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Curious newbie question - Is any parental direction "allowed" in unschooling?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi there! I'm somewhat new to the concept of unschooling, but it's something I find fascinating. I'm not a parent, but do very much plan to be a parent someday. I've been thinking about what kind of education I would like to provide for my children.

I was wondering whether it follows the unschooling principles to offer any direction to the child at all? Strange as it sounds, one of my favorite childhood memories is learning algebra as a young child on my father's lap. I realised that I have always had a dream of repeating this experience with my children, someday.

Also, one thing that my parents didn't do a lot of was talk to me about money. I've often thought that when my children are young I would like to sit with them and show them how budgets are made, how credit cards calculate interest, how to save for retirement, etc. This would somewhat resemble schooling, but I think it would be a big ommission if I didn't share this information with my kids too.

Any feedback? I guess I'm just trying to figure out what unschooling "looks" like in practical terms. Thanks for reading, and I appreciate any responses.
post #2 of 13
Short answer: yes!

I see myself as a gracious tour guide to my kids who are newly arrived in my neck of the woods. They're quite curious about what it's like here. As a long-term resident, I'm familiar with my city and am a good resource. They might really appreciate me showing them around. I might say "in my opinion you won't really understand this place unless you go here and here." I might say "I have this favourite café gallery -- you really should see it!" Or "If you'd like I could make you up some suggestions for a walking tour that would get you to some of the places that are considered important in this city." They might love that sort of thing.

But if they said "No thanks, I'm just going to be lazy for a few days," I'd accept that. They might prefer to read some brochures and books, or to go on a packaged bus tour rather than picking my brains and relying on my help. They might say, "Sorry, I hate cafés," or "Actually, I just love to go out exploring on my own," and that would be fine too. Or if they said "I'm into photographing gargoyles. I'd like to I find some, and it would be great if you wanted to come along with me on a search," I'd certainly offer to help and keep them company.

So of course, parental direction is allowed. It's just that it can be declined by the child with no guilt and no worries about disappointing the parent or not living up to expectations.

post #3 of 13
I like the term "sharing" better. I share information with my kid, because I find it useful or cool and/or because I think she will.
post #4 of 13
The way I look at it, unschooling doesn't mean your kids never do anything school-like, just that they're never forced to do anything school-like. Heck, many unschooled kids will take classes. (In fact, while unschooling is considered a sub-catagory of homeschooling, I think it still counts if the kid is going to school full-time because they really want to be there.)
post #5 of 13
i have had years to work the thinking and wording out. we dont do "school work". in my home we all do "learning". everyone for their whole life are always learning new things. we dont do it by force or set days/years where things must be learned by that date as schools do. you will find that you are actually doing learning threw out a day with children. in my home we talk about time, messuring for baking, all forms of math, ect.
post #6 of 13
well, you ARE still the parent, and all parents are teachers... so you just need to decide what and how to teach yours!

Sharing info and experiences is a good way to look at it
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks everybody for the responses. :-) What I'm getting is that it's okay to share information in a relaxed, no pressure way. I suppose it's similar to the way my sister and I shared information with each other growing up (and still do). We each had different interests. I've learned a lot about the evolution of wings in birds from her, and she's learned about herbalism from me, but obviously it was never a requirement for me to memorize any facts about bird bones or for her to memorize plant names. It was just regular conversation.
post #8 of 13
I agree with what others have said, and want to share what has worked well for us over the years. When I found something (it might be a book, a class, a field trip, etc.) that I thought my children might enjoy, I would offer it to them. Sometimes they'd be reluctant, and I'd say, "Just try it for 5 minutes. If you don't want to continue, we will stop."

Because I always was honest with them, they trusted me. Nearly every time, I was right in predicting what they would enjoy, but there were a few times where they shook their head and didn't want to continue with a discussion, or where we quietly walked out on a class or other activity. Of course, I understood the difference between a little uncertainty versus flat out refusal, and I never forced them when I knew their minds were already made up.

They are now 19 (studying music at college) and 13 (still unschooling), and I feel that the encouragement in their younger years gave them confidence to try new things, and also the ability to recognize what is worth pursing even when they're initially hesitant.
post #9 of 13
Oh gosh, yes. Unschooling doesn't mean sit back and watch the kid succeed or fail.

