My oldest child will turn 16 this summer. Since he will be starting college in just two years, we have been doing a lot of prep work. This process has really opened my eyes to what has worked and what hasn’t over the last 11 years of homeschooling him. We have mostly unschooled, and I have been evaluating that choice lately – both because he will be starting college soon, and because I have two younger children and I’d like to use my experience to do even better for them.
PROS OF UNSCHOOLING
- Kids enjoy learning because it is not a chore and not forced upon them. When schooling becomes a dreaded chore, kids quickly associate learning with something unpleasant, something to avoid. My son is a voracious reader, enjoys non-fiction books and television, and just loves to learn new things. He has spent years making up and solving math problems just because he wants to, filling in workbooks for fun, and stopping to read every sign at aquariums, zoos, and museums to learn more.
- Kids live out the fact that living and learning are not two separate things; learning is everywhere and happening all the time! This may sound like a “hokey” idea; it did to me when I was starting out. But I have been absolutely amazed by how true it is. When he was young, my son learned the roman numerals from reading Hardy Boys books (the chapters are labeled with roman numerals), and counting by 5′s and 10′s from playing the Pokemon card game. He learned to read by reading, and learned math from cooking, gardening, and shopping. He has learned so much about science and history from field trips, projects, and watching documentaries. He’s learned spelling and grammar from reading and from writing short stories, and having me edit them.
- Life is an adventure. Without a schedule needed to sit down and “do school” every day, we have been free to go on gobs of field trips and outings, play games and do projects at home, take classes in the community, travel, and generally follow our fancy – learning a lot all along the way.
CONS OF UNSCHOOLING
- There is no set routine. Kids need the comfort of routine and the discipline of positive daily habits. While you can set a schedule even without formal homeschooling, it’s not as likely to happen or to stick.
- There are no formal outside requirements on the kids. Let’s face it – kids need to learn the life skills of diligently fulfilling outside expectations (they’ll likely have a job and boss one day). They need to learn to follow rules and do things right when working. And they’ll need practice with study skills, time management, and completing work without getting distracted.
I am very pleased with what unschooling has done for us over the past 11 years, and how my son has turned out as a result. I believe he’ll do fine in college and in life.
That said, I also believe that he could have some better skills and habits, and could have more practice for what lies ahead of him. I do feel that we should have had some formality to our days.
So with my two younger children, you won’t find us “doing school at home” daily, but you will find us mixing unschooling with more of a daily routine and more practice in the life skills mentioned above.
Unschooling works, but you do have to be even more disciplined to be sure to provide lots of reading, field trips & outings, and educational experiences and resources. You must be sure to teach your children self-discipline and how to fulfill outside expectations. If they’re college-bound, you’ll also want to add in practice with note-taking and studying as well.
What are your experiences with unschooling?
Tanya has been mostly unschooling for over eleven years, and has three children. She blogs about homeschooling, gardening, cooking, and more at So Happy Together.