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Unschooling: A Growing Interest

The terms unschooling, free schooling, deschooling, life learning and experiential learning are becoming more and more a part of our culture. What seems to be behind this trend is a strong desire by parents and some educators to allow children to realize their highest potential. This desire fuels them to create learning environments that seem very different from traditional classrooms.

However, the benefits seem to be tremendous in allowing the children to be able to better organize information that will benefit their lives. This form of learning also tends to create in the child a sense that they are never through learning. Isn't that a trait you would love to see in your child? Another aspect is that these children tend to have the idea that they can always learn something new. They do not grow up and get stuck feeling like they can't learn new things.

I think the idea of knowing my kids would be less likely to get stuck in a rut is nice. I'd like them to be able to learn and explore new ideas, thoughts, things and ways of doing things. It just seems this would provide them with a much richer experience in life.

More and more research is supporting the idea that rote learning of facts is a limited form of learning. I sure was bored just learning dates someone else thought were important. Kids who are allowed to get involved, get their emotions engaged and ask questions are on a path to a higher form of learning.

The unschooling movement, while defined specifically by each family, generally allows the child to direct their own learning process. This allows them to engage emotions and desires thus creating a more whole-brain learning experience. These kids tend to love learning. Do you like learning when it's boring or fun? You and I both know that learning in a fun way is a whole lot better.

Is free schooling or unschooling right for everyone? That is debatable. Some people feel that allowing the child to lead the learning can leave gaps of information that are important in life. Others feel that children can and will fill in the gaps as necessary during their lifetime. As an example, if a child is not interested in learning how to handle accounting details and later starts a business they may discover a need to know accounting and thus be interested in learning this new information.

Another issue you should consider when wondering if a form of unschooling would be best for your child is personality. People including children learn in different ways. While that should be obvious it is the underlying cause of many of the problems in the education systems around the world. While engaging the child's emotions and interests is a great way to help them learn some kids may need more structure and guidance then others. The idea is that you can have flexibility in creating a learning environment that is best for you and your child.

Another concern of home schooling in general is the socialization of children. But an unschooling environment also leaves room to let the kids join other home or free school groups for play sessions and or community events where they can interact with other people. Again each child is different and what they need to learn to be sociable can be tailored to their needs.

What can you take away from these ideas of unschooling that can help your child?

Share your thoughts....

For a more in-depth look at this subject read  Kate Hammer's Article at

Photo Courtesy of Flickr: woodleywonderworks

2 Responses to Unschooling: A Growing Interest

  • Andrea Kennedy
    November 5, 2010

    I’m still new at “unschooling” but continue to be amazed daily at what my children are learning. Just yesterday I was reading to them from Aplogia’s Zoology textbook and it mentioned that grasshoppers have an instinct to vomit on predators. Both my kids ages 5 and 8, said at the same time, “Yeah Mom, we already knew that. We’ve been spit on by grasshoppers lots of times!”

    My daughter reads so expressively at age eight I see her producing audiobooks in her near future. Her reading is such a delight to listen to. Her best friend is a much more timid reader so my daughter decided to ask her to be her penpal. Although my daughter enjoys writing in cursive, for her friend she prints her letters. Recently she asked me, “Mommy, do you know why I asked Lindsy to be my pen pal?”
    “Tell me, ” I said.
    “Well, she wants to learn to read better and I thought it would be more fun learning to read if she got her very own letters in the mail.” And from that beginning, my daughter has about 9 pen pals, some younger than her, some older and some grown-ups. In fact with her new found love for writing, she’s reconnecting us with distant relatives and old friends I’ve not talked to for years! My husband insists she buys her own stamps so she’s learning about money too.

    Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not doing more structured school with my kids. The grandparents are worried, but then when it comes to grade level tasks, my kids excel. I’m scratching my head asking myself, “Is learning suppose to be this easy and natural?”

    I think of the years I spent in public school crying because I didn’t understand the workbooks or feeling very aggravated because I didn’t think I’d ever need all this math. Not to mention being humilated in front of my 3rd grade class by a teacher who announced to the class in a bothered tone, “Can anyone help Andrea understand this?”

    Now I’m convinced that real life is a much better springboard for learning. My kids have observed so many things in nature that I had never noticed before. I could go on and on, but I am thrilled that there’s a name for our homeschooling method and that I’m not the only mom that equips my kids with the tools to learn and then stands back in amazement at what they can accomplish.

  • Trevor
    November 6, 2010

    @Andrea Kennedy – Thanks for sharing some of your story regarding unschooling. It is strange to imagine that learning should be so natural. Most people have been schooled to think that learning must be forced and that I my opinion is unfortunate.

    We can’t push learning into kids, they have to pull it in of their own accord.


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