So, what is unschooling?
Unschooling is actually a term coined by John Holt in the ’70s. Much like other things, it is a rather flexible term but the general idea is that learning happens without a curriculum. Unschooling is often described as child-led, but that can be a little misleading. Child-led in the unschooling community means the child essentially picks what they want to learn about and when, and parents support them in that.
However would a child learn then you wonder…
Well, as it is observed, kids are natural learners. They are curious about the world and want to explore it. Think about how a baby learns to talk; the baby as an infant doesn’t attend class to learn language. She is taught it through the daily interactions of normal day to day life. As the baby becomes a toddler, she will begin to use play to help her better understand the meaning of words, concepts, and themes in her life. It is well known in many circles that children learn best through play, and unschooling is just an extension of that.
One argument that is made is that when we learn what we are interested in, we learn it faster and remember it better. That is because when we learn about what interests us, it is absorbed into our body differently. For instance, when my son was born, I was fascinated about childhood development, I spent hours learning about it. I couldn’t get enough of it. Now had I been forced to learn about child development years earlier, I would have thought it was interesting, been able to regurgitate information for a test, but would most likely forget the information after the test was over. However, when I learned it when I wanted, the way I wanted, I know the information so much better. Even today, I can easily recall the things I learned. Unschooling is just like that.
So why did we choose to unschool?
I heard about unschooling when I was researching topics about homeschooling, and the philosophy really resonated with me. I explained what little I knew to my husband and with my limited understanding he agreed. We saw the beauty of unschooling when my son was about 18 months old. He became interested in letters, so I decided to try out this unschooling method and went with it. I ordered some foam letters online and during play, would pull them out and say the letter. We often did this while he was swinging on the swing or in the bath. In less than a week, he knew every letter of the alphabet! My son had an interest in writing letters not too long ago, and can now write out every letter in the alphabet. We never sat and taught him, but he took the initiative and learned because he was curious and interested. Totally amazing, right?! All this was unprompted, with very little effort on my end. My husband and I were so impressed that from that point on, we were officially sold on unschooling our son.
How to include unschooling even if your child goes to school
Find out what your child is interested in and support them in that. Encourage them to learn more about that topic in a way that interest them. If they are into drawing for example, encourage them to draw. Show them drawing from different time periods in history (and by the way – great job, you just introduced history!), visit museums or get books from the library on their favorite artists. There are lots of ways to get your child interested in learning new things, even if it is not in line with what they are learning in the classroom.