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What does Unschooling mean?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hello,

I am new to this forum, and I am exploring different educational options for my daughter. She is only 2 yo, but since conventional pre-schools usually start at age 3 I'd like to have done some extensive research on the benefits of homeschooling.

Could somebody explain what unschooling means exactly?

What's the difference between a homeschooling family and an unschooling family? Aren't they more or less the same?
post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollycrand
Could somebody explain what unschooling means exactly?

What's the difference between a homeschooling family and an unschooling family? Aren't they more or less the same?
Hi there There have been many discussions here about what unschooling really means, and apparently the definitions are pretty varied. I can only speak for my own family when I tell you what unschooling means to us.

Unschooling is learning free from mandatory lessons, schedules, tests, grades, and assignments. The learner is in charge of their own education, which is not directed by a teacher or an adult. We believe that learning is a product of living our day to day lives, and that it doesn't really need the artificial structures (grades, etc) that are so often put onto education.

My unschoolers are basically free to spend their days as they wish. We work, we play, we go places. They can watch TV, read books, cook something, go outside, take a walk, ride bikes, etc. They are not required to study anything. This is what it means to us.

Homeschooling is a broad term that covers a variety of ways people learn without going to school. Unschooling is just one of them.
post #3 of 19
Unschooling is something that's REALLY hard to sum up in one post, or even one book, lol. It tok me several months of hardcore reading to begin to understand what unschooling *really* looked like, what it was all about. It involves a major shift in paradigm, it changes how you view schooling, education, learning and children.

IMO unschooling has even less in common with traditional homeschooling than public school does.

I wish I had more time, but for now:

John Holt--Teach Your Own, How Children Learn, etc
John Taylor Gatto--Dumbing us Down, etc
Grace Llewelyn--Teenage Liberation Handbook

www.unschooling.info (articles and message boards)
www.naturalchild.org (articles)
www.sandradodd.com/ (click unschooling)
www.home-educate.com/unschooling/
post #4 of 19
Ben is only 2 1/2 but we started unschooling at 20 months. Unschooling, to us, is learning through living. Ben learns each day by doing things in the grown up world.
Today we visited the college campus, and met lots of new ppl (new for him, they are my friends), and rode the school bus. We sang the wheels on the bus song, and practiced our good manners (Thank you, excuse me, nice to meet you,etc) One of his friends came over to play. They found a caterpillar in the kitchen, so we took it outside. We talked about where caterpillars live (outside, in the grass and trees), who lives in our house (me, dh and Ben) and what caterpillars do outside (eat leaves, grow big, build cocoons, and turn into butterflies). We've had numerous caterpillar lessons, because we were overrun by fuzzy caterpillars at the beginning of the summer, so Ben has a pretty good handle on all things caterpillar.
Our lessons are not planned or artificial. We talk about whatever happens in our day. We go to fun places, and meet interesting ppl who share their knowledge with us. We have the freedom to be spontaneous and our lessons are endlessly flexible.
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Ben is only 2 1/2 but we started unschooling at 20 months. Unschooling, to us, is learning through living.
I don't mean to pick on your, but how do you "start" unschooling at 20 months? Unschooling is what babies and toddlers do every day.
post #6 of 19
Ask 6 unschoolers that question and you're bound to get a dozen answers.

For us, it means following the child's interest- child-led learning. For me, it also means never forcing, pushing or coercing acedemics. My job is to set the example for learning and provide exposure to new things. My daughter isn't showing much interest in learning to read (she's only 4) or write her letters. So I make sure she sees me reading and writing, and I'll wait until she's interested in it and wants to learn before I start "teaching" her. And no pushing so she gets frustrated and hates it again. But right now she LOVES math and likes workbooks, so whenever she feels like it, we pull out her math pages. There's the book pile if she wants story time. There's the art box if she's feeling artistic. We spend lots of time working together and learning about cooperation (there are core skills and values that are so much more important at this age than acedemics.) Really, the bulk of our "curricululm" for this young age is hard work and play. Hands-on real life experience is most important and the way young children learn best.

