“You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” – Galileo
What is unschooling? It is NOT home schooling or online schooling. It is the opposite of traditional, compulsory education. Instead, kids explore whatever they are interested in, when they wish, and for as long as they wish. Unschooling does not take summers off. Fixed curriculum? No. Regular hours? No. Students are led by their interests, curiosity, and discoveries.
Unschooling is on the rise. In the USA, estimates are that between 1.5 – 2 million children and teens are involved. Parents are considered “facilitators” who are available with materials and ideas but no rigid structure. The whole family is often involved in whatever the children are studying. Unschooling is child-directed, hands-on, and experienced-based. It is a creative, around-the-clock adventure in learning. The father of unschooling, John Holt, was the author of How Children Fail. A former fifth grade teacher, he claimed that traditional schools foster fear and force kids to study topics of no interest to them. He likened public schools to jails.
Flexibility: Your children can learn at their own pace and can focus on what appeals to them most, which should make them more engaged learners.
Real World Experience: Learning and socialization take place in the real world and under real world circumstances, which may better prepare children to live and work in the real world as adults.
Appreciation of Learning: Allowing children to focus on their own likes and dislikes may foster a lifetime love f learning that will serve them well after traditional schooling leaves off.
Unstructured: Without a plan or structure, unschooling can become chaotic. Planning and effort are required, otherwise unschooling becomes no-schooling.
Peer Social Development: Many children develop social skills through interaction with their peers. Proponents of unschooling point out that there are many opportunities for children to interact with their peer group outside of traditional schools and that social development with adults and other cohorts is just as important. That said, extra care is necessary to ensure than unschooled children have access to vibrant social opportunities.
Social Proof: Whether or not unschooling leads to great educational and life outcomes, the fact of the matter is that collages and employers look for certain milestones and standardized achievements that traditional education is geared towards. Unschoolers need to carefully consider “resume” building as they navigate the mostly uncharted waters of a unschooled life.
What about the law? State laws cover home schooling, which is legal in all 50 states. Unschoolers are governed by the same laws that apply to home schoolers. Regulations vary from state to state. If you are interested in exploring the Unschooling concept with your children, http://www.hslda.org/laws/ is a good resource for checking on your state and local regulations.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
A couple great resource for learning more about unschooling are www.theunschoolersemporium.com and http://www.onlinecollege.org/2011/01/27/50-best-blogs-in-the-unschooling-movement/.
Have any experience with unschooling? We’d love to hear about it!