Monday, July 30, 2012

Is unschooling a 4-letter word?

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." 
~Albert Einstein

I'm always surprised when the subject of how to homeschool comes up, and a mom will automatically stiffen when the term unschooling is uttered.  Like I just said a curse word, or something. 

When families consider themselves unschoolers, you can ask for a definition and get as many different answers as there are families answering your question. 

As to the question, do *we* unschool, we over here at BreadwithHoney, well, we really don't know what to say.  We know what we do, we like it, and we notice that we're awfully different than most of the other homeschoolers we know, regarding how our days and learning unfold.  

If someone asked *me* for a definition of unschooling, I'd say, "Unschooling is a lifestyle where parents consider learning to be happening always, not just during 'school hours.'  This generally leads to a greater respect for the learning that happens in everyday life."  Formal learning may not happen in the same order as it would for a family sticking to a pre-designed curriculum because children might spend quite a lot of time developing a subject of interest to them during a particular time period.

I notice many homeschoolers want it both ways:  they want their 3rd grader working "at grade-level," yet they want the flexibility to stop and develop material that is poorly understood, or well-understood, when the child clamors for 'more, more, more!'  In fact, that flexibility is why many of us chose to homeschool in the first place.

Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in any mother's day.  And wanting it both ways often seems to lead to what I call "May Syndrome."  This is when many homeschool mother's are running around in mid-May with worried foreheads, realizing, "We're behind!"  When moms suddenly forget that the f;lexibilty to spend 3 extra weeks on fractions in February naturally means the book isn't finished by the third week of May!

So, what does this have to do with unschooling?  Well, as a group, one thing that seems to define unschoolers as a group is a LOT more comfort with children, especially younger children, working and learning outside the bell-curve.  Some unschoolers have a lot of structure and some have little to none.  Some use wrkbooks and texts, some use none of the above. 

But there's a very specific attitude I find amongst unschoolers, which is: the material is here to serve US.  We are not here to serve the material!  Which means that there is less fretting over when books get finished, how easily a child 'forgets' material he already 'knew', and whether he or she is doing X by age Z.

I'm not planning to go into detail about unschooling here, let alone defend it against the myriad criticisms usually leveled when the term comes up.  Instead, I'd just like to challenge you, if you've always considered 'unschooling' to be a dirty word in the homeschooler's dictionary, to learn more about unschooling, what it can look like, and how it might help you expand your thinking as a home educator.

The very best books to introduce you to the subject (in my ever humble opinion) include:

How Children Fail
How Children Learn
Learning All The Time

all by John Holt, the talented school teacher, turned homeschooling advocate, who first coined the tern 'unschooling.'  If you are less interested in philosophy and more interested in some nuts and bolts, creative, super-simple learning ideas for young children, skip straight to Learning All The Time.  And check your library, because all three are likely available to you there!

"The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think - rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men." 
~Bill Beattie

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...