Unschooling Days, Unschooling Thoughts

I was asked by a good friend of my wife about our unschooling, what my kids do all day, and about grown unschoolers and what they've accomplished. Here is my response:

Right now, at 6 and 2, Liani plays with her dolls and toys, and takes turns watching Netflix, usually Barney, with her brother. Skyler watches anything from Bob the Builder to Power Rangers to Jeff Corwin to Mr. Bean to dinosaur documentaries to anything else he discovers. He plays a little ps2, and a little DS. He's beaten the games he has so he's not as into video games at the moment. They do playgroup on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. They do PE on Tuesdays (at the rec. center). Skyler has a game or two a week. Basketball just finished, indoor soccer is next. They see their cousins usually twice a week, and any friends that make it over (such as yourselves). When the weather is warmer, they walk to the library 2-3 times a month, or more, and go to the park often through-out the week. They'll be taking more bus-rides to various places now that Liani is fully mobile and doesn't need the stroller, though maybe they'll take a small fold-up one.

It's important that we understand what Oliver Demille calls the "phases of learning". The "core phase" goes, generally, from 0-8 years old. It's the phase where kids learn values, ie. right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, relationships, family. That sort of stuff. Whatever they pick up along the way as far as reading, writing, math, is extra, and of course, will naturally happen as kids want to do what others do, ie. read and write. It's fun and exciting when it's on their terms and at their own pace. The idea that kids must learn certain things by certain ages is just so silly (from my perspective). Oliver Demille, who I mentioned above, didn't read until he was 12, and he founded a college (George Wythe University in Cedar City, UT). Like walking and talking, kids will learn things when they're ready and interested. Quite simply, we don't have to force learning. It's as natural as breathing.

As for this family on Good Morning America, I don't know anything about them, but I am familiar with plenty of other unschooling familes, such as Sandra Dodd's. Her kids are all adults and have careers. The other thing to consider are those historical figures who had very little formal schooling, such as Joseph Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison (among countless others). They followed their passions and found mentors along the way.

Your questions and concerns are absolutely valid. They are the same ones I had. Along with the socialization question. I've come to the conclusion that kids become anti-social through school. They don't learn anything in regards to real-world socialization, the kind that happens after school, in adulthood. I wrote a little bit about that here.

Extremely valid concerns, ones even my wife still has slight issues with. We talk about them all the time. She doesn't use the computer, so she can't jump on the Internet and study everything I've studied, but I've bought a few books on unschooling that she's working her way through, and slowly understanding more and more. I've come to the conclusion that school is harmful to kids, both intellectually and spiritually. It destroys their natural desires to learn and explore, their natural curiosities, and puts them in unnatural situations with other children. Kids shouldn't be grouped with other kids strictly based on age. They should be with younger kids, older kids, and adults, all the time. That's natural, and that's how kids learned and grew for thousands of years before compulsory, age-based schooling, which is only 150 years old.

With unschooling it's the opposite, "you'll see it when you believe it." I see it. Julieta almost sees it. Anyone can see it if they just sit down and spend their lives with their kids. Help them explore their curiosities. Answer all their questions the best you can, and if you can't, tell them so, and help them find the answer in a book, online, in a library, with a friend, wherever. Their interests and curiosities will become more sophisticated as they grow up, and they'll have the skills to find the answers to whatever it is the want to know, and to do whatever it is they want to do, because they've been doing it all along. Unschooling is life. I hope this helps.


Anonymous said…
I like it. No, I love the idea. I'm sure you've heard it before, but one question -- what do you do when a child of unschooling chooses nothing. The child who, at age 11-13 or so, reaches that phase where nothing is interesting. They sleep, eat, and don't do much else. Is that a "phase?"
I don't know that such a thing is even possible. When nothing is interesting, something else is going on. There was a time in my life where nothing was interesting, but the problem was that I was incredibly depressed, and hated myself, and hated life, and hated doing anything. That happened because my life was completely controlled by school and my parents. I had zero freedom to do as a I pleased. Life wasn't worth living, I thought. I've since been liberated and am as happy as can be. I would say if nothing is interesting, if they don't have any interest in doing anything, at all, then there's some other serious problem at play here. I've never known any unschoolers who encountered that for any significant period of time, or even heard the question ask before of unschoolers. I think it would be a good idea to pose the question here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/303347574750/
Anonymous said…
Thank you, I will do that. I'm seeing that with our son, currently, who is not truly unschooled, but is very loosely structured homeschooled.
Interesting. Definitely join that group. They don't mess around with silly posts and what not, links to this or that. It's serious discussion about unschooling, and very profitable in that regard. (I've had my share of headbutts with the likes of Sandra Dodd, however. They don't take kindly to new/inexperienced unschoolers giving advice on things they've never experienced, even if it's just theoretical. I can dig it, though.)
Anonymous said…
Beautiful! I'm a grown unschooler now, about do it with my daughter as she ages. What I love about unschooling is the dignity it grants children. The humility adults show toward kids in allowing them to self-direct their life. Intervention, formal education, is often a silly thing to do and denies kids their dignity as willful human beings. I'm so glad to see posts like this. It's nice to know I'm not alone.
Eric, you mean you grew up unschooled? That's fantastic! Did you ever attend school K-12 school?
Nina said…
Hi! Thanks for the article. Our dd is attending K and we have just made the decision to have her homeschooled child-led learning. Since I am new at this, can you tell me if you practice math or anything? Let me put it this way, dd who is 6 is extremely interested in math. Should i dive right in? I am one nervous mama!
Anjali, if she wants to play a math game or so, then sure, go for it! Are you on Facebook? I highly recommend this unschooling support group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/303347574750/