When people ask me what is this unschooling thing we are doing, I find it very difficult to answer. Not because I don't know what I feel about unschooling, but because I am unable to articulate my thoughts into words. When you are an unschooled parent, you subconsciously know what it means to you. You can understand why you behave the way you behave or do the things you do given a situation with your child. But it is extremely difficult to explain to others who only understand school or home school.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this blog are just my personal ones. I am not saying if unschooling is better than schooling or home schooling. It is just my personal opinion at this point in time. No one makes decisions about children in a hurry. So whether you think school is better or not, I am sure you have done your homework in arriving at your conclusion.
Why is it hard to explain?
How should I respond when one asks me if I am worried about the child's future without education? I know my kid will do fine. But from their perspective, without a formal education and degree, there is no way a kid can be gainfully employed. I get that, and I understand their perspective. However, I don't feel education and degree and really necessary. I can't say that I feel my daughter will do fine now can I? That is not even a concrete answer. I can feel whatever I want, but that does not help the kid get a job.
The same applies to socialization. I get asked this question quite a lot. I know my kid is socializing perfectly fine. But how do you explain that to parent who sends kids to school. For them, socializing is what kids experience when the kid goes to school to meet other kids. For us it is more about our kid interacting with other kids with all kinds of ages and socio-economic backgrounds. There are fewer kids to interact I agree, but this kind of social interaction is more fruitful in my opinion. The is quite hard to communicate to them. An opinion does not count now does it? They want concrete examples.
Heard my voice
I happen to come across the following video and then I felt like someone is just repeating exactly what I am thinking in my mind. She puts it so clearly and yet again, many schoolers and probably even home schoolers will not be able to comprehend.
Homeschooling vs Unschooling
The author starts off by defining home schooling and unschooling. Home schooled parents understand their children well. They guide and teach them but in a much more flexible way than you would do in a school. These parents can work their way around syllabus and curriculum based on the child's interest and talents. There is no time wasted in extra things. Home schooling children go through assessments, tests and prepare for their board exams and eventually go to college.
Unschooling is quite different in that the parents come from a place of not knowing what the future holds. These parents come with the understanding that they don't know their children better than the children know themselves. They don't even know how to teach. But they trust that if they allow the children to be themselves, then the children will find an inner guidance which will take them exactly to where they are meant to be. I know I sound philosophical, but this is 100% exactly how I feel and the author was able to articulate so well.
Why is unschooling so hard to understand?
When you see a typical unschooled kid, you will notice that they seem to be wasting a lot of time. That is because these children play a lot. You almost never see them learning, or having a pen or a book in hand. But there is deep learning happening through the imagination and creativity in the play.
Another thing you will notice with unschooled kids is that they look very undisciplined. They eat when they want, sleep when they want, play with dirt and look shabby all the time, they don't clean up their toys after play and the list goes on. They have no goal to learn, earn a degree, no plan to find a job or don't even think of their future. No wonder parents with school going kids find it hard to understand. Schools kills this freedom and kills the inner voice which tells the kids what to do when. And the inner voice leaving is more worrisome than not finding a job.
You will also find parents of unschoolers doing weird stuff in the name of giving freedom to kids. For example there was a time when my kid would just watch tablet for several hours a day for many many days. We did not restrict her. Because we want her inner guidance to show her the way. We trust her that she will get over it at some point. Having kids is more of a learning for the parents than for the kids. We need to learn to keep our emotions in check. And other parents find this odd about unschooled parents.
Unschooling is very hard, not for the children, but for the parents. This is a journey where parents learn a lot more than the children. It is based on the assumption that we don't know anything about children and they will be the guiding source for us on how to raise them. It is scary to embark on this journey, but we have to trust they know their destination and also the path to their chosen destination.
If we give freedom to children, you will notice that whatever they do, they do it with passion, focus and integrity. So you will not have to tell them to try and try till they succeed. They know it inherently. We know only about today's world, but they know about the world that is coming tomorrow. We are worried about how they will find a job in today's world. They want to figure out what they can do in tomorrow's world.
If all of this was a bit boring and philosophical, enjoy a few laughs with this funny stand-up comedy on Indian education system.