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Unschooling is not child led learning!

Posted by on Oct. 13, 2013 at 9:30 AM
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I do not refer to unschooling as “child-led learning” and I encourage others not to use that term because I think overuse of it has led to some pretty serious misunderstanding of what unschooling is really like. The term, “child-led learning,” does emphasize something very important – that the child is the learner! I couldn’t agree more. However, it also disregards the significant role played by the parent in helping and supporting and, yes, quite often taking the lead, in the investigation and exploration of the world that is unschooling. On an unschooling email list, someone once asked if it was “okay” as an unschooler to ask if her child wanted her to read to him. She expressed concern that that was being overly leading – that she should wait for him to ask her, if he was interested. In other words, she thought unschooling should be entirely “child led.” Questions like this concern me because it is such a distortion and extreme position and far removed from the reality of the unschooling life that my family has lived. Unschooling is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others’ little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other. Asking a child if he wants you to read to him should not be thought about as any different than asking if he wants to go outside and play pirates or help you bake a cake or wash the dog or play a game. Unschooling IS very very often comprised of asking if the kids want to do something. That is a HUGE part of unschooling. (Caps for emphasis.) Unschooling is also strewing – bringing ideas, objects, experiences, opportunities of all kinds into their lives. We don’t force them. We don’t force them. But we certainly offer. And we often recommend, too. And once in a while we say, “I think you should….”. Unschooling is not child-led learning. Neither is it parent or teacher-led. It is child- focused. It is child-considered. It is child-supporting. When someone asks if it is okay to ask if their kids want to read with them, I am really worried that they are taking a far far too hands-off approach – a wait-and-see approach – sitting back and waiting for the kids to come up with ideas of what they want to do. Unschooling parents are very involved in offering the world to their child. There is an art to knowing when to back off and when to step up and be actively involved, but even when kids are busily pursuing an interest on their own, unschooling parents are paying attention and readying themselves to offer enhancements or extensions or alternatives, etc. Calling it “child-led learning” gives the wrong impression. It leads to people thinking unschooling means waiting for a child to tell the parent, “I want to do math.” That’s not at all how it works.
by on Oct. 13, 2013 at 9:30 AM
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jen2150
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 9:35 AM

http://learninghappens.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/unschooling-is-not-child-led-learning/


Here is the link to the above article.  Very interesting.

NYCitymomx3
by Bronze Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 10:03 AM
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Yes!   I wrote about our unschooling experiences starting from 2005 and I did use the words "child-led".  My exact words were:  

"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 I think we mean the same thing.  I always found it strange that parents couldn't understand what unschooling is and they look way too deeply into it.  I used to tell people to think of every day as a fun Saturday or think of yourself as your child's tour guide through the world like they were visiting from somewhere else.  If your friends were visiting you from another state, you would see what they are interested in doing, make suggestions, give them choices, and it's usually a great experience.  Unschooling is just like that.  

ambertreas76
by on Oct. 13, 2013 at 10:22 AM
1 mom liked this

It's sad that, even though it is child-led, we have to call it by another name.  I love my kids enough take their lead and follow how they learn.  I think too many people are ignorant and want to believe their way is better so they manipulate wordings to their own advantage.  I unschool.  I am an eclectic homeschooling mom who lets her children take the lead.  

mem82
by Platinum Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM
I really think it just depends on the actual context the phrase is used. The lady asking about reading had issues. Lol
jen2150
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 11:46 AM
I agree she did have issues. I use the phrase a lot myself. I do a lot of encouraging and leading though. I think I will use it more carefully though. I like the idea she had but taking turns leading out and being more of a partnership. That is definitely closer to what I am doing with my kids.
Quoting mem82:

I really think it just depends on the actual context the phrase is used. The lady asking about reading had issues. Lol

TidewaterClan
by Kate on Oct. 13, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Thanks for the information!  I wondered what unschooling actually means.  Being in a partnership and dancing together sounds beautiful. :)  

AutymsMommy
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 12:59 PM
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Interesting.

In general though, child led/unschooling both do facilitate that the child is never forced to do anything they do not want to do... right? I do not consider myself uninformed about either (nor do I consider one to be synonymous with the other, lol), but this (aforementioned) is the one philosophy I can't ever get on board with.

I do find it interesting though and I appreciate the time you took to write the post!

I am a Home Schooling, Vaccinating, Non spanking, Nightmare Cuddling, Dessert Giving, Bedtime Kissing, Book Reading, Stay at Home Mom. I believe in the benefit of organized after school activities and nosy, involved parents. I believe in spoiling my children. I believe that I have seen the village and I do not want it anywhere near my children. Now for the controversial stuff:  we're Catholic, we're conservative, and we own guns (now there's no need to ask, lol).             Aimee















NYCitymomx3
by Bronze Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 1:18 PM


Quoting AutymsMommy:

Interesting.

In general though, child led/unschooling both do facilitate that the child is never forced to do anything they do not want to do... right? 

Well, academically.  

Of course you also have radical unschooling, which is a different philosophy altogether. 

jen2150
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 1:23 PM
I didn't write it just copied and pasted. It was written by an unschooler. Apparently the author is one of the leaders in the unschooling community. There are many different types of unschoolers. I just found the article interesting and really explain where I am at more than anything I have read. Unschooling is really hard to define. There are so many different extremes and all the ones in between. I would go to the link and read the comments if you haven't already. They are quite interesting.
Quoting AutymsMommy:

Interesting.

In general though, child led/unschooling both do facilitate that the child is never forced to do anything they do not want to do... right? I do not consider myself uninformed about either (nor do I consider one to be synonymous with the other, lol), but this (aforementioned) is the one philosophy I can't ever get on board with.

I do find it interesting though and I appreciate the time you took to write the post!


Bleacheddecay
by Bronze Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 2:16 PM
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I don't know why people have to get so uptight about terms like this. I think child lead learning is far more descriptive and useful than unschooling but whatever, a rose by any other name and all that.

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