What Is Unschooling?
Hey! I know you’ve asked me a few times about unschooling and you’ve wanted more information on the subject. Well, I can only tell you how it applies to MY family. I feel that I need to let you know straight away that I am NOT a radical unschooler. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single thing in my life that I AM radical about!
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Let me first clear the air on what “unschooling” ISN’T.
It’s not unstructured in the way that you may be thinking.
It’s not without teaching.
It’s not without learning. In fact, there is even a “National Learn Nothing Day“.
It isn’t lazy or irresponsible.
When we first started our homeschool journey, I had no idea what I was doing. I trusted the people in my circle, and I trusted my child. I trusted that I only have his best interest in mind and that there was no way on earth that anyone could possibly love him more than me. I wanted what was best for HIM, and I was determined not to let him down.
And so it began.
We tried workbooks, but it was painful to watch him work through them. It would take him HOURS to get through two pages. We purchased box curricula. (for us it was a waste of time and money) We tried lapbooks. We tried manipulatives.
None of it worked.
So after the struggles, the tears (both his and mine), the frustration and the countless bags of chocolate I consumed, I threw my hands up and let go. I followed his lead. I let HIM decide what “we” were going to learn that day, and how.
We went outside.
We made mud pies. We played with sticks. We started catching bugs. We built forts. We colored. We watched movies. We cooked, and baked, and did projects and read books together. We planted gardens, we went fishing and hiking. We flew kites. From the outside looking in, we were having fun. What we were doing looked nothing like school at all, in fact, it looked an awful lot like life.
But he was learning.
But what about Reading and Math?
Oh, I’m glad you asked!
Of course, we know that reading takes place in our everyday lives. We read street signs, package instructions, magazines, subtitles on the television and so on. When our boys were learning to read, I would place post-it notes on different parts of our lives with the proper word. (Bathroom was on the bathroom door, closet on the closet, you get the idea.) We were constantly reading. They would sit with me and we would read a book together, they would see their daddy reading. Children are amazing little creatures in the way they LOVE to replicate what they see their parents doing. (both good and bad, so be aware!)
Math can be learned in the kitchen! (It’s science too!) You may only need 2 eggs, but you also need 3/4 cup of flour. Now add to that 1/4 cup more. How much do you have? ONE CUP! Have you ever experienced the science of making mayonnaise or butter? Oh, what a fun experiment! I always enjoyed when my boys helped in the kitchen, but there were days that we would learn math by games.
I always enjoyed when my boys helped in the kitchen, but there were days that we would learn math by games. Farkle anyone? Rummy, solitaire, board games, yes even video games too!
Going to the grocery store is always a great way to teach math in the way it applies to our everyday. I would give my boys a “budget” and if they wanted certain things, as long as it was within their budget, they could toss it in the buggy. We would clip coupons together and do the math in the store as we went.
Like reading, math is all around us.
The point is, if done correctly, unschooling is going to feed your child’s passion for learning in a way that isn’t forced.
Our boys enjoy learning, mostly because it just doesn’t feel like school to them. If they want to do something, they do it, and they learn how or why something happened the way it did. We have conversations, we ask questions, we research together, we problem solve, we go on road trips, we read maps, we explore our surroundings.
I also “toss” educational content into their line of vision. I do call it lesson planning, but it’s a little different for us. If there’s something I feel they should know, I’ll make sure I present it to them in a way that isn’t boring. We use CuriosityStream for documentaries, local events, co-op classes, classes at the zoo, museum and state parks, living history days are one of our favorites! There are so many ways to learn and cover every subject imaginable, and never even use worksheets or workbooks. It works for us.
The hardest part about unschooling, at least for me, is being able to translate how we “do school” into “educationese” for our high school transcripts. Everything else has been so enjoyable. I wouldn’t trade this unschool life for anything. Nope, not even all the salted caramel dark chocolate in the world.
I promise you that no one in this world will know your child better than you. If you talk to them AND listen to their interests, you’ll be able to give them a most diverse education.
So get your roadmap, pack your tent, grab your telescope and your sleeping bag. Yep, all of that will count as school. Let’s go explore!
How can you learn living life, you ask. My answer will always be, how can you not?