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Why I’ve Been Scared of Unschooling and Why We’re Officially Switching
We are close to closing out on our fourth year homeschooling (!!!! How did that go so quickly?!) and it’s time to make some changes, officially.
There are a variety of homeschool methods, including one I wish I could do but just doesn’t suit my personality and our life. For the past four years I have thought we were in the “eclectic spectrum” of homeschooling, pulling from a variety of different methods but there is one method we always default to.
That method is unschooling.
Now, before you start freaking out and thinking I am not going to teach my kids anything, let me just say that it isn’t how it sounds.
WHAT UNSCHOOLING IS
First of all, what it is not, is unparenting, our family still has rules, limits on screen time, bedtimes, etc.
What unschooling is at its core is child-led learning.
It involves listening and watching your children and figuring out their interests and strengths and diving into them.
It allows room in the day for boredom for kids to be pushed to find things to do, to be creative, to use their imaginations, to see what interests them.
It involves supplying them with resources and information on topics they are interested in.
All in all I’m not a huge fan of the term “unschooling”, I prefer to call to call it homeschooling as a lifestyle (that’s my own made up term), but the well known term is “unschooling”.
WHY I WAS SCARED OF UNSCHOOLING
I feel like there were two major things holding me back from jumping into unschooling officially, even though I knew it would be great for our family.
One of the reasons was my own public school education. Do you know how hard it is to get the idea of what school is “supposed” to look like out of your head when you’ve gone to school for 13 years (well, plus a few more for college and university)?! Chances are you do know because you probably went to school as well. Even though I know school is not the most conducive environment for learning it is hard to convince yourself of that when that’s how you were educated.
Another reason is my love for check boxes. In some ways I would love to follow a completely laid out curriculum where I can check the boxes and know I am doing “the right thing”. There are no check boxes with unschooling.
WHY WE ARE SWITCHING
Despite my fears I know that unschooling is such a good way to learn.
I mean, it’s how I learn! What do when I want to know more about a topic? I research online, read books, ask an expert in the area, etc, the same thing one does with unschooling. So, since I unschool myself, I realized I can unschool my kids as well.
We naturally default to unschooling in our home. In more difficult seasons, like when we had Buzz and Woody, we tend to naturally fall into unschooling.
Jared and I both see every question the kids ask as a teachable moment and will often help them to figure out the answers to their own questions – that’s unschooling!
I have read a lot about unschooling and watched some really informative videos as well (I’ll include them at the bottom of this post) and every time I am just so on board and agree with (almost) everything.
Honestly, it will look like life.
HOW IT IS GOING TO LOOK
You won’t see us sitting down to “do school”, unschoolers learn throughout the day, every day of the year.
I will look like a lot of free play.
It will look like us using everyday questions as learning opportunities.
It will involve finding our kids’ strengths and interests and helping them find books, videos and resources on those topics.
Here are a few of my favorite unschooling resources:
One of my favorite books about unschooling is An Unschooling Manifesto by Marla Taviano.
There are some great videos on YouTube as well, I found myself nodding through this entire video:
You can also see an unschooling day in the life of that same family (these are the only two videos of theirs that I have watched, just an FYI that I’m not endorsing their entire channel):
If you have any questions about unschooling, leave them in the comments below and I’ll either answer in reply or create another post with some FAQ’s. If you unschool I would like to hear about your experience and any favorite resources you have.
Let the (official) unschooling begin!
I feel like I’m tipping more and more in this direction all the time. It’s pretty much what we did last year and it felt beautiful. And then I panicked and felt like it couldn’t possibly be enough…and now this year has been ROUGH because I’m trying to get him to learn lol the right things and I’m ready to just send the children away for school. Which is exactly what I DON’T want! But what we’re doing is obviously not working either. Time to look into this more seriously, I think 🙂
Yup, you summed up pretty much how I’ve been feeling. I was totally having a mini panic attack the other day and thought maybe I should just buy a laid out curriculum but I quickly remembered my personality and how we would be lucky to get past the first week. Even making the decision to unschool has removed a lot of pressure off of me and made me excited to explore my kids’ interests with them!
Ha, the panic is something I totally relate to. I had one this year and it has been hell as I’ve tried to appease my worry. Our family just does not learn like others. So I’m equipped with my favourite Christian unschooling books, on a forum with Sue Elvis (Stories of an Unschooling Family), and just embracing who we are as a family.
By the way, your Mini Planner pages are fantastic for recording all that happens. I so appreciate them being free. I always plan from behind and record what we do.
And yes! I’ve always loved recording what we do instead of what we “plan on” doing. Life always has a way of changing any plan I make anyway.
What are your favorite Christian unschooling books?
Godschooling by Julie Polanco (not keen on the title but she is so encouraging)
Homeschooling With Gentleness by Suzie Andres
A Little Way Homeschooling by Suzie Andres (but a collaboration).
The last two are Catholic, but nothing bothers me in them 🙂
I’ll check those books out, thanks for the suggestions!
I’m really interested to follow along with you as you start this! We are firmly eclectic, since there are pieces I like from Charlotte Mason, unschooling, and classical. I feel like unschooling is such a natural fit for subjects like science and history, especially when my kids are young! I am interested in how you handle math/reading/writing skills with unschooling. Do you do any writing assignments, just centered around their interests? And how do you handle math (it’s rare to find a kid interested in math, probably, ha!)? I’m gong to watch the videos you shared.
It’s been about a week and we are LOVING it! To answer your questions briefly: no, I’m not getting them to do any writing assignments. The other day we were at the museum and my daughter decided to take some notes and today she’s been working on creating a fantasy story. A big part of unschooling is trusting that kids will be interested in the things they need to know. You are right most kids don’t like “math” but that’s generally because we have the school idea of what math is: sitting down and working through problems. Both of my kids ask multiple math questions each day like: 1) do I have enough money to buy X? 2) how long until our friends are here? etc. Instead of giving them the answers directly we help them figure it out but they don’t really notice that they are doing math, they are just figuring out the answers to their questions. We all use basic math on a regular basis and as a result they will learn it as well, as for more advanced math, I will leave that to them to decide if they need it for whatever they want to do later in life. I took advanced math in high school and university and neither use or remember any of it. Any odd time I need to answer an advanced math question Google suffices for me. I hope that helps a bit!
We are SO similar! We are definitely leaning towards unschooling, too. But I prefer to call it relaxed homeschooling, simply because there are still things I do to structure our days and there are things we do every day, like read aloud (with history included in that). But a lot of their time is their own, and I get them what they need to pursue their interests. It’s taken me 5 years to get to this point where I can do it with confidence though.
We’ve definitely been mostly relaxed homeschoolers for the past few years but I am feeling ready to jump into unschooling all the way now. I think it just took me four years to trust the process!
I’m so glad I found you on insta and this blog. We are Australia, Christian family and have taken a long time to trust unschooling too. I also don’t think the term is a great fit. I follow Life as a lifeschooler on insta, facebook and she has a podcast. Life learning, home educators and home-based learners are all terms I use to describe our family.
There sure will be difficult days at times when you maybe doubt the decision you’ve made but wow I cn really see how my children will be much better equipped for life as adults and in finding their God given strengths, exploring life, skills, questions and curiosity. Looking forward to seeing your families journey.
Oh, I will check out that podcast, thank you! I also appreciate the insight you have learned from your time homeschooling. I share a lot more of our homeschool over on my other blog, Intentional Homeschooling if you want to follow along: https://www.intentionalhomeschooling.com/