I am unschooling my children. Unschooling is defined by people in different ways. Some may look at this blog and gasp at how I can use that word to describe our educational philosophy. It is true though. I define unschooling as natural child-led learning. This is found from the first moment your baby opens her eyes. I believe unschooling should be part of every educational experience.
We are eclectic homeschoolers and unschooling is only part of our educational philosophy. It has great merits and it is what I use until the child nears age 5. Around the age of 5 I add some structure to my children’s learning. This doesn’t prevent unschooling because unschooling is not something that is done for a few hours each day. It is a lifestyle. It is about providing the child with access to educational materials and toys. It is about entering in discussions and conversations to stimulate learning. It is feeding a child’s interest. It is about demonstrating curiosity. It is a lifestyle of learning.
Because we have parent-directed instruction, it does not negate unschooling. Unschooling is a lifestyle that still exists outside formal schooling. In fact, formal schooling can incite new interests that are pursued after formal schooling is finished.
At age 6 and 8, it was not uncommon for my boys to finish their structured work for the day and go right into chasing after their own educational interests. One son might go off and blog or play a computer phonics game and another might go off and read a book or surf astronomy sites online. These are things I encourage.
Here is a picture of my daughter at 26 months. At that age she was structure-free. One day she wanted to draw in her chair. As I put her in her chair I asked her if she wanted to play with the letters that I was putting away because she had asked about them earlier that morning.
She had fun looking at all the letters and wanted me to name many for her. This was followed by a drawing session or should I say a scribbling session where she asked me to draw some things like ice cream and color a fish.
Fast forward to today and my little girl is now 10. Her days are filled with a mixture of structured learning and unschooling. She will spend hours drawing, acting out stories, or writing her stories down.
Now that my boys are teenagers, they spend more time in structured learning. That still doesn’t prohibit a lifestyle of learning. While their educational interests are built-in to their structured school day, they will often want to further pursue those interests in-depth on weekends or at times during the day when they aren’t involved in any structured learning.
Unschooling is beneficial. It is important. I do think it helps foster a love for learning that can last a life time. I believe learning should be fun although there will always be some things that won’t be enjoyable. Structured schooling has introduced new interests and enabled my children to learn how to work through something difficult. Unschooling provides a lifestyle of learning that drives my children’s interests and creates a sense of curiosity about the world. I believe combining structured schooling with unschooling provides my children the best of both worlds.