What Unschooling In Action Looks Like


Our family unschools. (Or, to be more precise in defining it better: we do Child-Led Learning.)

What this means, is although we have loads and loads of school text books and paper and supplies, we do not follow any specific schedule nor use any one certain curriculum. I simply allow my children to chose what they are interested in, what they have a passion for, and we follow that route. My oldest son is planning on being a Manga artist and moving to Japan someday. So, I bought him a “how to draw Manga” book. We plan on getting him a English to Japanese language book soon. He watches documentaries online about Japanese culture and history. We prepare Japanese foods together. Justin takes him out to the Japanese restaurant. He reads online articles about Japanese laws and traditions. He spends hours a day perfecting his drawing methods. He learns techniques by copying more skilled Manga artists. And in all of this, by allowing him to seek out more knowledge on his passion he is learning language history, economy, home economics, government, math, reading, art, etc etc

That is what unschooling looks like. It is not forcing a child to learn a cookie-cutter lesson, expecting all children to adjust to one style of learning and be interested in only the same subject matter. George Bernard Shaw said: “What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, NOT knowledge in the pursuit of a child.”  That is what unschooling is. It is allowing the student to lead the way.

And for a parent new to this idea, there can be some panic in the beginning. We tend to associate schooling with busywork. Book work and paperwork. Hours a day pouring over these things. To let go of the reigns can mean some worry at first, because most children need some transitioning/adjusting/healing time from the pulic school setting. They have never learned how t think for themselves as far as their education goes. Set free in such a way can result in hours upon hors siting n front of video games or watching movies or simply playing. What a parent must do at this point is two-fold.

1) Remind yourself how much learning really happens through simple play. They may appear docile and unmotivated but they are still learning. Look for it.

2) Tell yourself it will not always be this way. Eventually they will grow bored of the video games or toys and will come to you, with an idea of something they want to earn. Maybe it will be a trip to a local museum. Maybe they will want to bake a cake. Maybe they want to know why dinosaurs are extinct or how candy is made or why planes can fly. When that happens, that is your chance to encourage, to provide resources, to learn along with them. TRUST THE TIMETABLE that is unique to each individual child.

Right now in my house?

The 14 year old is drawing Manga while listening to Japanese music.

The 8 year old is in bed reading his way through a chapter book. Reading has always been a struggle for him and because of that he has hated reading. As an avid romancer of books myself, this broke my heart. So, we made a deal. I found him a fun, interesting chapter book and told him if he finished reading it, he would get a reward. I’m thinking a trip to the local bakery will be a splendid treat. 🙂

The 11, 7, and 5 year old are playing an elaborate board game that they made themselves. It involves dice and  problem solving skills and math and teamwork and strategy. It is more elaborate than Monopoly.

Earlier, they were building complicated geometric shapes and patterns with their small shape blocks.

Later they will draw more “paper people” . (These are , in essence, basically paper dolls, like I had as a little girl….just don’t tell THEM that.) They draw detailed people, usually anime-type characters, and then they cut them out and play role-playing games with them. For hours. Seriously. My kids don’t have a game system but they can be occupied for hours a day playing with pen, paper and scissors. They play pretend games of being survivalists or in Hunger Games or they are Jews hiding from the Nazis during the war. It is all school. It is all learning. Lego buildings. Conflict resolution. Helping to cook dinner. Shopping for groceries with Justin and comparing prices. Family discussions about organic farming or Fukushima or the civil war or legalizing marijuana or Martin Luther King Jr. It is all school.

This is what unschooling in action  looks like.

3 responses »

  1. Thank you for making me feel normal (a friend shared this on Facebook) my 12 year old daughter just squealed when she read about someone else fascinated with Japan, She also wants to be a Manga artist and because of family who think they know better she felt she wasn’t supposed to enjoy doing school this way (we have spiraled it to include Germany and WWII because her favorite anime has a German connection as well

  2. I must say, I have heard of “unschooling”, but never had it explained to me in a way that I understood…until I read your blog. Thank you. We are home schooling (via an online public school) for our 15 yr old and she has so far decided that she may want to return to public school next year. Mainly, it has to do with her friends and how much she misses them. She has anxiety and was having issues at school with it last year, her counselor was excellent, but well, as a family we made the decision to home school this year to see if I helped. It has, but she is missing her friends. This may change come the end of the year…we shall see. We let her travel with her grama, but if she misses a class or drops some homework that will stop and back home she will come. Again, thank you for writing this, I totally understand it now! 🙂 ❤

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