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post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 
could someone briefly explain "unschooling"?
post #2 of 71
Hi resigned, first off...welcome to MDC!

Unschooling is a way to to teach your children from life experiance. A couple examples might be, learning fractions from cooking, learning other basic math skill from shopping, learning how to spell by simply writing letters to family members. Unschooling is very widely used in younger children as the learn by playing.

Unschooling is what I hope to do with my children untill pre-teens and then we will move to a more scheduled school day.

post #3 of 71
As I understand it, unschooling is about following your child's lead in what, how and when they want to learn.
post #4 of 71
If you do a search on this forum you will find several good threads that explain unschooling. You can also go to growing without schooling, unschooling.com and the family unschooling network.

John Holt is kind of the "father" of the unschooling movement. His book Teach Your Own is a good place to start.
post #5 of 71
For me, unschooling isn't about finding ways to teach my child at all, but about not teaching (unless she specifically asks), about not having an agenda for her learning and allowing her to keep her freedom and autonomy is this area. I'm a bit leery of the idea that unschooling is for young children and then formal schooling starts later - unschooling is a mindset, and if you're unschooling while looking for opportunities to teach traditional academic skills and with the idea that it's sort ofa warm-up for "real" schooling, I don't think you can create the same experience as someone who is committed to unschooling as a lifestyle.

Rain plays a lot. She also has some pretty intensely scheduled learning experiences, mostly for stuff related to theater, which is her passion. She loves Shakespeare, and last week I mis-attributed a Shakespearean quote and she was right on it. she reads a lot, she talks to a lot of cool people, she watches a lot of cool stuff on TV. She's 10. Her skills in some areas are well above most kids her age; in others they're below. She has the skills she needs to live the life she wants to live right now, and I have no doubt that she'll continue to develop the skills she needs as her life changes.

Sorry if this is disjointed, no coffee yet. Babara and ShannonCC had some good ideas for resources, as well.

post #6 of 71
Thanks Dar, you said that well....even without the coffee!

I would add that unschooling is not only a lifestyle for the child but for adults as well. It is a life long way of living and learning, that differs from the schooling midset that has set times and routines for learning and turns on and off. One can be unschooling, and be studying at college, or taking art or music classes,l for example. It is the way in which one lives and learns.

Something to think about...
post #7 of 71
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses. Perhaps I might clarify the question a bit more. That is, how and what do children learn in the process of "unschooling"? Specifically, what types of activities (such as cooking, shopping, or reading Shakespeare, as already mentioned) do you do during the day? Does a parent put a child on a path to certain activities, like theater? How does a child become aware of a subject like theater or Roman history or whatever in the course of their learning?
post #8 of 71
Originally posted by resigned
Does a parent put a child on a path to certain activities, like theater? How does a child become aware of a subject like theater or Roman history or whatever in the course of their learning?
Put them on a path? I'm not sure what you mean.

To answer your other questions though, I offer her tons of stuff. I have no problem saying "hey, do you want to see this cool website on bumblebees? Do you want me to read you this book on spiders? Would you like to play a game?" If she says no, I say "ok"

She also sees things I do. I am currently teaching myself piano. She comes up and watches me practice. She pretends to play herself. She looks at my sheet music and asks me to play it. She can pick out all the C notes on the piano She is being exposed to piano just from watching me hammer my way through it (and she tells me my playing is beautiful )

I think IMO the key is being willing to follow up on their interests AND to let them follow up on them instead of trying to get them to do something that *you* think is more important.

Also, it's important to let the child learn in the way they want to. For example, an unschooling friend of mine uses a curriculum The reason being, her dd ASKED her for one! My friend leaves it up to her 7 y/o when or if they follow it and if she ever decides she's done, my friend will be happy to pack it up. If she had told her "no, we're unschoolers, you can't have a curriculum" that wouldn't be unschooling IMO

Anyway, it's a subject with many different opinions so don't think there's any one person who's the expert on it! Have fun reading
post #9 of 71
I sometimes tell people that unschooling is like having every day be a weekend... we don't do anything differently because we're unschooling, we just do more of it, if that makes sense. I've noticed that any free time in our days quickly gets filled with things we want to do...

Rain started theater a couple of years ago because I was reading the parks and rec brochure and occasionally asking her about various classes, and when I hit on "theater workshop" and read the description, she gave an enthusiastic "Yes!". She was cast as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and had a great time, so we started looking for more opportunities, and on the way she did some voice and dance lessons, created a resume, and performed in a number of community theater shows.

