Is Unschooling A Form of Freedom or Anarchy?

May 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Home Schooling

The most freewheeling approach to homeschooling is Unschooling. This approach eschews any form of curriculum and structure to learning, and allows the student to learn about anything and everything that stimulates a natural interest, either inside or outside the home! This learning takes place at the student’s natural pace, with no fixed schedules or deadlines.

The foundation of Unschooling is made from two observations of child development.

The first of the observations is this: kids are by nature, curious creatures! They open their eyes at birth to explore the world, and this exploring goes on for a long time. They like to see what they can do, what they can feel, what they can hear. And as soon as they learn to speak, they’ll ask a thousand and one questions every day! The second observation is that there is always selectivity in thought and learning. Some things are more interesting to children than others, and natural interest greatly varies from child to child.

Beginning with these basic observations, the promoters of Unschooling conclude that the best approach to learning is to give children the freedom to opt for the type of content they want to study, as well as the when and how of it. Hence, kids will have no set schedule, but can just explore whatever they wish to.

Parents who opt for the Unschooling approach all have different ideas about their amount of involvement in the child’s learning. A few take a completely lenient approach by leaving the kids free to choose their own topics of study, while others share their interests with their kids, answer their questions and also help in getting solutions to problems.

This approach is, however, quite experimental, and as yet, the results vary widely. Unschooling to this level works best when the kids are quite independent and highly enthusiastic about learning. These children use homeschooling to learn about areas of interest that matter to them and those which can be useful later in life. Most of these kids are now Ivy League Graduates and retain that passion for learning that homeschooling helped them acquire!

Unschooling of this type can also have a more scattershot effect- knowing a lot about a few specific areas, and nothing whatsoever about others. Homeschoolers tend to have disagreements about whether ignorance of some subjects matters or not, especially when these are sciences and math.

Quite a lot of kids have no inclination to learn mathematics or sciences, and being Unschooled gives them the right to eschew these in favor of more favorable subjects. However, in today’s technological world, mathematics is extremely important, and knowledge of it is essential.

Also, there are some students who concentrate more on the practical matters such as the sciences and mathematics, but will totally ignore music, literature, art, history and other humanities. Some may be happy this way, but others will have cause to regret that they are missing out on the finer things in life.

This one-sidedness caused by Unschooling is can be sorted out early using other approaches to homeschooling. Most homeschooling parents therefore opt for a balance between these two forms. However, Unschooling isn’t what this balance is about: Unschooling is all about letting the child make the choices.

Although the Unschooling approach dates back to the sixties, when it was pioneered by John Holt, the effects of Unschooling are still under research and analysis today, which tells us that this is a much deeper approach than any others, with many long-term consequences. Today, personal experiences are the only way to judge the value of this approach.