Unschooling is Homeschooling

Unschooling is a method of homeschooling. We didn’t set out to be unschoolers, it just kind of happened. We use to consider ourselves eclectic homeschoolers. We kind of still are, but we mostly unschool.

Unschool doesn’t mean lazy parenting or uneducated children. Its un- institutionalized education. It’s child led, passion driven hands on learning. It’s unconventional education. It’s how most people learn best.

Critics often ask “but how will they learn” as if worksheets and tests are effective for all children to learn.

I like to ask “how will they learn what?” What specifically are you curious how they will learn? Math? Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are learned young. My not quite two year old knows that if you have two cookies and you give him one, you still have one more to give him. By age 5 most children can do division and multiplication. They probably don’t have it memorized like we are trained to do in 3rd and 4th grade but they understand the process. Just handing out pizza on pizza night is a math lesson. 5 pizzas, 40 slices, 12 people…. Earning and managing their own money is a great way to earn math. Math lessons are everywhere. Can’t do algebra? Sure you can. Just don’t call it algebra. Call it “how many gallons of gas can I get for $20”. Same principle, just not as intimidating.

What about grammar? Reading FB daily I can assure you most people aren’t well versed in grammar and very few can diagram a sentence. I know my blog isn’t going to get an A in any college class, nor is that my goal. I write like I talk. My children can write coherent sentences. They learn this mostly by conversing, and of course reading. Reading and conversing are two of the best ways to expand your vocabulary. I could give out lists and make them write definitions but we kind of enjoy the “what does that word mean” or even better, the looking it up. And with googles audio definition options we have less mispronounced words that heavy readers tend to have.

Ever notice in 13 years of schooling, science seems to be a repeat of the same lessons and it’s rarely what you want to learn about? There is so much to cover, from space, to biology, botany, forensics, physics, earth science, chemistry etc. how do you isolate what you teach from each subject and what you don’t? What is necessary and what is not?

Same with history. Do you start with Adam and Eve and work your way up till today? Do you cover just your geographical area? Focus on certain people? If a student never learns about the Xia dynasty are they uneducated? Whose version of history do we teach? I’m sure WW2 lessons in Japan look a bit different than the WW2 lessons in Poland. Of course schools here teach the version of history that shows us in the most favorable light, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct.

There is so much knowledge to be leaned and we don’t feel it should be scheduled or compartmentalized. It should be met with enthusiasm and curiosity. Not force fed. I like the metaphor that industrial education is often about as effective as throwing marshmallows at the children’s heads. We have trained the mind to absorb and retain as much information it can just long enough to pass the test. It’s not learned. It’s temporarily memorized. Thank goodness us old people have google.

So what about college? Most high school graduates aren’t prepared for college. Freshman year of college has become a crash course in basic math, English, history… in a child led passion driven environment, a child who wants to attend college has the opportunity to prepare themselves for that next step. Most unschoolers who seek college do well. And yes, some don’t, but that is no different than traditional homeschoolers, or students who come from an institutionalized background.

We enjoy the intimate lifestyle we have chosen for our family. We have a blessed opportunity to do so many things as a family, including learn with and from each other.

If you could have custom designed your education, what would it have looked like?


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8 Responses

  1. Jamie

    What do you do about high school? Do your kids get a GED or what? This is my first year I say home schooling but she’s doing an online high school that will give her a diploma at the end.

  2. Linda Howard

    I guess you could say my son was partially unschooled. He never really ‘fit’ into a regular school. Public, private, and home school, we tried them all. He had ADHD and learning disabilities, especially in math and school was pure torture for him. At age 15 I gave up. Told the school we were going back to homeschooling and just let him ‘chill’. The schools, nor I were ever able to teach him how to count money or tell time the traditional way. Both were forms of math and literally freaked him out. He would chew his fingernails to the quick. After leaving school and doing little odd jobs that he enjoyed doing and making his own money , he taught himself to both count money and tell time, and even, lo and behold, how to add and subtract in his head. He learned much, much more after we started unschooling than he ever did in a formal, forced setting. I’m all for whatever works. We lost him at age 26 to a ‘hidden’ congenital heart defect.. At the time of his death he had jobs that he enjoyed and was good at, he drove a tractor mowing the right of ways of roadways and he broke and trained horses, which was his real passion. One of my greatest regrets is that we did not unschool him from the very beginning.

  3. BlessedLittleHomestead

    I’m sad to hear about your son, I’m glad he found his path tho.

  4. BlessedLittleHomestead

    There are several organizations you can get diplomas through and GEDs are acceptable. Most colleges now are familiar enough to Homeschooling it’s something they work with. But Jacob is our only graduated child and he said he didn’t want one, I know Quinten won’t either. Abigail is 14 and hasn’t stated a desire for one. Issac might want to go to college but is undecided.

  5. Kathryn Reynolds

    I am confused….so your oldest “graduated” but didn’t want a GED? What does “graduated” mean then? And your next two don’t want a GED either? None of this makes much sense to me. And I have seen “unschooling” successes. It takes a lot of work and a lot of devotion. Why would they not want something that opens a world of opportunity for them? Why do you as a parent not desire that for them as well?

  6. cindy keplinger

    My daughter is in her last year of homeschooling and I will be ordering her diploma through hsld.Filled out appropriately and specific to our homeschool. You can also make your own diploma.

  7. Kathryn Reynolds

    I thought the point of your blog was to help educate. I asked some pretty straight forward questions about unschooling that I am still curious about. I really would like to understand your take on it.

  8. Willena Flewelling

    Kathryn, I don’t suppose you’ll see this, so long after you wrote your comments, but…

    As another mom of a large, homeschooled family, let me say this. Only two of our seven children got a high school diploma. And yet, two of our daughters are nursing assistants at a local long-term care facility; a third daughter does massage therapy, and has done a stint as a short-term missionary to Japan; one of our sons was in his final year of computer sciences at Athabasca University (he did NOT have a high school diploma); two of our sons have spent a year in Bible college and are gainfully employed as finishing carpenters in home construction; and our youngest son is still at home.

    The thing is, if our children are homeschooled, they have full freedom to pursue the things that interest them, and they have plenty of time to determine whether they will even NEED a high school diploma in order to succeed in their area of choice. Nicole sounds to me like she knows her children, and how to direct them where needed, and how to back off when they are following what they want to do and are able to do.

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