In my last article, I talked about on-line public schooling. Here in Cincinnati, lots of parents are utilizing k12 and Ohio Virtual Academy. On the flip side, there is a growing movement that’s been labeled “unschooling.” Based on my internet search, unschooling is loosely defined as “child directed learning.”
When it is boiled down to its most basic definition, unschooling is simply allowing children to learn what they want, went they want, how they want with no artificial constraints. Children are naturally curious and will teach themselves (with a little help from Mom or Dad). Learning needs to take place in the right environment. How can we expect a child to learn about flowers from a book? They need to go out and look at flowers. Give them seeds and let them plant a garden. Have them learn by trial and error what the flowers need to grow and thrive. Children who like music need to be exposed to music in its various forms. CD’s are good, but concerts are better. Give the child an instrument (or have them make one) and turn them loose.
Kids are naturally curious and will teach themselves. That’s one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling. If a child is turned on by a subject, they can dig in and learn in ways that brick and mortar buildings don’t have the time or materials to give them.
Conversely, kids do need some structure. Many kids (homeschooled or not) will avoid certain subjects at all costs. Some kids are math phobic, some hate to write and others see no reason to read. While no one wants to push their child into doing something they dislike, sometimes a parent’s got to do what a parent’s got to do. Kids do need some guidance. Even if the parent doesn’t like to teach a particular subject, they have a responsibility to put their own bias aside and educate to the best of their ability.
There are all things we dislike doing adults (paying bills, housework, dealing with the boss), but we do them anyway. Failing to keep up with the bills has disastrous consequences. In the same way, having children learn with some structure to their day teaches them that while you can do what you enjoy, it needs to be tempered with things that aren’t necessary fun.
Unschooling is a great way for kids to explore and learn. Like any alternative way of learning, it needs to have the pros and cons weighed prior to embarking on it as the sole path of learning.