I'm quite actively involved in my children's learning, and will often suggest books, activities, classes, games, etc that I think they might be interested in based on what I know about their interests, in the same way a friend might suggest something to me b/c she knows what I'm into.

And some kids really like doing workbooks and stuff like that, so it doesn't mean you won't ever get to do that with your future children. So long as you respect them if they decide it's just not their thing, it's all unschooling.
post #10 of 13
Think of unschooling as working the same way learning works for you. Maybe a friend sends you a link on FB about something interesting, maybe you hear about something new while talking to someone at a gathering. Either way, if your curiosity is peaked you will seek out more information until you feel "done" with that thing. Maybe that means reading more, or asking more questions, or maybe it leads to you signing up for a class or a club, or going to a museum or performance. It's all about your life being enriched by the things you encounter and explore. The same thing works with kids! I "strew" lots of things for my kids. I pay attention to the kinds of things they are currently interested in (& what they used to be interested in!) & if I find something that might connect with them, I share it. If they get interested, we or they explore. If they're not interested, I let it go. I don't have emotional investment in what they should be interested in.

And, yes, math, science, history, etc., all are encountered in life-learning. Just the other day we got into a discussion of decimals, percentages & estimating all because we wanted to figure out the tip at a restaurant! My daughter especially loved playing with manipulatives (Legos, Magnetix, etc.) which taught her loads about geometry just by playing.

The point is to let your kids have the final say on how & what they are exploring - but absolutely be there bringing the world to them!
post #11 of 13

What Dar said. :) (It's like old times...lol)


I share things with my kids because I think they will like it, find it useful or interesting, have mentioned something similar before, it made me laugh, really ticked me off, etc etc. Unschooling doesn't force a parent into any dark shadowy corners, but rather has them as a trusted resource.


Peace, Un

Originally Posted by Dar View Post

I like the term "sharing" better. I share information with my kid, because I find it useful or cool and/or because I think she will.
post #12 of 13

I find the more we follow our kids' lead on what they're interested in learning, the more they'll come to us and ask for input.  The more we foster their love of learning, the more they soak up learning like sponges.  They come to us constantly and ask stuff like, "I learned on PBSKids that the pyramids were built using an inclined plane.  What else uses an inclined plane, Mommy?"  In fact the other day I had to tell my son, "Please STOP doing addition and get your coat on so we can go and not be late!"  I then realized what I'd just said and burst out laughing!  What a wonderful problem to have!


But yes, we have input in our children's learning, generally at their request.  Our whole family delights in learning and the more we adults keep learning about what we're interested in, the more the kids do the same without any sort of pushing or coaxing.  Hubby was all excited today over a thick theological tome by NT Wright that he got form Amazon and I have been going around in seventh heaven because I got my braille transcribing certificate from the Library of Congress.  Hubby took a Jazz Theory class at the university just for fun.  I've been writing fanfiction and studying calculus.  The kids see this sort of activity and they don't think it's odd at all to want to learn how multiplication works.  Since they know we know how it does, they come ask us. 


We definitely don't see the children as the only unschoolers in our family.  We're all at just a different level of learning.  The 14-month-old is learning to climb stairs.  The four-year-old is learning the names of the planets in the solar system.  The six-year-old is practicing reading and preparing for her Book 1 recital on violin.  Mommy is building a harp in her wood shop.  Daddy is programming a web-based program to analyze Jazz chords.  We're all learning things that interest us and we all ask one another for assistance all the time.  I ask my daughter for help with the laundry because bending to get the clothes out of the dryer hurts my back.  She asks me to teach her to multiply because she knows I know how to do it and she wants to know how.


I suppose this sounds somewhat idyllic...  I don't mean to paint it with a rose-colored brush.  I mean we really do all those things.  But there are days when we sit and watch "How to Train Your Dragon" all day, lol.   But we trust our kids' curiosity and we figure we'll eventually get around to everything they need to learn without all the angst of forcing them to follow an unnecessary, arbitrary schedule.  Our parental input consists mostly in trying to keep up with the million of questions our little learning machines put forth!

post #13 of 13
Lol Whistler, but it does sound idyllic! By the way I'm wondering why your husband is building a programme to analyze jazz chords? Is it to help with transcription?
Yes, we do have some "parental direction" in our family, we also have plenty of "offspring direction".
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