Unschooling

Discuss unschooling, eclectic, the unit study approach, or any other "unusual" homeschooling method.

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Unschooling

Postby Miyu » Sat Dec 30, 2006 8:02 am

Could someone give me a good description of what, exactly, unschooling is. The subject has come up an another message board that I post at, and I don't think they have the concept correct, but I don't know enough about it to respond.

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Postby Theodore » Sat Dec 30, 2006 1:48 pm

My impression is that unschooling is focused more on learning period, not so much on learning a certain list of subjects on a set schedule. Almost anything your kids do can be turned into an education experience, but you're somewhat more laid-back about doing this than with, say, the unit study method.

The downside of unschooling is that there's always going to be a few necessary subjects that your kids hate and just won't study on their own, so you can't rely entirely on unschooling to provide a well-rounded education. Some things are just best done using an "x pages per day" method.

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Postby Kitty-Cat » Sat Dec 30, 2006 4:02 pm

There are a lot of unschoolers on another board I frequent. My impression is that it is giving your child an enviroment rich in learning materials, sharing things with them, answering questions and facilitating there learning but also trusting your child to learn what they need when they need it. They do not believe in sitting down and doing parent directed lessons. Some have no tv or video type games while others believe in free rein of such things. I also get the impresion that many of them are not concerned with what others call 'necessary subjects'
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Postby Theodore » Sat Dec 30, 2006 10:26 pm

Assuming you want your kids to graduate from high school, however, the core subjects will end up being mandatory at some point. Reading, writing, math, history, and science all need to be covered fairly well. Given, it is better to get your kids interested in something and have them learn it on their own, but they aren't interested, that doesn't mean the state gives them a free pass.

I would say that unschooling is a good method to use by default, but not as your sole homeschooling method.

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Postby WAHMBrenda » Sun Dec 31, 2006 7:58 am

I border on unschooling. We do about 30 minutes of schoolwork each day and get all the subjects in each week. The rest of the time we play file folder games or play with the learning rich toys that I've stocked up on in this home.
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Re: Unschooling

Postby Ramona » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:37 pm

Unschooling means different things in different contexts. I believe the origin of the term meant not doing anything that is the least bit like institutional school: no desks, no textbooks, no tests, no schedules, no teacher, no lectures, no homework, etc., etc. Allowing children to educate themselves using whatever is in the world around them.

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Postby WAHMBrenda » Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:12 am

I think you're right Ramona. I have a friend who unschools and follows her daughter's interests. She says she won't use workbooks. I don't know how she'll be able to pass state evaluations though since we have to maintain portfolios. That is what really confuses me and causes me not to completely unschool.
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Unschooling

Postby janzeiger » Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:43 am

As an unschooling mom, I totally agreed with your first paragraph. :) Unschoolers learn through life.

I disagree with the second paragraph though because children *can* get a well-rounded education when they're unschooled. In fact, as a teacher I can tell you that my children's education is probably more well-rounded than that of the children I taught in public school...

It's all about what you expose them to. :)

Theodore wrote:My impression is that unschooling is focused more on learning period, not so much on learning a certain list of subjects on a set schedule. Almost anything your kids do can be turned into an education experience, but you're somewhat more laid-back about doing this than with, say, the unit study method.

The downside of unschooling is that there's always going to be a few necessary subjects that your kids hate and just won't study on their own, so you can't rely entirely on unschooling to provide a well-rounded education. Some things are just best done using an "x pages per day" method.
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Postby Theodore » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:51 pm

I disagree with the second paragraph though because children *can* get a well-rounded education when they're unschooled. In fact, as a teacher I can tell you that my children's education is probably more well-rounded than that of the children I taught in public school...

Yes, but the reason a lot of people homeschool is because their public schools are totally incompetent. Can you really say that children are properly educated just because their education is better than that of children in public school? You have to reach for somewhat higher goals :)

Also, I wasn't debating the well-roundedness of unschoooling. Unschooling is good at covering a large variety of topics. My point was that there may be specific, but necessary, core subjects that kids just don't want to do, and an unstructured approach to those makes it too easy to miss large chunks of material. Unschooling is all about motivating children to learn on their own, but what do you do if your motivation techniques fail? Ignore those subjects?