We do structure our time a little bit so maybe some might not consider us unschoolers- we keep the TV and computer off as much as possible and sit down and have our "school time" every day, which basically consists of saying a prayer, the pledge, reciting a scripture and having story time, then moving on to where ever our interests take us. (Though we are taking a little break from "school time" this summer.) I have lists of books I'd like to read with the kids, and activities I think they'd enjoy, but if they're not interested, I don't sweat it and save it for another day.
post #7 of 19
I also liked, "The Unschooling Handbook". (I think that's what it's called!). nak.

We are aspiring unschoolers, I guess. We just live life and hang out. I follow ds1's interests (he's 4). I try to answer as many questions as possible to encourage him to stay inquisitive and promote an open environment. I also say, "I don't know" a lot and then we try to find the answers. If he develops interests (Solar System is huge right now), then I take him to the bookstore and let him pick out a book. I try to find library books that are on that subject BUT if he has no interest, then I leave it at that. I don't put any expectations on him to read certain books, do certain activities or master certain skills.

To me, it's totally child-directed learning, but with good modeling on our part, taking the kids to interesting places, and introducing ideas that they wouldn't have thought of (but dropping those ideas if they are not well-received). I like that idea of "strewing their paths". I do that a lot, but I then leave it alone if there's no interest there. DS1 loves building things, so I got him some K'Nex. I look for things that seem to fit his interests. But then, it's up to him to use them if he wants to; he doesn't have to use them, no matter how cool they looked to me.

Also, we try to promote the idea that you can learn a lot of interesting things from life and in the most simple ways. This weekend, we watched ants carry eggs, after my gardening efforts disturbed them. That was learning. It wasn't a workbook activity or a video about ant colonies, but simply watching them was very valuable learning (and fun).

I do sometimes get workbooks, but only because my 4yo likes them. He likes doing mazes, so I'll go get him some more maze books. I'll show him that I got them and then I'll stick them on the shelf with his art stuff. But if he doesn't pick them up, then that's fine.

Oh, like the previous poster, we do limit TV. I've found that if I leave the TV off, everyone is dramatically more pleasant to each other and their imaginative play goes way up. When the TV was on, they were like zombies. Now, they run around the house and do a lot of cooperative pretend-play. They're more innovative in how they use things around the house. They fight less. They seem happier.
post #8 of 19
unschooling is self-directed education, following one's own interests and the interests of those around you (i.e. family). It is learning and living all the time. It is seeking out resources to help you on your educational journey. It is not schooling, but it is education.

~unschooling mother of 7 (26 - 8) and proud grandmother grandmother of 3.
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by barbara
It is not schooling, but it is education.
I really like how you put this.
post #10 of 19
Hi Holly,

I am a big believer in child-led learning (unschooling).
And what that means to me is that we provide a very rich environment that is full of opportunities for exploring various interests at our children's own pace.
Unschooling for me, is reinforcing and providing resources for my children's natural interests. No matter what the age.
And in most instances, I am have not been the teacher for my children. I'm more like a facilitator/resource person.
How I encourage the learning of basic skills is by doing many tasks with my children. Learning by doing is one of the best teachers in my opinion. I also encouraged my children to teach me and/or someone else a skill that they themselves have learned and would feel comfortable sharing with others(I got to know a lot about my children's skill level in a particular task by watching them teach).
We use books, the internet, field trips and real life situations to learn. We also take classes and learn things in classrooms, but that is not the focus of our learning. Practice and repetition, if necessary for acquiring a skill is encouraged but not if it is proven unnecessary. We feel the same way about college, if it is necessary for the career choice they have made for themselves, then we are supportive of their attendance and will help in any way we can for them to go. If they decide it is not for them, we are supportive of that choice too.
We do not use a curriculums, workbooks or tests to determine how, why and/or what we learn, but we can and do use textbooks, tests & workbooks if the information in them is useful for explaining a particular learning objective.
I believe that learning can happen at any age and that "You can not be Ahead or Behind Yourself" (this is one of my favorite unschooling quotes).
Unschooling for me is having faith in my children to let them take the lead in their learning quest. And to provide for them the opportunity to experience life in real settings with real goals, and have those goals be what ever they decide they are going to be.
I myself take many classes and I am always trying to acquire new skills so my children see me as a good example of a life long learner. And all of my children, when they were younger and now, have taught me many new things/skills. So in my home, daily learning happens for us all.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by barbara
unschooling is self-directed education, following one's own interests and the interests of those around you (i.e. family). It is learning and living all the time. It is seeking out resources to help you on your educational journey. It is not schooling, but it is education.

