Most of us are familiar with the idea of homeschooling, which involves parents educating their children at home rather than in a traditional school setting. Generally, these families are using less formal ways of imparting a traditional education and curriculum. A methodology that is becoming more common as many parents are realizing the benefits of letting children find their own path is the idea of unschooling. This approach is viewed by some as a much more radical way to “school” children since it has a freer, more open attitude toward learning. Unschooling, or natural schooling, is seen as more of a lifestyle, since those who engage in this method, recognize that there are opportunities for learning everywhere.
Pam Larrichia, a blogger and author on the unschooling movement, believes that “The learning is in the living.” On her website she shares that this more natural approach to learning can slow time down and gives families the freedom to use their time as they see fit. It gives children the opportunity to explore and find their own way and parents often join them on the journey making their own discoveries, as well. In short, she firmly believes that unschooling provides families the chance to learn together and, in turn, enjoy life together.
Peter Gray, Ph.D. is a research professor at Boston College whose current research and writing focus primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. Here are his thoughts on the core ideas of unschooling, “Unschooling is not schooling. Unschooling parents do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children… Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests…In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.”
Unschoolers believe that children have an innate inclination to learn and explore and unschooling allows them to acquire knowledge in a natural, gradual way. Proponents feel that the prescribed education provided by public schools does not often allow children to pursue topics that interest and motivate them. Thus, unschooling families use the world as their classroom and actually learn just by living their everyday lives. A trip to the grocery store is a chance to encounter numbers in a real life setting, a visit to the art museum exposes children to art, reading, history, and countless other learning opportunities. For families that unschool together mundane household tasks, field trips, traveling, and more present opportunities to discover and uncover the joy of learning.