If you do a search on the term unschooling, you will likely find many and varied definitions. Just the other day I was watching something on a local television station in the evening and they kept playing a promo about a news segment they were going to do on unschooling. The piece turned out to be about a local government school that is choosing to use a more child-led approach to their curriculum – which is a use of the term I had certainly never heard before.
Our family sees unschooling as the way we live our life. For years, my mom told those new to homeschooling that it really ought to be viewed as a lifestyle, rather than just a different way to do school. A friend of mine said something very remarkable the other day that I completely agree with. She said, “We are a home, not a school and the world is our classroom.”
Another thing my mom loved to tell people is that her daughter was autodidactic (meaning that I am self-taught.) So are my children in so many ways. I have mentioned it before, but one of my favorite unschooling quotes is from John Holt – “Birds fly, fish swim; man thinks and learns.” To put our families own unique twist on the subject, though, my mom mentioned the other day the idea that some fish DO fly (Flying Fish) and some birds DO swim (Swimming Birds) What is so exciting about that concept is knowing that no matter how the world tries to classify my kids, I know that they are one hundred percent unique individuals. And that makes me so excited to see how God is going to tailor their extraordinary learning experiences to their individual needs!
When my husband and I met, he had very limited knowledge of homeschooling and when I explained my unschooling philosophy to him, he took something of a ‘wait and see’ approach to it. But, the more he has seen how our children learn and how our allowing them to pursue their passions has fostered a love of learning and an excitement to learn still more things, he has come fully on board with the idea.
For instance, our daughter is very much into science and logic. She likes all things animal and bug related and she loves puzzles and puzzle type games. Reading on the other hand, comes not so naturally to her. Following our philosophy, we have had reading and phonics materials on hand (such as the Leap Frog phonics DVDs and puzzles with phonics concepts) and we have allowed her to look at them and play with them and explore as much as possible, but she never really got much into the concept of reading. However, recently she came to me frustrated because she wanted to play a mystery game that requires a lot of reading. After doing some research on reading programs, I found a focused phonics program for her to use (one which utilizes the computer, because she has known how to operate a computer since she was about 2 1/2) and she has really jumped in with both feet and caught on rather quickly. She and I do the program together each morning (she always asks first thing in the morning if we can ‘do reading’) and she is loving her new found freedom in being able to understand and read things she never could before. The idea is that we allow her to explore the world and she realizes she needs to read to explore more and so she makes the decision to learn when the time is right and then the learning process is much more easy and fun for everyone involved!
That’s how we do it. The great and incredible thing about homeschooling is that every family does it in their own way. I would love it if you would share here your own philosophy and how homeschool works in your home!