What is Unschooling?

What is Unschooling?

How does Unschooling Work?

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Unschooling can best be described as a method of education (and way of life) where children are allowed to follow their own interests, at their own pace. Rather than acting as teachers and following a curriculum, parents can be seen as facilitators, providing support, resources, opportunities, and encouragement. Learning is organic, engaging and never just a one-way flow of information from adult to child.  Unschooling shows that learning can happen at any moment, in any setting. Not just in a classroom.

To be honest, I hate the word “unschooling.”  It always brings to my mind images of wild hooligans who never learn a thing since they’re not being “forced.”  Thankfully, that is so far from the truth and reality of what life as an unschooling family really is. My preferred term is “life schooling,” we learn as we do life.

I’ve previously posted about our journey from traditional schools, to homeschooling, to eclectic homeschooling, to unschooling.  It was a natural progression, which mostly took time because of my own need to deschool.  Deschooling is when you allow time for your children, and yourself, to reset and shed the shackles of what you perceive learning and education to mean. If you still feel yourself being pulled to a pre-set curriculum and forced learning, please do some more reading about the process of deschooling. Sue Patterson and Pam Laricchia are great resources for this!

Being Schooled vs. Being Educated

I have since decided that being schooled and being educated are two very different things. 

My goal is for my unschooling children to be educated, global citizens.  Humans who are empathetic problem solvers, confident communicators, and effective collaborators.  Humans who know how to balance their lives and truly allow for space to thrive. And also women who know that if they want to learn something, they can seek out that information and learn it!

I have since realized that being schooled means learning not to think for yourself and being trained to stay in the box. To follow the rules, memorize the things, take the tests and learn what the system tells you is important. 

Only a few are lucky enough to find their passions, develop unique skills, and follow their interests in the small window of time left after school hours, extra curriculars, weekend sports and commitments, and other scheduled events.  No thank you! 

Do Humans Need School to Learn?

When did the human brain require school? Never.  The human brain develops and learns when there is internally motivated interest, coupled with high quality input. 

This type of learning is evident from birth, when healthy babies begin to track and respond to sound, visual stimuli, and other interesting things in their environment.  No one has to tell them to coo back to you, they just do it. Their attempts to mimic follow their interest to do so.

The same goes for anything that any human wants to learn. Think back to the hunter-gatherer societies, where children were allowed to be children until about age 14-16.  For approximately 15 years they played, outside, with varying ages of peers, all day.

They might have shadowed an adult community member every so often and learned a skill. Their play often mimicked the skills the adults used in the community.  They learned by watching, mimicking, and apprenticing slowly over time.

If you want to read my absolute favorite book of all time, pickup a copy of Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn.

How Do We Unschool in Today’s Society?

Our unschooling lives are constantly full.  Full of activity, movement, books and reading, music, podcasts, games, friends, nature, problem solving, and communication.  Keeping our lives rich is easy when you are just doing life together.  No coercion, no forceful learning, only gentle and subtle suggestions that help to spark or deepen an interest that is already budding.  Have you heard the term strewing? Its my favorite part of unschooling!

I will admit, though, that unschooling in a traditional society is not easy. It takes effort to seek out those who are like minded.  Worldschooling is just one way to do it!

My AHA! Moment

A big game changer is when I realized that I had to be OK with my kids saying “no.” No to an idea, program, class, or topic I might have wanted to learn about.

Having the freedom to say “no” is part of trusting your child to follow their interests and learn what they will need for the life THEY want, when they are ready to learn it.

I’ll tell you what happened to spark this Aha! Moment.  My 9 year old put me in my place!  I signed the kids up for this amazing! Fantastic! Exciting! program that was held at a local park. 

It was a Rube Goldberg day, where the kids were challenged to take a variety of random items and use it to build a working Rube Goldberg machine that would transfer a marble from one side of the space to another. How Fun!!

Well, my 9 year old HATED IT! She despised it! She was miserable being there and feeling that she was forced into some sort of competition.  My daughter told me very clearly, “do not sign me up for things without my permission!!” I heard her loud and clear. My independent, unschooling child knows herself and knows what feels right for her.

Thats when I truly realized that my kids deserved, and more so, they needed, to have control over their learning choices.

What I Believe About Unschooling (Life-Schooling)

  • If my child wants to attend college, they will have to pursue the academic classes they need to get into the college program of their choice. They will have to research it, put it into action, and complete the necessary tasks. Internal motivation is key here!
  • If my child wants to be a professional soccer player, she will need to put the hours and research in to do that.
  • If my child wants to travel the world full time, she will need to learn skills that allow her to be location independent and able to earn an income virtually. I believe she can!

There are so many ways to live, so many varying skill sets one can have, and so many ways to be financially stable and independent. I am confident my kids will find the right path or paths for them, and I will always be behind them with the support, resources, tools, and assistance they need…when they need it…if they need it.

Unschooling is the Blueprint for Worldschooling

Unschooling and Worldschooling are not synonymous, but I believe that if you do unschool already, then worldschooling will be a breeze.  The love of learning shines bright when a child is not being forced to learn.  Thus, the unique treasures of the world can be welcomed, absorbed, and learned with an open mind.  I am so excited to show my kids (and myself) the world! Thrilled to see what paths their own interests and skills lead them, once they learn more about what is around them.