The concept of unschooling has gained traction in the past few decades, ever since John Holt coined the term in 1977. This method of education is similar to homeschooling but is traditionally carried out with more freedom and less of a strict structure.
Unschooling appeals to families of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles, and each of them are able to customize the experienced based on their needs. The reasons for choosing unschooling vary from providing more focus on the child, allowing children to have more of a say in their education, and providing families with the ability to learn while traveling.
Because unschooling doesn’t take place in a traditional classroom setting, it is vital that children are supported in learning key skills that will help keep them motivated to learn and on track with their academic progress. One of the positive aspects of unschooling includes that children are often exposed to a multitude of hands-on life skills that they may otherwise not have picked up in a conventional schooling method.
Below are six key skills and habits that are important for children to practice and develop as they immerse themselves in their unique unschooling journey. These skills will help kids to concentrate, set and achieve goals, expand their minds, maintain a routine, and actively engage in their unschooling experience.
As parents continue to guide their children in learning these habits and skills, unschooling becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Accountability is the concept that a person takes full responsibility for their actions when or after a negative or challenging outcome occurs.
In the real world, being accountable for your choices and responsibilities plays a substantial role in your overall success and fulfillment. Young children and teenagers who maintain a healthy sense of accountability ultimiately become adults who are more respected and trusted.
Accountability teaches you to think before you act, consider others, and make choices that minimize negative outcomes for yourself of others. In the academic and business realm, practicing accountably helps you maintain a solid routine and stay productive. All of these are important skills to learn for those who unschool as well.
Kids that learn ways to practice accountability grow into young adults who
know how to: adequately set goals, create a system to stay on track, learn from mistakes and celebrate successes, communicate more effectively with peers, co-workers, and others.
Practical ways that parents can help children learn accountability when it comes to unschooling include teaching them to:
- Set up an effective process for organizing tasks and projects
- Create realistic goals for their education and chart their progress
- Clearly communicate the tools and resources they need to be successful
- Discuss their choices both before and after the make them, taking into consideration the logical and natural consequences
Patience and Perseverance
Whether your family is transitioning from traditional schooling to unschooling, or just starting out fresh with unschooling, patience will be required as the process unfolds.
It takes time to set up a routine that works for you, to gather the necessary supplies and resources, to consider a curriculum or plan of action, and to get into the rhythm of this exciting learning lifestyle.
As you role model your patience with unschooling, your children will reap the benefits as well by learning that the process is just as important as the progress. Remember: “Good things come to those who wait”. But waiting doesn’t mean inaction. Perseverance goes hand in hand with patience because it means that you and your children continue to take action by researching unschooling information, trying out new methods and processes, tackling learning projects, and visiting various sites for hands-on educational opportunities.
You and your children may be anxious and excited to dive right into unschooling and to see the benefits immediately. But it’s helpful to remember that all learning is a process that builds upon previous experiences, data, and retention. Much like building a house, you must start with the foundation and work your way up before it even begins to resemble a home.
One of the ways to help keep your family motivated is to ensure you celebrate milestones and progress along the way. This will help bolster enthusiasm for the process and inspire them to think strategically and creatively about their education goals.
Learning to diversify your education and expand your horizons is an important skill that impacts a person for a lifetime. For example, when you maintain a narrow view on education, hobbies, or interests, you greatly limit your capability to learn new things and perspectives. Luckily, most families who choose unschooling already understand the importance of diversifying their educationa opportunities.
However, unschooling is a great reminder to always think outside of the box. When considering subjects and areas for your children to start researching, think about how you can ensure they have access to a variety of cultural, social, and economic perspectives. It’s also a good reminder to diversify the style of learning for your child. Most children have a style of learning that works best for them, but it can encourage a growth mindset to introduce different techniques every so often.
Another example is to remember to diveristy their hobbies and interests. While your children may be interested in things like computer coding or gaming, it’s also important to encourage them to step outside their comfort zones and try something new! Perhaps they would enjoy learning the skills that come with tackling a ropes course or escape room or from trying their hand at DIY crafts.
As with any area of life, learning to balance priorities and overall wellness is critical. Children can be taught to focus on a healthy life balance from a very young age and often turn into adults who are better able to adapt to the everyday stressors of life.
Because unschooling is generally far less structured than traditional schooling, the edges of “schooling” and “life” can sometimes be blurred. While this is actually a benefit to unschooling – in that unschoolers embrace that life itself is a learning opportunity – it can sometimes cause kids to feel like they aren’t sure when to “be done for the day”. Kids do well with routines, which includes knowing when they should be in “active learning mode’ and when they can relax a bit and get back into “kid mode’.
Again, one of the welcome aspects of unschooling is it does tend to encourage a much more healthy life balance than the classroom style of learning. Kids can take breaks, learn outside, and not stress about school bells or being late.
Be sure to encourage your unschoolers to relax, play, have time for self-reflection, socialilze, and explore life!
Don’t forget to be a great role model by working to create a whole life balance in your own personal life. This means taking downtime to connect with loved ones, making self-care a priority, and focusing on healthy boundaries with work/school/personal life. Kids will learn so much by seeing you fulfilled and full of passion and enthusiasm.
Unschooling offers families an incredible opportunity to customize a supportive learning environment that works with their own needs and lifestyle. By encouraging these four skills and habits, your child will have a great chance of becoming not only a successful unschooler but a lifelong learner.