Unschooling

Here’s a post I wrote in the notes section of my phone while sitting in the car before work the other day. It’s more a diary entry than anything else. Clearly, I added to it while typing it up. And I’m sorry about my grammar. 

Penelope Trunk  has changed my mind. I mean that in the sense that my mind is changed by what she’s said. Some of the following are her points, twisted in my own inadequate words. Her views aren’t for everyone- they’re pretty controversial.

I want to homeschool my children because I want them to learn what they’re interested in, at their own pace (which incidentally will be significantly faster if they’re interested in the topic) and not be stuck in a classroom. I think our school system (in the US and the UK) is flawed; it’s a babysitting service, so parents can go and work. They force high achievement in standardised tests because they need continued funding, even though these tests are just a regurgitation of facts. But mostly, they act that way because they all act that way and have always done so. Almost all the things I’m interested in were not taught, were not even mentioned and sometimes actively discouraged at school, which perhaps means that was most of it irrelevant to me. Many things that came naturally to me were discouraged; curiousity, discussion, even multiple topics of interest. In addition, economically it makes sense to homeschool. Why work harder or longer to pay the rent/bills to live in a ‘good’ school catchment area or send them to private school, when you can give you children a better and happier education at home, work less hard and live somewhere possible nicer for less money.  I don’t want to just trust that the school will do an ok job- because I don’t think they have the same goals that I do. Do they want my children to be happy, healthy, curious, confident and empathetic? Or would they prefer my kids scored high on exams and the rest doesn’t matter so much?  People really worry about the social side of not being at school- but they’ll pick up better skills by interacting with different adults, and children of different ages out in the world, than they will in an artificial segregation by age with many habits passed down from year to year that are not exactly healthy. I don’t want to protect them from anything- just when they come across something that’s new or strange, I’d like there to be an adult nearby who they can ask rather than a bunch of kids who can’t really help because they’re in the same position. That adult won’t always be me, but one thing I’ll be making sure they know is how to find mentors.

I want my kids to know that learning is living, not sitting in a classroom being told what to do.

I did fine at school, that’s not why I’m doing this, I got high grades as I was supposed to and I had friends but really- it didn’t prepare me for my life. For being an adult. You’re a kid for 18 years- but an adult for 60. Why aren’t children taught and encouraged so that they’ll be able to live as adults? To discover where their interests lie, or to find their element as Sir Ken Robinson puts it?  I think that’s the most important thing you can do in your life- find out what interests you and then act on it- whether that’s riding horses, raising children, or maths. And making strong relationships along the way.

There will be battles and struggles but they will be of my own making- not from forcing them to do homework when I’ve never seen the point of it either. Or else, they’ll be struggles we will have had anyway regardless of whether or not they went to school. It may not be easy for us as parents but it will be immeasurably better for our children. And I just want them to be happy, for the long term. (And if they want to go to school after a while, that’s fine too!)

I realise that not everyone will agree, and that’s great. Let me know in the comments below. I just wanted to share something I’m really excited about doing! 

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6 comments

  1. I really think homeschooling is great for so many of the reasons mentioned above, including individualized learning strategies and being able to engage your child according to their interests. I’ll admit though that I don’t fully understand ‘unschooling’ (but I do want to understand it better!) . . . I get the impression from this, and other articles, that it’s always ‘fun’ and always child-driven and that you never ‘make’ your child do/learn something they’re not interested in – IF that’s the case, there are some rather obvious problems (like what if your child isn’t interested in learning the math times tables – don’t you ‘make’ them anyway, even though it’s boring and repetitive? This article mentions not making a child do homework . . . ever??? Is that really how to best prepare a child for adult life? Because I don’t know about you, but in my adult life I’ve had to do plenty of ‘homework’ – like filing taxes for example – that was neither fun nor interesting to me but it’s just life and you have to do it, like it or not. Adults face many situations both at home and in the work place where you don’t get to just do what interests you all the time.) BUT IF I have misunderstood the concept of “unschooling” then I would love clarification – particularly as it pertains to making sure your children learn the basics (it’s my understanding that a lot of states make homeschoolers take standardized tests). I’m honestly interested in knowing how it works ‘practically’ speaking, if that makes sense.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I’ll be definitely teaching how to live independently- and that might mean that if they get to aged 17 or 18 and they haven’t asked me about taxes, insurance, filing, cooking, cleaning etc then I’ll furnish them with the basics. No one taught me to do taxes at school though, or even mentioned them really! I’m sure though that those things will come up, and probably a lot quicker as they’ll be around to see me doing those things for myself!

      I think it’s more than having fun. It’s being passionate about something, or getting a deep enjoyment from mastering a new skill (lighting a fire etc). Or even learning to read because you want to know what something says, to read stories and find the satisfaction that brings. There will be boring things like chores etc, but they’ll do them because we all live together.

      I’ll be doing a follow up post with more specific aims when I know a bit more perhaps.

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