What is unschooling? If you are interested in homeschooling or new to homeschooling, you probably hear the word unschooling from time to time.
You may be wondering about unschooling as part of homeschooling, what that unschool lifestyle is all about, or even if it’s an option for your family.
What is unschooling?
Unschooling is a learning method, style, or philosophy–based on the theories and teachings of John Holt–that allows children freedom in learning from doing and experiencing away from curriculum or a strict school schedule. Natural learning, experience-based learning, or independent learning are synonyms for this style. Some see unschooling as a method of homeschooling, while others see it as a completely separate style of learning.
What is unschooling? (A video explanation)
NaturalChild.org describes “what is unschooling” as:
A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating.
There is an energy that comes from this that you can’t buy with a curriculum.
Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, ‘doing real things’ invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge.
It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.
Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around.
How To Start Unschooling
With unschooling, you don’t use specific a homeschool curriculum, or textbooks, or a rigid schedule, or structured learning.
(Unschooling doesn’t mean that you cannot use books or online classes during unschooling. It just means that you are not following a specific curriculum. For example, your unschooler may have an interest in coding games, so they may ask to take a coding class to learn how to use a specific computer coding program.)
There is no set time for learning during unschooling because learning happens all the time! So, you don’t “do” school. Learning just . . . happens naturally.
During unschooling, learning flows naturally and is led by your child at his or her own pace. For example, unschoolers may use cooking as an unschooling method of learning. With following a recipe and cooking, children work on their reading, use math skills, and learn how to follow directions to completion of a project.
Also, unschoolers are often big on working on life skills. So if a child is cooking, they are also learning about grocery shopping, budgeting, nutrition, and even housekeeping while cleaning up after their cooking project.
The unschool method is about empowering a child to learn and helping instill a lifelong love of learning.
ZenHabits.net discusses this approach:
[With this method] kids learn how to learn, how to teach themselves.
If you know how to learn and how to teach yourself, then you are prepared for any future.
If in the future the things we know are obsolete, then the person who knows how to learn anything will be ready to learn whatever is in use in the future.
The person who only knows how to learn from a teacher will need a teacher to teach him.
ALSO CHECK OUT : HOW TO START UNSCHOOLING
An easy way to get started unschooling is to simply ask your child about his or her interests. What do they want to learn about? Once you understand their interests, you can help guide them in ways to learn.
For example, may your child is interested in sea turtles. To help support this learning, you can watch a documentary on sea turtles. You can check out sea turtle books from the library. And, you can study and draw sea turtle anatomy. You can even visit a sea turtle rescue center and watch a sea turtle release.
The ways that you support your child in learning are as vast as your (and your child’s) imagination!
History: How Did Unschooling Start?
Unschooling is based on the theories and teachings of John Holt.
John Holt was an author and educator and pioneered the unschool movement.
Holt said, “Helping children learn and explore in the world is best seen as a branch of natural science, like trying to raise exotic plants or little-known animals.”
Holt worked as an educator for years before he realized that education is not the same as schooling or learning.
Holt’s controversial position as a progressive school reformer in the 1960s changed to that of social reformer in the 1970s.
Holt insisted that laws and customs that prevent children and families from learning in the real world should be challenged and that school should be viewed as a convivial learning resource, like a library, rather than a compulsory treatment clinic.
Holt died in 1985, but his work is very much alive in the homeschooling lifestyle.
John Holt Unschooling Books
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John Holt wrote many books that unschoolers and homeschoolers still incorporate into their home education lifestyle today:
Is Unschooling Legal?
Unschooling may seem like a radical approach to many, even in the homeschool community. Because of this, many people often wonder if this method of homeschooling is legal.
The biggest thing to remember is that unschooling does not mean not learning. Nor does it mean not parenting.
The unschool approach is categorized as part of homeschooling, which is legal in every state of the United States. However, every state has different homeschooling requirements.
If you are interested in homeschooling or the unschooling method, you should first check the homeschooling homeschool laws and requirements for your state. Some states have specific homeschool curriculum requirements that you must meet.
(Be aware: homeschooling is illegal in some other countries outside of the united states.)
Unschooling versus Deschooling
Unschooling and deschooling are often confused, even within the homeschooling community.
Unschooling is the philosophy of allowing children to lead in their learning and education.
Deschooling is a period of adjustment that a homeschooling family takes to “unlearn” the traditional methods of schooling. For example, if you remove your child from a public school to homeschool, you will want to spend a period of deschooling in order to adjust to this new learning lifestyle.
Often, the philosophy of unschooling is used during the deschooling period.
A great way to get started is by learning from those who went before us. These are some of the best unschooling books that will help answer more of your “What is unschooling?” or “Does unschooling work?” questions. They’ll also cover how to get started unschooling and why it’s a great learning choice for your family.