Most parents can probably relate to how quickly childhood zooms by. Before you know it, your kids are walking, entering kindergarten, getting their driver’s license, and then filling out college applications.
Once kids hit high school age, their time is often consumed by athletics, academics, and extracurricular activities. Parents and students alike may begin preparing for college by seeking grants and scholarships, researching college degree programs, and focusing on learning skills that will help bolster kids for their college journey.
Families who choose to unschool often due so because of the flexibility in scheduling and environment, the self-directed learning opportunities, and the freedom to explore a variety of hands-on life skills. Many wonder how unschooling will fit into potential plans for college and if their child will be well-prepared for the experience.
Research on the topic shows that unschooled students are generally very fit and ready to attend college. This study found that “(83 percent) of the 75 grown unschoolers who responded to our survey had gone on to some form of higher education, and 33 (44 percent) had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher or were currently full-time students in a bachelor’s program.”
Unschooled respondents also reported in general that their transition and adjustment to college went smoothly.
The experience of unschooling can help to instill a number of valuable skills and lessons that aren’t always widely available in a traditional school setting. From being able to learn while traveling to taking advantage of opportunities such as volunteering, unschooling continues to be a valid choice for families seeking an alternative education.
For unschooling students who choose college as their institution of higher learning, there are a number of ways in which their unschooling experience can readily prepare them for college and beyond.
Unschooling and Independent Learning
Because unschooling families aren’t required to follow a particular curriculum or schedule, learning can be much more unstructured and just as powerful as traditional education. Many times, this leads to children who learn how to self-motivate and take initiative for their learning.
Because many unschooling families believe that children should be able to determine their course of study, the subjects they wish to learn, and the manner in which they learn it, unschooled students may often develop a strong sense of independence and direction.
This self-motivated style of learning can be a great asset when it comes to transitioning to college. Since the college experience allows for far more freedom in structure, choice of classes, and academic style of learning, unschoolers often show up empowered and well-prepared to take on the college lifestyle.
Unschooling and Life Skills
As previously mentioned, unschooling is ripe with opportunities for children to gain vital and unique life skills. While conventional education may shy away from teaching things such as survival skills, entrepreneurship, crafting, or coping skills, the sky is the limit for unschooling families. There are amazing online resources, local classes, and organizations that unschooling families can utilize to help guide students in honing these skills.
Unschooling offers the chance for students to learn practical, real-world skills that will prepare them for dorm life and the self-governed style of daily college life. Skills such as learning to cook healthy meals, washing and folding laundry, navigating directions on campus, organizing an academic schedule, and being aware of their surroundings are fundamental to a successful college experience.
Unschooling and a World-view Perspective
With unschooling, the entire world becomes a classroom. Add to that the ability to travel while unschooling (roadschooling), and children are then able to experience different cultures, customs, lifestyles, and political structures. This offers unschooled students the ability to see a variety of perspectives and to gain insight from various social, economic and cultural standpoints.
This exposure to diversity is important for students who choose a college educational path. Colleges are their own microcosm of diversity, both of the opinions, lifestyles, and backgrounds of students and professors. Unschooled students who have been exposed to more of a world-view dynamic will become college students who respect and better understand the differences and similarities of the people they interact with.
Unschooling and Academic Preparation
Counter to what many may believe, research is clear that unschooling students are just as prepared academically for college as those who aren’t unschooled. Additionally, unschooled students often enter college already armed with college credits. This is due in part to the fact that, because of their flexible schedule, unschoolers tend to take on opportunities to earn these credits through online or local community college classes.
With college-level courses already under their belt, unschoolers gain more confidence in their academic abilities and adapt well to the rigor of college courses. They have also learned what subjects and topics interest them and may have a more concrete plan for what degree they wish to pursue in college.
Unschooling and Adaptability
Due to the nature of unschooling, and the unlimited possibilities it presents for learning, children who unschool typically adapt much easier to shifting priorities and changes. They are able to meet their educational needs through flexible learning environments such as visiting local libraries or museums, and through shifting their schedule to align with their family’s lifestyle.
Learning to be adaptable also involves being able to communicate needs, ask for help, and being willing to prioritize. These skills are incredibly important for college students, as they are required to collaborate often on group projects, meet strict deadlines for projects, and learn how to manage their academics in the midst of unforeseen circumstances such as illness or family emergencies.
Overall, unschooling seems to offer built-in opportunities to learn the habits and skills that are necessary for becoming a successful college student. From being able to manage their own academic workload to knowing how to work independently and productively, unschooled children can transition to the world of college with confidence and self-assuredness.
Armed with a plethora of practical life skills, an unschooled child’s college experience can be one in which they thrive intellectually, make important connections, and create their own unique and personal learning journey.