By Caitlyn Watson.

Learning is a difficult word to define. It can mean an expert knowledge of academic subjects, or it can refer to a broad knowledge of our planet and what it means not only to enjoy it, but also to make it a better place. Homeschooling and unschooling give us the best of both worlds, and that’s what Wes and Laureen LaBrash realized when their son, Justin, was a toddler.

It started when Laureen picked up Homeschooling: The Early Years by Linda Dobson. “I read a part of the book where she describes making brownies with her children and how that covered math, reading, logic, science, and character building. I thought, ‘I can handle this homeschooling journey.’” They have been combining homeschooling and unschooling ever since, with Justin now completing grade 12.

So what is unschooling? “For us, unschooling is defined as incorporating day-to-day life experiences as lessons…like ‘on the job training,’” said Laureen. “It simply means not being bound by the limitations of four walls, a clock, and a lesson plan. I prefer the term ‘life-schooling,’ because life presents so many opportunities to practice reading, writing, arithmetic, and scientific methods.”

Unschooling came with challenges: Wes and Laureen had to forgo their “traditional schooled expectations,” as well as those of friends and family. “We were both very good students,” they recalled. “But we both were unfulfilled by school, and in hindsight, very poorly prepared for life. As homeschooling parents, we had to learn to trust that life equals learning.”

HSLDA helped Wes and Laureen work with local school boards.

“Once or twice we received a letter when the school board believed our education plan was too similar to last year,” the couple explained. “We were able to write our responses with confidence, knowing our rights…to choose what we believe is the best education for our child.” Even now, the couple maintains their membership. “Peace of mind is a major reason,” they explained, “but being a part of an organization that supports homeschoolers across the country and the world, and is striving to maintain the freedom to homeschool…is a large part of our decision.”

The LaBrash family had unique opportunities to learn together. “Each of our trips was a homeschooling adventure where Justin, Wes and I were able to learn the culture, geography, history and sometimes politics of the places we visited,” Laureen reflected. “At the Johnson Space Centre, Justin learned about rockets, space travel, and the missions to Mars; and, he met Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon. In New Orleans, Justin learned about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina [and] about how hurricanes occur. He heard first-hand from a fire captain who was one of the emergency responders during the hurricane. The examples are almost endless.”

Justin is now transitioning from home education to a General Music Studies degree program at Berklee College of Music; and, he was recently awarded a scholarship for outstanding academic achievement. Only 16 in the world are given out each term! He also enjoys touring with his band, Justin LaBrash and True North, and played for Telemiracle in March 2017.

“Whenever someone mentions to us that they are considering homeschooling or unschooling, we say, ‘Go for it, give it a try!’” Wes and Laureen affirmed. “You don’t need to know everything before your child does; it is better if you learn together. This teaches the child that knowledge is gained by learning, rather than by asking the teacher who ‘knows everything.’”

“Homeschooling and unschooling have been the best fit for Justin and our family,” the couple concluded. “We are thankful for the opportunity and freedom to provide this journey and experience for Justin…and ourselves!”