Homeschooling Methods, UnschoolingJuly 23, 2009
I’m going to wrap up my discussion on homeschooling methods by looking at what appears to be the most misunderstood method, unschooling. I recently discovered that even within homeschooling circles, unschooling is misunderstood and often seen as a bad thing.
For some reason when people hear “unschooling”, they think it means no schooling. I guess we have that pesky prefix to blame. The truth is unschooling does not mean you do nothing. It simply means getting away from institutionalized methods of education.
Unschooling means understanding that children are natural learners. Unschooling means recognizing that learning is taking place all the time, in nearly every activity. When my boys are working together to set up their large train set, they are learning. They are using teamwork, logic, and problem solving. Just because that activity wasn’t part of some grand lesson plan does not mean it doesn’t count.
My boys once surprised me as we were discussing things that conduct electricity. They already knew all about the topic from watching Pokémon. Am I to discredit that knowledge because they learned it from a cartoon rather than a textbook?
An interesting thing happened as I was researching the various method of homeschooling. I recognized within each method the philosophy behind unschooling. I realized that while the various methods are not identical they all share a common ground.
The Charlotte Mason method stresses living books vs. textbooks. Unschoolers generally avoid textbooks that offer dry facts in favor of stories that speak to a child’s imagination and make the subject come alive.
The classical method works to complement the child’s natural behavior. Children are encouraged to learn by doing what they naturally enjoy doing. How is this different from unschooling where children are encouraged to follow their interests rather than being told what they must learn?
The Montessori Method provides a prepared environment in which children are free to explore at their own pace. Testing and grading is discouraged. Every unschooler I’ve known has shelves full of books, bins full of manipulatives, educational games and all kinds of other learning materials that are accessible at all times. Testing is not necessary, as you simply have to see the child apply his knowledge to everyday situations to know that he is learning.
The Waldorf method encourages free thinking, imagination and for kids to work at their own pace. Again, this is no different than the ideas behind unschooling.
Whether you employ the classical method, lean more toward Montessori, are an unschooler, or use any of the other methods, the basic ideas are the same. I think most families follow a rather eclectic approach anyway. Therefore, I cannot understand why anyone would criticize or discriminate based on homeschooling methods.