What is Unschooling?
A simple definition of unschooling is allowing an individual child to 'take-the-lead' with their learning and have an autonomous education. An unschooled child is neither sent to school or home schooled in the traditional sense. Unschooling allows children to focus on their own interests and delve deeper into topics they love while not so much with topics that don't interest them.
There is no curriculum to follow
One of the main aspects of unschooling is not following a curriculum at all. There are no set subjects and a lot of subjects often get merged together within topics of the child's interest. For example, if one of my children asked to cook then our cooking would often involve learning other skills such as reading, maths or science.
“… the term ‘unschooling’ has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn’t use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.”
School time doesn't exist
Learning happens naturally and spontaneously through everyday life. An unschooled child doesn't have set times to learn. Cain likes to stay up late and refers to himself as a night owl, so it's not uncommon in my house for Cain to come and bombard me with questions late at night after watching a documentary, he also sits in bed drawing often. There is no separation between learning and other aspects of life for an unschooler, learning is also seen more as a lifelong thing rather than something you do until you leave formal education.
We don't teach our children formal lessons
Rather than being taught in the traditional way, unschooled children are empowered to learn for themselves. That doesn't mean that as parents we do not have an input, but our role in unschooling is to facilitate learning not to teach. Facilitating could include providing materials and opportunities that support their interests, setting up learning prompts that could capture their interests or even learning something new alongside the child rather than teaching them. If a child asks to be taught something, then that would be when you could either teach them or enrol them onto a course/get a tutor for that particular thing. If you didn't have the knowledge to teach whatever it is, you could either direct the child to someone who is more informed on that subject or again you could learn alongside them.
We don't give tests or set goals
Unschooling is not about memorising facts or meeting set targets. The child sets their own goals and you offer support in them achieving them. There is no required time or age to learn a particular thing by. Children get to learn at their own pace. This is even the case when it comes to learning to read and write. Without pressure the majority of children will learn to read or write in their own time, and if they need a bit of extra help when they are interested in learning to read and write that's okay too; whether that be aged 4 or aged 10. If an unschooled child wants to gain a formal qualification, again you simply facilitate it and offer support.
Unschooling will look different for every family
No unschooling journey will be the same as another, because it is catered to that individual and their family. Your own unschooling journey will even change over time as you adapt to new family circumstances and new interests. Some unschooling parents like to take a step back while their child figures something out independently while others will take a more hands on approach; neither are wrong.
What is Radical Unschooling?
Radical Unschooling is more of a whole lifestyle choice rather than just an educational choice. It is where unschooling principles are also followed in other aspects of everyday life, where a child is given a lot more autonomy. This essentially involves removing the rules and expectations you may have if you where to take a more traditional approach to parenting.
This could include aspects Of everyday life such as mealtimes, bedtimes and having more say in the household than a child typically would if you were to use a more traditional style of parenting. The child gets treated as an equal or partner to a certain extent, not someone the parent is in complete control of. Obviously a parent would still step in if there was a safety issue or very extreme behaviour that affected others, but I’m referring to general daily life.
Wouldn't the child just rule the roost and cause chaos?
Not necessarily, firstly just because there are no rules as to say, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your child aware of certain boundiaries and know that they’re expected to be decent human beings. You can still have family values. If your Child’s behaviour is disturbing other people in the household, they would then be infringing upon another person’s right to autonomy. Radical unschooling is not about letting the child Or children be the boss of the family or anyone else, it is giving them more equality in the family unit, not taking equality away simply because of their age.
Some reasons people choose to unschool?
To give their child the freedom to learn at their own pace
Avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ school system
To create a love of learning that is life-long
Neither school nor traditional homeschool worked for their family
Spending more time together as a family and creating a close bond
To allow children to learn in a more self-directed way as well as discover and follow their interests
To promote creativity, imagination and entrepreneurial skills
Allows a more care-free childhood
Gives more time to focus on emotional well being and building relationships
The human brain retains information better if you have chosen to learn something than if you are forced
Freedom to pursue their passions and discover new ones
Teaches children to be independent and use their initiative
It is likely to be the most holistic approach to learning
The biggest challenges of unschooling are, learning to trust your child's capability of making decisions and preparing to be patient through trial and error as your child develops; we all have to make mistakes sometimes in order to learn. There are days where you doubt yourself, but if you revert your mind to the bigger picture rather than focusing on that day alone, it's usually enough reassurance. It's a common misconception that unschooling is unparenting or lazy parenting. This couldn't be further from the truth, because it actually takes a lot more of your time, patience and commitment to unschool; it's definitely not the easy option. I will end the post by referring back to the quote above from John Halt, "I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bare".