I realized last night when a friend who reads this blog, but also knows me face to face asked, "so explain to me this unschooling thing...?" that I had made an assumption about my readers: just because a few of you also unschool doesn't mean that everybody who stumbles onto my blog knows what the heck I'm talking about. So many people have never heard of it, or have been given misinformation, or only have experience with "school at home" styles of homeschooling... So I think it's about time I did an all-encompassing primer post, a 101 of sorts. Below I'll offer up quotes from prominent unschooling advocates, links to articles, essays, videos, and hopefully I can present enough information to give people some idea of what it is we believe in regards to our child and our family.
I can only speak to our own experience and what unschooling has given our family. Not every person who lives this lifestyle would choose the same exact words and ideas I would, I'm not trying to speak for everyone. For us, it's about trusting Silas. He is a seriously inquisitive little man who loves to explore and find out more about the world around him, yet when asked what he's been learning about lately, his answer is usually "Oh, pretty much nothing." After almost 3 years in the public school system, he's turned "learning" into a dirty word in his mind. It conjures up images of workbooks, homework, and structure. He's still so entrenched in the de-schooling process (decompressing from the rigors of compulsory schooling) that he doesn't usually recognize when he's learning new things.
Make no mistake that he's learning, though... he's reading books and taking walks and trying new things, picking up skills and knowledge as he goes. I'm still adjusting to letting go, but it's essential I trust him. He learned how to walk and hold a spoon and draw a picture with very little intervention from anyone - humans are built to learn. We naturally pick up information from the world around us, children are no different. My concern is not that he can recite facts or formulas on demand, but that he can live his life equipped with the skills to find the answers himself. It is essential that he love the learning process and feel confident in finding the information that he wants and needs. I'm present not to teach him, but to help facilitate his learning... to give him the guidance and tools he needs, to bring interesting things to his attention, and to support him.
- A fundamental premise of unschooling is that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn. The child-directed nature of unschooling does not mean that unschooling parents will not provide their children with guidance and advice, or that they will refrain from sharing things that they find fascinating or illuminating with them. These parents generally believe that as adults, they have more experience with the world and greater access to it. They believe in the importance of using this to aid their children in accessing, navigating, and making sense of the world.
- Radical unschooling philosophy places parents and children in a cooperative partnership relationship. The role of an unschooling parent is to support children's interests, trust children to make decisions for themselves, and help children accomplish their goals, which may include answering questions, finding answers, giving instruction or guidance, and locating apprenticeship opportunities or other sources of knowledge and experience.
- Why Unschooling Doesn't Come Naturally by Dayna Martin
- Deschooling a Parent: Learning to Trust by Jan Hunt
- Kids Learn Best When They Are Young by Tara @ TheOrganicSister
- Doing Something Very Different: Growing Without Schooling by Susannah Sheffer
- What is Unschooling? by Earl Stevens
- The Labyrinth of Unschooling by Dayna Martin
- My Case For Unschooling by Tara @TheOrganicSister
"I have used the words "home schooling" to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth in the word is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn't a school at all."
- John Holt
"The goal of unschooling is not education. It is to help a child be who she is and blossom into who she will become. Education happens as side effect."
- Joyce Fetteroll
"Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is."
- John Holt
"The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him, He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense ... School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning."
- John Holt
"I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, though it does not "educate"; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing."
- John Taylor Gatto
"A child does not have to be motivated to learn; in fact, learning cannot be stopped. A child will focus on the world around him and long to understand it. He will want to know why things are the way they are. He won’t have to be told to be curious; he will just be curious. He has no desire to be ignorant; rather he wants to know everything."
- Valerie Fitzenreiter