I’m sharing more insights on the unschooling path, and today’s perspective comes from a more seasoned unschooler. Choosing to help our daughters take greater ownership of their learning experiences was certainly one of the most radical choices I’ve ever made! This is all so very interesting and enlightening to me, and if you and I share that sentiment, this will surely feed you.
One longtime homeschooling mom (Meredith N. in Tennessee) was gracious enough to answer my questions about her experiences in Unschooling. I met Meredith during a brief stint as part of an unschooling group on Facebook, but I left the group shortly after joining because the environment felt hella judgemental, and I’ve since found much more welcoming options (which I’ll share in later posts).
– How long have you been unschooling?
– How old is your child (or how old are your children)?
I’ve been seriously interested in unschooling for about ten years now.
My daughter is 11 and so has been unschooling “from the start” however you’d like to measure that – compulsory attendance age here is 6. My stepson is 19 and moved in with us full time to unschool at age 13.
– Would you say you’ve released all expectations of what your child(ren) “should” be learning? If so, what tips can you offer new unschoolers to release those conventional expectations?
Wow, what a loaded question! (not sure what that means, but keep reading, folks!) I think the short answer is yes but that I don’t think parents new to unschooling should make that their goal – because for the most part the things kids “should” learn are things which are leaned naturally anyway, given a rich environment and supportive family. It helped me, when I was new to unschooling, to reframe the question – not “what do kids need to learn?” but “how do kids learn?” The more time parents spend engaged with kids, observing what they enjoy, what lights them up, what’s interesting and fun, the better they’ll be able to answer that question in ways which are personally meaningful.
– Do you think there is a type of parent who would NOT be best suited for unschooling?
Unschooling takes time, personal resources, and adaptability – so anyone who is severely lacking in one of those areas is going to have a much, much harder time unschooling or indeed home-educating at all.
Parents with a lot of control issues are going to have a hard time unschooling. That’s naturally going to include people who come from dysfunctional families and/or have some kinds of mental health issues. Parents who need a lot of time alone, a lot of quiet and solitude, are going to have a harder time unschooling. Mental health issues related to anxiety and depression are going to make unschooling more difficult also. And any strongly held belief that X Must Be Taught are going to struggle to unschool around X. Those are all good examples of a lack of sufficient adaptability.
Poverty can get in the way of unschooling by setting up a situation where parents don’t have enough time to spend with kids – juggling multiple jobs for instance.
Any of those issues can be overcome with enough other resources – support from family, friends, or local community in particular, but those sorts of resources are also More likely to support homeschooling than unschooling.
– Do you think a parent can unschool without first deschooling?
No, but there’s no need to expect 100% deschooling to start. For one thing, it doesn’t exist 😉 For another, a big part of how parents learn to be confident in unschooling is watching it happen. So it takes a little deschooling to get started (and that’s non-negotiable, if you haven’t deschooled At All then you won’t even consider unschooling – why would you?) but parental deschooling is also fueled by a child’s successful unschooling.
– As a new unschooler, I still get the occasional bite from the “wonder if they learned anything today” bug. What would you advise new unschooling parents to do about that feeling?
I’ve never had that feeling! I do sometimes wonder if I’m doing enough, offering or strewing enough, and then I spend some more time with my daughter and try to get a sense of whether that’s my baggage yammering at me or if its something I’m picking up from her.
If you’re wondering If your kids are learning, then it may be you need to do more reading or thinking about learning itself – what learning is and how it happens. Chances are, you’re stuck thinking of learning in some particular academic sense – not necessarily in terms of subjects, but thinking of learning in terms of acquiring information and skills. Learning is bigger and more complex than that! It’s an integrated process of making connections.
In-ter-es-tiiiiinnggg *rubbing my hands together like a mad scientist*, right?
Thanks, Meredith! If you’re reading this and craving more perspective on conventional schooling, this Seth Godin awesomesauce, Stop Stealing Dreams is a fantastic way to binge on information. It’s his manifesto about the broken nature of traditional schools, and I had to read it twice (’cause it was so nice)…*insert beat-boxing skills here*
Oh, and remember to check out my newbie unschoolers resource ebook, Our Transition Into Unschooling.
Isn’t it awesome that we live in a time when we have access to the global smorgasbord of resources to feed whatever piques our curiosities?! #LifeIsGood