Unschooling is often revered for the way it can minimize busy schedules, unnecessary supplies, schooling fees, and general family overwhelm. When given the freedom to create their own routines, schedules, and learning opportunities, families often find that unschooling reduces stress and anxiety for everyone. As a bonus, there are a number of free resources that are available to the public and can be great assets to the unschooling community.
This article will give an overview of the top five free resources that any family, whether unschooled or not, can take advantage of to bolster their learning success.
Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, America’s public library system is one of our country’s most valuable and cherished free resources. While books, magazines, movies, and most any type of media are offered at libraries, they also are a community center for various programs and workshops.
The children’s section of a library generally offers engaging spaces for children to relax, read, and play quietly as well as free programs that may include storytime, crafting, gaming, exercise, and much more. Additionally, most libraries have computers for both young children and adults that can be used for research, games, or just browsing the web.
Historical or ancestral research is another wonderful benefit to libraries as they have an extensive collection of historical archives that include newspapers and articles. Genealogy can be a fun way for kids to learn more about their family and ancestors and libraries can be a perfect start to that journey.
Additionally, libraries offer study rooms that patrons can either schedule in advance or book at the library. This is a helpful resource for families who may be road schooling or need an extra quiet and tidy space for a project, podcasting, videos, or meetings.
Many families may not realize that colleges and universities also have on-site libraries that are open to the public. Not only can touring a university be a useful opportunity for learning but their libraries often have excellent academic archives.
Perfect for rainy, cold, or hot days, an unschooling family can find a variety of free activities to do at a library that will add to their learning experience as well as provide them an opportunity to socialize with others.
Museums allow for an interactive, often hands-on learning opportunity for families. There are a broad range of museums, including ones that focus on science, art, technology, nature, and history. Don’t forget about some of the smaller local museums that often introduce kids to interesting topics such as transportation (airplanes, trains, automobiles, space) or to local cultures such as Native American culture or early settlers.
While not all of these museums are free, many may offer free admission on certain days or provide discounts to homeschooling families. Museums may also have certain exhibits that do not require an admission fee. Some local libraries also offer reciprocal that allow for free membership or admission to partnering organizations.
Parks and Recreation
We are lucky to have an expansive national and state parks program that gives families the chance to explore the beauty of our nation. Not only do these parks provide opportunities for hiking, bike riding, geocaching, and other outdoor activities but many include free learning centers.
These learning centers may include daily tours, nature and wildlife walks, indoor and outdoor exhibits, gift shops, special workshops and events, and programs geared towards kids (such as the Junior Ranger program).
Again, not every park has free admission but many do. You can check admission fees to National Parks online at https://www.nps.gov/index.htm or check online for your local state parks. Additionally, the Every Kid in a Park program allows for children in fourth grade (and unschoolers/homeschoolers of that age) to access free admission to national parks.
State-wide Fish and Game Departments also provide interactive and informative programs, workshops, and events about the ecological resources in the area (wildlife, fish, and plants).
Public parks are a great idea for picnics, meetups, group hikes, or to watch the wildlife. Unschooling families can discover the native plants and flowers and check out the local geology, as well as have fun geocaching.
Unschooling families can also enjoy the resources that government factories, such as historic buildings and state capitols, offer. These places often offer self-guided tours, historic relics, and educational movies about the local government. The design and unique features of the buildings can also be a good way to incorporate architecture into a learning curriculum.
Other government and civil facilities may include recycling centers, utility stations, water treatment centers, or courthouses.
Be sure to check the schedule in advance to ensure these facilities are open, as most are closed in observance of national holidays.
A helpful resource for connecting with free programs and events is your local Visitor’s Bureau. This organization connects with other businesses and organizations as a means to promote tourism throughout the city and state. Stopping at a visitor’s bureau is a great way to learn more about what free resources are offered and what are “must-do’s” in the area. This can be especially helpful when traveling or roadschooling. If you’d rather not make a stop into the visitor’s bureau, check to see what information they may provide online.
Taking advantage of free public resources can help keep your homeschooling family enthusiastic and engaged in their adventure of learning.