Sunday, September 06, 2009

Definition of Unschooling

Unschooling. Child-led learning.

Letting the kids do "whatever they feel like"???

When most people hear about unschooling, they imagine kids who are indulging every lazy fantasy. They imagine loads of tv, video games, comic books. Couch potatoes in both body and mind. Because, after all, that's what they'd do if they had oodles of free time to do "whatever they wanted."

Is it possible for kids to thrive academically when unschooling? Common sense (especially from those who have been raised in conventional schools) says "no." But many of us have seen that children do thrive and learn and excel in unschooling. Why is that?

"Unschooling" is how most of us learn most things. We have a need, we find a way to gather information or gain skills, and off we go. We learn to walk without formal lessons. We learn to speak our native language without grammar lessons or vocabulary flashcards. We learn to ride the bike with help from Grandpa or Mom or training wheels, some of us learning in 20 minutes and others of us learning over the space of 2 months. We learn to cook. We learn to swim. Even though we have academic classes for drivers' ed, learning to drive is a hands-on activity; the classroom part is there to teach about braking distance or seat-belt use or penalties for DUI's.

Much geometry is learned through quilting or woodworking. Baking requires the use of fractions and measurement. Even video games [gulp!] can be educational: Age of Empires teaches players about various kingdoms throughout history. Some formal academics (at the right time) can be very helpful for those who have been unschooling: in a short time, all that divergent material can be summarized and presented in an orderly fashion.

Formal academics, textbooks, workbooks, and lessons is the way most of us experienced schooling. It has its strengths and it has its drawbacks. But it is by no means the only way to learn.

Why do we assume that reading, writing, math, history, and science cannot be learned in an unschooly way, as are talking and driving and gardening? Is it because we assume that no child would be interested in learning to read or do math or discover how societies functioned in previous centuries? Do we not recognize that people are created to learn and to think? It is sad to find people who can't conceive of a student who would learn for the sheer joy of learning.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Susan.....although we homeschooled the traditional way, much of my children's learning was informal. I think the formal stuff just made my husband and I feel like we were doing things "the right way" in case we were hounded by authorities, which fortunately never happened.