Let’s just make one thing really clear. Unschooling is natural for kids. It’s the way they learn from birth and would continue learning if the parents didn’t get involved and start insisting that the kids be ‘taught’. Parents brought up in school systems and who have school brains. Unschooling is difficult for parents because it means that a lot of the time they need to get out of the way. They need to let the kids follow their interests and simply be there to assist; whether that means providing transportation, or a map, or a comfortable chair and some food. Parents need to answer questions when asked, provide guidance when asked and then back off.
This is much easier said than done. We’ve been unschooling for a while now and I still have freak out moments where my school brain screams at me that I am lazy and that my kids really need to be doing something that translates as ‘school’. Because when school brain is involved, curriculum = learning, and that’s the only formula there is. “But what about Math?” pounds through my brain like the chorus from a song on the radio repeating itself in an endless loop in my head.
I spoke on the phone tonight to a fellow homeschooling parent who told me that due to various health issues, their family had essentially been unschooling for the past 6 months or so. Now everyone is healthy again, and she had an attack of “Oh my God, we have to get back to doing something” Something being schoolwork. So she had a slight, or not so slight meltdown this morning, while trying to ‘get’ her kids to do some schoolwork. Everyone wound up in tears. Oh my gosh I have so been there!! It’s just awful. Because deep down inside you know that coercion never works. And when the kids are doing their own thing, everyone is happy, contented and yes, learning.
So unschooling and the decision to unschool is really something for the parents to accept. For the kids, it’s just the natural state of things. John Holt, as usual, said it best, and if you’ve yet to read his book How Children Learn, from which this quote was taken, I urge you to order the book from Amazon or get it from the library.
“What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out.”
p.s. The photo was taken today in Riverside Park at 103rd St. The snow was like powder…