention how old your son is – that might have a bearing here.
    If I were in your shoes, I think I would focus on your relationship with him, and on trying to bring the level of anxiety down. If homeschooling isn’t really working, then you really have nothing to lose, and only something to gain. I would try to really get on his team, so to speak, about learning through video games. There’s plenty of reading happening there. And problem-solving. That shouldn’t be de-valued.
    You could give unschooling a try for a year, and see what happens. See if he will talk to you about what he’s interested in learning more about? Could you go to the aquarium, or the museum or an art class? Think about offering other things that might be of interest to him.

Let me know what you think, ok? Please comment.

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