That crazy “unschooling” word gets tossed around pretty regularly in the homeschooling community. Some people love the idea, and others think it’s a huge mistake. I think that the idea has merit, and the concept of locking our kids into 12 years of study in areas in which they have no interest is crazy. Isn’t that what we left behind when we took on the responsibility of educating them? The years of pointless study of subjects that won’t do anything for them in the future?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a solid foundation in history, science, math and language is vital, but can’t we get that without being stuck inside the house with a book all day, every day? I think so – and this is where unschooling can supercharge your homeschool.
Before we get too far into the discussion, here’s a short description of what it is, in case you’re not familiar with it:
Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. Source: Dictionary.Sensagent.com
At its core is the idea that kids should have some choice in what they study. Some allow their kids full control, others use unschooling strategically for certain subject areas, but most believe that children learn best through experience – and exposing them to as many ideas and activities creates opportunities to learn from experience. During the 1960s and 1970s, Educator John Holt pioneered the idea that children learn best through their natural curiosity, and a growing number of families are embracing the idea at least in part.
Unschooling isn’t something where you just let their kids sit in a corner and play with their Nintendo, instead, as one mom put it, “It’s really hard. It’s not like we use curriculum, so you have to constantly find ways for them to be exposed to different learning opportunities to help them build a strong foundation through every day activities.” There’s the crux of it – providing learning opportunities without forcing kids to learn. Proponents argue that when you give kids a choice, they’ll learn. It’s in their nature to be curious, and all you have to do is give them the freedom to explore. I might argue that it works for some, but maybe not all; but I think that even structured homeschoolers can allow their kids some freedom to learn on their own terms.