Bio: I’m Jessica Meinhofer, a blogging, YouTubing, RVing, roadschooling mama of two. My magnificent hubby has agreed to this crazy and fun adventure. Together we run, exploring the local life. It’s all about RVing, but it’s not always rainbows and campfires. It’s real-life every day as we navigate love, unschooling, and breaking free from the mold in our 26ft home on wheels. My blog is: www.exploringthelocallife.com
What was the catalyst that lead you to choose unschooling for your family’s learning and educational needs?
The catalyst that lead us to choose unschooling for our family’s learning and educational needs occurred years ago. Our son was 4 and I was thrilled to start pre-school. I had the perfect workbooks and ready to go. It didn’t take long for me to realize how frustrating and horrible it was trying to force my son to sit down and do “schoolwork”. This is not the way I wanted our homeschool journey to be, so I started searching for a different way. This is how I found unschooling.
Prior to your venture into unschooling, did you have any preconceived ideas, beliefs, or notions about what unschooling entailed (positive or negative)? If so, have any of those beliefs or ideas shifted?
Before unschooling, I had never heard the term or had any idea that there was any other way to learn.
What have been some of your favorite strategies, tools, or resources that you’ve employed to make unschooling a successful fit for your family?
The biggest thing that has made unschooling successful for our family, was just letting go of fear and embracing the things our children enjoy. We were so afraid that our children would fall behind compared to traditionally homeschooled children, but let all of that go. Our children are unique people and they learn at their own pace. What other kids are doing is irrelevant.
How has your family’s experience with unschooling been so far? Have you encountered any obstacles or challenges? What milestones and successes have stood out to you?
After six years of unschooling, the main obstacles and challenges have been our own fear. Now that we have overcome them, we are embracing the freedom that we have. It’s wonderful to not worry about forcing or coercing our kids to “learn” things that don’t have any relevance in their lives.
The moment that we knew unschooling was a success for us, involved our oldest child. He was playing a video game and he wanted to make changes to the game with some coding. He asked for my phone and entered the proper search terms, reviewed the search results, selected one, and then applied what he read/learned in his selected article to make the changes he wanted to his game. He was nine. Another success story, the day our daughter read the story to us instead of us reading it to her. She was si8x and we never “taught” her how to read.
What questions do you receive most often about unschooling your family and how do you address those questions?
We are most often asked about math, as in “But how are they going to learn algebra and calculus?” Our typical response goes something like this: “Well, if our children are interested in a career path that requires algebra and calculus, then they will learn it.” They will be interested in it because it will lead them to their end goal. Most people only need basic math skills in their daily lives (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). And if they are in a big jam, they can always use a calculator.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your unschooling journey?
Some of our most rewarding unschooling moments have been during our RV travels. We have seen our kids learn so much just in their daily adventures and as we travel. Not only are they learning “educational” things (we don’t really separate educational vs non-education), but they have learned so much about themselves and who they are.
Two years ago we were in New Hampshire and we were able to go out on a lake in kayaks for our very first time. The kids enjoyed it so much, but what really surprised us is that our oldest asked to go alone. This is a child that doesn’t take many risks and when he does, they are very calculated. Now here he was asking to take a kayak on his own. Who was this kid? Well, he was a kid that felt confident, safe, and ready to do something he had wanted to do. As unschoolers, they rarely, if ever, find themselves compared to other children.
What advice would you give to someone considering unschooling or just beginning their unschooling adventure?
For anyone considering unschooling or just beginning their unschooling adventure, I would recommend that they find others that are already successfully unschooling, whether it is in person, online, in a book. Having support to help you on your journey is essential. It will help ease fears and doubts.
What key skills and traits do you feel unschooling has instilled in your child/children/family?
Through unschooling, our children have learned how to research. They know what questions they need to ask to get the answers that they seek, which is a skill that they will continue to use in their adulthood.
What has been one of the most powerful insights you’ve gained from unschooling?
The most powerful insight we’ve gained from unschooling is how unnecessary all this schooling really is. Or rather, how schooling is set up. School should be a place with resources and subject matter experts where children can spend the day flowing from one interest to another at their pace. There should be no forced learning or ranking.
What do you feel is one of the biggest myths about unschooling?
The biggest myth about unschooling is that it is unlearning. That kids in an unschooling environment will be illiterate, lazy, and unmotivated. Of course, unschooling is the total opposite of this.