The ideas behind unschooling are all about child led learning, removing the constraints of traditional schooling, and allowing your children to pursue their interests. This open education path sounds like very little action is required on the parent’s part but that could not be further from the truth. It’s the parent’s job in a child’s life to provide them with the experiences that will prepare them for the world and guide them with a helping hand along the way. While unschooling allows the child to be in control, this does not by any means remove the parents from the equation.
With an unschooling approach to education, the main roles of the parent involves inspiring their child, supplying quality resources that will help them learn, offer exciting experiences that will motivate them, and always be there to guide them as they need it. Your unschooled child will choose their own paths but you will be there to help them forge ahead.
It’s imperative that parents are active and involved with their child’s unschooling so they can guide them to the materials that will ignite their passions. Knowing everything your child is learning about, what interests them about it, how much they already know, and what they would like to know will allow parents to arrange for experiences and opportunities that will further inspire this interest. This insight into their interests allow parents to guide their children to similar things that will further motivate their learning.
Using a child’s passions to fuel their desire to learn will go a long way in encouraging them to dive as deep into a subject as they’d like. Without the proper materials, a subject could become dull and the child may lose their motivation. Providing just the right piece of software or arranging the perfect outing at just the right time can open doors to different branches of a subject that has piqued their curiosity.
Without having any access to new information, children will not be motivated to learn. Not providing the materials to inspire or challenge them will allow them to become bored and complacent. To create an atmosphere that fully promotes learning and exploration, it’s important to provide engaging items from a variety of different subjects so they can explore or set aside ideas at their own pace.
Strewing is a term that refers to providing a wide range of resources for your child so they can come to them on their own terms. Keeping intriguing materials around like art supplies, musical instruments, educational games, and books will keep your child inspired while pursuing their education. This arsenal of stimulating tools also allows them to switch gears at any time and prevents one subject from becoming dull and dreary.
Hands On Experience
Provide plenty of hands on experiences, projects, and games for your child to choose from. So many subjects, such as math and science, may appear to be unbearably tedious when being learned from a textbook. If your child has the information and resources available to create their own hands on projects and experiments their absorption of this knowledge will be much more thought-provoking and inspiring.
Challenges and Contests
Simply providing information and allowing children to absorb it is not enough to encourage a full educational experience. You don’t need to make goals for your children but discussing how they can make their own and creating challenges for themselves can help them learn about responsibility and accountability. Kids can come up with their own personal goals they want to accomplish or they can participate in public challenges that catch their attention.
Online writing challenges are very popular and National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a great way to inspire a young writer. Online and local competitions exist for graphic design, musical composition, dance, and so many other art forms. Math challenges and online math clubs are amazing for children who have a love of numbers. For young athletes, there’s always a new marathon to participate in or athletic club to join around every corner. Being involved with these types of activities creates a whole new level of enthusiasm about a subject because kids can take what they’ve learned and apply it to something that other like-minded people are also getting excited about.
Socialization is often a topic of debate for unschooling families because people assume kids are going to be stuck inside all day, alone and isolated. Unschooled kids actually have more free time to socialize and they can meet a much broader range of people than just a group of same aged kids who are in their class. Participating in groups and events in your community will introduce your kids to people of every age and race.
Volunteering within your community can inspire compassion and social responsibility. Joining clubs will allow your child to meet peers who share similar interests and hobbies. Discussing all the different groups or classes they could be involved is a great way to inspire new interests and learning opportunities. Many clubs and organizations may let you participate for a trial period to see if that activity sparks any interest for your child or encourages them to try something similar.
Unconventional Learning Environments
One of the most appealing aspects of unschooling is that kids can get out of the classroom and see the world first hand. Getting out of the house and learning about the outdoors is the perfect way to learn about nature. Seeing trees, plants, animals, marine life, and insects in their natural habitats is the most engrossing way to learn about them. Hikes through the forest, a day at the beach, or a drive through the countryside becomes an educational experience rather than just a day trip.
Museums, farms, zoos, conservatories, and aquariums not only provide face to face experiences with animals, plants, and pieces of history but they also provide detailed information about them. Reading up about these things is a lot more fascinating when you’re standing in front of it rather than when you’re sitting at a desk with your textbook.
As your child becomes interested in various careers it can be very exciting for them to see what that career might actually look like in real life. For kids who want to be an astronaut, take them to a space museum or see if you can arrange for them to meet someone who has actually been to space. Transforming their curiosity into a project, composing an interview, and giving them the opportunity to speak to a professional in a field they feel passionate about can be a thrilling experience for a young mind.
As they get older they may like to set up some work experience, arrange for a buddy day, or be involved in an internship in a field they’re considering for their career. These opportunities can help them make important life choices and may provide them with memories that will deeply impact them. By simply asking around and reaching out to people it can be quite easy to set up a meeting between your child and a new role model.
Not everyone has the means to travel as much as they would like but when it is possible these experiences can be incredibly educational and eye-opening. Studying about different cultures in a book can’t compare to learning about them first hand. Understanding geography by studying maps and planning trips is spellbinding when compared to filling in names of countries on a worksheet. Handling different currencies, understanding exchange rates, and learning enough of a language to get by in a foreign country is definitely one of the most amazing ways to learn about math and language. Travel is basically a social studies class in action.
Unschooling is supposed to be about the absence of school, but that doesn’t mean traditional resources have to be banned. If an online course or textbook helps your child learn what they want to learn then absolutely it should be embraced. If they even choose to attend public school for a time, take elective courses, or enroll in college then by all means, encourage it. Traditional schooling shouldn’t be enforced in an unschooling environment but if your child feels like these materials will help them achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves then there’s no reason these methods can’t be used.
Critics of this educational philosophy may call it unparenting, permissive parenting, laziness, or even neglect but unschooling is the furthest thing from it. In the ideal unschooling environments, the parent or parents are very involved, interested, supportive, and encouraging. There is a lot of work to be done on the parent’s part to ensure their child stays motivated, engaged, and challenged. Unschooled children are not forced or coerced into learning about the subjects they have no interest in but parents can still provide valuable inspiration that will spark passions a child never knew they possessed. Every experience can be educational so it’s important for you as a parent to act as their guide and encourage them to be lifelong learners.