I’ve been looking into this idea of unschooling. I’ve heard the word popping up here and there on mommy blogs. It’s actually a bigger movement than I thought and many families are unschooling their kids. In fact, I learned that I was an unschooler. I also believe as a teacher and unschooler, this movement has big news for society in 2015.
I’ve looked at some definitions, watched videos with unschooling families, their kids’ daily tasks, as well as tutored and taught kids who were in alternative schools — the general concept of unschooling is no set curriculum, Also no traditional school setting.
To begin with, to be unschooled means to not have a curriculum – not even a homeschool curriculum like American School or Calvert. Children set their own curriculum based on what they’re interested in learning. Unschooling also means no traditional school setting — meaning no recess, no 50-minute classes, no school bells, no classroom with a teacher teaching, as well as no report card. Out of the 55.7 million school aged kids in the U.S., 1.5 million are homeschoolers — and unschoolers fall into this category, and make up 10% this group.
Famous educators, like Charles Sykes, John Holt, Sir Ken Robinson & Grace Llewellyn, support and write about unschooling in some form.
I disagree with Dr. David Zyngier from Monash University who believes unschooling is unhealthy for a child. He says if you ask a kid what interests him as far as eating, he’ll eat burgers and fries, and a dose of coke — all of which are unhealthy for him. I believe through play-based learning, games, and adult mentors they can explore their own interests. As Dr. Alan Thomas, developmental psychologist states, children know what they are interested in. This could be dinosaurs for a day, and then dance for two weeks. At the same time, I don’t believe children should be allowed willy-nilly to live rule-less. They need guidance and support from adults to help them find people and resources to learn what they’re interested in. For me, as a 9-year-old kid, that would been singing, band, and math.
I was a different student. I didn’t feel challenged in public school, so I took every opportunity I had to get ahead, for example, I took 2 honors high school classes in 8th grade, as well as a foreign language: Spanish. I feel it was due to my parents that allowed me to do what I wanted with my learning. They suggested, but didn’t force me into a study path.
By 11th grade I was a community college student and graduated high school with my Associate’s degree. I went into University of Central Florida as a junior immediately following high school. I earned two scholarships, studied accounting alongside education. Some of you would not consider this “UNschooling” but it’s my form of unschooling — there was no set curriculum – I set my own curriculum. I took classes, and joined extra curricular activities that suited my interests at the time.
After 4 years of college, I didn’t like learning. I was so disenchanted and unmotivated by the mold my accounting classes were forcing me into, I earned the lowest grades of my whole academic career, didn’t complete my second degree, but graduated with English Education degree and stayed on to take a few post-bac classes that interested me, including Chaucer.
Most of society would see me as a failure. I was on the fast track to graduating with two degrees and making over 100,000 dollars a year, but I studied and worked in an accounting office — ate pirouette french vanilla rolls and sold Avon to fill my void because I wasn’t happy with my job. I continued to study things I was interested in, including culture, religion, and foreign language through conferences and weekend courses across the country. I still have friends across the states. I’ve worked, volunteered, walked a 5K, and ran a state-wide teen tournament. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, as a 29-year-old millennial. And I still love learning, unlike most of my friends and public school peers.
I’ve also always been a different teacher. Some schools liked that, while others, not so much. I was always an involved teacher inside and outside the classroom. I wrote and directed a school play with my 6th grade class called the Mt. Fuji Experiment, a school-wide talent show with monologues from the 8th graders, organized the first-ever school newspaper, and student-run after-school club.
If I had my own children, I would unschool them. I believe kids, including kids like the famous 5-year-old boy from Pennsylvania, Noah Ritter, the “apparently kid,” know what they want to learn — as well as Logan LaPlante, the boy whose TED talk about hackschooling got over 6 million views. For Noah, right now his interest is dinosaurs, and for 14-year-old Logan, it’s business and digital design.
So, what are my predictions for unschooling moving forward?
- close to 2.5 million American children will unschool in some shape or form by 2018.
- there will be more resources allocated online through personal blogs & Youtube Channels
- Government funding will not increase. It will stay the same. We will need to pool our own resources and communities to find opportunities for our kids to learn.
- Kids will become more socially adept through unschooling due to the social nature of internet today, eg Instagram & Youtube, Twitter and their PLNs, & PLCs (Personal Learning Networks and Personal Learning Communities, see Will Richardson’s work for more).
- We will need more nonprofits to create more opportunities to safely connect kids worldwide. Like, for example, Flat Classrooms, or the Global Classroom Project but not for classrooms, instead specifically for unschooled kids.
This is not the last time I’ll talk about unschooling on my blog, however, for the purposes of this post, I’d like to end by saying: I’ve studied in public schools and taught in independent schools, I’ve also unschooled, in all senses of the word most of my preteen and teen life. After what I’ve discovered, and my experiences teaching for 7 years, unschooling for 12 years, I’m not surprised this trend is growing and will continue to grow.