Monday, September 8, 2014

An Argument FOR Unschooling

I get the impression that many people see Unschooling as just letting your kids do whatever they want all day. I understand where this impression comes from because there are definitely people who do that. The actuality of Unschooling is that children learn through their natural lives and life experiences. Now to me this means, as adults we are the facilitators of their life experiences and we are responsible for offering our children as many rich experiences as we can give them.

Unschooling also promotes that kids are natural born learners, curious beings, who will seek out learning in their interest areas. I can tell you from personal experience with my own children that this is true. Left to their own accord, children WILL seek out information and learning experiences. Now does that mean they are going to learn about a tadpole growing into a frog at the same time as all other second graders? Probably not. Will they learn about the American revolution at the same time as all other Fourth graders? Doubt it. BUT when they seek it out themselves, the learning is so much more meaningful than being forced to memorize facts from a book.

In order to Unschool, you first have to Deschool - not just your children but yourself. We are programmed to believe that the schools' timelines for learning are the ones we have to follow. The beauty of Unschooling is that there is no schedule. This will include A LOT of downtime at first, screen time and doing very little traditional school work. This does not mean learning is not occurring though. In time, kids burn out on doing nothing, poke their heads out of the sand and say 'Hey that looks cool!' If you try to force it, you will end up engaging in a battle similar to homework battles that parents of school kids have. The idea is to entice them into it.

Recently my oldest daughter was 'stuck' reading books way below her ability. She is at the age that if I recommend something, it automatically gets a big, fat NO! (and an eye roll, and a huff....) So I decided to start a book club with some of her friends. Instead of the traditional book club, where everyone reads the same book, in our book club everyone reads what they want and discusses it. I knew that if some of her friends talked about a book, she would be interested in it. And guess what?! YUP it worked! She started picking up books that I wanted her to read 6 months ago, all because her friends liked it. This is just one example of how to facilitate child-led learning.

As facilitators, we are responsible for offering a wide variety of experiences to our children. Without these experiences, how will they become exposed to all of the wonderful things in the world? Want your children to learn about the American Revolution? Go to Boston on a trip. Want your children to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly? Go to a Butterfly house at a local zoo. Want your children to learn about the solar system? Check out books from the library and leave them laying around your house. Go to local library programs, local park programs, local historical sites. Watch movies on topics of interest, find interactive websites, let your children buy something and figure out what the change should be. Let your children cook dinner, talk to a relative or friend that immigrated to this country, let them help you with a project around the house.

THINK about all of the language, math, science, history, geography, reading, writing, measuring, and LEARNING that is going on with ALL of these activities. Realize how much more meaningful and memorable this type of learning is. Do YOU remember all of what you learned in school? Probably not much. Do you remember any of these types of experiences you had as a child? I'm positive that you do. Now understand THAT is Learning!

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