Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dirty Word Of The Day: Unschooling

Unschooling. Just the word evokes feelings of rebellion. It's not public school, it's not private school, and it's not even homeschooling(in the traditional sense). Unschooling is probably one of the most misunderstood terms in the education community. This morning my facebook page was all a buzz with statuses, some condemning some praising, after ABC did a story on Extreme Parenting:'Radical Unschooling'. I admit, I got about half-way through the story before I turned it off. This family is very obviously on the extreme side, hence the reason they were chosen, and the story is decidedly one sided. So with this little disclaimer, I do not unschool so my opinions are based on research rather than experience, I would like to share my little blurb on unschooling.

Joel Hawthorne said "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 ones family and community."

Other parents simply say it is learning without the trappings of a schoolroom. There is no doubt that parents who unschool are concerned about their child's education. There is not even any doubt that the children learn. But what about the child who doesn't chose to do math? Or the child who hates English. I can tell you that had I been unschooled I would have, without at doubt, done nothing but science all day long. I enjoy science and I hate math and before I got married planned on going into the medical field (genetics), but now, after a change of heart about where God would like me to be, that math comes in handy! I need to know how to budget, balance accounts, measure for cooking, and so on. As a child I did not have the reasoning skills to think about what I might do in the future, only what I wanted to do right then.

But not all unschooling falls under this extreme approach (the one mentioned above). There are many unschoolers who put in the "required" work and then allow the children to explore those requirements in a more natural way. For instance instead of doing workbooks about measurement they might cook, or maybe for English they would exchange letters with a penpal.

The fact of the matter is that there are extremes in everything. I do not agree with the complete lack of structure in the video posted. It seems to go completely against I Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." God has set up a structure for everything he has created so it makes sense that the home requires structure as well. However, I believe that he intends for us to find balance between the needs and the desires. I think He wants us to enjoy the gift of our education and the best way to encourage a child to learn is to make it fun!

I think all of us have a bit of unschooling in our system and I don't think that is a bad thing.

For more information about unschooling you can visit This Unschooling Site.


Keri said...

With what you said...I am confused with how that is different from homeschooling. Isn't a plus to homeschooling the fact that you can stray from the books here and there and do some cooking or go to a farm,etc. I guess the biggest difference would be that they get to choose what they want to study if they are unschooled?

Anna said...

My point is that unschooling has such a wide spectrum that chosing to judge it by one extreme is paiting with too broad of a brush. I don't consider myself an unschooler, but by alot of definitions I have found I am. At this point most of my childrens learning is done completely naturally. We definitely dont sit down for 6 hours a day and do school. Though we are drifting towards more structure as they get older.

From what I understand unschoolers for the most part use NO books. Does this mean they arent learning? No, I dont think so. I think it's easy to judge something we don't understand and it's even easier to judge that "one weird unschooling family".

For what its worth I dont even know if i agree with unschooling. I just dont have enough information or experience with it to judge it. I just know that I have had so many people judge us by that "one weird homeschooler" they know and so I try not to do that to others :)

My thoughts are scattered tonight so I hope that at least some of that made sense. I shouldn't write at 10:30 LOL

Cricket said...

I saw that video not 10 minutes before I read this post. I was shocked at how much it disturbed me. I think of myself as being very liberal and kid centric, but I still believe that children need that circle of boundaries - wide as mine might be - to feel safe and grow up healthy. But I also think that spot was created with the intention of upsetting the viewer, which is unfortunate. I think all kids could use a little more unchooling - more creative exploration of their own pursuits with gentle guidance from adults. But my kids definitely aren't going to have the sort of experience her kids are having.

Regina said...

Children do need boundaries - clear ones. But they don't need to be caged by them. Flexibility in education is so much more productive and enjoyable than "Sit at your desk quietly, and do page 23". And going on an impromptu field trip can sure bring some enthusiasm to bored youngsters.

I didn't homeschool my kids (I knew I was not able to do it properly), but watching my grandchildren has been wonderful, and very educational for me.

I admit I was very close-minded when Anna first began talking about it, but she does a fantastic job of homeschooling and her kids have learned so much and enjoyed learning, to boot! If what she does is "unschooling", I think it's great.

Jennifer McNichols said...

Even if you'd done only science all day, you'd have still learned math (measuring for chemistry projects, estimation, etc). I suspect you'd have eventually wanted to venture into say, cooking where you would have had more exposure to math (and to reading) by halving or doubling recipes, more measuring, budgeting for cooking projects, estimating, weighing and so on. And of course, you'd need to know how to read to understand how to conduct experiments or follow recipes.

Also, I'm not sure where you got the idea that unschoolers use NO books. Most unschoolers I know have large personal libraries filled with books appropriate for both the parents and the children. Unschoolers just don't typically use TEXTbooks.

Anna said...

Sorry, I didnt actually mean NO BOOKS literally. I meant textbooks and just kind of assumed it was implied in the context of our discussion. You would have to live in quite a bubble to have absolutely no books in your house.

I should also mention that unschooling, as I understand it, is typically completely child led.

I am actually having a guest blogger in the next few weeks who unschools and is going to enlighten us all on what her "unschooling" household is like.