Unschooling Your Child

John C. Holt, known as the “father” of the modern homeschooling movement, coined the term “un­schooling.” It refers to an approach to homeschooling in which children are allowed to continue (or return to) the natural, curiosity-driven, discovery-mediated learning that all children engage in as babies and toddlers. As such, it is child-led learning rather than teacher-or parent- imposed lessons, although it is parent-stimulated to varying degrees.

The role of un­schooling parents is that of facilitators of learning rather than taskmasters. Unschooling is therefore not so much a “teaching method” as it is a “learning philosophy” and lifestyle.

Actually, it might be more accurate to say it is a spectrum of learning philosophies, as the different un­schooling parents place greater or lesser value and emphasis on the different aspects of early childhood learning that come in to play in continuing that type of learning through the school-age years.

Some parents focus on allowing the child to lead, even if it leads to using textbooks and workbooks and other schoolish materials -- un­schooling as “child-led learning.” Others focus on encouraging the child to learn through real life situations and discoveries rather than textboooks -- un­schooling as “life learning.”

Unschooling is also sometimes known as “natural learning,” “delight-driven learning,” “experience-based learning,” “independent learning,” “non-coercive parenting,”...Each of these phrases has a slightly different nuance and emphasis, confirming that there are as many ways to manifest un­schooling as there are families living in it.

Unschooling is the most fluid style of homeschooling. There is no curriculum and no set boundaries. Many parents feel a bit apprehensive about such freedom. But, even un­schooling has

certain guidelines that make it a great method of homeschooling.

Firstly, allow your child to express interests. Let her select the topic. If she wants to learn about flowers, tell her about the various flowers, their functions, parts of the flower, rare flowers etc. But do not go overboard. Allow her the freedom to stop when she has had enough. This process of learning may take a month or a day. It is up to the child to decide how much she wants to learn.

Expand your child's areas of interests using videos, books, magazines, puzzles and games. Go to a museum or take her to a library. Simultaneously, broaden your own interests. The more you know, the more the child gets to learn.

Notice all opportunities for learning. When in the kitchen, point out the vitamins in fruits and vegetables. What makes tomatoes red, and why are leafy vegetables good? If you don't know the answers, don't worry. Look it up. Lastly, don't worry if the going seems slow. This is just the way kids learn. Give them time and lots of encouragement.

So, rather than fighting against these natural learning mechanisms, schooling should make use of them. The very nature of school must be changed so that it reflects rather than opposes natural learning.

The way mainstream schools are structured now goes against much of what we have learned about learning. Schools fail to educate because they do not leverage the natural learning process.

Natural learning is not compatible with lockstep classrooms nor with rigid curricula, nor is learning measurable by multiple choice tests. Through natural learning students will become experts in those areas in which they have strong interest, thus enabling them to reach their maximum potential.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, please read: Grading in Home­schooling.