When someone says they homeschool, I often wonder what type of homeschooling they use. There are so many varied styles of homeschooling that it is impossible to bunch everyone together, and aren’t you glad! That is also one of the best draws of homeschooling–the flexibility to teach your child the way you choose or the way your child learns the best.
In pondering our homeschooling style, I would say it is an exciting and creative blend of unschooling and eclectic studies. Perhaps they are one in the same. My daughter really doesn’t like “school” at all, so unschooling is definitely one of the best approaches for her. Allowing her a voice in her studies ensures sheis engaged. She has boundaries, but is allowed to explore things of interest. Everyday living is a very big part of her schooling which truly is unschooling. If you are not familiar with the term “unschooling,” you might want to do a little research. It is far from sitting around doing nothing. It is about making choices that compliment your individual learning style without formal, traditional, or maybe I should say “restrictive” structure. It is about living and learning at the same time–interest driven, delight driven, or natural learning. It is the freedom to learn in a more natural way… which does not necessarily mean a more irresponsible way.
It is very fulfilling to watch my child in pursuit of learning, rather than trying to force specific knowledge down her throat. I can guarantee you it wasn’t always that way. When we started homeschooling, I taught her. The focus was on using “traditional” methods because I was a trained classroom teacher. Boy, that was a huge mistake I wish I could go back and correct. I have since learned it is best to step back and let her teach herself, after-all, teaching is just presenting material. Learning is internal.
Unschooling does not mean that my child never uses a textbook or takes a class–she does. Unschooling does not mean that parents do not teach anything to their children, or that children should or must learn about life entirely on their own without help and guidance from parents or others. Quite the contrary. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of school.
My daughter uses an online resource for part of her schooling, uses a specific curriculum for math, and takes co-op school classes (as many homeschool children do) and enjoys them all very much. She selects co-op classes that interest her, not the ones I MAKE her take. Since she chooses her co-op classes; chooses particular “text” books, if necessary; chooses specific areas of study and so forth, she consistently remembers more and advances quiet well academically. Does she hit snags along the way? Of course, we all do. Sometimes, she asks for input. I am happy to guide her in some decision-making dilemmas, that is one way to learn. However, I also want her to make as many of her own decisions as she can.
I remember begging my mother to “help” me make decisions as a young teenager. She wouldn’t do it. Looking back, I realize I didn’t want her “help” at all; I wanted her to make the decision for me. I am grateful she stood her ground, forcing me to learn the decision- making process that benefits me as an adult. If she had given in and “helped” me make every decision as a youth, I would be crippled adult today.
The Internet allows my child and yours to explore (with guidance) so many areas of interest. Much is available for free. My daughter loves to research astronomy because she wants to be an astronomer. She once built a science fair board about the 10 brightest stars. Did I mention there was no science fair for her to enter at the time? It was her inward desire for knowledge driving her to find answers. If I forced her study stars, it would have been dread for her. By allowing her to choose her own methods and topic, she was very creative and can still tell you all about stars.
Perhaps your child loves to write short paragraphs but is not a great speller. There are sites that allow you to enter your own “spelling” words (in the case of my daughter, she could input words dealing with astronomy) then use them to write an online paragraph or story with the option to print or to make spelling printables for practice. We do not use a formal spelling program, so a site that allows us to input our own words–words of interest–is a plus.
If unschooling ever stops working for us, there are plenty of other styles to try. Life is exciting and that is what I want my daughter to experience,life, her life, not the life someone else prescribes for her. I would like to leave you with this short message:
“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.” — Anne Sullivan