I can think of a number of subjects I would have happily skipped if I'd had a choice in the matter, but then my education would have ended up sub-par.

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Postby jeanasmall » Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:31 am

I "unschooled" my public school children every waking moment they were not at school. I had no choice but to put my children in public school in the mid-80's where they were quickly labeled mildly retarded. I refused to accept the label, however, the only way for them to cope in the system was to be in the special ed classes as they do learn differently. Unschooling was the perfect way to help them get a well rounded education rather than the minimal needed to get by in this world education that they were going to get in special ed classes. I found creative ways to help them discover the things they were interested in and to involve them in the everyday business of living. I found ways to get those hated subjects dealt with by finding them in real life. So, while special ed kids don't go to science and social studies classes, my boys did get that at home without being subjected to more school books. Math was hard for my oldest, so into the kitchen we went to figure it out with countless batches of baked goods. When we remodeled our house, they all three were right there with the planning and the measurements and the budget and the shopping. Television and Video games were a privilege they earned, but were amoung a list of things they could choose from. As a creative mom I put some very educational activities in the privilege list along with the tv and video games. My oldest son chose video games alot, along with any thing artistic. Video games helped him with his eye hand coordination. My second son chose more physically active activities, and my youngest son was all over the place, but rather enjoyed the electronics learning lab.

Now they are 22, 21, 19 yrs old and attending secondary training in job corp. My oldest took a more creative route, plastering and finish work in the construction arena. My middle son a more physically active route and is doing very well in auto mechanics. My youngest chose security, and is thinking about moving onto law enforcement.

So, while back in the mid 80's I had never heard the term "unschooling" but today I wish I had been able to "unschool" the boys as I am sure they would have had a less frustrating childhood.

Theodore wrote:My impression is that unschooling is focused more on learning period, not so much on learning a certain list of subjects on a set schedule. Almost anything your kids do can be turned into an education experience, but you're somewhat more laid-back about doing this than with, say, the unit study method.

The downside of unschooling is that there's always going to be a few necessary subjects that your kids hate and just won't study on their own, so you can't rely entirely on unschooling to provide a well-rounded education. Some things are just best done using an "x pages per day" method.

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Postby Calla_Dragon » Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:41 am

We also use a bit of unschooling along with other structured activities. We use quite a bit of computer and online stuff since I think it can be very valuable. We also use workbooks, unit studies, videos (helpful for my 3 year old's speech issues), books, websites, etc. I pull stuff from just about everywhere but it generally all starts from a question from my 6 year old. He's the one who sparks most of our unit studies. We also cover subjects independently using more structured curriculum. The trick is to find the balance that's right for your family and that could take a while and it can change fast. It took us about 4 years to find our homeschooling groove because we started when my son was 2 and in therapy for autism. At that age, needs and abilities change so fast that I constantly had to re-evaluate our homeschooling style - casting aside what didn't work and embracing what seemed to, if even only for a moment. We're pretty settled for the time being - at least with my 6 year. Still trying to find our groove with my 3 year old as he requests to do schoolwork (because he sees his brother doing it) but I don't feel he's ready for formal, structured education quite yet.
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Postby cdprop » Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:17 pm

I know some people who unschool, and the results have been totally disasterous. However, I don't know what, exactly, homeschooling entails, and there is always a possibility that they're doing it wrong. I don't know to what extent they try to surround their kids with learning opportunities, limit TV, video games, etc.

I agree with the general principle that it is very difficult, and often counter-productive, to force children to learn things that they don't want to learn. It's a no-brainer that kids will learn more quickly and thoroughly if they're actually interested in the topic.

But I don't know if letting your children set the agenda is the right way to solve the problem. Pardon me if I am mischaracterizing unschooling here, because as I said, I don't know exactly what it entails, however I do think that if you care about your children, you are going to want to make sure that they are equipped for everything they're going to encounter in the real world at each stage in life, and the idea that kids will want to do these things on their own, at the appropriate time, without ever being pushed, is idealistic and incorrect.

