Saturday, September 17, 2011

Some Thoughts on Unschooling

I was reading someone's post today at, about a Study that had been done by giving standardized tests to homeschooled and public schooled children. Structured homeschoolers came in first, public schoolers second, and unschoolers came in way last. I wrote this as a comment, but then decided to post it here. I've written about this before, in tids and tads, but here is my conclusion today about unschooling:

I've been feeling rather insecure about my approach being "too" structured, especially when I read unschoolers' blogs. See, if I had been given the option at age 8, I hated school and would have totally gone for a full-on arts curriculum. So, I would have thought that I would totally be into unschooling my child, but to my great surprise - it has been quite the opposite.

I grew up to be an artist, but good writing skills did come in very handy when I needed to write grants to get my projects funded.
(Language Arts was the one class in school that I actually paid any attention to.) So, I explained this to my son when we started homeschooling and told him that as soon as he felt a strong pull in any one direction, we would give it priority, just as if there was something he didn't like, we could mostly skip it.

I also explained that if we didn't do science now (for instance), and he then realized that he wanted to become an astronaut or a marine biologist, that it would take a lot of work to catch up. His response was, and remains to be, that there isn't anything that we're doing
(and we're doing all the subjects that he would be doing in school, and more) that he doesn't like, and that he wants to keep doing them all.

I knew I wanted to be a dancer when I was his age, and was never really interested in anything else. My husband, on the other hand, is one of those people who just soaks up everything. Now, I am a specialist in one area, and my husband is a generalist and can do lots of things. This is fine, we need both kinds of people in the world. Problem is, my knees gave out on me this year and Bam! - I can't dance anymore. Some children might know from a very young age what they want to do and might feel a very strong passion in one specific area - like Beethoven. But I don't think it's healthy to limit them to that, as there is not an expiration date for changing one's mind in life, and the absolute worst is being stuck in something you don't - or no longer - love.

My son is truly interested in everything, not because he doesn't have any defined passions (he has many), but because we make all of our classes exciting. I am learning math and science all over again because I didn't learn much the first time around, because it was presented in such a boring way. The advantage is that there is lots of stuff that it is NEW to me, just like it is to him, so he sees me learning, being curious, and searching for answers and explanations. Now I'm like: "Wow, that's so cool! Why did I hate it so much as a child in school? Why was it so hard for
most of my teachers to show me how interesting this is?" I think that is the main goal - to keep it interesting, and it is a full-time job, unless you are an all-around genius, which I am not. Giving my son a dance class or inspiring him to write a good story are not difficult for me, but some of the other subjects are very challenging and demand that I put in extra time to study them alone first.

Maybe if I already knew everything, and knew all the names and definitions for things by heart, maybe then unschooling works. If you were to just hang out all day long with Einstein you would probably learn a lot more than by structured learning with a regular person. But not all homeschooling parents are Einsteins
(I definitely am not). However, I do think I've run into some extremely inspired and dedicated Einstein-like unschooling parents out there whose children probably will pass their SAT's with no trouble, becoming another example of an unschooled full-scholarship to a top university success story and motivation for other families wanting to unschool. But again, I am not one of them.
We are, though, going to try a bit of unschooling this October, as mentioned in a previous post. I do like the idea of it, and if it works in October, I'd like to try doing a month or two of self-guided learning each year, but not year-round. Are you an unschooler? What are your thoughts? Are you an Einstein-like super nerd parent, or just a regular joe academically?

1 comment:

  1. We've unschooled :) I now find that a semi-structured ( structured for the 14yr old ) approach works better for us all and still leaves plenty of time for self-directed learning.

    Looking forward to hearing how your unschool month goes.