Unschoolers and Schooly Type Subjects

My Unschooling Book Series (8)

Yesterday, I was writing about what unschooling can look like.

Unschoolers and Schooly Type Subjects

When you read my story, What Unschooling Is All About, did you notice that my girls are learning about such things as writing, Renoir, Shakespeare, and the solar system? These are topics that can be found in a school curriculum. Teachers turn them into lessons for their students. Why would my girls want to learn about things that can be classified as creative arts and English and science when they aren’t compelled to?

My children want to learn because they are curious people. They ask questions. They ponder. They search for answers. They want to know about all kinds of things. They don’t think in terms of school subjects. They don’t say “I’m not interested in that because it’s history… or geography… or science.” It’s irrelevant to them that the education authorities have reduced fascinating topics to required school curriculum subjects. They regard everything in the world as potential sources of wonderful learning experiences.

Gemma-Rose and I are chatting.

“Do you know there are four different species of kookaburra?”

I don’t. I’ve only ever seen laughing kookaburras. They sit on our backyard fence. Their calls are the sound of our local bush.

Gemma-Rose and I discuss the birds’ defining features. We wonder:  Are kookaburras related to kingfishers? How many species of kookaburra are found in Australia? And why haven’t I heard about the blue-winged kookaburra before?

I ask Gemma-Rose where she was reading about kookaburras and she answers, “On the Internet.” She had a question (about something else) so she did some googling. One interesting thing led to another and now she knows more about kookaburras than she used to.

I want to know more too. I want to see a photo of the kookaburra with the blue wings. I’m going to do some googling of my own.

“And, Mum, do you know how cats purr? After I read about kookaburras, I followed another link…”

Gemma-Rose tells me about vocal cords and air and vibrations and how cats might purr when they’re nervous. “Just like nervous people will sometimes smile.”

Classifying birds and vibrating vocal cords are science, but Gemma-Rose isn’t thinking, “I’m doing science.” She’s just satisfying her curiosity. She’s learning because she’s interested in our fascinating world. Just like me.

So on the surface, unschooling can look similar to school learning. Dig deeper and you’ll find out it is very different!

Although my children aren’t concerned with school subjects, I do have to think about them. In order to fulfil the legal homeschool registration requirements of our state, I have to turn all my children’s unschooling learning experiences into the right schooly language. I shall talk more about how I do this later!

Image: Gemma-Rose loves reading and discussing classic novels. (I guess she loves English!) In this photo, she is reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South out loud to me. I’m enjoying it. I don’t know if our puppy Quinn likes the story too. With her naturally sad looking face, it’s hard to tell!

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  1. Reply

    I love it! When I was young we didn’t have the internet but we had a set of encyclopedias and I loved to look at them, especially the transparent sheets that showed the layers of muscles, organs and bones in the human body. I liked how those pages were different. I also hoped I could discover that I had a serious illness that prevented me from going to school! Ha ha! So I spent a lot of time reading about illnesses. I like your setup much better. Your children have plenty of time to read and follow their interests without having a serious disease!

    1. Reply


      What a fabulous comment! Oh yes, I love your story. I can just imagine you researching serious diseases in your set of encyclopedias. I never did this, but I did contemplate throwing myself down the stairs in the hope that I’d break my leg and get some time off school. Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) I wasn’t brave enough to do this. Although I’m laughing at the memories, I also feel sad that school can make children feel desperate enough to wish they were ill or injured so that they can avoid it. I’m glad you didn’t have a serious disease!

  2. Reply

    Now I too know a lot more of Kookaburras 🙂 never saw one, of course, not even in the Zoo. But I once saw a Kingfisher.
    I used to read dictionaries for fun and books, lots of books while I sat curled up behind our stuffed chairs so that my mother wouldn’t see me and send me out to play with the other children – and I dreamt of migrating to Australia, where you only had to go to school via the radio. What strange children we were.

    1. Reply


      We see kookaburras all the time because they live in the bush that surrounds our house. Each day at dawn we can hear them laughing loudly. I like the sound though once an overseas friend said she thought it was awful!

      I used to read dictionaries too. I’d dip into the pages at random fascinated by all the words. And my mother used to tell me to go out and play!

      It seems like we were all curious children who wanted to learn. We just didn’t want to go to school!

  3. Reply

    Now I know more about Kookaburras than I did before. Which I will pass on to my curious kids. All due to Gemma-Rose and her curiosity. This, just this, is the way to learn! Imagine how fascinating schools would be if kids could all share their knowledge this way! Instead they shut down and dumb down.
    My kids are learning about physics of car engines researching how brakes, clutches, speedometers etc work after playing racing games; politics from cartoons on pinterest boards; percentages due to calculating stats for gaming; and now about Kookaburras through their mother’s blogging!
    Today we are off to hear their dad talk about impossible things trees can do. How cool is our life.
    Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Reply


      The blue-winged kookaburras are beautiful. (I did google them!) And I haven’t seen one because they live in northern Australia (and southern New Guinea) and we don’t. I wonder if I saw one as I child. We used to live in Brisbane.

      Oh my, your boys are learning about some fascinating things! I learnt a bit about cars when my son Callum was working on his many vehicles. He’d order spare parts and then, when they arrived in the mail, he’d proudly show them to me and tell me all about them. There are still a lot of car parts sprinkled around our garden!

      I am curious about the impossible things trees can do. I need to know more. I hope you’ll share some details!

      Your comment just confirms that kids don’t need schools to learn. In fact, schools can get in the way. I’m so glad we can live this cool life and our kids don’t have to think up ways to avoid going to school!

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