February 20, 2018
Exploring Home Education Methods – Unschooling
By Dinah Whitton
We can all agree that home education provides a tremendous opportunity for parents to educate their children based on their unique needs. Regardless of your preferred method there are so many benefits to homeschooling. So let’s explore another successful home education method: Unschooling!
Don’t be afraid of the terminology because this method is based on natural learning or experience based learning. There is a strong focus on the child’s interests and curiosity to achieve academic goals. Similar to other methods, there is also an intentional emphasis on independent learning. This method does not rely on set curriculums or a typical school schedule. Unschooling parents are viewed as facilitators instead of teachers. There is an incredible trust and respect for the process of a child learning naturally rather than following a preset educational guideline. Since children are given the freedom to learn based on their interests, they can actually learn to become experts in their passion. This process will ultimately lead to developing effective research and critical thinking skills.
This method is also beneficial for a variety of learning styles. Incorporating various experiences, projects, activities and trips that interest the child, can actually foster of love of learning. This is another opportunity to embrace your child’s learning ability, personality and genuine interests.
A typical day of an unschooling family varies; and, quite frankly that’s the point. Each child is unique so are their needs, abilities and interests. So this is not the ideal method for families who take comfort in following strict academic guidelines laid out by school boards or private institutions. Unschooling parents embrace their ability to cultivate the natural abilities of their children and facilitate the journey of learning.
What Parents Are Saying
As always we love hearing from parents who have been there and done that (and often have a t-shirt or laugh lines to prove it!). When it comes to unschooling there is one amazing mother that proudly stands out in the crowd: Pam Laricchia. Pam is an author and veteran unschooling mother of three children. Although her children were enrolled in school, the standard classroom environment wasn’t the right fit for her oldest child at the time. There were some accommodations made by the teachers, but Pam became aware of homeschooling for the first time, “I discovered it was legal and a few weeks later our kids were excited to not return to school after March Break.” Shortly after that she came across unschooling and never looked back. Pam’s children left school when they were 9, 7 and 4 years old and her family enjoyed 13 years of unschooling.
One of the many benefits of unschooling for Pam was actually unexpected, but beautiful nonetheless, “the wonderful relationships I developed with my children, which carry on to this day.” Pam shared. “Our relationships are filled with joyful connections, respect for each other as individuals, and deep trust.” Pam also credits unschooling for avoiding the so-called teen rebellion stage that many parents say is inevitable, “There’s little to resist when your parents are supportive and actively helping you reach your goals. We were—and continue to be—a team.”
Their biggest challenge during their unschooling journey was dealing with people who did not understand their lifestyle. Like any family they experienced life challenges, but they were not related to unschooling. On the contrary, Pam says that unschooling prepared her children to push through life challenges with grit and determination.
Since there are many misconceptions of unschooling even within the home education community, Pam shared her insights based on her personal experience and research:
“Following a child’s curiosity creates a personalized ‘curriculum’ that fits like a glove and serves them well. It’s lifelong learning in action. Without curriculum telling us they need to know X by the age of Y, unschooling children learn things when a need or interest develops, regardless of their age—when there’s a real reason to learn it. And, there’s a much better chance it will be understood and remembered because it has meaning and usefulness in their lives, right in that moment.”
For families curious about unschooling, Pam recommends spending time learning about how it actually works. This is not a lazy choice nor is it about throwing out the curriculum and leaving your children to their own devices (literally and figuratively!). Pam says unschooling is about replacing standard curriculum with a nurturing environment in which natural learning flourishes. “The key to creating a thriving unschooling home is understanding how learning works.” Pam shared. “Unschooling grows beyond an educational method into a learning lifestyle because human beings are hardwired for curiosity, learning, creativity, connection, and engagement.”
Today Pam’s children are in their twenties and she continues to advocate for unschooling as an author and speaker. You can learn more about Pam and her journey through her website: http://livingjoyfully.ca/.
So what do you think about unschooling? We would love to hear from you, so send us an email with your thoughts, suggestions and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HSLDA: the partner in your homeschool success!