When she was 4ish she was obsessed with Greek mythology, so I got her some audiotapes of Greek Myths, and she really loved the Jim Weiss ones. So I got her more Jim Weiss tapes, and she also liked some of those, and one of her favorites was a retelling of a Shakespearean play. Things snowballed, I looked for places doing Shakespeare live and dug out my Complete Works of Shakespeare, and she now knows more about it than I do.

It all works like that. I don't try to put her on any path particularly, but I do try to lead an interesting life and invite her along for the ride, when she wants to come. Basic skills like reading and writing are generally very useful in our society, and therefore unschooled kids eventually pick them up, when they're ready and interested or find a need fo them.

We don't have a typical day, although I do find it interesting sometimes to just pick a day and describe it. Yesterday Rain woke late, walked the dogs, went to theater workshop, came home, set up Fisher Price land and played with that for a while (including writing itty bitty letters for the mailtruck), made pizza for her dinner, watched The Simpsons, read some of Pure Dead Magic, worked on one of her workshop pieces, went to the neighbors and watched the end of Clue: The Movie, played Apples to Apples for an hour, came home, checked her email, emailed her friend who is in England for the summer, watched 3rd Rock, read for a little longer, and went to sleep.

post #10 of 71
Originally posted by Dar
I'm a bit leery of the idea that unschooling is for young children and then formal schooling starts later
I'm sorry that's not what I meant at all, I should have made myself more clear. I have a DD who is 15 months old who loves to learn. She is starting to learn random, everyday objects and picks them out of a group. She counts by moving one block at time while grunting (it's so cute), and she "reads" by dragging her fingers across the words. She is learning at her own pace. I simply meant that parents, be them mainstream or not "unschool" their children for five years before kindergarden. For my family, I see a more routine day in the future as there [hopefully] will be many, many children and a schedualed day may keep Mama sane .
post #11 of 71
I do try to lead an interesting life and invite her along for the ride,
Dar, you are so profound, as usual! I think that describes unschooling in a nutshell!
post #12 of 71
What Dar said!
post #13 of 71
Originally posted by bellee
I simply meant that parents, be them mainstream or not "unschool" their children for five years before kindergarden. For my family, I see a more routine day in the future as there [hopefully] will be many, many children and a schedualed day may keep Mama sane .
I don't think of kids under school age as being unschooled. That's just me, but my experience is that it's a very different experience to give your children the freedom to learn and grow at their own speed when that's what else everyone is doing, than to give them this freedom while everyone else is trying to ensure that kids learn to read and write and add with regrouping on some sort of schedule. Even if what you do doesn't change, the societal atmosphere towards it does.

Actually, most sort of mainstream parents I know start having an educational agenda a long time before kindergarten age. I hear so much about teaching kids the alphabet, and how to write their names, and all sorts of stuff like that. My mother used to brag on how many nursery rhymes I had memorized by age 2.

And FWIW, you can have a routine and a very scheduled day and still unschool... we're way overscheduled and with all our critters we have to have a routine, even with just two people...

post #14 of 71
Very well said Dar!
As a mother, I find the hardest thing to do as a unschooler is to have quiet times and unscheduled times in my days. When you are leading a interesting and interest-led life (and your family is too), it is very easy to get into a routine of always having some thing to do.
post #15 of 71
I think of us as unschoolers even though my dd is only 4. Maybe it's the area we live in, but she was not even 3 (!!!) when we started getting the "is she in preschool yet?" questions. A LOT! From family, friends, librarians, strangers in the park, etc. I made a conscious, well thought out decision to NOT send her to preschool so I feel I was a homeschooler from that point on

And now when people ask her if she's in school my dd proudly answers "I'm homeschooled!" so there you go. :LOL

We lack routine. We NEED more routine, we just lack it :LOL. We are getting more into one since the baby has gotten older though. We go to bed at the same time every night, have dinner when dh gets home, etc. I've recently decided to pick a "library day" instead of just going whenever I think of it. Maybe that way we won't have as many overdue fines : And of course if we want to go when it's not library day we'll go then too. But I agree that unschooling doesn't mean you don't have routines in your life.
post #16 of 71
Thread Starter 
This is great, thanks! I hear people say that unschooled kids learn whatever interests them but I'm very skeptical about parents who believe their children make decisions entirely for themselves or choose to do something entirely on their own. Families bring things from the outside world into the home, and children are exposed to much in their everyday lives. So it seemed to me that for a kid to take an interest in something and learn from it, that idea would have some source--like a brochure from a local center or an activity a parent was engaged in, as mentioned. So the key is to allow kids to follow whatever they find interesting--not to expect them to come up with something themselves, out of the blue--and to allow them to learn whatever they need to learn from it, without textbooks and harrassment from teachers and other kids that they would get at school.
I think my kids will be well-suited to unschooling!!
post #17 of 71
Thread Starter 
P.S. I think kids (and adults, too) actually thrive on a nice routine, especially if it is one that is oriented around their needs and wants. It works great for us, especially things like "library day." It means that they can look forward each week to seeing what's at the library. It doesn't mean we've become fascistic about forcing our kids to do certain things. It just means that they know what to expect (bedtime, dinner time, days at the pool or the park or with friends) and feel secure with that familiarity. I have a friend who has absolutely NO routine and her kid is suffering from it (not sleeping well, acting out, etc). They go on unexpected trips whenever her mom feels like lugging her off somewhere. In the process, they change time zones every other week or weekend and the kid never knows when it's bedtime or naptime or anything else.
post #18 of 71
I agree that unschooling does not mean no routine or schedule.

