Unschooling is a child-led educational style that leaves the decisions of what they will be learning in the hands of your kids. These choices will be decided by what the child is most interested in, curious about, or intrigued by. You as a parent don’t need to tell them what they should be learning but there are certainly plenty of ways to introduce them to subjects you think they would enjoy.
There are so many interesting topics out there in the world that kids may never come across on their own. By presenting them with the possibilities of what the world has to offer, you can show them what’s out there but ultimately leave it up to them to decide if they want to pursue a subject further. Here are a few ways you can show your kids what they could be learning while still allowing them to decide for themselves if it’s something worth knowing about.
Strewing (a.k.a. Leave Stuff Lying Around)
Strewing, or leaving stuff around the house for your kids to come across, is one of the easiest and simplest ways to inspire a new interest. The purpose of strewing is to create a rich and stimulating home environment that will allow your child to explore different subjects and ideas on their own terms and in their own time. This creates a zero pressure environment while also surrounding your kids with plenty of inspiring materials to be discovered and investigated at any time.
Strewing can be done with any number of different resources. Books are an obvious choice, and this can be in the form of fictional novels, compilations of science experiment ideas, national geographic photo books, world atlases, graphic novels, or even text books. A wide range to choose from, including books that are purely for entertainment as well as educational reference materials, will allow them to have plenty of options for whatever they feel like exploring that day.
Books aren’t the only thing that you can leave around. Strewing can be done with DVDs, educational software, video games, art and craft supplies, musical instruments, sports equipment, and pretty much anything else you think your child might find intriguing and could spark a new interest. This could even include a map of the world hung on a wall or bookmarked links to websites you think they’d enjoy.
Inspire Through Doing
Kids watch everything we do and copy us all the time. Sometimes it’s our bad habits, reminding us to be better role models for them. Many other times it’s because they love to mimic the creative or investigative things we do. If you expect your kids to be curious about the world, develop a strong desire to learn, and want to try new things then you should do the same.
Take up sewing, learn how to play an instrument, study a new language, or create and maintain an indoor garden. Your desire to try new things will probably rub off on them or they might even take an interest in the activity you’re doing and ask to help or learn along with you. You could inspire them with your actions and also create an opportunity to spend quality time together.
Go on Exciting Adventures
One of the most inspiring experiences is to physically go somewhere you’ve never been and be amazed by the new sights you’ve never seen before. Taking your kids to an art exhibit, museum, or performance production can introduce them to new ideas that they’ll want to find out more about and it might even spark a new passion within them. To give them even more say in these experiences you can show them options of all the attractions in your area and let them decide where to go.
If travel is an option, taking them to different cities, states, countries, or even continents can be both exciting and enlightening. The simple action of planning the trip could be a very educational experience. Getaways are usually quite exciting for kids and they’ll probably be interested to learn about the routes you’ll take to get there, interesting facts about the destination, and maybe they can even be included in planning the budget for this family adventure. They can learn about geography, math, and culture before even leaving the house.
Make Introductions That Inspire
As you may know as an adult, you can meet so many other people in this world that will have a huge affect on you, even if that encounter was only very brief. Creating these opportunities for you children could end up being just an interesting meeting or it could be a life changing moment for them.
You can introduce your kids to people in professions that you think they would be fascinated by and that could be anything like a beauty technician, a family doctor, a police officer, or a museum curator. This could be someone in a field they’ve shown interest in or someone that works doing something they know absolutely nothing about. Some of these professionals may even enjoy being shadowed for part of the day to show your child what their work day looks like.
If you don’t know anyone personally, or possibly through a friend, many people from a variety of occupations are often willing to meet and chat with children who may be interested in their field. Sometimes simply reaching out is all you need to do in order to make this connection. There are plenty of people who are just too busy to make time for this or may not understand the importance of it but there are just as many people who truly understand the value of showing children what their line of work actually looks like.
Join Fun and Interesting Clubs
Clubs and other groups are another great way to allow your kids to connect with other people who could inspire them, be it instructors, group leaders, or other children in the club who share similar interests. You can discuss the different organizations that are in your area with your child and see if there is anything they think they would be interested in. You can also take the strewing approach and just leave information about the various groups out for them to come across on their own. If anything catches their eye they can join the club or possibly check it out on a trial basis. Different groups and organizations to look into might include sports teams, gymnastics classes, 4-H clubs, wilderness programs, or community volunteering activities.
When providing your children with opportunities and resources that might interest or inspire them, it’s important to have a full understanding of what they’re into already and what they like about it. It will help you to have a better idea of which types of things will appeal to them most rather than filling your house and your schedule with a ton of books or activities they just don’t care for. That said, you should still try to offer them the opportunity to try things outside of their comfort zone so they can see what else is out there in the world and also develop the confidence to try new things. Simply put, you just need to maintain a decent balance of incorporating current interests as well as adding completely new and different ideas they otherwise never would have considered.