Unschooling and Autonomous learning
Unschooling is perhaps one of the most ‘radical’ and talked about method of Home Educating. The views of the press and the general public vary greatly depending on their motivation of reporting/discussing the subject.
Perhaps it is best to start with what Unschooling isn’t …it isn’t just leaving your children to just ‘get on with it’. Many articles have been written with an emphasis on how Unschoolers have no rules for their children, and the conclusion tends to be that this will lead to children running wild and learning nothing.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many children who have had an unschooling education have gone on to have fulfilling and successful lives …but perhaps the difference is that those lives are fulfilling and success to the individual, and not necessarily to society.
The basic foundation of Unschooling is that children are designed to learn. If you watch a small baby from as soon as they are able they explore things …toys go straight to their mouths so they can investigate them, as soon as babies are mobile they are off investigating their surroundings and as soon as they can talk they start asking ‘Why?’
Unschoolers believe that this natural curiosity and desire to learn never goes away, it is just repressed by formal schooling where children are told ‘its not time to talk about Romans, we are doing Maths now’ or ‘that’s a very interesting book but we finished looking at Volcanos last week’. Formal school ‘teaches’ children that the only things they ‘should’ be learning are those that the teacher is telling them, and once they are ‘finished’ then they are gone.
Unschooling takes the opposite approach … there is no knowledge that ‘should’ be learnt at any time, what is right for the child to be learning is what the child needs to learn at that time. If a child wants to play a specific game or reads the next instalment of a book series they will be motivated to master reading, mathematical skills are taught in the ‘real’ world …weights and measures through cooking and making things, foreign language on trips abroad or talking with native speakers. Unschoolers do very little learning because the subject is on a government list of things they need to know …they learn because they actually have a need for the knowledge or are interested in the subject.
In some ways this can be one of the hardest methods of education on the parents as they have to be able to respond to the child’s needs. Certainly the internet has made this much simpler, but still the Unschooling parent has to be prepared to find out just how many teeth a hippopotamus has at 11pm at night.
Although this might sound daunting it is also an amazing journey to go with your children on. Unschooling parents often comment that they don’t know who is doing the teaching and who the learning because they are learning as much from the process as the child they are ‘educating’.
It is precisely this ‘child led’ nature of an Unschooling education that leads to many children leading adult lives that may not traditionally be thought of as ‘success’ …simply because these children, rather than ‘choosing’ a career based on what qualifications they got or what a careers advisor suggested to them, decide to follow their hearts and passions and do what they love. Unschooling children simply often measure ‘success’ by different markers.
There are many online resources that parents wishing to educate their children following unschooling principle can use …a small selection of those is below