"When you get down to it, unschooling is really just a fancy term for 'life' or 'growing up uninstatutionalized.'" - Grace Llewellyn
Unschooling is the philosophy that children learn best when they decide when, where, and how they learn. It puts the educational control completely into the hands of the child. It allows them to learn what they want to or how they want to. It is an unconventional take on homeschooling and not a very common one. Unschooling however is not new, in fact, it is one of the oldest homeschooling styles there is.
Before school was a thing children still learned. Schools did not invent learning or even education. Learning does not even stop after school ends either. So why have we, as a society, confined learning to sitting still at a desk and only during a six-hour period? Science doesn't even agree that learning by lecture is beneficial for children. Study after study has told us that children need hands-on interactive experiences to learn and retain information. But that is not really what they want, is it? They want compliant quiet children who sit still and do well on the state test so they can have more funding.
But what if there was a way that children could learn many different subjects just solely based on what they are interested in? That's where you get unschooling. Now unschooling is not educational neglect like some may think, however it is a term that can be misused by people who are neglecting their children's educational needs. Because let's face it children need an education and they need the basics. Without learning math and literacy children will not be able to thrive as an adult.
What if we didn't designate an arbitrary age for certain concepts and labeled children as failures for not succeeding and "mastering" them at a specific age. Unschooling allows children freedom. Freedom from being told what they can and cannot learn. Freedom from the confines of a six-hour sedentary period of learning.
I will never forget that in second grade, I was so proud of myself for writing the alphabet in cursive. We had not even learned it yet. I was so excited to show my teacher thinking about how impressed she was going to be with me. But when I handed her the paper, she looked at it, handed it back, and told me we are not learning this yet you need to wait. I was instantly crushed. My curiosity, my spirit. Why do we do this? Why are children forced into a mold that they are not allowed to exceed past?
So how do children learn? Well, that's easy they just never stop. We do not teach babies how to crawl. We do not sit toddlers down for hours lecturing them on vocabulary. From the minute babies are born they learn, some studies suggest it starts even earlier. You can teach an unschooler math by taking them to the grocery store, having them weigh the produce, calculate the ounces and find a better deal. You can teach them history by travel. We recently went on a hike and met a wonderful woman who showed us native grinding rocks and gave my children a beautiful history lesson on how the native American women and children used them. You can teach literacy and spelling by reading to them and telling stories.
Children want to learn and they want to explore, and as early as seven that gets robbed from them by bookwork and tests. It's very rare for a child will say they like school and it seems like they are starting to hate it younger and younger. So what if we can give children a quality education where learning is happening as soon as they wake up to right as they go to sleep all while making their childhood magical and preserving their curiosity? Well, we can. It's called unschooling.