Unschooling Defined

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The other day I was listening to a podcast with my husband that was discussing new legislation being passed that could affect homeschooling. While I was listening to this podcast I was shocked at the picture that was being painted of Unschoolers. The guest host painted a picture of neglectful parents who do not care if their children can read or write by the time they are teens. This is not a true depiction of Unschooling and I want to set the record straight. Unschooling is a term that is used to describe a type of informal education that focuses more on encouraging a child’s natural curiosity.

How Unschooling is executed varies homeschool to homeschool but let me assure you in the vast majority of these homes education is still the primary focus of the parents. I am sure that there are those individuals out there that call themselves Unschoolers and do not actually encourage any form of education outside of a television set.  While I am willing to acknowledge that these situations occur I do believe that they are rare.
I am not a full-fledged Unschooler but I do dabble in it to a certain extent. We have a routine and we have workbooks and curriculum that we utilize in our classroom but when we sit down and work it is flexible. Usually, we work in the afternoon because this is when my kids are the most focused but some days we work earlier it fluctuates day to day based on our needs. It is also not uncommon for us to take a break from our studies to research the answer to one of the kids questions. Whenever possible I try to help them find the answers to the questions they have about various topics because this encourages their natural curiosity.

A full-fledged Unschooler may or may not utilize traditional workbooks. This isn’t because they do not value text-based information it is because they recognize the value in allowing kids to learn from their environment and through life experiences. Over the years I have met a number of Unschoolers and the one thing they all had in common was home libraries overflowing with content rich books. To suggest that parents who adopt this style of homeschooling are neglecting their children’s education is offensive and misguided. I have yet to meet one child who has been unschooled who is unable to read or write proficiently. This is because their natural curiosity has been cultivated into a deep-seated love for learning.

I am a huge advocate for homeschooling and regardless of the style used to educate children, I believe it is the best way to ensure a high-quality education. Our focus is creating an environment that will teach kids how to love learning so that they never shy away from challenges. Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate high school or college. It should be something that you do your entire life. Anyone who exposes their kids to learning experiences and encourages their children to investigate what interests them is practicing a version of Unschooling. We need to start speaking up and educating those around us so that misinformation like that given in the podcast I listened to loses its power.
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