What is unschooling? When I first heard the term “unschooling,” I immediately wondered if it would be effective. On the surface, unschooling sounds like “not schooling” and in many ways, that’s what it means, but it’s so much more.
What is Unschooling and Natural Learning
Unschooling doesn’t mean not learning. It means not depending on traditional school methods. There are no lesson plans, no tests, nothing to memorize, and no grades.
Unschooling parents aren’t the teachers.
There is no prescribed classroom space for learning.
Instead, unschoolers subscribe to the belief that our children are born learners and they will naturally seek opportunities and experiences if we encourage them to live a life filled with curiosity and engagement in the world around them.
Unschooling parents focus on fostering a love of learning and encouraging curiosity as their children grow and pursue their own interests.
Want to learn more about unschooling, what it is, and what it isn’t? What does a typical unschooling day look like? Keep reading to learn more about unschooling and how you can explore this method with your little ones.
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What Does Unschooling Look Like?
John Holt, a famous American homeschool pioneer, said that unschooling means “allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear.”
As a homeschooling parent, you might be wondering what that looks like in practice. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. Since unschoolers focus on fostering curious minds and developing a love of learning, many families spend the day together pursuing various interests and learning opportunities.
Here’s a day in the life of an unschooling family
After everyone is awake, breakfast is made. Perhaps an older child with an interest in cooking prepares the meal. In some families, the children look at books they enjoy or draw at the table while they wait for breakfast. Young children might also enjoy helping to make breakfast. Making a meal is a great opportunity to learn about measuring, pouring, chemical reactions, and nutrition.
Some families living in warm climates venture outdoors in the morning to beat the heat. They might play in the yard, go for a nature walk, or draw wildflowers and bugs from the yard in a nature journal. Other families prefer to take it slow in the morning. It’s a good time to discuss what the kids would like to learn about or do with the day.
After lunch, perhaps a field trip? It could be something planned like a trip to the local fire station to learn more about firefighters and firetrucks with a curious child. Perhaps the field trip is simply assisting mom with errands like the post office or grocery store. It’s a great time to learn about how our mail system works, practice letter writing, learn to read labels on items at the store or manage the grocery budget with some addition and subtraction.
Children might get on the computer and research a country or skill they want to learn about. Take an online art class or spend the day creating or building something.
Every activity at home becomes an opportunity for learning more.
Practicing fine motor skills and color recognition while getting dressed. Learning to prepare meals or care for your home together. Exploring in the yard together. Reading books, doing science experiments, playing board games, and watching learning videos are all ways unschoolers spark curiosity and pursue their children’s interests at home.
What are the Advantages of Unschooling
Many unschooling parents find that their children are more independent and open-minded. Supporters of unschooling have come to believe that it’s best not to subject children to the pressure associated with grading and testing. There are many amazing benefits to choosing unschooling. Here are a few unschooling advantages:
- Unschoolers become lifelong learners.
- When children are learning about things they are interested in, they can learn quite a lot in a short amount of time.
- Over time, children can develop their own discipline to complete less than fascinating tasks.
- Children are generally very close to their parents and have strong sibling bonds as they all work together without division.
- They are well prepared for a college learning environment where it is essential that they create their own learning schedule.
What Could Be a Disadvantage to Unschooling
Many parents, homeschoolers included, are concerned when they hear the term “unschooling.” They worry that not schooling means not learning or worse, not parenting. However, these fears are usually unjustified because choosing unschooling doesn’t mean that children aren’t learning. Unschooling parents are very involved in their children’s education and upbringing, they are not absent or neglectful.
- Children may struggle with self-regulating certain activities like video games.
- Children with special needs may not be able to learn things intuitively. They may need regular repetition of core skills.
- Sometimes parents need to step in and create certain rules and restrictions.
- Certain tasks, like phonics and more complex math skills, usually benefit from parent or course instruction.
- It can be difficult to organize schedules and get on the same page if you are trying to unschool in a household with two working parents.
- Parents must sometimes seek cooperation from their children on learning subjects that are necessary which they may not be interested in.
- Unschooling may not be the best option if you plan to send your child to public school in the future.
How to Unschool Successfully
Unschooling looks different for everyone, but there are some basic steps you can follow to ensure success for your children. For starters, it’s important that you are a lifelong learner as well. It is infinitely easier to encourage your children to pursue lifelong learning if you yourself are committed to the journey. Plus, there’s a lot to learn about when you’re deep-diving down every learning rabbit hole that piques your child’s interest.
Along the same lines, it is incredibly helpful when parents are actively involved in their children’s interests. If you are willing to encourage and facilitate their learning adventures, unschooling will be a smooth and successful journey.
In order to avoid too much time spent on addictive activities like video games or television, parents must be willing to set limits on activities that aren’t productive to ensure learning success.
Finally, it is critical that parents seek cooperation in an encouraging way when children are not interested in a subject that is important to understand. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to learn to read, you may need to apply some pressure in a loving way to ensure that they learn to master this important skill.
Have you chosen to unschool your children? I’d love to read about your experiences, struggles, and helpful hints in the comment section.
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