We never made a conscious decision to unschool. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey kids, let’s give unschooling a go.” No, over a long period of time I gradually threw out all that wasn’t working for us until we found a way of homeschooling that felt right. We ended up ‘doing our own thing’. It was a long time before we realised other people were homeschooling in a similar way, and there was actually a name for what we were doing: unschooling.
So I guess we never had a typical transition from structured homeschooling to unschooling. For us, everything happened very gradually and naturally. But let’s imagine…
“I’ve decided we’re going to try unschooling,” I say with a bright smile. My children look at me rather blankly. Unschool? What’s that?
“You can choose what you want to learn about, follow your own interests.” More blank looks. They seem confused. “So what do you want to learn about?” I ask.
I’d been hoping everyone would rattle off a long list of things they’re desperate to know more about. I’d imagined them diving into their books, grabbing their pencils, asking questions… being excited. But this isn’t happening. I sigh.
I wonder if this scenario ever happens when homeschoolers decide to become unschoolers. Does it take kids a while to adjust to a new way of doing things? Do they need some encouragement to start following their interests? Does it take time for trust to build up between parents and children?
Unschooling really is a whole new way of looking at things. It affects the way we live our lives. What do you think? I don’t mind at all if you tell me I’ve assessed the situation wrongly.
So what can we do to make the transition from structured homeschooling to unschooling easier? Any ideas? Perhaps we can start by discussing the question: “What do you want to learn about?” (I’m sure most of us have asked our children this at some time or other.)
Could that question be too confrontational? It might sound like we are applying pressure: “Come on! You’ve got to learn something!” Maybe instead of jumping in with questions, we could begin by relaxing. We could just enjoy being with our children: watch a few movies, read some books together, play some games, go on a few outings, do some craft, take lots of time to talk… have some fun…. concentrate on building up our relationships. I know my relationships suffered when we were doing structured homeschooling. I often put other people’s expectations ahead of my children which resulted in a lot of hurt.
Maybe we could do all those things there was never time to do when we were trying to keep up with our homeschool plans. Do you know the things I’m
talking about? All the interesting, enjoyable things we promised our children we’d get around to doing once the ‘real’ work of the day had been completed. And never did.
I’ve been talking about doing things with our kids. Could it be important that parents get excited, show they enjoy learning, share their own passions, be a great example? There will come a time when kids will want to go off and learn by themselves. But that might not happen for a while. Even after years of unschooling, my younger daughters love learning with me by their side, not because they need my help but because they enjoy sharing the learning experience.
I’m keeping this short in the hope other people will add their own ideas. By sharing we can help each other. So…
Structured homeschooling children might have got used to someone else feeding them knowledge. How do we encourage them to get excited about their own learning so they want to follow their own interests?
If you have written any blog posts on this topic, please feel welcome to add links in the comments.
Whenever we offer to watch a movie or read a book or take our children somewhere, we are strewing. We are enriching our children’s world, showing them what is possible, giving them ideas. Of course, they might reject our offerings. This brings me to the question:
“What if my kids just choose to sit and watch TV or play computer games?”
I’m hoping someone has experience with that because I haven’t been in that situation. But I do have a few ideas…
Can we talk about that next time?
Image: Stroll down to the park. Take a camera. Feel the sunshine. Enjoy. Relax. Our kids are learning.