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11 Benefits of Unschooling
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11 Benefits of Unschooling

When you’re trying to decide how best to educate your children and prepare them for the world, there are a lot of options out there. It can be overwhelming to choose which path is the one that will help them to find their truest success and happiness in life. There are public schools, private schools, homeschooling, and many different variations of each and everything in between to choose from. The concept of unschooling is to take all of those structured models and just throw them out the window. Unschooling may be a controversial subject in some circles but understanding what it actually is and what it can do for your child may be the key to deciding what the best educational path for them might be.

There are many benefits to unschooling that traditional schooling often can’t provide. Some skills could be achieved with supplemental education outside of school while others come from a complete immersion in a free, open learning type of environment. Classroom learning can teach a structured curriculum, memorization of facts, and adherence to a schedule of bells but there are many skills that are better developed outside of the classroom, with real, hands on experience.

A Sense of Self and Independence

Learning in a traditional school setting is very much a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Everyone is taught the same thing, at the same pace, and is expected to achieve the same results. Unschooling allows children to choose a topic that interests them and pursue it as in-depth and completely as they’d like. They are also given a level of trust to build their own education that students in a classroom cannot receive when being told when and what to learn.

This level of trust and freedom allows children to see their time, opinions, and interests are valued. This feeling can create a higher level of confidence as well as trust in themselves. Constantly being graded and compared to their peers can create feelings of stress and a sense of self-doubt but when children are allowed to learn without the burden of grades and rules, they can also be allowed to flourish and believe in themselves.

A Sense of Initiative

Unschooling puts the learning plan totally on the child. Whatever they’re curious about, they can take it upon themselves to pursue. That’s not to say that the parents aren’t there to provide guidance, encouragement, resources, and support, but allowing your children to navigate their own educational paths shows them that knowledge, along with so many other things in the world, doesn’t happen until you make it happen.

Learning to nurture this sense of initiative into adulthood will produce the type of person who understands that if they want something, they have to work hard to get it. Being forced into learning doesn’t usually feel like something you’re going after, it may feel instead like a burden that has been placed on by an outside party.

Critical Thinking Skills

Traditional schooling focuses on instilling information into children and having them repeat it back in the form of tests and quizzes to make sure they’ve memorized it. Questions may be encouraged but often only if they pertain directly to what is being taught. Some questions, about rules and regulations, may be discouraged entirely. Children who don’t want to go with the flow may even be classified as a troublemaker and be sent to the principal’s office.

Questioning the world around you, even authority, and following your own train of thinking, even if it gets you completely off topic, is how critical thinking is developed. Not simply accepting what they’re being taught but fully investigating every question they have about it is how children will learn to ask the right questions and will also learn how to pursue the answer from sources other than one single educator.

Problem-Solving Skills

Typical classroom education doesn’t put a lot of focus on genuine problem solving. When a real life issue arises, teachers and principals sort it out for the student or may even call a parent to come and intervene. Disruptive situations affects the teacher’s ability to teach so the problem needs to be solved as quickly as possible to get the class back on track. However, this doesn’t teach children how to handle their own issues or learn the steps they need to take to resolve a problem they’ve encountered.

While unschooling keeps the parents in a role of mentor and guide, it also allows them to step back when needed and let the child figure stuff out for themselves. That doesn’t mean you aren’t there to coach them or catch them when they fall, but it lets you decide when it’s time to step in or when it’s time to hang back. Teachers don’t have the luxury to do this because they have too many other students to worry about to allow children to take the time and solve their own problems. It’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s just how the system is structured.

Diversity and Socialization

A huge criticism when it comes to unschooling is that your children will not be properly socialized. This can be as true or as completely ridiculous as you let it be. Children sit in a classroom with a bunch of other kids who are their exact same age and, depending on the school, maybe the same ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic background. Making friends at school can be hard for kids but usually, once they find their groups, they stick to them and they stay within that small comfort zone.

Parents who unschool could keep their kids at home all the time but for anyone concerned with socialization, unschooling actually allows for far more opportunities for truly diverse and valuable social interactions. Clubs and groups can introduce children to peers of any age range who share similar interests. Playing in public places like parks and rec centers allow kids to play with others from every type of background. Volunteering in your community and attending local events will allow kids to foster a sense of belonging and unity within the community. Unschooling allows both children and parents to operate on an open schedule so there can be plenty of time to pursue any range of social activities they desire.

