Unschooling is not a new concept.
Homeschool styles are as diversified as the parents that use them and the children they teach. In actuality, there are about ten different homeschooling styles, barring a few that haven’t yet made any “list”.
Many people don’t even know what style best suits them and their child until they have been homeschooling for awhile.
Many families find out by trial and error what works best, only after finding out what doesn’t work. If that is the situation you are currently in, don’t worry! You’re in good company. You will figure it out, with just a bit of research and practical use.
One of the best things about homeschooling is that there are no specific “do’s and don’ts”. If you find out, mid-year that something you’re doing doesn’t work, stop. It’s just that simple.
While there are some differences in homeschooling laws from state to state, you still have control over the way in which you teach.
Here in our first series post, we’re going to go over the Unschooling Method.
What Is The Unschooling Method?
The definition for this particular homeschool method alludes many people. Additionally, there are varying degrees of it, depending on who you talk to. Meanwhile, those that have never homeschooled simply might not understand it at all.
Simply stated, unschooling is a way of homeschooling that features little in the way of structure. At least, the type of structure that is commonly accepted in the public school setting. There is no die-hard curriculum, no set schedule or particular subjects on a daily basis. There are no schedules either dragging out or cutting off the learning process.
Unschooling leans more towards what homeschoolers know as “child led learning”. Having the child learn about what he or she is interested in is the primary focus of this method. What’s more, with the unschooling method, children are encouraged to sift information from many different resources and not simply the books they have on the subject.
While books are certainly a great place to start, interest-based learning can lead to exploration of the subject matter in different areas. The child can read, search the internet, speak with friends and relatives who might work in the field, visit libraries and museums, and the list goes on.
A Note About Learning…
If you are at all familiar with public school, you may have heard the saying, “You come to school to learn”. A teacher might be overheard saying that it is his or her job to teach children.
This gives the implication that the only place where learning can take place is inside the school house. But isn’t the opposite a truer statement?
Children come into this world, ready to learn. They use their senses, especially sight and smell, to begin that learning process. They manage to learn to walk, talk and so much more, with very little input. Some children learn to walk out of sheer determination, while some might take off walking without even thinking about it.
Talking happens in much the same way. My own son learned to talk when he became frustrated because we didn’t understand his babble. He began by using words that would let us know, without a doubt, what he wanted or needed, and went on to form the rest of his vocabulary from that.
Why does this matter?
Because there is no line between living and learning!
As adults, we continue to learn on a near daily basis. There’s another saying that goes, “You learn something new everyday”, and that is so true. Especially for families who choose to unschool.
Why Use The Unschooling Method?
There are lots of perks to this method.
For instance, a child that is interested in science and math grow their knowledge by leaps and bounds ahead of those that aren’t. On the other hand, a child who is in love with literature could make it through the equivalent of two years of English classes in just a summer, or a year, if that becomes their focus.
Unschooling is a great way to allow a child to learn problem solving and reasoning skills in a real life scenario. Children need these critical elements across a diverse array of jobs and skill sets needed to function in everyday society.
While public school seeks to teach a skill set that may or may not be usable ten to fifteen years from now, unschooling allows a child to learn how to learn. In learning how to teach themselves and apply that knowledge across a wide variety of topics, they will be far better suited for the future.
Learning is completely limitless within the unschooling method of homeschooling. There is not stopping point, or learning along with the class. Unschooling allows for learning to go as far as the child wants to take it.
How Do You Unschool Your Child?
To answer this question, one would first have to know both you and your child personally. Unschooling is a method of homeschooling that is most tailored to your child and what they are learning at any given period.
You are actually the best one to answer this question.
Telling you how to unschool would be the equivalent of telling you exactly how to live your life or do your job. It simply doesn’t make sense, does it? For instance, should you keep your toothbrush on the wall in a special hanger mounted specifically for that purpose? Should you be forced to have a garage in which to keep your car? Should you serve dinner promptly at six o’clock, every single night?
I Do Have Some Nifty Tips!
Learn as much as you can about the unschooling method. Refer to the links I will include and do your own research as well. Join groups that have a central focus around unschooling, and you will find a great deal of support.
Allow for learning anytime. This means that, instead of having a set schedule for learning, you are open to learning whenever possible. If you’re anything like me, it’s possible that you have a night-owl for a child. My daughter learns much better, and is happier to do educational activities, later in the evening. She might still be writing character sketches for some of her stories at midnight.
The important thing is that you foster the notion that there is not set time to learn. Remember, living IS learning!
Keeping in lines with the idea of using quotes, I’ll add another (you may well remember it): “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.”
