On this 8-year journey that we call homeschooling, we’ve been all over the “methods spectrum.” We started out strictly (and mindlessly) replicating school at home with disastrous results. After learning from our (my) mistakes, we moved onto unit studies which were so much more pleasant for us. More time passed, and after spending quite a bit of time reading some life-changing books, I decided to take a leap of faith and try out unschooling for awhile.
And that’s what prompted this post.
Although unschooling didn’t fit our needs as a family, I learned more from that time than I could have learned from any book. In fact, my homeschool philosophy focusing on utter simplicity in learning was derived from our experiences during that time.
It is my firm belief that every homeschooling family should consider these:
5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Give Unschooling a Try
1. It opens your eyes to seeing learning everywhere.
In our culture, school is considered as normal as the sun rising. No matter how faulty the system is, most people tend to overlook that fact because this is the way it’s “always been done.” Our time spent not following a curriculum allowed us to rid ourselves of this potentially disabling mindset.
Learning can and does happen everywhere.
It happens when your kids are in the yard digging for worms. It happens when they’re jumping on the trampoline at a friend’s house. It even happens while they’re watching TV. I’m serious. The other day my kids knew the name of some weird fish because they saw it on a cartoon.
Keep an open mind. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you see.
2. It gives children (and parents) time to deschool.
Deschooling is usually mentioned in reference to kids being withdrawn from school in order to be homeschooled, but a period of deschooling can be refreshing for any family. Whether you’re feeling burned out, the curriculum isn’t working, or you simply need to change things up for a bit, deschooling can be a great way to sit back, relax, and just let your kids be kids.
The most exciting time to witness learning is when you weren’t looking for it in the first place.
3. It allows children time to find out what they’re interested in.
While homeschooled children have much more time to explore their interests than those in school, all too often even we homeschoolers get swept up in the “My kids have to do it all!” frame of mind. I don’t think it’s something that happens consciously. It’s just our reaction to the fast-paced world we live in.
Those activities and extracurriculars may look great on your child’s college applications, but are they really worth it if they come at the expense of your son or daughter having some precious free time? I don’t know how many times I’ve asked kids what they were interested in, only for them to reply that they didn’t know.
How sad is that?
Unschooling- even for a little while- provides an excellent opportunity for your children to get to know themselves a little better. I think even we adults could benefit from doing this for ourselves from time to time.
4. It encourages self-directed learning.
Kids who are repeatedly told over and over again what they need to learn often become kids who can’t occupy themselves or figure things out on their own without step-by-step directions. Unschooling allows children to be the little scientists that they are. It enables them to use their innate curiosity to find out how things work, why things work, and how to go about creating something of their own.
No curriculum can compare with the critical thinking skills that arise from self-directed learning.
5. It makes parents aware of how much kids DO learn on their own.
So many times- so. many. times.- frantic homeschooling parents come to me for advice, thinking that they’ve failed their kids, when if they just took a step back, gave their kids some room, and observed them, they’d see that their kids are learning in ways they never thought of before. To be honest, I think learning that comes from textbooks is the least effective learning method there is.
Unschooling can be such a confidence booster because it allows parents the chance to see their kids in action. Watching your children do what kids do best- explore- can be a huge relief to parents who are unsure of their ability to properly homeschool their kids.
They are learning. Everyday. All the time.
Unschooling isn’t the right choice for every family. In our case, the lack of structure caused a bit of chaos for a family our size, but the benefits of trying it far outweigh any of the problems we may have been up against in the midst of it.
So, am I urging everyone to unschool?
Yes and no.
I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone drop their homeschooling style if it’s working for them. What I am suggesting is that there is enough to be learned from the process that it’s certainly worth trying it for a bit- even if it’s only for a few weeks.
And this is especially a good idea for those of you who may be suffering from some burnout, need a “change of scenery,” are struggling with leaving behind a schoolish way of thinking, or whose curriculum just isn’t cutting it.
Kids are awesome. They are amazing. And a child left to discover is a force to be reckoned with.