Deciding to leave behind the traditional classrooms, bells, and structures of school in order to venture down the open learning path of unschooling can be frightening at first. There is a lot to consider about your child’s education and the unschooling route may present some questions, worries, and uncertainties. Is this a good decision for your family? What are the benefits of it? Are there any potential downsides?
If you’re already familiar with this educational philosophy and are now considering unschooling for your children, you most likely have some of your own positive opinions about it. However, there are still many variables to think about and maybe you’re wondering if there is anything you haven’t considered. How unschooling might work for one family could be different than how it will work for another.
Here is a list of unschooling pros and cons to help you make your decision:
There are some incredible skills that a child can develop when being set upon the unchooling path. If provided with ample resources and the proper inspiration, they sky’s the limit for what an unschooled child might choose to learn. There are personality traits that can be developed when this level of trust and freedom is granted that may be hard to come by when learning from a set lesson plan and a schedule that is decided by the teacher rather than the child.
When a child first starts unschooling it may take them a little while to get used to this newfound freedom but as they grow used to directing their own education, they will be allowed to develop a learning style that works best for their unique personality. They will also be encouraged to pursue their passions and interests rather than be trained to follow direction and memorize facts. Learning about the world with this level of freedom can produce adults that understand the importance of choosing a career that coincides with their interests and personalities.
The motivation to learn is much easier to come by when every subject is something you find interesting and sometimes even feel a deep connection to. Learning through curiosity will make much more of an impact on a child than when knowledge is forced upon them. Many students do poorly in school not because they don’t understand the material but because they have no interest in it, the subject means nothing to them on a personal level, or quite frankly, they’re just bored to tears.
Interests change and children grow out of things which, for unschooled children, means their educational path is going to shift as well. Coincidentally, the world also changes, circumstances are unpredictable, and a job that may seem stable can become obsolete and no longer exist. As children become interested in a topic, they adapt their self guided lessons to suit that subject. They also develop the skill to change gears as opportunities present themselves rather than always be following a predictable lesson plan, which can help make them ready for anything.
Learning to Learn
Because unschoolers develop their own unique educational style early on, they learn how to teach themselves things much more effectively than if they are always spoon-fed the information. They develop the skills to research topics independently and seek out the resources they need to complete whatever task it is they’ve set out to achieve. This is a vital skill as an adult because once you’ve completed school, no one is handing you the answers and telling you to memorize them. You need to figure out what you have to learn in order to succeed and then take the initiative to seek out that information.
Real World Experience
So much of how unschooling works will help children be ready for the “real world”. A classroom is all about following direction and meeting expectations. Unschooling is about setting your own goals, taking the initiative to meet them, and being accountable to yourself at the end of the day. Very young children might not yet grasp the concept of this, but they’re actually learning this skill very early on and nurturing their own decision making, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
Avoid a Negative School Environment
A very common and very valid reason that parents consider when making the decision to homeschool or unschool their children involves the environment found within the vast majority of traditional schools. In many schools, classroom sizes are quite large and children cannot receive the guidance they require when they have questions. When children do become very interested in a topic, teachers often don’t have time to delve deeper into a subject and further inspire the student due to the strict curriculum that needs to be followed.
When it comes to other students, many children make friends, find their clique, and can be quite happy. They also could be subjected to cruel bullying, peer pressure, and negative competition. Many school experiences involve feelings of fear, shame, anxiety, or failure. There’s no reason for unschooled children to feel most of this because they set their own goals, are allowed to develop their own personal strengths, and aren’t compared to another student for what might be seen as a weakness.
There are many wonderful aspects of unschooling that will allow children grow into their own unique personalities, develops important skills, and learn to follow their hearts. There are also some components that might make unschooling undesirable for certain parents or should be considered before hand so they can be avoided. There are also some perceived cons that aren’t actually an issue when unschooling is done in the right atmosphere.
When both parents work full-time or there is only a single parent that needs to keep their job, it can be very difficult to always be home with your child, especially when they’re young. Hiring child care can be expensive and not everyone has family or friends that are willing or able to help look after the children. Possible solutions to this may involve scaling back your living expenses, keeping one parent at home, or switching to part time hours. Unschooling co-ops or networking in the unschooling community can also help you find like-minded families that can act as a support network and potentially provide child care solutions or opportunities.
Unschooling might sound like your kids can stay out of your hair for the day and go teach themselves anything they like. This is definitely not the case and for children to be the most successful in their unschooling education they need to have access to informative resources, inspirational materials, exciting experiences, and as much guidance as they require from their parents. Unschooling can actually be a big job on the parent’s part. It takes a great deal of involvement to be aware of their interests and provide the right opportunities and resources to keep them motivated and inspired.
When children aren’t sent to a school with a bunch of other kids their age, socialization becomes a concern. This issue can be as big or small as the parent makes it. If you stay in the house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, then no, your child will not develop many social skills. If you become involved with clubs, groups, and community events then your child can actually have access to a very broad range of people to interact with. Spending plenty of time out in the world, soaking up knowledge, and experiencing everything it has to offer can remove any cause for concern about how socialized your child will be.
Because unschoolers do not follow a mandated curriculum, one concern parents may have is that their child will have gaps in their education that will hold them back. While unschooled kids may not know the exact same facts as children in traditional schools, they’ll likely know much more about the subjects that interest them, far beyond the confines of “grade levels”. It’s also probable that they’ll have no need for a lot of what is taught in a traditional curriculum in their future careers. Basic math will be learned naturally as children explore the world and more complicated concepts can be studied if your child needs them down the road.
Children learn how to learn with unschooling rather than being told specifically what to learn. When the time comes that certain knowledge will be useful, children will embrace it more enthusiastically because they need to know it due to a personal interest.
High School Transcripts
A big concern for parents can be high school diplomas, report cards, SATs, and the ability to get into college after graduation. It is true that they won’t have a diploma at the end of a grade 12 school year but unschooling does not mean that your child will have road blocks in their career paths. Many colleges don’t require a high school diploma and high school GEDs can be pursued if necessary. SAT and ACT tests can be taken by adults and many universities and colleges accept applicants based on personal essays, portfolios, and interviews. If a GED or college education is something your child requires to follow their dreams, an unschooling education won’t prevent it, they’ll just need to take some initiative and follow the steps to make it happen.
There are many factors to consider when allowing your child to learn freely and away from the confines of traditional schooling. Your personal situation may need to be adjusted and changes may need to be made to give you the time to help guide your child. Discussing your concerns in unschooling communities and forums can open your eyes to many possibilities and may also present opportunities that you hadn’t thought were possible.