It's probably time I got around to this post. I write quite a bit about homeschooling :) But I haven't written too much about "Unschooling". It is a perspective on learning and life in general which has engaged me for sometime. I remember when I first started reading articles by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and other proponents of the term "unschooling" I felt this light bulb go on in my mind.
However I must offer a disclaimer... These are just my own musings on unschooling and really just a way of clarifying my thoughts on the subject... The beauty of the concept is it is free, adaptable and open ended. Therefore... there are no rules (sheepish grin :)
For example...I absolutely love Rudolf Steiner's educational philosophy and we apply much of it to our homeschooling life. Maybe I'll write on that another day :)
I also embrace many of Charlotte Mason's ideas such as the value of learning through the use of "living books" as opposed to textbooks (though we have used the odd text book now and then when it has served a particular purpose....rule breaking and radical us see ;)
And her endorsement of outdoor learning is something I try to practice as often as possible (in other words, when it's not raining here in merry England ;)
But that is the beauty of it! For us unschooling is a non formulaic "way of living" rather than simply a homeschooling perspective.
For me, essentially, unschooling is a whole hearted, non judgmental embracing of life.
It is also a whole hearted, non judgmental embracing of children. Whatever their character, sensibility, temperament or interests, they are accepted unconditionally instead of moulded to fit any preconceived ideas I might have about who they should be, how they should be, what and when they should be interested in learning.
It is also an embracing of the natural curiosity and interest in the world that we are all innately born with until perhaps we are told that we "should" be learning something else instead.
I believe that children have a fantastic ability to seek out activities that they know their own particular personalities "need" to develop a full understanding of the world and how they will fit into it.
My children and I enjoy following our passions wherever they may lead.... (and the day allows;)
In fact when I indulge my own passions and interests such as gardening, needlework, painting reading or writing it sparks their interest too. For example the girls started taking an interest in knitting when I was spending time in the afternoon and evening knitting baby clothes last year! Emmy has now well surpassed me in crochet!
It is often assumed that handwork is somehow inferior to academic work but I have seen first hand how handwork has helped my little girl Matilda who had speech delay to develop skills which have boosted her confidence and interest in what are percieved to be conventional academics.
Tilly absolutly loves stiching on embroidery hoops, knitting, latch hook, hand spinning and weaving and spends much of her day on these things. And I love that I am able to allow her the time she needs to do these things. She also spends an awful lot of time, playing imaginativly, drawing, obsessing about disney princesses and doing "not very much" at all :)
Yet all these things are important to her learning about the world in her own way I believe.
Unschooling is expansive.
It has no edges, no hurdles, no hoops to jump through, no scores.
It doesn't value one particular set of skills and talents for example... (maths and science) over others (art and dance) like the school system is often want to do.
Unschooling is flexible. It fits around momentous life changing events such as having a baby. It is able to thoroughly engage with the experience of the moment as it is not constrained by deadlines and timetables.
Unschooling doesn't measure an experience by it's educational worth.
The categories between play, work, learning and experiencing merge.
I find unschooling naturally takes nourishment from everything.
Then it moves, gently and organically to the next experience.
And maybe, this is the thing I like the very most about unschooling. It is organic. It is process.
It is not simply goal orientated, pass the test, earn that certificate, jump through that hoop!
It is all about journeying. Together. Parent and child.
It does not make education an imposition of schedule, task or curriculum. It is open ended and pregnant with possibilities. It is an unfolding, a becoming a discovering of self.
And in that sense it is actually very practical and applicable to "real life".
It is a learning how to live, function, make choices, manage time, life and normal social situations as you grow.
And the best thing? This learning takes place in a warm, nurturing, loving atmosphere of family and community.
When the day awakens me it feels like I am going on an adventure.
I don't know exactly where we will end up, but I do know that we will be enjoying the journey getting there.
Straight after breakfast and morning prayers Boo runs to the harp and starts playing "The Sally Gardens" which she picked up by ear after hearing Emmy play it on her Irish whistle the other day. Tilly goes upstairs and watches part of "Swan Lake" on you tube and rehearses her routine for the ballet show she'll be performing in July. Emmy picks up a book on anatomy, she wants to delve deeper so she does some online research. Fina finds her paint set in the craft cupboard and some white paper from the desk and starts painting a story she has asked to me to read aloud to her.
We flow on to lunch. Emmy finds a recipe for cous cous she would like to try.
We make it together, the little ones chop up some bananas and strawberries for pudding.
Emmy changes the baby while I do the dishes.
It's sunny so we go to the park, the little ones meet up with some other homeschooling kids and they play for a while. Emmy takes the camera, takes some photos that she will later edit on photo shop.
The girls watch a movie while I finish dinner.
Tani comes home we eat and chat about the day.
Emmy works on her blog and her Bush craft website. She irons her clothes and polishes her shoes ready for cadets.
The little girls take dip in the bath and get ready for bed. Boo reads the younger ones a bedtime story.
And so it goes...
And that pretty much sums up our days right now :)
Free flowing, full, fun and un-schooled.
Edited to add this link which has some fantastic articles on unschooling. How it works, why it works and even why it may not come naturally.