This post provides the opposite perspective of this one which talks about what unschoolers can learn from school at home types.
I see no sense in being wedded merely to a philosophy – I would rather teach my children the best way they will learn. As such, take from these posts what you will and do the right thing.
But I have a caveat – I also see the benefits of Charlotte Mason, Montessori and the Classical types of education.
If there is such a thing as Christian Classical Unschooling, I guess that comes closest to our method.
If you’re still unsure what kind of homeschooler you are, take this test. I have heard good things about it from homeschooling friends and it seems to be fairly accurate across the board, although I will give you a word of caution – if the method you think you should be using is not working for whatever reason, you can – and should – change it.
Do not choose a method to the detriment of your children and to your own frustration.
That said, let’s move on to what the school at home people can learn from unschoolers.
1. Education does not always happen at age appropriate times
The school mentality often makes people think that learning must happen at age appropriate times.
“What if my kids don’t get it?”
“What if my kids are behind?”
“What if they can’t understand?”
These are fears that plague new homeschoolers.
I would contend that they do so because they have been raised with the idea that at certain ages children learn certain things. With the push for earlier and earlier schooling, many parents worry if their children do not walk in lock step with their peers.
Unschoolers instinctively get this. They’re not interested in institutionalizing learning.
Unschoolers understand that teachers do not have some magic ability, that they – you! – can learn to gather all the strength, all the patience and resolve to teach your child at the pace he or she learns best.
As a result, they are challenged, but not frazzled by their homeschooling days. They know that even when it doesn’t seem like school is in session, education and learning has never stopped.
2. Education does not happen in one place
Have you heard of car-schooling? How about waiting room schooling? Coffee shop schooling? Park schooling? How about grocery store school? And I’m not talking about field trips when no one is paying attention, either.
In addition to these rather obvious scenarios, we can also add the fact that children truly are learning all the time.
If you are not actively teaching them something or feeding their minds with something all the time, they are learning something else, but they are learning.
They are learning while wiggling and not just from their textbook. Unschoolers understand this and try to create an environment where twaddle is kept to a minimum, so as to provide a rich environment – not just for the children but the entire family.
3. Discernment is an important skill even for children
This is perhaps the most important aspect of unschooling.
Since children are learning all the time, discernment is a skill they need to pick up and pick up early.
I will admit this was not something I learned until much later because I was not taught how to separate truth from falsehood. I was given a textbook and tested on it and I was good at studying, so I thought I knew the truth.
I was wrong in the worst way possible.
Children do need facts – they do need to memorize and soak up facts, data, information, language patterns, poetry, history and so forth, but they also need a strong dependable gauge to measure these against. And they need to understand how to discern the truth.
I have taught (and continue to teach) my children that the Bible is their sword (how they love that metaphor!) which rightly separates truth from lies. They may not understand everything, of course, but they do understand that there is an objective morality, that it can be sought and found in God’s Word.
4. Academic learning does not equal education
School at home types usually feel the need to spend hours in front of a textbook to replicate a “real” school. But unschoolers know that academic learning does not equal a good education.
While I am not of the camp of people to shun all workbooks and textbooks (as some unschoolers do) I nevertheless see education as far beyond the meager scope of textbooks and the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic. Neither do I push for a so called well-rounded personality.
I simply hold to the notion all unschoolers do that education happens everywhere and at all times and that it’s perfectly okay to memorize math facts while running around in the backyard.
Unschoolers also see the importance of teaching skills (and sometimes character) with the fastidiousness that is rarely seen in school-at-home types.
This is an important distinction, I believe, and one that is the most useful aspects of homeschooling if the children are to be of practical use as adults.
5. You are unique and irreplaceable and so are they!
The biggest problem with the school at home approach is that it gives the impression that it seems easily copied. It doesn’t matter who is doing the teaching, it doesn’t matter who is learning, as long as the textbook is the same. This is patently false.
You as a parent are unique; your children are all different from each other. If you miss that, you are making the same mistake that schools make every day, which is the reason you chose to homeschool in the first place!
Unschoolers see this and will do nothing to squash the child’s unique personality. While children still need discipline (and so do parents, if any education is to be accomplished!) we are not elves in Santa’s workshop churning out toy cars. No one else can do what we do in the way we do it. Sure, they can learn something another way elsewhere but the reason they are with us is that we want to accomplish not just the end product but also control the method in which it is to be accomplished!
The manner in which education is imparted teaches children volumes about their innate worth, their choices and the adults they will become before you have even uttered a word.
So, what are you? An unschooler, a school-at-home type or something in between?