~unschooling mother of 7 (26 - 8) and proud grandmother grandmother of 3.
Hi Barbara,

It is nice to see you posting here again. I have miss your wisdom! I hope that all is well with your family.
~unschooling mother of 4 (26 - 12)
post #12 of 19
I (and others) recently answered this question on another board, and there are definitions, opinions, and book and website suggestions in the thread. (More of what has already been said here, in other words )
You can find it here:
http://unassistedchildbirth.com/foru...topic.php?t=37
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by umbrella
I don't mean to pick on your, but how do you "start" unschooling at 20 months? Unschooling is what babies and toddlers do every day.

This is entirely true. I know that we start unschooling at birth (or even before) but at 20 months I started making a conscious effort to provide specific learning opportunities for Ben each day. Before that, I kind of just brought him along, and we did whatever I wanted to do. Now I choose activities that he will enjoy too.
post #14 of 19
Just another unshooling mama checking in. My kids learn from playing/living. I converse with my children a lot and answer many many questions. I don't set up any kind of "learning experiences" for them or put them into any classes. If they want a workbook they can have it but I never ask them to do work in them or anything like that. They self monitor their TV viewing as well. Basically I trust them.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikaDP
Hi Barbara,

It is nice to see you posting here again. I have miss your wisdom! I hope that all is well with your family.
Ditto! I've missed your posts!

Dar
post #16 of 19
I'm one of those moms who, for the sake of her kids, shouldn't homeschool. But I enjoy reading about it. I appreciate the philosophy of unschooling.

Do local school districts 'require' you to periodically test your child's progress?

You experienced moms, did it take a leap of faith to let your child lead the education? Did/does it make you nervous?

It's dangerous to make generalizations, but could it be said that unschoolers have a less adversarial relationship with their kids (than maybe the rest of the population), since their attitude is to trust the child to make intelligent decisions?
post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom
Do local school districts 'require' you to periodically test your child's progress?
A few states require this. Even fewer require spcific scores, and most of those will accept a portfolio-based evaluation instead. You can always join a private umbrella school to avoid these kinds of regulations.

Quote:
You experienced moms, did it take a leap of faith to let your child lead the education? Did/does it make you nervous?
Yes, definitely a leap of faith. I was lucky in that my daughter was academically way "ahead" of grade level when we started (after kindergarten), so I could tell myself that even if she learned nothing for two or three years, she'd still be okay... and by that time I wasn't thinking in terms of grade-level anymore, so it was fine.

Quote:
It's dangerous to make generalizations, but could it be said that unschoolers have a less adversarial relationship with their kids (than maybe the rest of the population), since their attitude is to trust the child to make intelligent decisions?
I think so. It's true of the unschoolers I know, anyway, especially the older kids.

Dar
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom
Do local school districts 'require' you to periodically test your child's progress?
Depends on the state/district. Here, we are not under the jurisdiction of the school district.

Quote:
You experienced moms, did it take a leap of faith to let your child lead the education? Did/does it make you nervous?
This is our 5th year out of school (do I qualify as "experienced" yet? ) Yeah, a big leap of faith. A rethinking and reworking of all I thought I knew about education. Sometimes, all those years of indoctrination about what it means to be intelligent seeps into the front of my mind and I need to remind myself of what WE have established as important.

Quote:
It's dangerous to make generalizations, but could it be said that unschoolers have a less adversarial relationship with their kids (than maybe the rest of the population), since their attitude is to trust the child to make intelligent decisions?
This sounds good, but I don't know. By the time I came to unschooling, I already was operating from a place of trust in my children to make their own decisions. I know I don't have the adversarial relationship with my kids that I see others having. Not sure that that was *caused* by unschooling though.
post #19 of 19
We have to test in Oregon every few years, but we are working to kill that law every chance we get.

Was it a leap of faith? Definately. Most of us (I think?) went through years of schooling and grading, and generally society feels that those ways are best. It takes some serious shifting, letting go, trusting, and (to quote a phrase we often use in our family) "wingin' it" with unschooling.

It might be true that unschooled kids and their parents have less conflict in their relationships. If I am judging by my kids and me, and people I know with their kids it is true for sure. I think unschooled kids are used to being respected and taken seriously (where many children are not, IMO) and that can go a long way towards peace.
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