Unschooling As I See It

The kid as Goku at Anime Weekend Atlanta.  Anime is one of his passions.

The kid as Goku at Anime Weekend Atlanta. Anime is one of his passions.

Happy New Year Friends!!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season :).

So a friend asked me to explain more about unschooling for her.  I though that I would share what I wrote here:

“In terms of unschooling, it’s really very much about going with what works best for your family, and your children.  Some kids work well with structure, some don’t.  So if having a structure works for your kids, then do it :).  It may be that one of them likes the structure, requests it even, and flourishes, while the other doesn’t.  Unschooling is really aboutseeing your kid, and creating the environment for them to best be their unique selves.
I liked reading The Unschooling Handbook and John Holt’s Teach Your Own.  I also enjoyed Freedom Challenge:  African American Homeschoolers.  John Holt is great for the philosophy.  The Unschooling Handbook will answer the questions you have around materials, I think.  You can find it at the library for sure (that’s where I got it, though I really do want to buy a copy).
I think that it’s moreso a philosophy on life (for me, at least).  I subscribe to more of a radical unschooling philosophy, so unschooling for me is about how I am in relationship to my kids, specifically, but really my entire family.  It’s about seeing each other, trusting each other and making space for each other.  As it applies to learning, it’s about seeing who your child is (likes, dislikes, learning styles, triggers, strengths, passions, etc); trusting that they are where they need to be now, and have the capacity to learn what they need to know to get to where they will need to be later (this trust thing is the hardest part); and then making space in your family’s life for them to get what they need and be who they are (and recognizing that what may seem like a want for you just might be a need for them).  It’s a big thing, and it’s a process, and I’m always having to check myself and reevalute, but we are all going through it together. The trust part is also about letting go of “learning” as a goal in and of itself, and trusting that learning is always happening, so you can just be present and enjoy your kids without worrying about presenting them with learning situations.  This is hard for us, especially since there is so much around us that is packaged as learning materials or activities or opportunities.  It’s also about not valuing any particular type of learning over another.  For instance, kids can learn just as much from games as from books, but games are frowned upon.  And learning about dolls can be just as important as learning about the life cycle of a frog.  Recognizing that much of what has been deemed important has been arbitrarily decided by nobody knows who.
That said, strewing is really a practice of seeing and making space.  I see that my kid is interested in x.  I find anything related to x that my kid might enjoy, whether it seems “educational” or not.  I offer these things to the kid, without being attached to them being actually interested in them.  Then I continue to build on whatever they connect with.  A big part of it is learning to see the value in what is valuable to them, and not placing judgement on the things they are interested in.  This is also hard, because we have been conditioned to find certain things inherently more valuable than others.  But I have found that in the process of finding things to strew in Amani’s path, I come to enjoy a lot of the things that he’s interested in, or at least begin to understand his interest.
Really, I came to be confident in this path largely because I was walking it alone, primarily just Amani and me, and I just really saw him come into himself.  There were definitely moments when I was scared, or worried, but every parent goes through that — unschooled, homeschooled, or traditionally schooled.  I really had to learn to see, trust, and make space for myself, but most importantly to trust myself, to know that I had done my due diligence, that I was moving from a place of both logic and intuition.  It may be worth it to take less direction, and really spend some time looking at your kids and your family and figuring it out from there.  Then, once you figure out how you want to move, come back to community to get support for the decision you’ve already made, as opposed to trying to get help in making the decision in the first place.  Because nobody can tell you what’s best for you and your kids and your family, you know?”
Unschoolers, what do you guys think?  How do you define unschooling for your family?  How do you talk about it with others?
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2 thoughts on “Unschooling As I See It

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