Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We Are Unschooling Our Kids

This is such an exciting topic to me. I can't wait to make this a regular series around here. First off, I never, ever, ever thought I would home educate my children. It wasn't until actually having children and beginning to face the prospect of how they might be educated that it became so blindingly clear how little was to be desired from a conventional education.

We've both always been concerned about the political state of the world and our country (USA), lack of quality education, increased need for people who specialize in specific trades and industries, bureaucracy of the education system, lack of focus on the arts and practical life skills like cooking and home maintenance, having our kids be separated from us and their siblings, and our own sub-par educations and lack of love for learning until recent years. Though despite all of this, I just couldn't see a way around conventional public education.

I somehow came across a couple blogs and Instagrams of families that practiced something called natural learning and quickly became so sure that this was the best fit for our family. I approached my husband hesitantly, unsure of how he would react, but to my surprise he agreed wholeheartedly without an ounce of trepidation and that was that. Over the past couple years he would occasionally mention homeschooling, but until I saw it practically applied in a way that made sense to me I just brushed it off as an unrealistic and foreign idea.

Truth be told, I didn't know much about homeschooling before my big revelation. I figured it just looked like bringing the classroom home—school work, lessons, math, health, dedicated school hours—which really didn't appeal to me. And often that is what homeschooling looks like. We, however, have decided to follow an almost entirely different path called Radical Unschooling. I love using the "radical" part—makes it sound so badass. But, really, it kind of is!

Unschooling is child-led learning. It's about learning through natural life experiences like play, reading, lots of time in nature, cooking, art, and pretty much every other component of a typical day-to-day life. It's not about me offering my children workbooks and teaching them through subject lessons, it's about exploring things that interest them. Natural child-led learning is primarily about letting the child decide what they are interested in and giving them full freedom to explore it as shallow or deep as they would like. My role as their parent is to support their interests by providing them with proper resources to pursue whatever is on their radar, as well as jumping in and learning right alongside them.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” —Maria Montessori

I think it's also important to note that I don't view myself as a teacher. I am their parent and facilitator. I'm not concerned about not knowing everything because I don't need to. My role is to help them find the information they need to continue pursuing whatever it is that they're into for that moment/day/week/month/year(s). My ultimate goal as leader of our pack (with regard to home education) is to cultivate individuals who are life long learners and who love to learn. One of my favorite quotes is by a pioneer of unschooling, John Holt:

"Since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever must be learned."

Like he says, who knows what the world will be like in two decades when my children will enter the working world. I'm not concerned about calculus unless one of my kids is. And if she/he ever is, we'll figure it out together.

Even though I have little kids right now (29 months and 8 months), learning in our home takes place from sun up to sun down. There aren't school hours, and likely won't ever be. Unschooling starts at birth and ends when you leave this earth. For many of us unschooling parents, it's also a slow process of shedding the idea of what children "should" learn, how they should learn, or what our own educations looked like growing up. It's a lot of letting go and trusting that our kids will naturally learn what they need to learn if we encourage them to be curious and adventurous individuals.

For our family, this looks like moving out of the city to live the farm life. God directly led us to this move that we'll be making next year, and we couldn't be more grateful for the chance to raise our kids with chickens, mud, and lots of land to explore. Though this lifestyle isn't necessary to unschool, we feel it's the best environment our kids could possibly be raised and educated in.

We've got a long and exciting haul ahead of us, so I've yet to know all the details, but I'm excited to share and take you along on our adventures. If you're interested in reading more in the meantime, I recommend these fantastic blogs and links:

http://www.bewildandfree.org/about/ (@wildandfree.co on Instagram)


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