Saturday, May 20, 2006

Unschooling Lightly Defined

Now that we have been outed on TV as unschoolers, I have wanted to be able to put into words what unschooling is and on one of my favorite e-mail lists, a friend (Susan M--the radical Christian unschooler) took a stab at defining it for her family. I have taken that and modified to describe our version. So here it is, I hope you find it morethanfine.

Unschooling Lightly Defined:

There is no exact definition of unschooling, because it is so individual.

John Holt, who was one of the first to write about unschooling said: "True learning--learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning-can arise only out of the experience, interests, and concerns of the learner."

Based on that here's one definition:
Basically, unschooling is "not school". It is believing that what a person needs or wants to know can be learned through their everyday activities, pursuing their interests and just living life. So the emphasis isn’t on assigned textbooks, workbooks, on line courses, etc…

It is personal learning, led and focused by the learner. There are times when a person might choose to take an on-line course or use a textbook or workbook, or even take a class somewhere, but it is their choice and in their control, not their parents or someone else's.

For a parent, unschooling requires a measure of trust. Trusting that kids will learn what they need to know when they need or want to know it. In return, parents give them guidance and information so that they can make right and good decisions, always talking a lot about what they are doing or want to do, and doing most things together. Parents are the facilitators, helping them by providing information and counsel, also making it financially and logistically possible for them to have that freedom needed to explore their interests.

So imagine, if you had total freedom from any and all school obligations, what would you want to do? Travel? Learn Spanish? Learn how to bake? Horse back ride? Raise guinea pigs? Work on writing a short story or novel to get published? Get a job? Play video games? Build your own website? It is all unschooling, all learning, all worthy and good.

Mark Twain said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” And I think many unschoolers would concur. A final quote to reflect the heart of unschooling: "Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he's not interested it's like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating." -Anonymous


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