Adventures in Unschooling

What is Unschooling?

Posted on: November 15, 2009

Yeah I know…I got overzealous with the posts this weekend. But back to business:

By its very nature it is virtually indefinable. But for our family it means allowing our children to learn at their own pace, in their own way, in their space. They will learn to read when they are ready not when someone decides they should know this. It is learning by living. It is unstructured so that it can allow maximum time for reading, doing and reflection.

WHY DO WE UNSCHOOL?

SOCIALIZATION:

We unschool because we want our children to be socialized. Not in the way that schooled children are socialized by their peers (who are all at the same level of maturity or immaturity) and by their teachers (who are authoritative figures who spend their time classifying children into varying degrees of smart and unsmart).  But rather by being with adults. They learn to be validated by adults and they also learn to be with a kid with their friends. They develop a truly rounded personality.

For example: A child wants to learn about building musical instruments. The best course of action would be to bring him to the library to research his subject. Then he could try to find someone who builds instruments and do some volunteer work in his shop for some tutoring in this subject of interest. In this task alone he learns about music, math, construction, perhaps running a business. What if the world was your teacher?

JOY OF LEARNING

We unschool because we want our children to love learning. We want them to love reading. But kids quickly dislike reading or learning once they enter school. What can make reading a good book a miserable experience? Well, someone that tells you how you should interpret scenes, characters and events could do it. So could being asked to write reports and being told that your ideas aren’t good enough. Or worse, you might not like the book at all and be forced to do these things. 

I don’t know many people who read for pleasure. My husband adores immersing himself in books but it took him a long time to re-train himself to see reading as pleasure instead of work. He hated school work and it affected his overall enjoyment of learning. This, sadly, is the norm. Especially among males. 

Homework is another big crime against the joy of learning. Not only do you have to endure the drudgery of school during the day but you have to take it home with you as well. When is a child supposed to have time to read for themselves or to enjoy the company of different kinds of people?

In an unschooled scenario, a child would read what they like and learn about what they like. So they may spend a year obsessing about Trojans. How pleased I would be!

In that year they would get a chance to learn about government, economics, training and war strategy, culture and currency. What would you learn if you have all of the time in the world?

TO RESPECT THEM

To think we must teach children to learn and live in our world is cruel and arrogant. Children deserve more respect. They learned how to walk, talk and play all without our careful instruction. My son is learning about time and addition all on his own. He is four years old.

Children are incredibly bright and capable. They could certainly use us as guides. People who help them locate people and resources but they don’t need us telling them what they need to know. They know what they need to know.

I trust my kids to grow as they are supposed to and I will be there when they need help.

TO GIVE THEM CHOICES

If they should want to go to school I would never stand in their way but if they want to stay home I will always be available to facilitate their learning. What are children supposed to learn from always being told where to stand or sit, what to read, how to read, what to think and how to think it. I think we do a great favour to our children by saying that we trust them to make a good decision on their own.

If you are interested in the experience of some other families there are many great Unschooling blogs. I also love this book: Homeschooling our Children Unschooling Ourselves. It’s from the perspective of a school teacher who decided school wouldn’t be right for her children.

 For more information on Unschooling try some of John Holts’ books including Teach Your Own or Dumbing Us Down by John Gatto.

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