I tend to think of myself as a fairly unorganized, freespirted, spur of the moment type, however, when I stop and think about it, we have a pretty organized routine around here. We have a lot of animals that need tending to at regular times, we have regular meal times, Monday is our library day, tuesday is riding lessons, etc.

I think one of the big differences is that we are choosing what our schdule is, and do not have the mindset of learning only during set times. Nor do we feel compelled to learn certian things at certian ages.

Personally, I do consider my "preschool" age children to be unschooling, as it is a mindset and not something we are doing to them. Just as I consider myself, dh and my grown children to be "unschoolers." For us it is a lifestyle rather than simply a way of learning at a certian time in life.

To be unschooling is to be doing something radically different from the society around you. In many areas preschool has become so much the norm that even to allow your children to grow at their own pace during these formative years, is considered radical. For many people, it is during these years that they become aware of the philosophy of unschooling, experiment with it, and begin to see the fruit in thier own lives.

I hope some of this makes sence as it is very late and I'm up with a sunburn fever.

post #19 of 71
Personally, I do consider my "preschool" age children to be unschooling, as it is a mindset and not something we are doing to them. Just as I consider myself, dh and my grown children to be "unschoolers." For us it is a lifestyle rather than simply a way of learning at a certian time in life.
Me too! I'm new to this forum, but not MDC, and have really enjoyed what everyone has said on this thread. I do consider myself to be "unschooling" my two-year-old. Yes, she knows her alphabet and has a better grasp of Spanish than I do even after three years of studying it in college, but I have not force-fed her this knowledge, she has asked for while going about our everyday activities, and soaked it up like a sponge. I always take the time to explain things to her, elaborate on what we see, hear, and do, rather than just give her the simple answers to her questions. I introduce her to a variety of subjects, and let her choose which ones to dive into deeper.

We have no structure, and a very loose schedule. Even as a tiny infant, she has resisted any attempt at a strict schedule. First it was the feeding advice everyone gave me (she is and always has been very small for her age, 3% on those stupid growth charts, and weight has always been an issue with her doctors) but when I tried a feeding schedule of any kind, she always ate *less* and gained less - same with sleep. It just doesn't work for this kid at all. But I know that newbaby on the way might be totally different.

I do think most parents unschool their preschool age kids, at least the ones who are lucky enough to stay home with them instead of sending them off somewhere. But I don't think it's necessarily with the same thought behind it that I put into it, or with the same results.
post #20 of 71
Thread Starter 
I'd just like to respond to few things in one of the previous posts. I strongly disagree with the idea that unschooling (or any type of homeschooling) is a lifestyle. I've read this idea and heard it in almost every discussion or article I've read recently about homeschooling. To me, learning at home or with a family member outside of any formalized education system is not a "lifestyle"--as if it were similar to one's penchant for new shoes and handbags and a night out at the latest club. A lifestyle is not always a life-long committment to knowledge (self-knowledge, academic knowledge, whatever). We must think more specifically about what makes learning in unconventional ways particularly different than other forms of education and ways of life. To use the language of a "lifestyle" is to put learning on par with other forms of entertainment and amusement that capitalism fosters as a means to distract people and condition them as indifferent, careless consumers. I also don't believe that unschooling or homeschooling is necessarily "radical" in any way, unless one's children are actively pursuing radical knowledges, radical ways of thinking, and radical ways of being. One may live and learn at home and still think and live in rather mainstream ways. Not to offend anyone who is a Christian and homeschooling (this is just an example) but unschooling a child with Christian values at home is not necessarily radical simply because these values are being learned at home without a schedule and with a family member. "Unconventional" would be a more appropriate term. I think if we are talking about making the principles of unschooling a more broadly cultural change in how children learn, that would be radical.
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