How We Homeschool-Unschooling Edition
This week, I’m diving into our homeschool methodology. For the past few months, we’ve been following a mostly unschooling philosophy, but through the years, we have dabbled in multiple methods of learning. As we close on 2017 and begin a new year, I’ve been evaluating our daily rhythm and our goals for the year, and have decided that we need to begin leaning towards a more eclectic version of what we’ve done over the years.
As a result, we made a list of the 4 homeschool methods we agree most with: Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and Unschooling. Each of these methods share slight similarities, but if we’re being honest, following one completely renders the others as completely opposite. By making a list of what we love and don’t, we are forming our own version of homeschool, full of the things we love about each method, despite their differences.
If you want to go back and read the first entry of this series, click here.
What we love about Unschooling:
- Encourages individual interests. We value what Explorer Cub is interested in. And we fully believe that if encouraged and supported, he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to. In unschooling, Explorer Cub is free to explore his interests. He is able to dictate what he learns and how he applies it.
- Flexibility. We aren’t attached to a curriculum following unschooling, so if we are in the middle of learning about Ancient Rome and get sidetracked by currency, we can follow that path and learn even more.
- Life is learning. We love that unschooling promotes life as the greatest education of all. During unschooling, we have the ability to learn alongside our kiddos, at their pace, and even inspire them. We teach economy skills while he asks questions about our etsy shops. We talk about politics. We talk about history. Life becomes school in unschooling.
- They learn at their own pace. We tried for years to teach Explorer Cub to read. As he got older, we worried more and more, pushed every reading program we could on him…and the only thing it got us was a kid who hated reading any books, and still couldn’t read a single word at age 6. We were unsure what to do. So, we chose to back off. We trusted that he would learn when he was ready. And, it worked. Within weeks, he was reading chapter books on his own. How did he learn? He simply realized that we weren’t always around to read to him what the Minecraft screens said. After that, he just learned and learned and now has no problem reading.
What we’re not so fond of about Unschooling:
- Dependency on Intrinsic Motivation. Sometimes, Explorer Cub just isn’t intrinsically motivated. Actually, a lot of times. Which means that we spend more time guiding him to learn, which feels anti-unschooling to us. We love unschooling philosophies, but I really feel that intrinsic motivation is harder to cultivate in some kids.
- Lack of structure. While this is the main point of unschooling, the lack of structure for a kid on the spectrum can be an issue. Explorer Cub loves that unschooling gives him the freedom to follow his interests, but he also is aware that he sometimes abuses that freedom. His interests quickly become obsessions.
- What does the future hold? I trust the process of unschooling…most of the time. But sometimes, especially now that we live in a state that requires annual testing, I get nervous about whether or not he’s learning. We’ve seen first hand that he learns what he needs to when he’s ready, but sometimes as home educating parents, it can be nerve wracking to know that his future rests on our shoulders. If we mess up…well, we can’t take that back!
Unschooling has helped us get through moments in our life when more structured schooling was counter productive. When I was pregnant with Tiny Timber, and dealing with horrible morning sickness well into my second trimester, unschooling was the answer. When we were moving to Minnesota (and I was still pregnant) from Washington, we leaned on unschooling heavily. And most recently, while we were preparing for our move to Wisconsin and the holiday chaos was in full swing, unschooling was our best friend. But we’re learning that unschooling has it’s place in our lives.
Please keep in mind that these are only my opinion, and in no way meant to convince you of how to teach your kiddos! As I dive into each method that we feel is part of our homeschooling, I’m learning even more than I knew before. These points are only some aspects of each method…there are even more parts that didn’t make the list. Those things live in the “gray area.” Some of them we use, some of them, we don’t. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…we find exactly what we need to teach of our very unique and exceptional children in the way that helps them learn best. Both of my boys are completely different, and I know that the way I approach schooling with Explorer Cub will be different from the way that Tiny Timber learns!
Do you use unschooling in your homeschooling? What is your family’s favorite part of homeschooling this way? Let me know in the comments!