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Unschooling is not child led learning!

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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
Replies (11-18):
jen2150
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 2:32 PM
1 mom liked this
I personally don't care for the term unschooling either. I do see her point that child led leads people to believe it is all child initiated. It is much more than that.
Quoting Bleacheddecay:

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.


paganbaby
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 7:52 PM
1 mom liked this

Agreed.

Quoting Bleacheddecay:

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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mem82
by Platinum Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 7:57 PM
1 mom liked this
Ditto

Quoting paganbaby:

Agreed.

Quoting Bleacheddecay:

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.


AutymsMommy
by Silver Member on Oct. 13, 2013 at 9:27 PM


I imagine it is interesting for many. It isn't something I find interesting though, so I'll not force myself to do it.

*chuckle*

Okay, I had to. I'm done now.

Quoting jen2150:

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!




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















lucsch
by on Oct. 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM

When I researched unschooling, it was totally child led and initiated. Even strategically placed toys and books were frowned upon. Perhaps the definition of the word has changed since my research. Basically, it was the belief that if a child's curiosity was not deformed by modern day distractions and attempts at education, he would naturally want to learn in order to achieve goals he set for himself. The parent would facilitate meeting his goals but have no hand in setting those goals.

It would never work for our family's lifestyle, so that is as far as I took my research into it. Ultimately, the unschoolers in the group I asked squashed my interest in it. They would not answer my questions about the implementation of it and acted as if I offended them. I was honestly considering as an option, too!


bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM
1 mom liked this

 I think child-led and unschooling are 2 different methods of educating.  I do not unschool by any stretch of the imagination, but we do child-led science.  My kids choose the topics in science they want to cover and I find resources to accomodate them.  I find it irritating when people try to tell others how to describe their own teaching methods and thats what I found with this article.  Also her example is utterly ridiculous.  That woman has many more issues than what to call her teaching method. 

jen2150
by Silver Member on Oct. 14, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Unschooling has many different degrees.  Unschooling like other methods has evolved over the years.  It is also requires a lot of involvement from the parent.  One unschooler once described it to me as the younger year spent showing their child the world and the later year child showing you the world.  I love how she described unschooling as a partnership between parent and child.    I think that is the core of unschooling.  Learning to work with a child and not against them.  Kids are born naturally curious.  I found the article very interesting.  I have been kind of been surprised by some of the people's responses against unschooling and this article.

usmom3
by BJ on Oct. 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM

 We fallow our children ques on what they want to do & learn! I call it unschooling or child led learning because it is easier to say one of those then to have to explain every little thing we do that might be different from the standard definition.

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