While we shy away from using the word “stupid” on a general basis at our house, there is some truth to this statement. How can you reach a place of learning without first having asked the right questions?
So every time your child asks a question, grab that opportunity. Use your child’s inquisitiveness as a means for researching the answers to their questions. It’s likely that one question will lead to more and before you know it, you have a whole new knowledge pool from which to draw.
There’s a big chance that, at some point, your child will ask questions that you don’t have a ready answer for. No biggie! In such cases, feel free to show your child that even grownups can learn too. Reach out for an encyclopedia or some other printed material, research on the internet or call a friend who has experience in the field.
Actively pursue your child’s interests with them. If a child enjoys cooking, you should give them ample opportunities to do so, and in many different ways. If your child enjoys making up stories, encourage some creative writing exercises or journaling to keep track of their work. Afterwards, take some time to converse about the outcome, the good, the bad, and what the next step might be within the process.
Seize every creative opportunity as a chance to learn and further knowledge. You might choose to visit libraries, museums, historic landmarks and other places that have something to impart. If you personally know someone who has a specific skill set in which your child is interested, try to arrange a mentoring session with them. Your child could spend a day, a week, or a set time on a regular basis to spend with this person, learning from hands-on experience.
Doing is learning. Don’t feel guilty for making learning fun, but rather engage in educational games and projects that pique the interest as well as teach a valuable lesson. You can even use Monopoly to teach math skills!
Projects that help out within your community can make good learning experiences as well, especially for socialization and civics. Urge your child to volunteer his or her time in any arena in which they are confidently learning.
If your children are in high school, make sure to research college options. Many colleges, including Stanford and Yale, are actually seeking applicants who have had an alternate learning experience throughout their high school years. They are likely to complete more credits and stay in college longer, if necessary. One of the most important things you can do for your college bound unschooled child is to keep good records. Staying up to date with schedules for college prep tests is also a good idea.
Resources For Unschooling
Project Gutenberg is one of my all time favorite online resources. I probably talk about it way more than I should, but I can’t help myself. Here, you can find a slew of books that can be downloaded for Kindle, another e-Book reader, and sometimes in PDF format. Most of these books are old, but it’s amazing what you can find if you have a few moments to look around. COMPLETELY FREE!
How To Learn ALL Subjects Through Unschooling is another one of those articles you simply cannot miss. Here, you will learn some tips on incorporating multiple subjects into a unit learning format so that you can cover everything easily.
How Can Unschoolers Learn Math? is a great article for anyone looking into unschooling their child. Math can often be the hardest subject to work with, especially if your child doesn’t care for math. This article gives a little insight into math, the unschooling way. While you’re there, you can check out the rest of their site and other resources.
How Do Unschoolers Learn Math? This is another article that shares some great ideas on math as a life skill and how to raise interest in it. From the Christian Unschooling website, you can find other articles that might help just as much as this one!
Unschooling Math is an absolute must-read for any homeschooler teaching math. It has some great ideas for teaching practical math, many times without the child even realizing it. I can’t praise this article enough.
We use Khan Academy on a regular basis, and for good reason. Not only are there online lessons and videos teaching math, science, engineering, computing, arts, humanities, economics, finance and test prep, but you can personalize it too! Students and parents can each sign up for their own accounts. For students, it’s an easy way to keep up with progress to see exactly where they are. Earning more points gives you the opportunity to personalize your profile more, as well. COMPLETELY FREE!
Hippo Campus is another online learning service where you can learn a variety of information. Math, science, social studies and humanities are included here, along with links out to even more sites where you can learn at your own pace.
You can find open courses from some of the top universities in the world on edX. They offer a wide variety of courses and give you the opportunity to sign up through their site to find it all. Once you find a course you like, you can sign up and they will send you reminders as the starting date draws closer. This is geared more towards high school age children and adults, but can be great for higher elementary grades with a desire for knowledge.
Homeschool World has a list of homeschool support groups, arranged by locality, with a global reach. While there, you can sign up for their information newsletter. You can also browse through their vast library of articles, arranged by grade level, check out the latest homeschool events and even participate in their forums.
Leaping From The Box has this awesome list of resources and supports, and you should definitely check it out. They break things down so that you can find specific groups based on locality, learning style, teaching method, religion, ethnic groups, special needs and more. While you’re there, be sure to browse around at the other content available as well.
I can barely drag myself away from the computer to finish and post this! There are so many other great resources available, I just want to find them all for you. Alas, I can only do so much.
If you have a specific resource that you use for your homeschooling adventures, please, leave a comment so that other readers can glean from that as well! (**wink wink** Readers – check the comments! I expect great things to show up there!)
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Next week, we will be covering the Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Method. You don’t want to miss it!