Parents who are thinking about unschooling their children, especially those who are new to the idea, often have a lot of questions, concerns, or fears about how it’s all going to work.
There are a lot of myths floating around out there about unschooling and this misinformation can make people nervous about taking that path. Parents deciding to go with an unschooling approach may receive a lot of criticism and negativity from friends and family who aren’t familiar with this method and don’t have all the facts. There are plenty of misconceptions about unschooling and these eight are the most common.
Unschooling Means Lazy Parents
Some people might think that parents choose to unschool their kids out of laziness. They might see unschooling as “unparenting” or being a form of neglect. This is probably the most ridiculous misconception of them all. Not only does unschooling require a lot of guidance on the parent’s part, but sending your kids to school is essentially a free daycare for any parents that are just looking to take a break.
Unschooling is definitely not for lazy parents because even though the education is child led, you need to be there to support, encourage, and mentor them. You also need to constantly assess their interests and provide the necessary resources that will inspire and educate them.
Unschooling Means Lazy Kids
Speaking of lazy, another assumption people have is that kids will just pick something easy to learn about and use unschooling as a way to slack off.
The whole point of unschooling is that children are pursuing and learning about the things that interest them and this actually provides the best motivation. Children are naturally curious and it’s human nature to want to challenge ourselves. If you think about the kids you’ve known who hate homework and will do anything to get out of going to school, it’s probably because they’re being forced to learn things they aren’t interested in, or the subject has been presented to them in a way they find boring.
When children find a subject that piques their interest, they’ll be inspired by it for personal reasons that speak to them directly. You can’t inspire these feelings by simply telling a child they have to learn something. When they decide to learn about something because they want to, they’ll feel more connected to it and more passionate about it.
Kids can be inspired by things they learn in school as well, but they can only study that topic for as long as it’s being taught and then they must move on to the next thing. Unschooling allows children to become really interested in something and then explore it in as much detail as they’d like. That process doesn’t create lazy children, it creates little humans who are beginning to understand what passion is and who will seek out the challenges that fuel it.
Unschooled Kids Can Do Whatever They Want
Unschooling, or any form of parenting that allows children to make their own decisions, is often seen as “unparenting”. Other parents who don’t practice these methods might assume that chaos will ensue and that kids will be allowed to just roam free like wild animals.
Freedom to make their own choices, including those about their education, does not mean you have to just let your kids do anything they want. Teaching them about trust, respect, and personal boundaries allows children to understand how they should treat others and why.
Giving them the trust to make their own decisions instead of the direction to do as you ask will make them feel valued. Often times, children may act out because they aren’t feeling any respect or trust. Talking everything through with children, reasoning with them, and explaining the whys and hows of things instead of just telling them to do as they’re told will make them feel acknowledged and important. This will create individuals who don’t want to “just do whatever they want”, it will allow children to understand that they have a level of freedom and responsibility in their lives with you there to guide them through it.
Unschooled Kids Won’t Learn Anything Important
Assuming children won’t learn “the important” stuff if they can choose their own education couldn’t be further from the truth. Math and reading will come more naturally to children who are inspired by subjects that require them to use those skills. Developing an interest in something and then feeling motivated to learn the skills that help you better understand it is much more engaging for a child than doing it the other way around.
The basic foundational skills that kids will use on a daily basis can easily be taught in many more fun and engaging ways than by some of the methods being used in schools. Having educational games and software available is way more exciting for children to learn from than handing them photocopied sheets of math problems. Aside from those skills, there’s plenty of grounds for debate regarding the “importance” of some of the other things that are taught in schools.
Unschooled Kids Can’t Go to College
Unschooling does not mean that your child cannot go to college. Many colleges have different admission requirements and many don’t require that you have received a formal education in school. For those that do, and for children who wish to pursue these routes, GEDs and SATs can be taken to give them the necessary qualifications. Many colleges also allow for online courses and open learning. Some may require that the student put together a transcript or portfolio or may perhaps conduct an interview with them.
Unschooling does not create any formal barriers to get into college. If college is a path your child has chosen to pursue, there are ways to go about making it happen.
Many kids who are expected to go from high school to college do it because they feel like they have to and later drop out because it wasn’t their choice to be there. If a college or university degree is required to fulfill the interests and dreams your child is seeking, they don’t need traditional schooling to get there. Many career paths don’t even require a college degree but instead put more focus on the individual and their abilities.
Unschooled Kids Won’t Be Socialized
Unschooled children can be as socialized as they want to be, or as you’ll allow them to be. If you keep them cooped up inside all day, every day, then of course they won’t develop any social skills. But unschooling doesn’t mean you can’t have play dates, join clubs, be involved in events in the community, volunteer in various groups, or spend a lot of time at the park and other public places.
Unschooled children can actually become much more socialized in this situation and will feel more comfortable interacting with people of all ages, not just those in their same grade. They’ll also avoid much of the cliques and bullying that is so rampant within the school system. Making friends outside of a single, static group of same-aged kids will allow them to have a much more diverse network of friends and can introduce them to people who have similar interest rather than just similar ages.
Unschooled Kids Can’t Keep Up With Other Kids
Keeping up with other kids is part of the problem with traditional schooling. Children being compared to other kids can be incredibly stressful and embarrassing for a student. Healthy competition can be fine in some situations, but kids all learn at their own pace and some have more affinity for certain subjects than others. Not excelling in one subject can be defeating and unmotivating even if a child is brilliant in another.
When children are allowed to learn at their own pace, they won’t be left behind in a subject just because the majority of the other kids understand it when they don’t. Feeling like they’ve failed at something because it wasn’t presented to them in a way they could understand can create a very strong dislike for that subject that they may have otherwise enjoyed. The reverse is also true for students that feel bored in a class because it’s moving too slow for them. These students can learn as much as they’d like about a topic and study well beyond their “grade level” when learning in an unschooling environment.
Unschooled Kids Won’t Be Prepared for Life
Everything about unschooling is about being prepared for life. Unschooling will often give children the opportunities to learn things through first hand experience out in the world. A school environment will teach children how to live on a schedule and do what is asked of them, but unless they’re looking for a desk job in a corporate office, the creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving they can learn from an unschooling education will be much more valuable when preparing for a career.
Before dismissing the educational philosophy of unschooling, consider the reasons that are making you uneasy about it. Does it involve any misconceptions you might have had? Or negative pressure from friends and family? Some people are even just uncomfortable with the idea because it isn’t “normal” or “mainstream”. There are plenty of assumptions people can make about unschooling but it can actually be as successful, productive, and educational as you and your child want to make it. If you provide your child with inspirational materials, educational resources, proper guidance, and exciting opportunities to learn and experience new things then unschooling may be the best decision you can make.