Unschooling means different things to different people. Usually the first picture conjured when unschooling is mentioned is this
or maybe even this
If you google the term unschooling, you’ll pretty much find all three of these scenarios described to some degree. Usually by people who have never unschooled themselves, and who may not even know people who do unschool.
The truth is unschooling is incredibly simple. It is something that every adult, whether they realize it or not, does every single day.
College is unschooling.
Employment is unschooling.
Church attendance is unschooling.
Marriage is unschooling.
Parenthood is unschooling.
What do all the above have in common? You do them. Without anyone forcing you to. The most common response I get when I tell people I’m unschooling is, “Well, your child must be very self-motivated, you big, big freaky freak.” (The first part is said with their mouth, the rest with the look on their face.) Yes, she is self-motivated. But so is yours. And so are you, and so is every person on this planet. If we were not all profoundly self-motivated, civilization would fall apart in a day.
Most people tend to have a more pessimistic view of children than they do of themselves. Don’t worry, it’s true for me too. Mr. Wilson is alive and well in me, friends.
They ask me, “How will your child learn to divide fractions? And the process of reverse osmosis? And the pythagorean theorem (let’s give a hand to spell check)?” You don’t, however, ask yourself, “How am I going to take care of 4 small children?” or “Deal with my boss?” or “Finish this semester of college?” Well, maybe you do ask yourself that, but, my point is, you do it. It’s hard and sometimes it stinks, but you do it because it’s important. Because it’s worthy of your blood, sweat and tears. Because you’re capable.
The biggest challenge of unschooling, I believe, is not that your children won’t learn anything, it’s that they may not learn the things you imagined them learning. My oldest, 7 years old, spends hardly anytime at all reading and writing. This. Can. Bother. Me.
What she does do is Sign Language. This is her thing right now. And she’s gotten pretty good. And so have I, just by hanging around her. But aren’t I nervous? Shouldn’t she be learning perfect handwriting and what fractions are and how to tell time on an analog clock? No, I’m not nervous. I have no fear that one day she will be a 30 year old woman who cannot tell time. I do fear though, if not allowed the time to play and obsess, she will lose her love of Sign Language.
I think a big mistake people make when they hear of unschooling is they think of it as a method:
- Don’t teach your kids.
- Don’t teach your kids.
- Don’t teach your kids.
Really, it’s more of a philosophy. It’s the understanding that children are smart, eager beings. That they will play and romp and stomp and giggle while they’re small. That they will desire independence as they get older. That they will learn what they need to in order to achieve their desired life. (Your 4 year old may want to keep his Pampers on. Your 14 year old won’t, I promise.) It’s the understanding that our children are every bit as capable as we are, though they may need a bit more guidance and shelter for now.
Before I wrap up this post, I want to ask you one thing: How would you have done if you had been unschooled?
Not your kids, not the bratty kids down the street who’s mom has no control over them, not your brother or your sister. You. What would you have done with your day if you had not been in school? If you had had a loving parent at your side, to look things up for you and buy you books and take you places? What could you have accomplished if you were allowed twelve years of freedom?
I had many passions when I was in school. The other day, I made a short list of them:
- Foreign Language
I also enjoyed math very much until I was forced into the high school version of Purgatory called Geometry. Two years of failing this class pretty much suffocated any love of math I had for about a decade. I wonder, what could I have done, what could I have learned, if I had been allowed to obsess over my passions, rather than sneak in a read here and there behind my binder at school? I have no fantasies that I would be the proud owner of a Pulitzer, but I am sure I would be better at and more educated about them than I am today. Most of all, I am certain I would have been much happier.
So, there it is. My understanding of this whole cock a doodle mango tango thus far. I am a novice. I am Luke hanging out with Yoda on that swampy planet, trying to get the rocket thing out of the water. I’m definitely not an expert. That’s why this post is titled “What Unschooling Means To Me,” rather than “What Unschooling Is.” But I think, I believe this can work. It would have worked for me, and I think it’ll work for my kids. Because, its just Life. Simple.