Did you know that at least 100,000 kids in the US are considered “unschooled?” And after Good Morning America’s segment on unschooling last week, outraged educators and concerned grandparents are linking arms.
But what’s the truth? What’s it like to be unschooled? What are those parents thinking?!
As a mom of three unschooled kids, including one who became a National Merit Scholar, allow me to explain.
Unschooling is Built on Two Simple Observations:
1. Kids are born to learn.
How much instruction did your child need to learn to walk and talk? And given the right environment, he can effortlessly learn several languages before puberty.
An excellent book on the ideas behind unschooling is Learning All The Time by John Holt. In it he says, “Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process…the independent scientist in the child disappears.”
2. Forced learning kills the desire to learn.
Have you noticed that kindergartners usually love school? Then by second or third grade, your lively learner has started to drag his feet–either dreading, fighting, or ignoring school tasks.
I didn’t want school to ruin my children’s love of learning. I wanted each of them maintain the joy of childhood and the joy of learning–all the way into adulthood.
So when Peter, my first little guy, was old enough to start school, I said no. And while my homeschooling friends trudged through expensive curriculums, we … did other things.
In our home it was endless summer. We flowed from preschool into elementary school without dimming the wide-eyed approach to life.
I watched him. What excited him? What made him want to know more? Those were the things we focused on.
Now Peter is almost 21 and attends the University of Chicago. One mom asked if he thought interest-led learning prepared him for college and if it gave him any advantage.
Here’s how he responded:
Definitely! Probably the biggest one is simply that I’m not burned out. I still have the energy and motivation to take school seriously, whereas many of my peers stopped doing that years ago. In addition, it’s given me the ability to be self-motivated and find opportunities for myself instead of just waiting for them to happen.
Another advantage is that I had the opportunity in high school to really start preparing for college, especially in the areas I’m interested in. I’m finding a lot of the introductory classes very easy, because I had already covered the basics on my own. There aren’t any philosophy classes at the local public school, but with my interest-led education I was able to get into some pretty advanced philosophical topics before I even went to college.
Another concern I hear is that unschooling is for lazy parents. But really, unschooling is for crafty, detective parents who teach without anyone realizing it. It’s for parents who are constantly searching out experts and opportunities to feed their little learning machines.
Some parents assume unschooling means no hygiene and no chores. Not necessarily. It’s your home, and as loving, respectful humans, we have to learn to live together and be healthy. Kids can understand that. Interest-led learning, in my opinion, is first a philosophy of education.
How it works in your family life is up to you.
I’m at the end of my unschooling journey, for now. One of my kids says I have to homeschool my yet-to-exist grandchildren. But until then, I’m basking in the rewards of being the mom of three very different young adults who love life and learning, and are still kids at heart.
What do you think of unschooling? Could you incorporate some interest-led elements into your homeschool?