Monday, April 4, 2011

The myth of Unschooling

Fruit salad by Willow

I think one of the great myths surrounding radical unschooling is that it is somehow so hands off that the kids will learn by osmosis. I absolutely believe that this is not the case.

Sure, it's about trust, freedom and following the interests of your child but that does not mean that as a parent you are not part of the equation.

I'll use television as an example. In our place our girls have unrestricted access to screen time. But as Sandra Dodd has pointed out-the TV should not be the best thing to do, it's one thing to do in a lot of great choices. I will have art (and I'm calling it "art-not craft" now thanks Christie!) supplies out and available, I might set up the train set or a play scene and I might invite them to do something or go somewhere. I strew
and rotate things around to keep them interesting. If I pop the TV on and then park myself in front of the computer for the next hour with no interaction or alternative things to do you can guarantee that the kids will pick the TV-because it is the most interesting thing to do. There are great shows that we all love to watch and there are times when TV is preferred over other choices, but there are lots of ways I can be helpful and part of the process rather than just waking up and leaving them to it.

I am able to bring lots of interesting ideas and stimulus into the lives of my children and see where they go with it. I don't have to wait for someone to say "I wonder what happened to the dinosaurs" before putting a dinosaur book in the mix or bringing home a fossil kit. I can show my child how to write her name without it being a lesson with an expected outcome. I can put workbooks in with the colouring in books and see what happens. I can find something on You Tube that I think might be interesting or take everyone to an exhibition. I make plans to spend time with new families to see if we get along.

I answer questions and seek out things that are directly related to topics my girls are currently interested in. I make time for us to catch up with their friends and I take them to their chosen activities. I make notes and inquiries when I come across exhibitions etc that would interest us. I keep the house chaos free and make sure their toys and art supplies are easy to access.

I am very active in the unschooling of my children, the difference is that I have no expectation (or I remind myself to have no expectation!) of where the adding of ideas or books etc will take them. I don't "teach" my girls, but they do learn and I am a facilitator to that rather than a passive personal assistant.

I'm joining in with Owlet for Unschool Monday


katepickle said...

I think 'radical unschooling' seems a lot like excellent early childhood education... it's a pity the education seems to forget how children learn the moment they hit five and start school...
and I LOVE the fruit salad painting... frame it!

Francesca said...

I think this is really interesting, especially your comment about the use of TV with your children. You're absolutely right, if there are a few things on offer, including TV time, more often then not, my children will choose something other than TV. Or, they'll begin watching tv and soon switch to another activity. This suggests that this is their preference, not TV which we are encouraged to 'ban' to discourage their fixation.

TV is inevitable but it's easy to make it the least-attractive option. This potentially eliminates any arguments about TV and in fact, encourages child-led activity and learning.

Great post, thank you.

Leah said...

I always knew I had a "good" childhood, but it wasn't until I was a parent myself that I realised the effort my parents put in like you describe was not always just the done thing. I am grateful to them that I have certain expectations for childhood that I realise now are so incredibly important for my kids development.

I assume they could give it because they got it themselves in childhood, even though those childhoods were vastly different to mine and my kids - different freedoms, different formal education, but some plugged in adults from their accounts.

I know I've gone off on a bit of a tangent but it inspired me to think about the trajectory of their lives, and fired up about ensuring my kids' lives are full of rich experiences at home and out. Thanks Shae!

Jo said...

Absolutely agree Shae! I see my job as unschooling Kai - which doesn't involve any teaching, but lots of strewing, researching, sourcing resources, playing games (oh, hard life!), driving to park days, helping on the rare occasions he wants to do a workbook or something like that...

Oh, and check out
We like the jigsaw games and hieroglyphics interactive - i think they'd suit Tannah's age - we haven't had time to explore the whole site yet!

Mama Whimsy said...

I love that you are addressing some of the myths of unschooling on your blog. When I first started reading about homeschooling philosophies a few years ago, my initial thought was that unschooling was a bit crazy. Now we are on our own radical unschooling journey with 2 little girls, and I can laugh about some of my old ideas of what I thought that meant.

bek said...

That fruit salad painting! :D

I always thought it would be learning by diffusion as I was under the impression osmosis related only to water. It's been a long time since I did biology and at some stage I will be bothered enough to look it up ;)

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