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What This School Teacher Has to Say About Unschooling

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Exactly two years ago, I was happily teaching science in a very respectable high school with intelligent and well behaved students. A colleague friend of mine and I were yapping away during lunch and she told me about this thing called ‘unschooling‘. I’d never heard of it.

You know,” she said, “Like ‘no-schooling‘. Like, the kids don’t go to school, they get homeschooled, but it’s even more radical than that. They can learn whatever they want and whenever they want.

BUT… BUT… WHAT?!?!” I replied… “That’s crazy!!!

Here I am, two years later. My older daughter should be starting school in less than a year, and well, I’m almost positive she won’t be attending. Not because I think school is bad. Not because I want to shield my child from the ‘system‘, not because my child is ‘too good for that‘… but because I believe that there is more than one way to educate a child. School is certainly the better option for many children and their families, there is not doubt about it. Also, there are some pretty fantastic schools and teachers out there. But… if the situation allows it and parents know that there are alternative options to education out there, they should know that home education is 100%, a viable pathway of learning.

Unschooling in our house worked like this today: After a few quiet days of seemingly average play, all of a sudden, today BAM! A huge lesson on the solar system, because she asked about it. I mean, I TEACH THE SOLAR SYSTEM TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, and I’m not joking when I say that I taught my 4 year old as much in half an hour than I would have taught to an entire class of high school students over several hour long lessons. Teaching at home is just so much more time efficient! After the ‘lesson‘, we went outside and played and then she asked more about another ongoing interest in rocks and volcanos.

In the afternoon, we went to a yoga class, where she fit right in with kids who were 6 or 7 years older than her. Later that night, she plopped down on the couch with a pen and a workbook (a gift from grandma in America) and did 19 pages of, ‘Math Concepts Workbook’ for kids, aged 3-5. The next morning, she woke up and finished the other ten pages. I mean, would YOU sit down and do 29 pages of maths right before bed and right when you woke up just for the hell of it?! She’s not some genius child either… just a regular smart 4 year old.

She initiates all of her learning. I only facilitate and provided materials to her if she asks for them (often she does it all by herself). The learning happens spontaneously because she wants to do it and much of the learning is actually occurring while she’s playing. This is how our days are and we haven’t even ‘officially‘ started unschooling, but I can see where it’s is all going. Of course, I recognize those learning windows of opportunities when I see them and it’s the right time. The ‘teachable‘ moments… The ones that they tell you about when you’re studying teaching, but actually rarely come up naturally in the classroom. You don’t have to be a teacher in order to make this all happen. Also, unschooling is not just about ‘teaching‘ children at home, all their ABC’s, it’s also about letting children have autonomy about a lot of other aspects of their life and about dropping our own inhibitions, as parents.

I think the hardest concept for most adults to accept about unschooling is the idea of trusting a child to make good decisions about their own education. When my husband was twelve years old, he walked out of school. Just left and went home. He is very smart, but he hated school. He stayed out of school for six months, and during that time, worked with his father, who was a photographer. He went back to school eventually because he had to. In high school, his art teacher recommended that he go to a special art school… but for whatever reason, he never ended up going. He then went on to attend one of the most prestigious engineering universities in America. But, can you guess what he ditched engineering for and did as a career instead??? Photography and graphic design. He ended up becoming a professional photographer, graphic designer and photojournalist and worked for big newspapers like the Washington Post…

It’s pretty clear, from an early age, that my husband already knew what his interests were, but was anyone listening to him? No. He’s pretty lucky because he eventually found his way, but could his career and talents gone even further if his desire to be artistic had been nurtured from an earlier age? Imagine the potential that all kids have if their interests and passions are encouraged and trusted right from the start? If a child could be responsible for making informed decisions about their own education, it might just be pretty damn incredible.

I’m not opposed to school and who knows, maybe down the track, my daughter will want to go to school. When she makes the decision that she really wants to go, or when she chooses a teacher in something that is of her choosing, then I have no problem. But, for now, we’ll see where this unshcooling path takes us, because it seems pretty fun and incredible so far.

Oh, by the way, Margo also has her own blog… Just as I was about to publish this, my husband received a notification that Margo’s blog has twenty five posts now. A few months ago, he showed  her how to do it and we had NO idea she was posting photos to it on her own, but here it is… Margosurfs.

11 Responses »

  1. I love this Kate. Love it. I love that you are listening to your kids and what their hearts desires are. I admire those who can homeschool and take that leap. And thank you for not condemning those who go down the traditional schooling path too.

    My 3 year old is in the local public preschool and adores it, and my 2 year old is looking forward to going next year. I have no interest in homeschooling at all unless for some reason it is needed. And I’m fine with my choice as long as my kids are too.

    I think there must be a lot of wasted potential out there because kids desires are not listened to or nurtured.

  2. Such a great post, Thank you! Weird because my mind has been seriously on schooling the last couple of days. I met another mum at the park today, we some how got onto the discussion of school and she said something along the lines of “School is really hard on kids, so different to spontaneous days of toddlerhood. It took me forever to find a school I was happy with”. I nearly asked if she had considered homeschooling but I held back. To be honest I have only just started to explore the idea myself and I feel a little nervous bringing it up with people. I love the fact that two years ago you thought unschooling was crazy. Now it seems such a perfect option for you!

    I also love how you stated it is not about what is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’, it is about the best option for you and your child. The mum I met was clearly concerned about conventional schooling, but maybe the other option never even crossed her path, next time I think I might just open my mouth and put the option out there 🙂

    • It’s true, most people don’t even know that other options are out there! We’re very lucky in Australia to have some other choices 🙂

  3. I love the idea of unschooling. If my husband was on board, I’d do it!

  4. I love this!!

  5. I helped a friend out for a couple weeks teaching Grade 5’s English at a local school here in Mexico City while she was on vacation and I’m not even a teacher by trade, but here they don’t mind. I felt sorry for the children, they were frustrated and bored stiff. 40 years ago I felt exactly the same, so nothing has changed. I really believe with my whole heart that children today are more highly evolved than when I was a kid, and some may even be telepathic already. I had one child in the class who disliked writing, it was if he knew there were other ways to communicate. When asked to write about his Easter holiday he drew a picture of planets and starships! I believe that children need to have proper brain stimulation to unleash their hidden potential. There is so much real knowledge that will benefit them, why they get taught rubbish at the schools is beyond me. If my guidance from the Archangels serves me correctly then all knowledge exists already within us. We should be teaching children how to access this knowledge. We should be teaching them yoga and meditation. We should be teaching them about the Elementals and the Planet, and the various Devic Kingdoms. This is not ‘teaching’ as much as helping them to remember because I also believe that the children being born today are fully conscious, but in order to unlock this consciousness their brains need stimulation to bring the knowledge into their awareness. I admire the mothers that have decided to unschool their children, because I seriously doubt the world 20 years from now will be anything like the world we live in today. ♥

    • I agree, 100%… all the information is already out there. It’s just a matter of keeping our consciousness clear enough to access it 🙂


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