For many, unschooling is such a new and foreign concept that it can be a little scary to contemplate trying it. Rest assured that although it is unconventional, the unschooling approach is well-reasoned and has been successfully implemented by thousands of families world-wide.
As early as the 1970’s, teacher and researcher John Holt was criticizing traditional schooling and advocating the form of home learning that eventually became known as unschooling. Since then many others have added their voices, perhaps most notably the former New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto.
Unschooling is based on sound theory
There is plenty of evidence supporting the idea that all people – children and adults alike – learn best when they are interested and engaged. In schools, this results in teachers attempting, with varying degrees of success, to make the predetermined curriculum somehow become interesting and engaging. Unschoolers, on the other hand, simply find out what is already interesting and engaging to a child, and then bring as much of that as possible into his/her world. Most everyone agrees on the basic premise; the unschooling approach makes use of it in a far more effective way.
Unschooling produces life-long learners
In school, learning is compartmentalized. You learn math during math class. You learn about literature during English. Schooled children come to equate “learning” with “academics”. And since their experience with “academics” is often anxiety-producing, tedious and unenjoyable, they begin to think that learning is not fun. Unschoolers know this is not true. Learning is an integral part of every activity. Unschoolers see learning as pleasurable and themselves as highly competent to learn whatever they desire. Because they do not have the negative associations that many schooled children do, they enter the adult world enthusiastic about continuing to learn.
Unschooling leads to happy, successful individuals
In today’s post-industrial society, the brightest and most successful thinkers believe that the leaders of tomorrow will need to be creative out-of-the-box thinkers. Entrepreneurs will be highly valued. Unschoolers enter adulthood with a strong set of these desirable skills. They have received the ultimate “liberal arts” education. They have developed a solid sense of competence. They know what their interests and passions are, and they know how to pursue those effectively.
Unschooling promotes deeper multi-generation connections within the family and community
When families spend time together pursuing passions and building a large base of shared experiences, the bond between parent and child and among siblings deepens in a way that children who spend thousands of hours away from the family are not able to experience. The benefits of such a close family relationship are innumerable.
Additionally, having been part of the “real world” all their lives, unschoolers are comfortable in relationships with people of varying ages. This allows them to connect more authentically in the larger community. There are greater opportunities for cultivating satisfying relationships, both personally and professionally.
Unschooling values the journey and enjoying the process
Schools are concerned with preparing students for the future. There is a preoccupation with product rather than process. The focus on high-stakes testing and grading sends the message that the outcome is to be valued over the journey. Unschoolers, on the other hand, focus on the joy of the journey. They believe that life is to be enjoyed and experienced now, rather than after graduation, and this allows children a level of self-expression and freedom that schooled children rarely attain.