I LOOOoooove unschooling (long rave below...)
The above articles and links pretty much sum it up. To the OP, DEFINITLEY open them up and read them and think about them!!! For me personally, in the way it is unfolding for us so far, it is being a facilitator, a helper, a tour guide for my children in this world. I answer their questions and encourage them to think about things in a different angle. We learn through everything, including TV, computer, play dough, a walk outside, a family crisis, etc. You never know what questions watching Angelina Ballerina will lead you to! The key for us is to stay connected and engaged in conversation with each other..."that's neat...what about...I wonder why...what do you think..." If I focus on that, then that helps with feeling of " this isn't educational"
As alot of unschoolers say, learning is everywhere, not just in a textbook.
Someone in our homeschooling group's mom's night the other day said to me "so you do unit studies then" I said no, not preplanned ones where I come up with objectives, a specific way of presenting something, specific activities to meet certain goals etc. I guess it can be compared to an ONGOING "on-the-fly" unit study where we draw connections between everything. DD has had a fascination with animals, which has led to discoveries of where they live and what a jungle is, where Africa is, which has led to other geography, which has led to the earth as a whole, which has led into outer space/planets, etc. She understands now that we were all babies once, so history wise we can relate things to when Grandma and grandpa were babies, or before they were born, etc....so in her almost 7 yr old world, this is history in CONTEXT, which is meaningful to her. It will grow and expand as she grows, and stick with her as it is meaningful to her. Heck, ds is grasping his colors from playing with his BOB the Builder toys!
BUT, not because I "chose" them to teach this to him...it is just unfolding naturally.
It is all one big web of the universe. Sandra Dodd (who I think is linked somewhere above) describes it as your unit study being the universe so everything is relevant and everything connects... like math has a history component for example. Joyce Fetterol is linked above, and describes how one even learns the 3r's as a result of living real life, that they are a tool, and would one NOT want to write or communicate well. I see dd writing because she WANTS to write notes, not because I force her to. She is learning to spell and write in a real context. Same with her number sense, sense of larger, smaller, etc. I would have never believed all this, but now I have seen her know her alphabet and an increasing amount of "school-y" things we traditionally think about, without tears, coercion, or force. I have just answered their questions as they come up. I have started to write things down, books read, trips taken, neat questions they have had, and that helps with doubt. Mostly, my trust has developed as I see things happening in our family life.
We do not test, or expect that because someone is "X" age, they need to know "Y" now. I guess we believe the objective to learn comes from the learner, not from a curriculum's goals. This does not mean we never use worksheets, or a curriculum book, or go to a class, but that motive has to come from the learner...and it will look different depending on the age and goals of your kids.
To sum it up, it is believing that my kids are naturally curious, and want to learn. It is believing we learn best when we learn what is meaningful to us, not because someone else says we should learn such and such at a particular time....the links above do a better job at explaining this than me.
OK, I know that was a mouthful! For a discussion of the academic side of it (how can we learn "all there is to know"? IS there even an "all there is to know?"
) I would highly recommend Mary Griffith's The Unschooling Handbook. The links above to internet stuff is all great too, and also I would recommend the book "Challenging Assumptions in Education" by Wendy Priesnitz which is great about discussing the pitfalls of the institution of school and rote learning....could be applied to at home too. Life Learning Magazine and Live Free Learn Free (folkeypoet here on this board publishes that one) are great too.
When I get time in the next few days I am going to start a "rhythm of our day" thread (inspired by Dayna/Bradley LLL's response in another thread) and point out the learning in it.
And Dar, yes, you should really work on that unschooling sticky!
Tina, dh James, dd Stephanie (6 1/2) and ds Jonathan (3 1/2) learning by living in Manitoba, Canada