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Definition of Homeschooling Unschooling

Aug 17, 2007
Many homeschoolers embrace and teach their children the method of Unschooling.

There are as many different ways of defining unschooling. Unschooling is primarily about process not content. The process of learning, the process of knowing yourself, openness, confidence, self-determination, independent thinking, critical thinking, none of which one gets when following other people's agenda. Making one's own agenda is what it is all about. Again this is done not in isolation but in the context of a family and their community.

Unschooling isn't a method of instruction, it's a different way of looking at learning.

Unschooling is following your children's lead. Allowing them to learn from a wide variety of experiences and resources. Start right from where you are and enjoy.

An unschooling moment of realization: learning is learning whether or not it's planned or recorded or officially on the menu. Calories are calories whether or not the eating is planned or recorded or officially on the menu.

Unschooling is like the old Open Classroom research and theories. If kids are given an interesting and rich environment they will learn. All kids learn anyway, all the time.

Unschooling doesn't mean not learning - it means learning without the trappings of school. Its not unlearning or uneducating. Its only unschooling - it points out a contrast in approaches to learning. My unschooled kids are learning as much or more than their schooled friends and that includes home schooled or institution schooled.

I think John Holt's ending in the book "How Children Learn" is a great definition of unschooling. Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.

Do not rely upon a curriculum, for there is no question that curriculums came from the public school model. If you home school because you see the fallacy of public education, then discard the entire model and start from scratch.

I think ideas are easier to wrangle with if we can nail them down, get at the essence of them, put them into a box. Trying to get at the essence of unschooling is like trying to get at the essence of life.

For most, unschooling is life. Our lives are a balance of needs and desires, hopes and fears, love and tears, peace and upheaval. You name it, and it's there. Learning is a part of all of it, not separate from it.

When we require something of my children, it is usually because there is an immediate and very real need for it. Certainly there are things I think would be useful, even essential for them to know in order to function independently as adults. These things are so obviously practical and useful in our everyday lives that I can't fathom them not seeing a need to learn them at some point.

There are many, many more things that I hope they will explore, and these I will certainly open doors to for them. But I believe that by far the most valuable things for them to know are what they themselves find interesting and useful. I trust them to choose and pursue what they will, and I trust that they will become competent, capable and knowledgeable adults in the process.

I respect their needs, feelings and desires. I believe that young children's needs include being shielded from the responsibility of making decisions they do not yet have the knowledge and experience to make - things for which they should not have to bear the consequences - and this is my job as a parent. It is a tricky to job to balance our children's needs with their desires, especially when they can't yet see that they are sometimes different, or when they are diametrically opposed. I don't see it as coercion or conditional freedom, but rather as a real-life lesson in making decisions, guidance, parenting. From the time that they are able to understand the choices, they are part of the process.

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. What responsibility I take for my children limits their own, and thus limits their freedom. They are dependent upon me. As an example, before they can cook, I prepare their food, and they eat from what I prepare. Their choices are limited to what I supply, though I always do my best to meet both their needs and likes. I in turn am limited by the household budget, and bound by my responsibility to look after their health. When I do choose contrary to what they desire, I explain my choice, and I respect their feelings about it, no matter how unpleasant.
About the Author
Joyce Jackson is an educational expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Homeschooling Easy.
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