Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves. (source: Wikipedia)
By Darcel White of The Mahogany Way
Life as an Unschooler has changed in some ways since we started back in 2009.
One big change is that I’m now a single unschooling mother to three. Two girls and a boy.
They are 9yrs, 6yrs, and 3yrs.
My oldest was diagnosed with Aspergers and Dyslexia in April of last year.
There’s rarely a dull moment with us!
You would think that I would turn to a more structured way of learning for her, but I haven’t. If anything I’m even more convinced that our relaxed-unschool approach is how she learns best.
We attend a homeschool co-op once a week and have for the past few years.
We still don’t use a curriculum. Life isn’t divided up into separate subjects, why should learning be that way?
I used to think of Unschooling as Child-led Learning, but I was way off about that. I was told early on that I can’t and shouldn’t wait for my children to come to me and say they want to learn about xyz. I’m the facilitator. I do follow their interests, but I also bring things to them that I think they may find interesting, or I take them to places I think they would enjoy. I do my best to make sure our lives are full and interesting.
One of the most important things to me is that my children enjoy their childhood.
Too many of our children are forced to grow up before they’re ready, so I make it a point that my children get to live as children. They play – a lot! Mud balls, sand castles, taking a bath in the middle of the day just because, watching their favorite show over and over, asking me to read the same books over and over.
I feel more intentional about and with the things we do. If they ask me a question and I don’t know the answer I tell them we can Google it, check out some books from the library, watch videos on YouTube, or maybe we know someone who knows about the subject more than I do.
Because of the Aspergers, some people would say not to indulge my daughter in certain interest since it can become obsessive.
I don’t subscribe to that belief. I think if you’re interested in something you should be allowed to explore that interest and learn all you can about it until you feel you have enough information.
The last two years we’ve gone to the library and every time she would come home with at least one book on sharks. Sometimes it would be the same book. My daughter can probably tell you more about the different types of sharks than your average adult! She also has a growing interest in outer space. Last summer we talked a lot about the solar system, and astronauts. Now she wants to know more about the constellations, and she finds it fascinating that stars are really balls of gas. I’m in the process of finding documentaries for her on Netflix and videos on YouTube of stars in space, because she wants to see what a star looks like when you leave earth. She’s also into human anatomy, so we’ve spent quite a bit of time learning about that as well.
My middle child likes dolphins, cats, China, and learning to knit and crochet.
She has her own bag of yarn, needles, and hooks. Sometimes she asks for my help and other times she goes off on her own. She’s made a crochet chain hairbow and several crochet chain scarves for herself and her friends. At the present moment she’s working on learning how to knit in the round. Like her sister, we’ve picked up books on dolphins from the library and watched documentaries. A while ago we watched a very interesting documentary on Netflix about China. They talked about how they grow food along the mountains, how they fish, how they get sap from trees.
Our cat is named Mitten-Sparkles(each daughter gave her one name). She’s enjoyed learning about how cats can see so well in the dark, why they purr, etc. She also watches videos on YouTube about cats, we get books from the library, etc.
My son is the youngest and even though he isn’t school age I do the same for him as I do my older girls. He’s interested in legos, constructions trucks, trains, boats, airplanes, helicopters. I have a tub of legos that used to belong to me and my brother and my son builds all kinds of things from that bin. He’s very detailed and knows exactly how he wants it to look. He also loves to draw pictures of the items mentioned above. One day we were at the store and a construction crew was working on the road, so I walked the kids over to get a closer look, but we didn’t get too close. The head lady told us to come closer and let Samuel get up in the dump truck with her. She explain to all of us why they were working on the road and what each trucks job was. It was very cool and my son had the biggest smile on his face the entire time.
We’re lucky to live in a place that is family oriented with a big homeschooling community.
There are festivals, parks, the beach, museums, libraries, wetlands, farms, and the list could go on and on! I think I make good use of our local resources.
For me – Unschooling is about trusting that my children will learn what they need to know when they are ready to know it. They learned to walk and talk in their own time, so I allow them that same respect when it comes to learning about everything else. I believe and have seen first hand that the best way to learn about something is to experience it, have a hands on approach, be passionate about it.
That is how we make connections.
That is how and why the things we learn about really stick with us.
I love the freedom that Unschooling gives us.
This is a glimpse into my family’s life as an Unschooler.
Darcel White is the author of The Mahogany Way