I’ve written other versions on this same topic several times, so if you feel like you’ve read this before, you are not going crazy. The thing is, sometimes I find people need to hear things more than once before it really sinks in.
I figure I’ll err on the side of excess in this regard.
So what’s the right way to unschool? That’s either the easiest question in the world to answer or the toughest. The easy answer? There is no “right way”. There are a million different ways, all of them valid. The tough answer? There is no “right way”. There are a million different ways, and your task is to find the one that works for you and your family.
It’s like asking someone what’s the right way to live? (Especially since unschooling is literally learning through life.) We can give general guidelines like “be honest” or “show kindness and love to others” or “recycle”. But the specifics? Those will differ for each person based on their own situation, interests and goals.
Here’s what I’ve realized, though. Sometimes the best way to help someone define what something is, it is best to point out the things that it is not. Or in this case, things you do not need to do or be in order to unschool. (Of course you can do and be any of the following things and unschool, but they certainly are not required.)
Number One: You do not need to be a new age hippie. You do not need to talk about healing, or energy unrelated to kilowatts, or aligning your chakras. You do not even need to buy organic.
Number Two: You do not need to know what you are doing in advance. This is actually quite important. Most unschooling families start with some idea of how things will work and then wind up with something completely different as they grow with their kids and discover what works best for everyone.
Number Three: Your family can be of any race, religion or configuration. Black, white, asian, muslim, christian, atheist, jewish, single parent, 2 income, inner city or small town, one child or ten. Anyone can unschool. The most important ingredient is the desire to do so.
Number Four: You don’t have to hate all schools. I don’t hate schools, per se. I hate the compulsory regulations that have de-legitimized our school system and made people believe that school is the ONLY way for every child. Schools have a place. Some of our friends are in school. I don’t lecture them and their parents on the evils of the system, or how they might as well be in jail. Everyone makes their own choices.
The only thing you really need in order to unschool is the belief that your kids are natural learners, and that given the encouragement and opportunity, they can achieve and learn anything. The only thing you need to do is get out of their way and try not to impose your own ideas about what & when they should learn something. (We call that coercion and as unschoolers, we avoid it as much as possible.)
So what’s the right way to unschool? Whatever works for you. It sounds simple, and truly it is. What makes it difficult is fear. We’ve been brought up to believe that we can’t know what is best for us, or even what we want to do with our lives. For the most part, most of us were brought up in a system that presumed (& still presumes) to tell us what was best – our job was merely to follow the rules. This is why the decision to unschool is a kind of leap of faith for many of us. Most of us have little or no hard evidence that unschooling works (outside of what we’ve read), until we actually try it. What we do have is a lot of evidence that school doesn’t work, despite what we were repeatedly told. At least not the way it should.
My hope is that this site and blog will become a place of support and information for anyone out there looking for something better for their child. So much so that they’ll believe they can find their own “right way”, and take that leap.