Guest Author - Debbie Striker
For generations, the education of children was left to the parents and adults who raised those children. Children grew up side by side, experiencing life with the adults and older children around them. They learned the skills to survive and thrive within their community by emulating others around them. Today, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the public school system that is causing parents to explore other options in education. Still a very small but growing group of individuals has turned to “Unschooling”. Unschooling is also called by many terms such as life learning, organic learning, whole-life learning and personalized, non-coercive, interest-led learning from life.
The label “unschooling” was coined by the late John Holt in the 1970’s. It is a play on the un-cola commercials that were popular at the time. In its simplest and purest form, it describes a form of learning that is based on the child’s interests and needs. It is a very proactive form of learning that requires the parent to suspend their own ideas of what the child “needs” to learn at a certain time and to allow the child to pursue their passions. Trusting in the child’s innate desire to learn and grow, parents serve more as providers of opportunity than as teachers.
Unschooling involves becoming a partner with your child in their education and helping to expose them to new experiences rather than set specific curriculums to be learned. Parents often present opportunities for children to experience new things so that the child can decide if it is something they are interested in or not. There is no pressure to conform or to learn a specific skill at a certain age. Unschooled children live in a richly diverse environment that offers them the opportunity to guide their own lives.
Unschooling is not for the faint of heart or those who believe that children should automatically do what the adults around them tell them to do. It requires an ability to think deeply about decisions you make and often means a parent must put aside what they’ve been taught and consider another point of view. The word you will hear most often in an unschooling home is “yes”. Parent’s strive to find ways to accommodate the child’s desires and in doing so, the child learns to be creative in seeking their own solutions too.
One of my favorite articles that gives you a picture of all that unschooling covers is actually an article on what not to do. The title is, “How to screw up unschooling”. The article is just one of hundreds of articles that describe the life experiences of an unschooling mom who now has adult children. If unschooling intrigues you, I encourage you to look at Sandra Dodd’s website and see where it leads you:
Another wonderful website written by Joyce Fetteroll is "Joyfully Rejoycing". One her website it states, "This site is about unschooling. And it's about parenting more peacefully. But overall it's about living more joyful family lives." REad more here:
An excellent book that dives into the basic psychology behind unschooling is, "Raising our children, raising ourselves" by Naomi Aldort. She also has adult children who have thrived within an unschooling life.