The opposite of school- unschool- is the latest trend among parents who are fed up with the traditional education process. These parents, often much younger, higher on the socioeconomic scale, and generally Caucasian, are removing their children from (or never placing them in) a classic school institution. Many people want to consider it homeschooling, but these individuals disagree with the title. Their unique approach to the problem of educating their children involves a number of aspects, most of which are based on parent-child interaction.
Many parents in the unschooling movement tout the benefits of engaging with their children in only the ways a child wants. This means that if a child likes trains, parents find materials to explore every aspect of a train a child wants to learn about. If a child wants to go outside and play, parents teach them about plants or the sky, and so on. By directly connecting to a child’s environment and interests, these parents believe they are providing a more thorough and useful education than what children in a public school setting can earn.
Learning for Life
As children grow in an unschooling setting, they will generate the skills needed to be independent and productive members of society. In public school and higher education, unschooling parents believe, children do not learn applicable skills that could help them later in life. In unschooling, parents take their children through the steps needed to problem-solve, generate creative ideas, and think for themselves. Many young children and preteens in this setting learn entrepreneurial skills, learn how to run a household, and learn the value of strong interpersonal relationships. All of these things hopefully lead the child to grow into a successful adult.
Education as a Natural Evolution
No child or parent wants unschooling so they don’t have to learn or teach the basics, like addition, division, and even algebra or trigonometry. Literature and history, geography and science; these are all still taught in the unschooling movement. The difference, however, is when and how they are taught. For some children, they may have a natural curiosity for science, and want to learn about a number of different subjects therein. Another child may love books, and will advance quickly to classic literature. Each child develops their own skills based on their natural evolution in learning; they still learn the basics and may even acquire the basics more easily than their schooled peers because they’re actually using the information, and they want the information. Wanting and using information are the keys to natural evolution in education.
Many people who are considering a non-traditional approach to learning are often concerned with the social ramifications. “Won’t my kid be ‘weird’ if he/she isn’t in school?” The answer is a solid No for unschooling parents. Because of the design (or lack thereof) in unschooling, a child can develop friendships with whomever he or she wants, without worrying about social climates in school or who has the cutest new bag/coolest new toy. It also strengthens parent/child relationships, where a child has access to his parents, feels that their needs and interests are entirely respected, and they build the confidence to explore the world while having their parents there to guide them. Relationships are stronger when a child is not being forced to do something he or she doesn’t want to do, and parents have more confidence in their abilities if they know they are making their child(ren) happy while teaching them.
Unschooling is very non-traditional, and is arguably not for everyone. There is much misunderstanding and criticism of this movement, but it is gaining steam. Anyone who is frustrated with the ever-failing public school system has a number of options for schooling their children (private or homeschool, etc.), but parents who truly desire a way to interact with their children will find themselves drawn to the unschooling method. Teaching your children is organic and natural, and you provide them every tool they need to become successful adults.