What do you need to be a successful unschooler? The obvious answer is not necessarily the right answer. Many unschooling advocates would say that all you need is a child's natural curiosity about the world around him. Yes, that is one of the main ingredients in a positive unschooling experience, but of equal importance is the environment in which the child carries out his daily learning.
If you envision a well-rounded, well-educated adult emerging from a cocoon of flexible relaxed home education, then you have to be sure to include the necessary tools in that cocoon during the metamorphosis. It is necessary that your child have the love of knowledge modeled for him every day by his mentors. He has to see you eagerly take on new learning experiences. It is very important that he know you are available to help him answer questions about the world around him, even if you don't readily know the answers. He has to be confident in his (and your) ability to search for knowledge.
The most important gift you can give your eager learner is enthusiasm. If he doesn't see you get excited in the quest for education, his excitement will soon die. Give him space to explore the world around him, but be handy in case he wants to include you in his explorations. Be open to the learning opportunities in your everyday life. Should he suggest a walk in the woods, take time to walk with him. Listen to his questions, because when he asks, he is opening the door for you to be an active part in the learning process.
You can't teach a child that isn't receptive to learning, but if the door is open the education pours right in. Sitting him down at a desk with a bunch of books doesn't work, because all he has to do is either tune it out or memorize and remember a bunch of facts for a short time and he's done. In either case, true education didn't take place. Education has to start in the heart. If you leave the door open, the opportunity will arrive.
A Step in the Write Direction
My younger children had never shown interest in spelling correctly, and to be quite honest I was starting to worry a little, because like all good moms I thought my 10-year-old would eventually need to be able to spell something, other than cat. After a year of their journal writing (a project they began, because they wanted to do what Mom does), my 10-year-old came to me with a request that totally erased all worries. He said, "Mom . . . I think I need to work on my spelling. It takes me too long to write in my journal when I have to figure out how to spell every word." I started looking through the mountain of spelling programs I had purchased, just in case this moment ever arrived. Guess what? None of them seemed right. So much for impulse spending! Time for Plan B, I picked up the homeschool catalogs and every spelling review I could find. I finally decided on a program that took only a short time each day, and seemed easy to use.
It is working beautifully. Not only is he enthusiastic about his spelling endeavor, it has carried over to his younger siblings. Now they greet me at the breakfast table with their spelling list. This is unschooling at its best. All I had to do was give them the right ingredients. Not only did knowledge grow, so did wisdom. He became wise enough to realize he needed to learn to spell.
Space to Grow
Unschooling doesn't necessarily mean never using textbooks or never teaching your child anything. Unschooling is a phrase that originally meant "doing it differently than the schools do it." In a Christian unschooling home, the unschooling approach fits right into the Christian structure and framework you have already set up. You simply give your child space to grow and mature into the person God made him to be. Surround your children with learning opportunities and learning tools, share in the joy of learning and model a lifetime learning attitude for your children to mirror . . . then education just happens!
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