This is a definition of unschooling in the way that I view it.
First of all, Unschooling is hard to explain because it is not only a educational method, but it is an ideology and a lifestyle in itself.
Unlike what many seem to believe, unschooling is not about learning in a vaccuum devoid of outside facilitation, nor is it letting children roam-free without any guidance. It is about understanding learning in a different way, a way that happens through the learner instead of the teacher.
Personally, I do not agree with the conventional schooling system, whether it be private, public or even at home. I do not agree with the division of subjects and the belief that children need to learn certain things at certain ages whether or not they are ready or interested to learn. I do not agree that arbitrary expectations of what children should know are more important than a child’s learning needs. I do believe that some educational systems or individual teachers are better than others, but the system itself is flawed.
My own experiences have showed me that self-motivation and interest are the keys to learning and retaining information. If you want to learn something, it is easy to learn it, but if you are uninterested then it is easy to forget. I remember cramming for tests and then forgetting everything within hours because I no longer needed to know it. However engaging the teacher was, however passionate, if I was uninterested, I would not retain the information. But, when I was interested, I remember going to the library after school and reading on my own and it is that information that I still remember to this day.
I see harm in trying to force education on children when they are not ready or willing. When you force something, you risk the chance of rebellion. They may memorize, or learn what is asked of them to please the teacher, or parent, but at the risk of losing the love of learning, and they will most likely forget what they have been taught and then both parties have wasted valuable time.
Why risk the chance of killing the love of learning?
So many times in the homeschooling circles, you hear parents asking how to motivate their kids. The problem is you can’t teach self-motivation. You can try to motivate, you can resort to bribing and punishing, you can try to do things in a way that are more interesting, and you may succeed, but if the interest is simply not there, then it will all dwindle quickly. True self-motivation has to come from within, and it is amazing to see all the learning that can happen with self-motivation and to what extent things can be learned and accomplished.
I believe that life in itself is full of learning experiences. We don’t do activities with “learning a lesson” in mind, we do them because we enjoy them and I trust that learning is always happening whatever they are doing. I trust that children will learn things they need to learn when they are ready to learn them, or need to learn them for the choices they make. Because, in reality, it doesn’t matter when you learn things in the end, if you need skills for something that you want to do, you can learn them at any time.
Unlike many seem to believe, unschooling can and does involve structure and curriculum at times. What is different is that the child is the one to decide.
So what does the parent do in an unschooling family?
We are the facilitators. We provide experiences. We fill the house with books to discover, we show them how to use the internet. We introduce new games and activities. We buy art supplies and make play dough and buy Lego and video games, we teach them how to use the tools around them. We make bread and bake cookies. We clean the house and do our daily tasks. We drive places and find things to do. We answer questions and admit that we don’t know things and show them how to look for the answers while doing it together. We find resources to give them the opportunity to learn even more. We follow our own interests and show them our own love of learning.
What do unschooled children do?
They live, they ask questions, they discover, they play, they follow their hearts and they learn…
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.
Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on unschooling Paxye. Talking about alternative approaches to education I find so many people automatically discount unschooling because of the name. They don’t want to hear about all the good things because school is what most of us know, whether we enjoyed it or not. They forget that kids that aren’t going to school now are doing so much more. They’re learning about life, their communities, and they’re getting to enjoy what they learn. Who wouldn’t benefit from that approach?
Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on unschooling Paxye. I think it will make a good reference for some folks who aren’t so open minded. I find that when I’m discussing alternative approaches to education people automatically discount unschooling because of the name. It drives me crazy! I’m sure if they were to meet Lily, and I presume your boys, they would have a completely different opinion because they’d see all the good things that result from adopting an unschooling lifestyle instead of just a label. They’re learning about life, their communities, and they’re getting to enjoy what they learn. How can that be wrong?
Some unschoolers refer to themselves as life learners to try to clarify the misperception. I usually just say homeschool and not worry about the conclusions people may draw.
That is one beautifully written and communicated post. I am going to link this to my blog because it will help share the beauty of Life Learning in an extremely digestible way.
Hi – Found you on MBC. I love this post. I am currently trying to figure out what school at home with look like for our family. My little boy will be four in a month and I too think conventional schooling is not the way for us. I’m still just learning though and could use all the help I can get.
Well said! 🙂
Beautiful. You described natural learning perfectly!