Unschooling: common concerns and what I believe

​Unschooling is Learning Without limits, without structure.

There’s not a formal curriculum while it is similar to homeschooling as it’s not a public or private school it is essentially just learning though real life

  • Sooo What happens if a they aren’t interested in a particular subject?  Do they just avoid it, and never learn it?  Doesn’t that lead to them having gaps in their education? 

All Education Comes with some Gaps

Here’s the truth: all education, regardless of method, has gaps.

No school curriculum is perfect.  Some schools do not teach advanced math (geometry; no calculus, etc.).  Some do not offer foreign language (and some offer it from kindergarten). 

 Some do not teach English classics or certain types of literature.  Some are missing certain history courses.  Beyond the “basic skills” & “common core,” every school & the teachers teaches things a bit differently.

No child gets equal value from every class.  
Many students are going through the motions in certain public school classes, doing the total bare minimum just to get a passing grade. 

All of us have certain topics and subjects that we aren’t very good at or don’t prefer at all.

  Some students take the bare minimum required in high school. Plus, students autopilot through certain classes just for a passing grade, and really don’t “learn” anything from the course.

The point is, going through a specific curriculum, or a formal public/charter or private school, does not guarantee an education without any gaps. 

 It is impossible.  So, we must remember that when evaluating any so-called “alternative” schooling method, and not hold it to a higher standard.
Unschooling usually offers more time to dig into areas of interest,to find a passion (whether that be science,cooking, animation, math anything) explore subjects beyond what is taught in school, and to dig into topics with greater depth — because it’s very individual and not a group thing (so there are no assignments, no one to wait for, no busy work just focus on what they are most interested in and get to learn much about it).  

Since unschoolers go for topics about which they feel passionately or want to learn more, they are likely to actually remember what they learn and get real value from their studies.  They don’t just go through the motions, because they’re not doing it for a grade or some external “reward” but because they are truly interested in learning about it. 

  • Do Unschoolers Skip Entire Subjects?

But of course, most people will understand and accept that no education is ever truly “complete.”  That’s not their concern.  Their concern is that, from a young age, children will simply gravitate towards the subjects they like, and completely ignore (meaning not learn) the subjects that they don’t.  At all.  (And by this people mainly refer to core subjects, like math or writing.)
The thing is…that’s really not possible.
Unschoolers don’t separate life into “subjects.”  That is how most curriculum and formal schooling works, but not how unschooling works.  We don’t learn “math” and “science” and “reading” and “writing” one at a time.

Instead, unschoolers learn in a hands-on, real-life setting.  That means they need all of those skills!  They are unavoidable.
Think about a trip to the grocery store.  

1st we have to make a grocery list.  This involves reading sales ads, princess includes cutting coupons, price match and figuring out what we need.  

Then 2ns writing down the items that we want to buy.  It also involves making sure what we want to buy fits our budget (math). As well as budgeting what type of products to get such as buying bulk saves money(math) 

  3rd at the store we have to figure out if we really have enough money to buy what we’re buying, and figure out tax on non-food items & here in Hawaii the bottle/can tax- although we will recycle and get that back it still has to be calculated into the budget for what we’ll spend at the store.  

4th We’ll have to be able to read signs to get to the store, and get around the store.  To get the best deals, we have to be able to compare product sizes and prices. For bulk to understand weight.  To get quality vegan foods, we have to be able to read labels.

Just grocery shopping, we cover all the basics in many ways
Let’s take video games as another  “What if they just want to play video games all day?”  What if they do?  A lot of video games involve reading — messages pop up on the screen from the game itself or other players.  Writing is needed to be able to type messages back to other players, or to search for specific areas or items in the game Many games come with an “inventory” to manage and this involves math — figuring out how many you have, how many you need to create something, and so on.  Some games even involve knowing secret codes or programming languages in order to make certain functions work.

I’ve done quite a bit of research on Minecraft with a great video game that teaches a lot of skills!                         There’s a lot to be learned there, too!

It’s really just not possible to live a normal life and completely avoid entire subjects or skills.

Plus, because unschoolers have not (usually) been to “regular” school, they don’t have a concept of hating certain subjects.  They have the freedom to explore these subjects in whatever way makes the most sense to them, in ways that are hands-on and authentic.  They don’t say “I don’t like math” because they have not been forced to sit down and listen to a teacher for an hour everyday to learn math,get tested (and maybe do poorly), etc.  There’s no stigma attached. Its all new,all exciting. 

