Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Unschooling Revisited

Someone asked me about unschooling lately. My basic description is usually that it's a parent-facilitated and encouraged, yet child-led education with no parental academic agendas, expectations,or demands for their kids. The child's environment should be full and rich, with access to the resources they need which allow the development of knowledge, experience, and responsibility. The child is free to choose their own educational path, and this may include choosing to start your day with a schedule, subjects, and workbooks, to spending your day playing video and board games, or even to go (back) to school. Freedom of choice is the key. Kids need to own what they do.

But in order for unschooling to be effective, there has to be a real honest Trust that your kids will, in fact, learn everything they need to learn, when they need to learn it. This is where many parents have a hard time. Unschooling isn't something done sometimes, or with some subjects. It's a whole mindset revolving around this trust. Kids are hard-wired to be curious, creative, and diligent. Look at a preschooler. They have boundless energy and ask tons of questions and are so enthusiastic about life. Homeschoolers (and especially unschoolers) don't lose that as they grow older. School kids, on the other hand, do lose a lot of it, usually by around 8 years old - having your energy squelched, questions unanswered, a constant pressure to perform, and lack of adequate sleep, will do that to a kid.

Unschoolers learn because they truly want to learn. They go to college. They become productive adults. They love their lives. They are raised having choices. Their interests are respected and encouraged.

The concept of unschooling is a hard one to understand for many people. It is not un-parenting, it is not educational neglect, and it is certainly not a by-product of lazy parents. It is being in-tune enough with your kids to really know what they love, how they learn, what they want, and how to get it. It's filling your child's life with wonderful experiences, opportunities, and resources and letting them have the freedom to choose what they'd like to pursue further. It's your children being a part of the real outside world all the time.

Even with NY's ridiculous homeschool regulations, it works. How? The kids know what's on the IHIP. We check things off that we cover and use the rest of it as an idea starting-off point. And amazingly, at least 90% does get covered (80% is required). We can't get away from the regs, so we incorporate them into our unschooly education. It's easy and fun this way, I think. The kids love it.

So, that's my definition of unschooling. We choose this path because it works.


Sharita said...

I love the idea of unschooling, allowing my child complete freedom over their learning but often wonder can it work for children of all ages. My child is 6 and although she loves to learn, asks a ton of questions she has her days where she just doesn't want to do anything at all except watch tv. Do I let her? When do I intervene and say enough lets do some work? Are you saying that you never have days where your children are just like I don't feel like doing anything except stay in the bed or just watch tv? My dtr has some control over what she learns and how she learns it. I allow her to choose what she does during the day. I don't force math sheets, we play math games. If she doesn't want to do math I don't force it but if it's a day where she says I just want to watch tv and I say ok well write about what you're watching and she gives me attitude I do get angry and pretty much demand that she do "something". Although it isn't often it does happen and I want to know if there's a way to avoid this. How would an unschooler handle this?

NYCitymomx3 said...

Hey Sharita,

I believe unschooling works for all children. The basic concept is that their interests lead the way for their learning. If your child seems like she might need a suggestion or idea or 2, then offer some to her. Think of it as being her “tour guide” through this world. If you had company from another state staying with you, you would probably plan stuff to do all week that they would like. Do the same for your child. Together, make a list of all the things she enjoys. My kids’ lists include things like science experiments, readalouds, board games, educational websites, field trips, and art projects (which could incorporate any subject). There is so much learning in those. The list is always available and there’s always something on there they want to do. See if she’d like to have a daily schedule or just pick things to do all day. My kids asked for a schedule. They created it, and follow it because it’s all their doing.

Tv is a way for kids to relax and have downtime. Telling her to write about what she’s watching turns into resentment and will usually cause unnecessary control battles. If the tv bothers you, then redirect her by offering to read her a story, paint, or play a game. I say, the more freedom kids have with tv, the less they’ll want to watch it – it becomes less of a “forbidden fruit”, ykwim? I know it’s hard to deschool your own thinking, learn to be more of a “yes” mom, and stop worrying that she won’t learn enough. It took me a while. Unschooling is definitely a mindset and it will look different in every family. It’s ok to stop worrying, stop demanding, and start living with complete joy and trust. You’ll be astounded at how much she’s really learning.

Joanne said...

Hi, great post about unschooling. may I suggest submitting it to Unschooling Voices (the unschooling blog carnival)?

NYCitymomx3 said...

Thanks Joanne.


The Sneaky Mama said...

This is a great post. I have never met anyone who unschools and has figured out how to incorporate that into the IHIP. I've met oodles of people who sort of unschool and even a few people who radically unschool but don't submit paperwork. How you do it is a great way to get it done!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add a comment about the T.V.

My daughters both went public school until last year. My oldest is in the 8th grade and my youngest is in the 5th grade. When they came home from public school all they wanted to do is watch T.V. Although they never wanted to watch "movies" They watch to many at school.

We started home schooling last year.

We start the day with the T.V. off have school until 2:00 and believe it or not the T.V. doesn't hardly ever gets on before we go to bed.

I was afraid the T.V. would be a problem and I have been amazed that they just want to keep on learning! T.V. is only used as a time to relax and that has been Wonderful!!


NYCitymomx3 said...

Hi Renee,

I've noticed the same thing after we started homeschooling. The TV was always on and the kids just zoned out in front of it the whole time they were home. I think school kids need to decompress after having to be "on" all day at school. Now our tv is hardly ever on - the kids would rather do something more stimulating and creative. I've noticed such a difference in them.

Sha Bish said...

Thanks Ladies. It's good to hear about the tv not being an issue. I've actually been reading about ever since I posted and pretty much everyone, unschoolers and others have said that the tv really does go on the back burner once it's not such an issue and kids will involve themselves in much more interesting things.

Sandy Feet said...

Despite the NY requirements, unschooling in NYC must be an adventure.

Also, my kids pick up TONS of info. from TV. When they are free to choose, they are selective about what they watch.

Enjoyed your post.