Socializing outside of one small group of the same age can allow children to learn from others who are older than them and can teach them to help guide the little ones who are younger. Many interests are shared between children of all ages and making friends outside of a school setting can introduce kids to a much wider range of people they have things in common with.

Adaptability and Learning to Learn

Retaining knowledge has its merits but simply being able to memorize a fact doesn’t teach children anything for the future. When children are allowed to study the subjects that interest them the most, they are much more likely to absorb and understand this information rather than simply memorizing something because they have to. It allows them to take the knowledge and apply it in life because they’re interested in it, they chose to learn it, and they feel more connected and involved in the material.

When learning how to learn in this style, it’s much more likely that kids will be excited about education rather than dread it like it’s a terrible chore. It teaches them that learning is fun and when you want or need to know something, you pursue it through any of the methods you have at your disposal. They see that information doesn’t simply live in a textbook but that it’s out there and available at any time, for anyone who is interested in it.

Freedom to Pursue Passions and Interests

Schools are notorious for teaching a little bit of everything and staying away from looking too closely at one particular subject. This makes sense because they’re trying to expose a huge group of kids to as much information as they can before they have to move on to the next thing. With unschooling, this wide range of exposure can still be accomplished by baiting your children with little bits of info from different subjects but instead of forcing them to learn the one that’s on the agenda, they choose the topic that seems more interesting and pursue it for as long as they’d like.

Avoid Unhealthy Competition

Traditional schooling puts a huge amount of focus on getting the right answers and having the best grades. The social pressures also put so much weight on who’s the most athletic, who’s the most popular, or who’s the biggest loser. This kind of atmosphere can make it difficult for kids to want to just be themselves. They may feel ashamed for making mistakes or may be embarrassed of an interest they have and not pursue it in fear of being ridiculed.

Making mistakes are not bad, they’re how people learn. Struggling with a topic shouldn’t make a child feel ashamed or embarrassed, they should feel curious to figure it out and challenged by the process. Too much negative pressure can make kids want to cheat to get ahead, learn to hate school and education, or develop social anxiety or depression. Competition can be a motivator but too much can have a negative impact. Healthy competition can be found outside of the classroom in the form of clubs, camps, sports, and friendly games.

Learning Real World Skills

Children learn a lot about basic math and English in school but until they get to university, the options to learn about real life stuff is pretty limited. Information about taxes, finance, and investments is usually non-existent. Being given the options to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours doesn’t generally happen much. Learning about how business and commerce works is rarely on the curriculum. Knowing all this stuff can be vital once you get into the real world and school doesn’t always show kids all of their options when it comes to choosing a career.

As children pursue their own interests and learn about the subjects that excite them the most, they’ll have a better idea of which skills will be the most important to cultivate in order to further those interests. If they’re interested in running their own small business or being self-employed, they can dive into the world of entrepreneurism and start cultivating their creativity, initiative, persistence, and responsibility that will be required to do so.

Accountability

Unschooling encourages children to set their own goals and live up to their own standards. At first this may seem like it would be easy to set the bar low and not care about accomplishing anything but it’s human nature to want to excel when we’re passionate about something. Allowing kids to make their own goals and devise their own plans to meet these goals puts the accountability on them. They will also feel rewarded and receive 100% of the credit for accomplishing what they’ve set out to do.

Open Schedule and Free Living

Much of mainstream society is very focused on the 5 day work week, 9-5 work days, living for the weekend, and working just hard enough so you can retire. Unschooling allows both children and parents to make their own schedules, get the amount of sleep they require, and see the world from outside of Monday to Friday framework. Allowing children to pursue subjects they enjoy will encourage them to choose a career that brings them happiness and will show them the value of incorporating “work” into “life”. 

Unschooling may seem like an impossible situation for some parents. Not everyone can be home every day of the week to be with their children. There are certainly compromises that can be made to allow for an unschooling style of education even if both parents are away from the house on weekdays. For children who are attending school and learning inside of a classroom, this definitely doesn’t mean that some of these practices can’t be implemented outside of school time. Formulating your own unique structure to incorporate unschooling and open learning into your child’s life may be a plan that works best for you and your family.

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iUNSchool.com

Launched by a community of families to provide unschooling resources to those seeking alternate educational options and and applicable real-world experiences for their children.  We focus on being a safe place where you can read and share unschooling stories, connect to like-minded families, and gather resources related to helping children thrive in the unschooling philosophy.