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What is Unschooling?

Posted by on Aug. 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM
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I have found that John Holts explaination of unschooling is to the point, simple to understand, and sums it up nicely. Below is a passage copied from the website http://www.holtgws.com/index.html

GROUP MEMBERS: Please feel free to answer this question below in the replies, tell us what unschooling is to you and your family....for each of us will vary in our answers, beliefs, and lifestyles.

What Is Unschooling?

This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term "unschooling" has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn't use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an "on demand" basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work. So, for instance, a young child's interest in hot rods can lead him to a study of how the engine works (science), how and when the car was built (history and business), who built and designed the car (biography), etc. Certainly these interests can lead to reading texts, taking courses, or doing projects, but the important difference is that these activities were chosen and engaged in freely by the learner. They were not dictated to the learner through curricular mandate to be done at a specific time and place, though parents with a more hands-on approach to unschooling certainly can influence and guide their children's choices.

 Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not "natural" processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn't unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.

 Unschooling is not unparenting; freedom to learn is not license to do whatever you want. People find different ways and means to get comfortable with John Holt's ideas about children and learning and no one style of unschooling or parenting defines unschooling,

by on Aug. 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM
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jellybean6
by Member on Aug. 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM
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Beginning this journey with my children is exciting. I am so happy to have discovered unschooling. For us it means enjoying life, and enjoying each other. I have always fought school, stressed about it, obsessed about it. I'm a go with the flow kind of person, so when my kids turned school age it was a struggle to say the least. Living on someone elses schedule, making them do their homework, planning our lives around the public school,... it all just didn't work for us, I rebeled against it in my heart.

So I took them our and we did the homeschooling, and are homeschooling. I found myself still overly stressed out, and also completely stressing out my children as a result. I was competing with the public school system now. Trying to force my then 6 year old to learn to read, failing at it, thinking he was a failure, etc. I was homeschooling my kids using public school as a guideline, and it was not working. So recently I had the revelation that I was no longer going to compete with the schools, we are home after all, why compete with standards that don't mean anything to our lives. We now have set goals in education. My son is 7 now, and he really wants to learn to read, so that is his goal. He can take as long as he needs to, we'll try lots of different ways until something works for him. He may read soon, or may not read till he's 9, that's fine with me.

So for us, unschooling means NOT forcing learning anymore. No more strict school schedules, no more comparing my children to kids in public school or even more strictly homeschooled kids, no more beating myself up if they just don't seem to "get it".....they will eventually, when they are ready. To me unschooling means we can just relax, trust that knowledge will be gained, and finally enjoy each other instead of fightning each other.

LindaClement
by Group Owner on Aug. 22, 2011 at 4:09 PM
4 moms liked this

Oh, that's so much longer than I'd have put it:

It's living life with no reference at all to 'school' or any of the conventions developed within school... kids live, they learn. What they're interested in, they explore and retain. What they're not interested in, they move on from.

It looks very much like a Saturday in July...

TigerofMu
by on Oct. 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

This is a difficult one for me, because Unschooling sounds so, so...random, when you first hear the word.  Now I know some hackles might have just gone up when I said that, and I want to go on to explain that it is not meant as an insult.  I always pictured Unschoolers as those wild children running through the jungle barefoot...(Keep reading, because I'm hopefully going to smooth that out now)...BEFORE I started reading posts in this group, and from other Unschoolers on CafeMom.  

It sounds like you ladies are working hard to teach your children, and to find things that interest them and will draw them deeper into learning.  That's an amazing strength of homeschooling that I never really got to do as a public school teacher, and I think it's awesome!

We are not "traditional" Unschoolers.  I received an invitation to join the group because some of my replies have shown Unschooling tendencies.  After reading some of the comments and the "definition" above, I will agree that I do have some Unschooling tendencies :).  

We do use curriculum materials, but it's a Unit Study program, and it's wonderful.  We're taking twice as long to go through it as the lesson plans say, because we've found so much of the material to be utterly fascinating and we've chosen to veer off and dig deeper, do special projects, and generally explore far more about the topics that interest us.  

We are using a math curriculum because teaching math has never been my strong suit, and I don't want my children to be handicapped by my weaknesses.  However, instead of beginning where conventional learning dictated, each child started in the level where she is comfortable.  There is a DVD to explain each lesson, and they work through at their own pace, referring to the DVD, asking for help, or just taking a break when they are confused or struggling.  I want them to understand and be able to apply what they are studying, not just learn it because it's something they "are supposed to" at that time in life.

LindaClement
by Group Owner on Oct. 26, 2011 at 2:58 AM

I never tried to teach math... 

I readily admit that 3/4 of what I heard about ...well, all kinds of things I ended up living, frankly... was met with.. uh... less than complimentary.

I leapt to all the typical conclusions, believed all the standard stereotypes, bought the whole thing about socialization, and how 'hard' math and science are...

Unschooling does sound super-freaky. So does 'never punishing children'... because, surely, there are some times/subjects/issues that have to ...

Quoting TigerofMu:

This is a difficult one for me, because Unschooling sounds so, so...random, when you first hear the word.  Now I know some hackles might have just gone up when I said that, and I want to go on to explain that it is not meant as an insult.  I always pictured Unschoolers as those wild children running through the jungle barefoot...(Keep reading, because I'm hopefully going to smooth that out now)...BEFORE I started reading posts in this group, and from other Unschoolers on CafeMom.  

