I've been thinking of a few ways to help people get started with unschooling. Summer is the perfect time to try it out. After all, you are living and learning together through the summer and it is a great time to see learning happen naturally.
If your children are public schooled, it can take longer than a summer break to deschool themselves to the point that they are more interested in figuring out what they want to learn about as opposed to being told what to learn about. I have heard that it takes on average 1 month to deschool for every year of school. I am not sure where that statistic came from but I am sure depending on the child's school experience it could take more or less time for the child to trust themselves and their own capability in learning without a teacher.
Deschooling is the process of letting go of the false beliefs that the school system imposes on people. The deschooling process has helped Jordan and I figure out our passions in life and actually pursue them. It has given us greater trust in ourselves and our kids to learn whatever it is we want to learn, when we want to learn it. It has helped us have a greater connection as a family. We have let go of the limiting beliefs that a "schedule" is necessary, worksheets and tests determine smarts, and that the government knows at what age our children should be learning about Benjamin Franklin and division.
When you start unschooling, it is helpful to know what unschooling actually is. Unschooling is not a way for you to find new ways to impose learning into your children's lives because you believe there are things they ought to know. Unschooling is discovering that each child is unique and that life learning unfolds organically. Learning happens! To read more about what unschooling/life learning is, check out this article.
Unschooling really is like a long summer vacation. You spend time together in relaxing ways. You watch movies, draw, explore, visit new sites, see family for extended periods of time, build things, maintain your home, work on projects, read, play games, and spend ample amounts of time outside. The days unfold much more easily. People eat when they are hungry, bed time extends, there is an easier vibe throughout the days.
So, why end it? Why end your wonderful summer? Why trade in your sublime time with your children, when you are connecting, feeling enriched together, and exploring new ways of being a family in order to go back to the grind of the school year? When did you ask yourself why you decided to send your kids to a place they typically do not enjoy (and probably one you did not enjoy either)? Why not, instead, take a year off? Will an experiment in unschooling really cause your children to fall so far behind they'll never "catch up?" What does catch up mean anyway? Your children are on their own time frame, with their own passions to discover. Their passions, like yours deserve to be supported.
Here's what I suggest doing:
For two weeks, write down every little thing that your kids ask, do, and say. What activities have they done today? Which questions have they asked? Have you followed up with their questions? What did they help you with today? What were they concerned about? What seemed to take most of their time?
Explore: go to new parks, a parade, a new hiking spot, have dinner in a new ethnic restaurant, cook together, read a new book together, see the sights around your hometown, invite new friends over, do some service for someone you know.
Then, after the two week period, if you'd like, you can go back through and categorize all of the different things they discovered. You will find that they did in fact ask questions about history, completed math problems in an organic way, learned a new talent, discovered a new TV show that taught them about Amelia Earhart, learned to write new letters, discovered a book series that they flew right through because it was so fascinating, learned some social skills in dealing with family and friends, and on and on. Children are already fascinated with the world around them. They do not need to be told what to learn. They are already following their passions and if we get out of the way, we can watch them shine.
The simplicity sounds too easy and that can make someone nervous and fearful (I've been there!). I invite you to give it a try for the rest of the summer. Take notes, observe your wonderful children. Connect with them where they are right now. They are brilliant, kind, and intrigued by the world around them. And if they aren't, then why send them back to a place that has taken the intrigue away?
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