I recently came across the term “unschooling,” and having no idea what it meant, I did some research.  This is what I found from Unschooling.com:

One thing school does that you don’t ever, ever have to do is this: By making certain things “subjects,” other things are not subjects, and in school, only subjects matter. What you learn “on your own time” is unimportant, and in fact detracts from the time you should be spending on subjects. Homeschools can end up making this same mistake: You buy a curriculum and you “do school,” and THEN you can play (i.e., then you have “free time”). IF you do your lesson, you can play. Unschoolers turn the whole thing upside down: If you follow your interest (play), you will learn in the process.

Think about how an adult learns something new, how you yourself do it; there is no reason why a child can’t learn in the same way. You have an interest, let’s say, in tying flies for fishing, or in the Civil War, or in chinchillas. What do you do? Research, for one. What kind? The library, perhaps. You find books on the subject. You find movies about the Civil War. You go to the zoo or a pet shop or a state fair to see chinchillas and talk to people who raise them. You find a TV program about tying flies and how to cast, and you go to the lake and see people fishing, and talk to them. You realize you can’t quite understand how to do it by reading, so you find someone who can show you. You want to have some fun interaction with others, so you join a Civil War reanactment society. Now, imagine you are in school, and you have to “study” tying flies, or raising chinchillas. You have no interest in these things at all; you are totally absorbed by the Civil War right now. It would take coercion (rewards/grades and punishments/grades) to make you “learn” about flies and chinchillas, and as soon as that last final is done, you forget it all and go back to that fascinating book on Antietam.

People learn because they are interested in learning something, for some reason. A man learns Greek to fulfill a goal important to him; a girl learns to keep her heels down and her reins even, because she wants to advance to using a bit. If these things, being a priest or horseback riding, were not important to the individuals in question, would either of them learn them? Would they be happy doing so if someone were making them do it? Children will learn long division, and algebra, and calculus in the same way. If they truly are not interested in mathematics, then they don’t need it. They will most likely not pursue careers that require it. Basic arithmetic, sure. People need that, and without the interference of school, kids find it fun.

So.. I’m VERY interested in your thoughts  I’ve never really thought of doing anything but public school, and am not about to change my whole world or anything, but the information I found raises some very interesting questions..  First impressions, ya’ll?

4 thoughts on “Unschooling

  1. While I think this is a cool idea, I still believe very strongly that children need structure in order to succeed.

    That being said, I think that home schooling offers the best of both worlds. You can spend extra time on the things that your child really likes (dinosaurs, chemistry, etc.), yet you still manage their education, making sure that it is well rounded.

    What if you let them learn just what they wanted? In high school I wasn’t interested in Spanish, but I’m thankful for a good foundation now. I didn’t like algebra, but I use it almost every day now. If I had only been schooled in the areas that I was interested in, I wouldn’t be aptly prepared for life as an adult.

    Now that I am an adult (most days, anyway :-)), I can spend the time learning about things that interest me, like baking bread or gardening or learning to sew pretty dresses. I have the cognitive ability to make those decisions. Better than I could at 5, 10 and even 15 years old.

  2. I kind of had the same initial reaction as Amanda did–there are many things you need to learn that you don’t necessarily want to at the time, but are important nevertheless, and you are glad you persevered, later. For instance, how many adults have you heard say, “I wish my parents wouldn’t have let me quit piano lessons!” or something like that. For those of us who slogged through the years when the initial interest wore thin, we are glad that we now have the skill of piano playing, while our (ahem) siblings who quit continue to whine about their lack of skills. 🙂

    Also–seems like the good teacher, public, private, or homeschool, will do what was described in the second paragraph: find all kinds of ways to interest the student and teach them, such as books, movies, hands on activities, trips to the museum/zoo/farm, etc.: whatever will help spark the interest and get them to learn, whatever their learning style or level of interest may be.

  3. My thoughts on structure, discipline and the teaching of perseverance are just echoes now. : )

    I also think that inspiration comes in many forms. Just as someone can be naturally interested in insects (a kid named Livia comes to mind…), she can also be encouraged to learn about the baking process from her mom. Personally, I would never have found math, anatomy and economics interesting if a few great teachers didn’t inspire me to some degree. In fact, I don’t know that I would’ve fallen in love with the English language, or become a teacher at all, if it weren’t for my amazing fifth grade teacher (thank you, Mrs. Griffiths, wherever you are).

    Amanda mentioned “well-rounded” and I was considering earlier how valued that concept is in our society. While unschooling sounds really cool, I have trouble understanding exactly how it plays out in a home. Surely a unschooling mom wouldn’t allow little Johnny to grow up without learning how to compose an essay or being able to recite his times tables. I assume there’s a baseline that needs to be taught from the get-go…?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s