(Updated January 2013)
As some of you know I’m in the long process of writing a book called: (from) Unschooling to College; An alternative to the educational rat race. This blog supports this project in couple of ways: first, it allows me to keep writing on the subject of natural learning on the internet, and second it allows others to read and give their opinion while sharing their experience with unschooling.
In “Sandra Dodd’s big book of unschooling”, Sandra writes: “Unschooling is arranging for natural learning”. I like that definition and placed it as one of the quotes in the beginning of my book since it addresses the main premise of the book that the ability to learn anything and everything is something we are born with. In other words, it comes naturally. We will not have survived as a species without it.
In 1995, when my boys were 8 and 5 and we were still living in Israel, I started a magazine called (loosely translated): What comes naturally, a magazine about alternative education. I am now translating some of the things I wrote because they capture well what I then observed as the learning process that “naturally grown” children –those given the freedom to play and explore to their heart content – go through.
At this point in my life I’m in a place to share all that I have learned about learning during more than 25 years of living unschooling and many more years of being involved with alternative education. I am a mother of three who have all been unschooled since birth. My older son is 25 years old. He graduated from college in 2008, worked for a couple of years and then decided to go back to school to get his MBA, graduating in 2012. My middle son is 22 and has graduated from college in 2012. Both have been successful in their studies and are now working and living on the east coast of the USA.
My youngest daughter is nearly 11 and is taking me again through the uncertainties and wonders of the unschooling process. As a mom I need (again) to center myself and block my personal and cultural fears and trust the process of self-discovery and learning that she is going through.
Both my boys grew up unschooled, doing what grabbed their interest and basically teaching themselves throughout their childhood. Both have never taken a test or experienced any traditional schooling until they were 16+ and decided to take some courses at the community college. Neither of them or any other grown unschoolers I know have had any more trouble than traditionally schooled kids finding their way through college or through an adult work environment; on the contrary.
While proof to children’s ability to teach themselves complex ideas with minimal or no instruction is coming to us now from very poor areas around the world (see “Hole in the wall experiment” and “One laptop per child” experiment); there also exists a growing body of experience and know-how from parents and children practicing unschooling for many years now. With minimal interference many parents have allowed learning to continue to occur naturally, from babyhood to adulthood, with amazing results.
And while there are no guarantees in life, unschooling has already proven to offer a sane alternative to the current educational system without realizing one of parents’ biggest fears: a son or daughter who cannot make it in this complex world.
It is a process that calls for trust and a willingness to chart your own path rather than follow a traditional one, but if you are game – it is well worth the journey.
Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoy reading through and I welcome your thoughts, comments and stories. They will benefit all who visit here as well!
I’m so glad to find your blog! You have so much wisdom and experience to offer! Thank you for doing this!
Rich:If my unschooled child were to reveice a letter to attend Hogwarts, I would fret a lot! The reason he is unschooled is that nobody who knows him could think of a school that would work well for his combination of twice-exceptional traits. In the end, though, if he wanted to go to Hogwarts I am sure we would give it a try.An unschooled Witch or Wizard would almost certainly be relying on existing resources, not simply making up spells. I have to imagine s/he would routinely hear from Wizarding parents Ok, if you want to try that, here are the ground rules, or I see you’re trying to accomplish X; the incantation I know for that is . And yes, I’m sure there would be some mistakes to clean up and some independent new discoveries. I’m not sure that is so different than Hogwarts, though; independent discovery must happen in the Wizarding world, or there would be no progress. Lupin talks about time before the Wolfsbane potion was invented; the Weasley twins succeed at their shop because they are extremely inventive; and Snape is known to have invented spells and improved upon potions. Also, unless Magic originally developed only in Western Europe and then later spread, I would have to believe there are variations in the combination of incantation-plus-technique that gets a result. I would have to imagine that wizards in Asia developed incantations that were not based on Latin!I agree that two Muggles unschooling a Wizard child would be problematic; they would need some Wizarding friends, for sure! But Wizard/Muggle is either or, whereas real human capacities are on a continuum. At any given time, someplace there is a single smartest person on earth; he or she must have been helped along by people who were less bright.If your elevator pitch conception of Unschooling is The child learns by himself it might make more sense to re-imagine that as The environment is the child’s primary teacher. You are part of that environment, and have a role to play (well, a lot of roles, actually). When you make the leap to unschooling, you exchange the big, primary responsibility for all the details of what, when, how for a more fluid job, including providing information when asked, sharing what you want to when allowed, and learning alongside your children when their interests go into unfamiliar territory. I am sure that there are many combinations of adult-and-child that would not make for good unschooling. (I didn’t say parent-and-child because I include Sudbury model schools, for example, as unschooling.) But I don’t think that’s the biggest hurdle. No, the hardest part is that it is The Road Less Traveled, and as such, the constant possibility of self-doubt has been the hardest part for us.
Thank you, Pam, for your kind words, and thanks for visiting!
I missed this first run, but just saw it. What I am most donpapsiisted about the unschooling segment is that noone addressed the harmful effects of schooling that most don’t know about, or take to be part of our society. John Holt and John Taylor Gatto are two of my favorite authors for those discussions. Anyone considering their children’s education would benefit from How Children Learn and How Children Fail (Holt), among others.Unschooling allows a child to preserve his natural desire for learning by not imposing artificial restrictions of curriculum, learning methods, and time constraints allotted for subject matter. In unschooling there is no teaching for the test unless the child wants to take a test for his own benefit. There also is no constant fear of getting called on of getting an answer wrong or even of getting the answer right (most kids don’t want to be singled out the older they get). Also the structure of traditional school does not engender critical thinking, but following authority. It was designed that way when Dewey (et al) advocated the change 100 years ago. Not a good segment, through no fault of the unschooling family. Reply:March 27th, 2010 at 9:44 pmNo, through know fault of the family at all. It’s just the way television has to twist things. I always wonder why they feel it’s necessary to present a two-sided view, when they could provide an informational view without any sides. Like, here’s what unschooling is, take it or leave it . I guess that wouldn’t make very good television though would it?
It’s not possible to show much of what uocnhsoling is in 20 minutes you can barely scratch the surface in an hour. Without seeing any unschooled teens, one doesn’t see the results of our lifestyle choice. Seeing families with young children is great for a glimpse at how uocnhsoling is with *one* family, but the real question in people’s minds is Does it really work?’I was a skeptic once too it seemed like the right choice for my family, but did it work? When I finally met some local unschooled teens, I was sold. They were all different in their personalities but they all seemed so comfortable in their own skin. They had an air of confidence about them. Some were more talkative than others, but they were articulate & thoughtful when they spoke.I hope that people whose curiosity was piqued take the time to read & learn more. There are so many amazing families sharing their experiences. I may not relate 100% to every uocnhsoling family & everything that they do, but I do relate to the love, joy and respect these families have for each other that’s what inspires me on a daily basis.(for a second while writing earlier, I felt like this was the X-Files and wanted to yell The Truth Is Out There!’s)PS Props to the Parents for being brave I don’t think I would have been able to do it