Whether you are new to unschooling or have been at it for years, the inevitable question will likely be asked of you on many different occasions: “So, why did you choose to unschool your kids?”.
The human mind is a curious one and always seeks to gather information about what it doesn’t understand. Because unschooling is seen as more of an alternative choice, rather than a traditional choice, unschooling families tend to address questions such as these on a routine basis.
It can be a challenge for those who aren’t familiar with the various philosophies of unschooling and homeschooling to grasp why families may choose this route for educating their children. However, many well-intentioned people are curious because they may be contemplating unschooling as well and want to learn more about it.
Because unschooling is unique to each family and their needs, the answers to such questions can be very personal. As you continue to develop your own beliefs and philosophy around unschooling, you will also become more confident with being able to share your answers with other curious minds. After all, research has shown that kids who are supported in unschooling can be highly effective learners.
You and your family may end up inspiring others to choose the path of unschooling as well.
We’ve gathered the top five responses to the question “Why Do You Unschool?” based on the plethora of great reasons why many families decide to start and continue their unschooling journey. These responses are meant to provide answers in a creative and engaging way that will helpfully help pique the interest in unschooling as well as help guide you in articulating some reasons.
We know there are potentially a hundred more reasons that could be cited for why a family chooses to unschool. This decision is based on many factors, including your family’s background, health and wellness needs, job or career, educational preferences, and lifestyle.
Hopefully, these five responses will offer those wishing to learn more about unschooling a good start. Or, give you a little reminder about why you decided to do this in the first place.
Because we honor the autonomy and independence of our children
Autonomy and independence go hand in hand. Autonomy is the belief that people should have freedom from outside control or influence and be trusted to make their own decisions.
For children, this means ensuring they know that they have control over their own choices. Autonomy extends to physical, emotional, and mental autonomy and can influence what hobbies they participate in, who they choose to play with, what foods they want to eat, and how they prefer to learn and experience the world.
Obviously, situations that involve personal safety and the safety of others require adult intervention and assistance when it comes to young children.
For a country that praises the idea of independence, it seems to have been pushed to the wayside when it comes to the system of traditional schooling. Due in part to teacher shortage, large classroom sizes, and the constraint of time, it can be difficult for children attending conventional schooling to learn how to build independence and strengthen their autonomy. For some children, this experience can feel daunting, confusing, threatening, or even traumatic.
Honoring your child’s autonomy means that you validate their feelings and their ideas, that you talk about choices and natural consequences, that you support learning new skills and problem-solving, and that kids feel safe to make choices with judgment.
At the heart of unschooling is the belief that a person’s autonomy should be respected and honored. The flexibility of unschooling gives children the opportunity to voice their opinions, customize their learning experiences, and decide how they want to spend their time. In turn, this cultivates confident children who learn to build independence and self-reliance.
Because our children have special and unique needs that we felt conventional education wasn’t able to offer.
Special needs children require special learning enviornments. While
public schools are required by law to accommodate special needs kids, the classroom isn’t always suitable for every child. Because needs can vary from child to child, and due in part to lack of funding and professional staffing, it can be a struggle for schools to provide special needs children with an environment in which they can feel safe and thrive.
But remember that children don’t need to be labeled or diagnosed as special needs in order to require a unique and tailored educational experience. Schooling isn’t a one size fits all situation. Some kids may struggle with social anxiety, PTSD, or simply not feel challenged enough with conventional education methods. Additionally, your family may have gone through recent struggles that have impacted your child’s ability to focus in a school setting.
Unschooling allows a family to better serve their children and allows them to feel safe and fully supported in their learning journey.
Because it fits in with our family’s lifestyle choices and priorities
One of the biggest draws to unschooling can be the true sense of freedom and flexibility it provides. Family dynamics shift and evolve. Careers come and go, priorities may change, and families may encounter situations in which they feel traditional schooling just doesn’t meet their needs.
For example, your family may have the privilege of traveling often due to working remotely (or simply by choice). Unschooling gives the opportunity to both learn and travel at the same time, hence the creation of the term “roadschooling”. Additionally, your family may make lifestyle choices that just aren’t supported or understand in a traditional educational setting.
Finally, conventional educational can put a strain on a family with the busy schedule, lack of prolonged breaks, extracurricular activities, homework, projects, and driving time. It often becomes so exhausting to maintain this schedule, not just for the kids but for the parents as well.
Unschooling allows a family to design their lifestyle and education preferences around one another. It takes into account everyone’s priorities, choices, and learning styles to make a customized educational experience. It makes the entire world your child’s classroom!
Because we wanted to teach to the “whole child”, meaning body, heart, and mind.
While schools have made strides in understanding the impact of teaching to the “whole” child, rather than just teaching academics, there is still progress to be made.
Fundamental to unschooling is the realization that children learn not just with their brains, but with their whole bodies! Experiential and hands-on learning helps to connect what they learn to real-life situations. It allows for better retention of information and the creation of lifelong skills.
For example, families who unschool may choose to teach mindfulness, survival skills, meditation, foreign languages, life skills, DIY crafting, computer coding, and an infinite number of subjects and experiences that positively impact a child’s entire wellbeing.
Teaching to the whole child encourages them to build a growth mindset, cultivates resilience, and allows children to feel more emotionally, physically, and mentally valued.
Because we wanted to learn together as a family
For supportive and loving families, there may be nothing more empowering than sharing life’s learning journey together. Unschooling allows for the freedom of adventure, spontaneity, and bonding as a family.
For many children, traditional schooling may leave them missing their siblings and parents and can make them feel like they are missing out on important family time. This can especially be true of children from divorced or separate households where time, unfortunately, has to be divided..
Children who learn together often find unique roles within their family structure. For example, older siblings tend to jump in and enjoy helping their younger siblings learn. This boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem while allowing their younger siblings to feel important and valued. The family learning dynamic of unschooling allows for everyone to share diverse ideas, thoughts, and opinions and gain perspective from one another.
As an added bonus, unschooling can include extended family as well, allowing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to be part of the learning experience.
Hopefully, these responses gave you even more assurance in your decision to unschool your children and will provide you with pointers the next time the question “So, why did you choose to unschool your kids?” comes up.