Is Unschooling Just Lazy Homeschooling?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ever wondered just what those unschoolers do all day? Sleeping in late, watching TV, playing a computer game and then counting it as a school day? Apparently, this is the view many people take on this method of homeschooling. But is that all there is to it?

While all of these activities do take place at our house (okay, I don’t get to sleep in :(), this is not an accurate picture of what we do. Today I’m going to discuss exactly that.

Firstly, the role of an unschooling mom is different than that of a school-at-home mom. Neither one is more important or involved than the other. They are just different. Instead of acting as a teacher as a more traditional homeschool mom, my role is as a facilitator. I am there to answer questions, provide a stimulating environment, and introduce, but not force, new concepts.

Another misconception about unschooling is that the parent has absolutely no involvement in the child’s learning activities. I don’t know about other families, but in our home this couldn’t be further from the truth! Are there things that I think my children would benefit from learning? Absolutely. But I am not going to compromise my children’s love of learning by making them do anything.

Speaking from my own high school experience, I can tell you that I really don’t remember anything from the required subjects that I had no interest in. Was I a lousy student? Actually, I was quite the opposite. I was a gifted/advanced placement student who graduated in the top 10% of my class. So obviously, I did learn lots of things…but after exams were over, it was like I opened a valve in my brain and let out all the information that I deemed as unnecessary. I have, however, retained all of the useful information from the classes I chose to be in.

This is exactly why I’m approaching my children’s education differently. As I mentioned before, while there are things I’d like to introduce to my kids, I will not force anything on them. So how do I do it? There are two methods I use that seem to work nicely.

– Strewing. Everyday I set different books and activities around the house that I think may interest my children. Today, I pulled out Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Guinness Book of World Records books and laid them on the table. I also pulled out some paper and giant coloring books. Did everything get used today? No, but that’s okay. They have seen it and know that we have it. Oftentimes they will go looking for it at a future time.

Today was a great example of that. My kids kept themselves busy all day with items I had strewn last week even though they had no interest in them when I laid them out. Dillon spent two hours putting together a WoW lego set, Luke and Ireland played with clay for a long time, and Bailey spent quite a bit of time drawing, coloring, and then cutting out animals. Arianna painted for a while, and Caollin and London used some stuffed animals to play “crane machine.” (Their latest obsession since Daddy won them all animals out of a crane machine at Denny’s Diner last Saturday) Just because you introduce something to a child does not mean they’re going to be interested. Be patient. They’ll learn about it when they’re ready.

Another way I engage my children is…

– Family read-aloud time. I am very intentional about the books I choose to read to everyone. If there is a concept or a time period I think they would enjoy, I’ll look for a corresponding book. Over the summer we read Little House in the Big Woods. I can’t even begin to tell you about the flurry of activity that that started. I would find my kids outside everyday playing Little House. They dressed in pioneerish clothing, made their own “little house” with pieces of wood we had lying around the yard, and I could hear them discussing things like churning butter and making salt pork. They were interested, so they learned! We just finished Little House on the Prairie, which also brought some wonderful rabbit trails to our home. Today I started reading The Odyssey to them. I can’t wait to see what springs from this because we all love Greek mythology.

Hopefully, I’ve put to rest the idea that unschoolers, particularly unschooling parents, are lazy and uninvolved. We are just as involved and passionate about learning as other moms. We just do it in a different way.

How do you introduce new concepts to your children?

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