I already talked about why we unschool our kid. And you also know that we did not start out that way. Like most parents, we started out with the idea of homeschooling and then eventually we are turning more and more into unschooling parents. The reasons are quite complex and we ourselves probably don’t know the true story because it happened ever so slowly and we still are in the process of unschooling. Still learning that many things we are doing are not really unschooling, but a mix of home and unschooling. Seems like this unschooling things is more of a journey than an end goal.
When we first pulled out our kid from traditional school, we started out sort of like the Waldorf method of homeschooling. Trying to restrict TV and tablet time for our kid while engaging her in activities that feel like play but we are actually trying to teach her something. We did not like the teaching masquerading as play approach that much. We sort of had a very loose time table. Some time for learning math skills (teaching numbers and basic addition), some time for English alphabet a bed time story, some play time outside etc. This form of schooling is not quite as restrictive as regular school, but not as free spirited as the other options we tried later.
We next moved on to eclectic schooling. This was a more relaxed form of homeschooling. While we still tried to teach some important subjects like math, science and english, it was not as time based as before. More over, other subjects are left as “interest based”. If the kid shows interest in it, we find a way to help her learn, but we don’t actively look to engage her in the subject. One day it could be all math or even no math. Other days little bit of this and that and so on. Again, we did not purposefully move on to specific schooling methods. It was more of a smooth transition. Only now, after looking back at the way we handled homeschooling, are we seeing similarities with certain styles of homeschooling and are thus assigning names to them.
The more time we spent with our kid, the more we felt like all of this is unnecessary. The more we read about kids and how they learn, the more we felt like unschooling is probably the right way to go. This is just our feeling. Whether traditional school, alternative schools, homeschool or unschool is better than the other is up for debate and completely up to the parents and kids. In our case unschooling seemed to fit better for our kid. I don’t know for sure if that is the right decision. But like many things in life, there is no one correct answer. You take a decision based on the information you have gathered up until that point. Then, as facts change, the decisions will have to be revised for the better.
So what really is unschooling? In a broad sense, it is a child-led learning or organic learning without any curriculum. Unschooling is more about following the natural curiosity of the child. Learning happens with everyday experiences. Math can be learned while playing board games or counting the money in their kitty bank. They can learn to read by themselves when we read to them and they try to follow along, etc. Some examples below.
We used to read story books to our daughter from a young age, because she used to enjoy them. For the longest time she would just look at the pictures and be in her own merry world, while we read words. As she grew older at some point, she started asking us to point our finger at what we were reading. So we moved the finger under each line as we read. This process helped her follow the words along as we made the sounds and she somehow started picking up reading words. Eventually she picked up a book and started reading slowly to herself. We have read the book many, many times. So I thought may be she just got the words, lines and story by heart and just repeating without actually reading the words. But I was very wrong indeed! After a few weeks, I noticed her reading other things like text on billboards. Most of the times she would not get the words right, but slowly she taught herself to read.
Likewise, she started counting numbers up to 10 first. Then to 100. And each time she got stuck, she asked for help and we helped her with the next number and there ends the interaction. Earlier we would encourage her to keep going on, but now, it is up to her. She can count to 10 and stop or keep going. No encouragement and no help offered. She learned simple addition when trying to count her money or when playing a board game. I can keep going with more examples, but you get the point.
The point I am trying to make is that the kids will learn things at their own pace the way they naturally learned a lot of things which we never really taught. Speaking, or walking come to mind. If they can learn those by themselves, shouldn’t we trust them to learn the rest also by themselves? It may be a slower process, but they will enjoy the journey. Curiosity led learning is more fun and exciting than time driven hurried learning. Or so we think. But all is not good with unschooling and I will discuss some disadvantages and difficulties that I found in this journey. More on that in the next post.