What is unschooling ?

The tag line on the rocks is unschool, ferment, regroup.

So what is unschooling, then? That’s a question we’re exploring and something we are commited to and plan to write more about at a later stage. For now we’re gathering inspiration and experiences, but this short introduction taken from “Free to Learn: Five Ideas for a Joyful Unschooling Life”, by Pam Laricchia (2012: 10-11) will give you a good idea:

What Is Unschooling?

When I first became a parent I was woefully unaware of my options when it came to my children’s education. School is mandatory, right? That’s why there are attendance laws and truant officers. I didn’t know anybody who had questioned that. Public schooling was the one and only way for children to learn, (except for private school, but that was an expensive and out-of-reach option). The kids went to public school and I worked hard to make the best of it for them.

Then I came across the concept of homeschooling-kids learning outside of school (usually based out of their home, though sometimes out of the family’s RV or boat). I was thrilled to discover that the school system was not the only legal option available in Canada (or in many other countries). We had a choice! This was a profound realization for me, and has been for many parents. You have a choice.

As parents, whether you choose public, private, or alternative school, homeschooling or unschooling, the act of making a conscious, well-informed choice regarding your child’s learning environment is a crucial step. It is part of your journey as their supportive partner in life.

And remember, any choice you make now is not cast in stone. You can change your mind as your experience grows and/or your circumstances change. That’s what happened in our household, and our children left the school system when they were nine, seven, and four.

The purpose of this book is to help you understand some of the basic principles behind unschooling—a style of homeschooling. Homeschooling generally encompasses methods of educating children in lieu of school. Often it means the children’s education is dictated by the parents instead of by teachers, typically using purchased curricula or parent-designed unit studies. Then what is unschooling? Unschooling is, at its most basic, about learning without a curriculum, without a teacher-centred environment, but sometimes the concept is easier to define by what it’s not. It’s not school-at-home, a re-creation of the school environment with a low student-teacher ratio around the kitchen table. And it’s not about leaving your kids to fend for themselves, far from it. It is about creating a different kind of learning environment for your children. An environment based on the understanding that humans learn best when they are interested and engaged, and when they are personally involved and motivated. Creating an environment conducive to real learning is very difficult if someone else—parent, teacher, or curriculum developer—is dictating what a person should be learning at any given time. But drop that outside control over the child and learning truly comes naturally. As the late John Holt (1983, 293), educator and unschooling advocate, notes so succinctly, “Fish swim, birds fly; man thinks and learns.”

In addition, once you experience unschooling, you realize that there is much more to it than just dropping curriculum. It becomes a learning lifestyle—one where parents and children together enjoy exploring their interests and passions, learning along the way; one that evolves to inform your outlook on just about any situation that arises. Some like to call it life learning because what you are doing is learning through living. It revitalizes your relationships with your children. You will come to see that learning is often handicapped when confined to a classroom and a curriculum, but exciting and ubiquitous when children are given the freedom to explore their world. And soon you begin to glimpse the true nature of unschooling unfolding: living joyfully and passionately as a family, and building lifelong relationships in an environment where your children are free to discover and to grow into the people they were born to be.

Unschooling is a unique process for each family, and for each child. That may be why explaining unschooling is so straightforward and so difficult at the same time; the implications of that simple phrase learning without a curriculum are profound and life changing. This book is about exploring the ideas—the paradigm shifts—that will help you understand unschooling.


Copyright © 2012 Pam Laricchia
All rights reserved.
Published by
Living Joyfully Enterprises
Erin, Ontario, Canada
ISBN-13: 978-09877333-0-6
Edited by Alexandra Peace
Cover design by Jane Dixon-Smith
Cover photo by Lissy Laricchia

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