That being said, of course kids will gravitate more towards certain areas than others.  But as I mentioned, many areas are really inter-disciplinary anyway.  Studying history involves reading and writing at a minimum, and may involve with math (if they’re figuring dates, ages, etc.).
Now — will all unschoolers study, say, calculus? Ancient history? Etc  No, they won’t.  But…do all public or private schooled kids study these subjects?  No, they don’t.

  • But We All Have to Do Things We Don’t Want To

What some people mean when they ask about learning gaps is, “How will they learn that we have to do things in life that we don’t want to do?  It’s just part of life and by avoiding that through unschooling, you are not preparing them adequately.”
Well.  First it’s not exactly my goal to put my daughter through less-than-ideal situations just to teach them sometimes, oh hey life isn’t fun!  If a situation were necessary, and not fun, then we would do it.  But I’m not going to sacrifice her educational needs just to teach that lesson!
Second, that lesson comes in many ways.  You made a mess with your toys and don’t want to pick them up?  Too bad, you are responsible for them. If you don’t want to then they’ll go away until you decide to be responsible. 

 The family is taking a trip to the museum and you don’t want to go?  Too bad, 2 against 1  and everyone is going.
There are plenty of situations outside of formal education where kids (and adults!) have to do things they’d prefer not to. 
I think that this argument is honestly just a way for some people to justify the “necessity” of formal education.  But it’s a pretty silly argument.

  • But You’re Not Qualified. You’re a MOM  not a TEACHER. 

Some people aren’t so worried about the early years of education — those years when it’s really just about basic reading, writing, and math.  They’re more worried about the later years, where kids would be studying more advanced subjects.  They’re concerned that kids will not be exposed to advanced levels because their parents aren’t familiar with the information and don’t know how to to “properly” teach it.
First, this completely misunderstands homeschooling and unschooling in general.  Parents don’t lock their kids up at home and rely only on their own experiences and knowledge!  Older children take classes, participate in co-ops, have tutors,study groups etc.

 They aren’t relying ONLY on their parents’ knowledge of everything
Plus, most unschooled kids choose what they want to study when they are older, and often choose curriculum themselves.  “No curriculum” really only means “no parent-directed curriculum.”  Kids can and do choose whatever methods they prefer to learn with, and pre-teens and teens will choose their own curriculum and engage in self-study with it.
As for parents not being “qualified,” I don’t really believe you need a professional for education.

  There’s a time and a place for professionals, but I don’t think that professional educators guarantee a good outcome, or that “untrained” adults guarantee a poor outcome.  Most educational professionals spend a lot of time on classroom management, some time on pedagogy, and quite a bit of time on “how to teach in a classroom setting.”- I’m not kidding it’s seriously a class titled how to teach in a classroom setting.

  This does not make them overall experts in education or learning.  (Spoken as someone who has experience in education & multiple degrees by the way.)
The truth is, one does not need to be “qualified” to help someone else learn.  And many studies show that being so-called taught is not nearly as effective a way to learn as self-study anyway.  I prefer to allow my child to discover what works for her if that means being outside if that means doing workbooks,if that means watching YouTube videos, playing games whatever it’s all learning. Plus while they’re young and ask lots of questions you can learn it together.

That’s what I do when she wants to know about flowers or what certain animals eat and I don’t know we will look it up and then together learn.

Both online research as well as books at the library. 

  • A Total Mind Shift

Honestly, it’s hard to explain unschooling to someone for whom it is entirely foreign.  

It is a completely different mindset.
If someone believes the only “real” way to learn is to sit down in a formal setting and teach using a curriculum, worksheets, projects, and tests in a regular school setting then they will never understand just how rich an education someone can get outside of this system.  That is too bad, honestly.  

And (this might be a little mean) but I tend to think people who believe this is the only way to learn are products of such a system, and are unable to think about education critically.  They’re actually a good argument as to why such a system is not the best way to learn.

That’s not to say that unschooling is the only way to learn, either, nor necessarily the best for everyone.  Some people prefer more structure, even in childhood.  Families naturally gravitate towards what works for them, if given the chance.  The point is that formal education isn’t “required” for learning, and unschooling is absolutely a viable method for receiving an excellent education.

For my family this is the best option for Lily-rain.


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