But I do think that it is incredibly easy to get kids interested in almost any topic, with a little imagination and creativity. One of the unschoolers here mentioned cooking as an excercise in math, and I think that's great.

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Unschooling

Postby janzeiger » Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:28 am

You may be thinking of Radical Unschooling which is a type of unschooling that's totally child-led.

I have a BA and MA in elementary education and I believe in unschooling. I do believe that children will learn when they're ready and that the world is the best classroom. However, my son still gets a taste of structure since he likes to play sports through the YMCA, participate in classes, etc...

He also likes to use Reading and Math Blaster on the computer!! :)

Because he hasn't been forced to write, he ASKS me to teach him to write!!! :) Same with reading.

Here's an article I wrote on how I went from being a public school teacher to unschooling mom:

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art44206.asp

Just wanted to share!

cdprop wrote:I know some people who unschool, and the results have been totally disasterous. However, I don't know what, exactly, homeschooling entails, and there is always a possibility that they're doing it wrong. I don't know to what extent they try to surround their kids with learning opportunities, limit TV, video games, etc.

I agree with the general principle that it is very difficult, and often counter-productive, to force children to learn things that they don't want to learn. It's a no-brainer that kids will learn more quickly and thoroughly if they're actually interested in the topic.

But I don't know if letting your children set the agenda is the right way to solve the problem. Pardon me if I am mischaracterizing unschooling here, because as I said, I don't know exactly what it entails, however I do think that if you care about your children, you are going to want to make sure that they are equipped for everything they're going to encounter in the real world at each stage in life, and the idea that kids will want to do these things on their own, at the appropriate time, without ever being pushed, is idealistic and incorrect.

But I do think that it is incredibly easy to get kids interested in almost any topic, with a little imagination and creativity. One of the unschoolers here mentioned cooking as an excercise in math, and I think that's great.
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Hmm...

Postby janzeiger » Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:33 am

Theodore,

It's important to remember that many children in public schools are receiving an education that's sub-par, and that's with long lists of standards in every subject.

I'm a former public school teacher and I can tell you from experience that even schooled children have "holes" in their education.

Unschooling is totally on a child's level and meets their individual needs. They're engaged in the learning process when so many school children have already "turned off" by 1st grade. Imagine how much time is wasted in schools today because of children who are turned off to learning. Imagine what they COULD be doing..

Also, I want to note that I work very hard to expose my children to new people, places, and ideas. I buy David computer software, curriculum if he wants more structure, and I take him to places like the museum so he can learn through real life. We cook together, we do crafts together, etc...He's out and about--involved in organized sports, art classes, etc...

In other words, his education is more well-rounded than many school children's. More importantly, his natural love for learning hasn't been extinguished.

Theodore wrote:I disagree with the second paragraph though because children *can* get a well-rounded education when they're unschooled. In fact, as a teacher I can tell you that my children's education is probably more well-rounded than that of the children I taught in public school...

Yes, but the reason a lot of people homeschool is because their public schools are totally incompetent. Can you really say that children are properly educated just because their education is better than that of children in public school? You have to reach for somewhat higher goals :)

Also, I wasn't debating the well-roundedness of unschoooling. Unschooling is good at covering a large variety of topics. My point was that there may be specific, but necessary, core subjects that kids just don't want to do, and an unstructured approach to those makes it too easy to miss large chunks of material. Unschooling is all about motivating children to learn on their own, but what do you do if your motivation techniques fail? Ignore those subjects?

I can think of a number of subjects I would have happily skipped if I'd had a choice in the matter, but then my education would have ended up sub-par.
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Unschooling in High School

Postby janzeiger » Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:35 am

Theodore,

Many older unschoolers choose to take classes in core subjects in order to prepare for college.

Jan

Theodore wrote:Assuming you want your kids to graduate from high school, however, the core subjects will end up being mandatory at some point. Reading, writing, math, history, and science all need to be covered fairly well. Given, it is better to get your kids interested in something and have them learn it on their own, but they aren't interested, that doesn't mean the state gives them a free pass.

I would say that unschooling is a good method to use by default, but not as your sole homeschooling method.
Jan Zeiger, Certified Teacher

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