What is unschooling?

February 25, 2021. Tagged , , ,

What is unschooling?

With schools under more pressure than ever and many families nervous about whether school is the safest place to be, it’s no surprise so many of you were eager to learn more about different styles of at-home learning! I find it fascinating to find out more about too! Today I thought I’d share a round-up of what ‘unschooling’ is and what it might look like for your child:

Unschool is life without school, traditional or at school-at-home

As the name suggests, unschooling, in its purest sense, is radical in that it rejects the idea of traditional schooling completely. Theoretically, this means, no workbooks, no zoom lessons, no no spelling tests, no exams, and no sitting in a classroom set-up.

Unschooling is more of a mindset than an approach. It empowers the child to follow their own interests and sees the parent as a facilitator rather than a teacher. Parents find ways to extend a child’s interests and learning opportunities through practical experiences or resources they can discover themselves.

However, many ‘homeschooling’ families will use a mix of educational styles with their kids and may take an unschooling approach yet find their children love doing workbooks or want to go to sit-down class style groups. The main difference between ‘unschooling’ and ‘schooling’ is that you allow your child to be in control of what they learn and when!

Unschoolers don’t follow a curriculum, believing that children learn best when they learn what they are interested in. There’s no forced learning. Instead unschoolers trust that their children will learn when they are ready and interested.

Unschoolers often put an emphasis on family relationships and connection over societal pressures – spending time together enjoying childhood, being curious about the world and discussing & questioning life together is a priority.

Unschoolers learn from life

There are lots of opportunities for kids to learn without school, if it’s right for your family. Unschoolers do this through practical things like cooking, creating, exploring, helping the community, researching their curiosities, taking extracurricular classes (if the child wants to), spending time with friends and learning from extended family, and of course using the internet to watch videos, find tutorials and find answers to question they come across in life.

As they have the freedom to lead their daily thinking, unschooled children have lots of their own ideas and ask their parents to help facilitate them. Whether that’s helping them cook a recipe or print off themed resources for them to play with and explore.

Play is key!

One of the most appealing things about unschooling? The freedom to play. With kids in charge of when / what they learn, it’s natural they spend a lot of time playing, with no other objective but to have fun using their imagination. This means unschooled children will spend many more hours of their childhood playing than those being traditionally schooled.

Research has shown the long-term benefits of play include: developing language and communication skills, encouraging autonomous thinking, boosting confidence and helping improve reasoning & creativity. The freedom of play is also brilliant for a child’s mental health.

How unschoolers succeed

One of the big questions schoolers have of unschooling families is how their child will go on to get a ‘good career’ etc if they haven’t got the qualifications they would achieve through school. Again unschoolers approach this by letting their children take the lead, and facilitating the support they want & need. For example, by the time a child reaches their teen years they may have a clear understanding of what they want to do and be happy to seek out formal training, or instead of sitting an exam they could create a portfolio of first-hand work/experience in their chosen field and show employees or university admissions their suitability this way.

Unschooling is not ‘deschooling’

Finally, it’s worth knowing that ‘unschooling’ is not the same as ‘deschooling’, which is an approach many home educating parents take after deregistering their child from mainstream education. Deschooling is similar in that your child isn’t made to do any formal learning activities. Instead you spend time together, explore, talk about what you’d like home education to look like, let your child explore their own interests and adjust to a new rhythm of life. This process lasts several months or longer, and after families may choose unschooling or any other style of home education going forward – perhaps experimenting with a few to see what works!

What do you think of the concept of unschooling? I’d love to hear your thoughts over on Instagram


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