It sounds like you ladies are working hard to teach your children, and to find things that interest them and will draw them deeper into learning.  That's an amazing strength of homeschooling that I never really got to do as a public school teacher, and I think it's awesome!

We are not "traditional" Unschoolers.  I received an invitation to join the group because some of my replies have shown Unschooling tendencies.  After reading some of the comments and the "definition" above, I will agree that I do have some Unschooling tendencies :).  

We do use curriculum materials, but it's a Unit Study program, and it's wonderful.  We're taking twice as long to go through it as the lesson plans say, because we've found so much of the material to be utterly fascinating and we've chosen to veer off and dig deeper, do special projects, and generally explore far more about the topics that interest us.  

We are using a math curriculum because teaching math has never been my strong suit, and I don't want my children to be handicapped by my weaknesses.  However, instead of beginning where conventional learning dictated, each child started in the level where she is comfortable.  There is a DVD to explain each lesson, and they work through at their own pace, referring to the DVD, asking for help, or just taking a break when they are confused or struggling.  I want them to understand and be able to apply what they are studying, not just learn it because it's something they "are supposed to" at that time in life.


HavenWoodHome
by Founder on Oct. 26, 2011 at 9:43 AM

I appreciate you joining Tiger. We can all learn from each other, and a group like this is a good place to learn.

When I first heard of unschooling I thought it was crazy too. When we first moved here there was a family of 10 kids living up the road who were unschoolers. The more I interacted with them, the more appealing unschooling became. Then I read some, and liked it more. Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. (Sandra Dodd)

We do use some texts, but very loosely. My husband and Levi do math nearly every night. Since Levi wants to be some sort of engineer, we all know math is important. Also, Levi likes math.

I believe there are many, many ways to unschool. And many levels of unschooling. You have to do what is right for your kids and your family.

Quoting TigerofMu:

This is a difficult one for me, because Unschooling sounds so, so...random, when you first hear the word.  Now I know some hackles might have just gone up when I said that, and I want to go on to explain that it is not meant as an insult.  I always pictured Unschoolers as those wild children running through the jungle barefoot...(Keep reading, because I'm hopefully going to smooth that out now)...BEFORE I started reading posts in this group, and from other Unschoolers on CafeMom.  

It sounds like you ladies are working hard to teach your children, and to find things that interest them and will draw them deeper into learning.  That's an amazing strength of homeschooling that I never really got to do as a public school teacher, and I think it's awesome!

We are not "traditional" Unschoolers.  I received an invitation to join the group because some of my replies have shown Unschooling tendencies.  After reading some of the comments and the "definition" above, I will agree that I do have some Unschooling tendencies :).  

We do use curriculum materials, but it's a Unit Study program, and it's wonderful.  We're taking twice as long to go through it as the lesson plans say, because we've found so much of the material to be utterly fascinating and we've chosen to veer off and dig deeper, do special projects, and generally explore far more about the topics that interest us.  

We are using a math curriculum because teaching math has never been my strong suit, and I don't want my children to be handicapped by my weaknesses.  However, instead of beginning where conventional learning dictated, each child started in the level where she is comfortable.  There is a DVD to explain each lesson, and they work through at their own pace, referring to the DVD, asking for help, or just taking a break when they are confused or struggling.  I want them to understand and be able to apply what they are studying, not just learn it because it's something they "are supposed to" at that time in life.


Visit my homeschool blog....HavenWood HomeSchool

Visit my group....CafeMom Unschoolers

lovingbabyagent
by New Member on May. 25, 2012 at 1:06 PM
1 mom liked this

Thank you...this post made me feel a lot better about unschooling. I can't wait!

FelipesMom
by Member on May. 30, 2012 at 10:12 AM

This is a great "definition"! I find that I, personally, have a hard time not turning to negatives when I describe the kind of education I want my son to have. I don't want it to be about opposition to what's going on in public schools - I want to focus on the things I DO want. That's my challenge. I think this post did a great job of that!!! After all, unschooling itself isn't a reaction to conventional schooling (even though the choice to unschool may be a reaction, for a given family). Love this post - and the website! 

LETICIA  (kind of rhymes with Patricia)
Mom to Felipe, born 11-24-2006

Group Owner - Unconditional Parenting, Earthy Tribal Mamas
Admin - Loving Alternatives to Mainstream Parenting

mamavalor
by Member on Feb. 9, 2013 at 5:35 AM
1 mom liked this

This is great!  Unschooling is exactly what I have been doing with my kids before they went off to public school.  In fact, we still unschool at home because to us learning is all around you. 

nicolett80
by New Member on Mar. 5, 2014 at 10:37 AM
1 mom liked this
We are unschooling with our 5 year old son and plan on doing it with lo also. I think it works best for our family.
LindaClement
by Group Owner on Mar. 9, 2014 at 6:37 PM
1 mom liked this

That's certainly how I grew up!

Quoting mamavalor:

This is great!  Unschooling is exactly what I have been doing with my kids before they went off to public school.  In fact, we still unschool at home because to us learning is all around you. 


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