This year I have mentioned how I have decided to embrace Unschooling.
According to wikipedia Unschooling is:
“Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices surrounding the primarily belief that education is a greater undertaking than schooling. Unschooling places little emphases on traditional school curriculum and encourages children to learn through their natural life experiences including play, game play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful to the child. Differing from conventional schooling, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in maximizing the education of each unique child.”
I have been roaming around the world wide web for different views on unschooling and what it means and so far I did find this to be the best defintion for my family. I actually am not a fan of the word unschooling because of the negative connotation that seems to come with it. In my experience these days when people ask what kind of curriculum my kids follow and I say nothing in particular the look on their faces is that of confusion. I then lead into a big definition of what it is we do as if I have to defend it. One thing I have learned is we don’t “have to” do anything. That is something I am learning everyday, take “have to” out of my vocabulary.
It wasn’t easy making the decision to follow unschooling as I was brought up in the public school system and had the idea that it is important that we teach kids based on set guidelines and curriculum because how else would they learn it? However Unschooling has always intrigued me and I had never had the guts to just take the plunge. Let me say that this hasn’t gone without some struggles for me emotionally. It has been hard to sit back and not break out the workbooks and projects and all that other stuff, to just let the kids lead their education. But once I got through all that doubt this is what I have learned.
1) My kids and I are MUCH Happier. Although life is still stressful at times and we do get on each others nerves there seems to be a better peace around our house. There is an unspoken respect I see growing amongst my 4 kids. Although they still bicker and have their regular disagreements, we spend more time discussing how to be respectful and kind to each other. They help each other more, like each other more and respect each other more. The stress of “getting that workbook done” or learning a new concept that they can’t understand is no longer there. Which leads me to #2.
2) My kids are LEARNING so much! This has surprised me. I have heard so many successful unschooling stories and have met many unschooling families and am always impressed with what their kids know. And I am not just talking book smarts, I’m talking life “smarts”. You can see that they are a confident member of society. They speak to adults and children all the same, with confidence and ease. They are constantly asking questions about things they are interested in and soaking up the world around them. My kids are learning math in ways I never thought possible! My son who has never done multiplication knows how to do it and has even memorized some of the multiplication facts. He enjoys math and works on it on his own even creating his own questions and answers to solve. My daughter who has never really shown an interest in Math IS doing a math book because she wants to learn. She then takes what she has learned and sees how she can apply it into real life situations. My 7 year olds are always trying to figure out math problems. I hear them asking their siblings “When you are 16 how old will I be?” They have even worked out together what the months are seperating them all.
3) Unschooling is not Uneducated! I wish I could say I have never thought this but I have, I am guilty. Before I knew much about unschooling I always thought that the kids must not know alot and must be so sheltered and lazy. I feel bad for thinking those things and never did I judge anyone on their choice I just could not get over my belief that we have to instill education into our children. The thing about that, education is already in our kids! I have noticed that when we were following a set curriculum my kids were tired, bored, uninterested therefore I would be raising my voice and damaging my relationship with them. We spent many mornings crying and yelling at each other and me melting down. I felt like a failure! How come my kids aren’t interested in this? Maybe school is the answer? The things with that is they went to school one day a week and it made no difference. They still weren’t interested in all that was going on and the stress was weighing on us as a family. Now my kids are happy to learn. My husband recently said to me that he notices a huge change in our kids and is amazed daily with what they have to teach him at the end of the day. It has gone from trying to pull “what did you learn today” out of them to non stop talking about areas they spent their day learning about.
4) It’s about teaching my kids How to Learn not WHat to Learn! This has a been a major one for me. I always thought I had to tell my kids what to learn and when to learn it. Since unschooling, my kids have taken their own intiative into their learning. When they want to learn about something they find out where to get the info. They might ask me, search the internet, call a friend or a relative, read books and so much more. My sons excitement over the war of 1812 has led him to Ipad Apps, Books found at Costco and the Library, Youtube videos and websites that focus all on the war of 1812. I have been nothing but the facilitator in their learning. And I love it! I have learned so much. Recently my son mentioned he wanted to be a realtor when he was older. Immediately he knew who he could go to and ask questions about it. We talked about the different types of realtors there are, what we think makes their job challenging and fun and if it’s something that can sustain you in life. That then turned into a conversastion with the kids about building a house. How do you do it mom? Can u just pick some land and start to build? What’s an inspector do? How much does it cost? That all in a car ride home to where my kids then all grabbed graphing paper and drew out what kind of house they would build and then made their buildings and neighbourhoods on Minecraft.
5) I am learning too. Unschooling has taught me that learning is something we all do all the time and it doens’t have to be forced. I have been taking the time with my kids to learn what they are interested in and I have noticed that when I am doing something they want to learn about that too. I am doing activities I never thought I would have time for and the kids are doing it with me. We are learning photography, decorating and baking of cakes, taking cooking classes, sewing, knitting, building puzzles of Paris and learning all about different countries, watching interesting documentaries, role playing and acting, taking voice, piano lessons and so much more. Anything we all learn spills over into all our conversations and we are all learning as well. Our dinner time conversations are the best of the day.
6) We have so much time. I love that nothing seems rushed. We all have our schedules and commitments that we have to go to and we do our best to make it an outing for all. If the girls have swim lessons we all go swimming for a few hours every week, if there are voice lessons we stay and play in the playroom provided, building with blocks and making a zoo. If cake decorating is going on I get to sit in on the class and help and take pictures. All of these things happen during the day so our evenings are spent as a family at home with dad. We don’t have to rush around with the masses of people and can enjoy our evening time together watching hockey, cooking and relaxing. The kids can make play dates during the day with other homeschool families. They make projects with their friends and spend their days practicing their lessons and just enjoying the freedom to learn what they want, with who they want.
I am sure over time I will find many more things I can add to this list. But for now this is what stands out. In no way am I saying that unschooling is the best fit for any of you and I am NOT AT ALL saying that my way is better than anybody elses. It amazes me how many times I have heard “you’re kids are so well behaved and interesting” just to get a smirk when they hear the word unschooling. My kids are not lazy, or unsocialized nor do we have an attitude that any other form of education is “wrong.” Yes they can all read and write and did so at their own pace and loved the joy of doing it. They don’t need to be tested by you to prove that they know something because be warned we will test you right back. (yes this has happened, and no it doesn’t make you look smarter) It’s just didn’t work for us at the time. Every year we talk about what we want our year to look like. My oldest is considering entering grade 8 and if she does we will be there to support her in that venture, if not we will support her as we always have. We are loving our life and this form of education and respect everyones choices for their families. So all we ask is respect ours.
If you’re an unschooling family, what makes it work for you?