Thursday, September 10, 2015

What Exactly Is Unschooling?

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because learning and fun can be simultaneous
I love sharing about unschooling, the method in which we "school" or rather, precisely do not "school" our children, because I am so in love with this learning method because I see how well it works for us. 
Most of our "official" learning takes place via conversations that I and my husband have with my kids, covering such wide ranges of topics. We learn so much this way and cover so much ground that often I share what we've been learning on Facebook, and how much we love unschooling, and inevitably I get comments like "Don't all parents have these conversations with theie kids?" and "What you call unschooling, I call parenting" and "I guess I both send my kids to school and unschool them."
These frequent comments by people make me realize that there is a huge misunderstanding about what unschooling actually is, it's not simply parenting nor is it something that you really can do in conjunction with school because it is a radically different mindset from that of standard schooling (though Montessori is probably the most similar schooling method to unschooling).

What is Unschooling?

Essentially if I had to explain unschooling in a nutshell it would be via the cliché "you can take a horse to the water but you can't make him drink" and apply it to education.  You can "teach at" a child but you can't make him learn.  And that the most effective learning is that which is child led. And the belief that forcing a child to learn something when he isn't receptive is a waste of time and backfires, typically won't be remembered long term (memorized for a test and then forgotten) and/or quashes a child's innate love of learning and insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Unschooling is trusting in your kids' unique learning style, process, and speed, and that they will learn all that they need to have happy productive lives without anyone ever forcing them to sit down and learn something specific. And the belief that learning is everywhere and can be fun and that even those things typically referred to as mind numbing wastes of time actually have educational value.
As an unschooling parent, our job is less to educate our children and more to be their facilitators in their self driven quest for knowledge.
Unschooling isn't just about what you do, it's also what you do not do, and the belief in the validity of the reasoning behind it.

I'll admit that when I first heard of unschooling the concept really appealed to me because I felt that so much of what was taught to me at school was a royal waste of time, went in one ear and out the other because it wasn't interesting to me and I didn't want to be there. (I took two years of French and remember maybe 5 words, if even, don't remember a speck of the American history I learned in high school, nor any of the history of this region that I learned then either, can't even tell you what the general gist of King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth were, don't remember a blessed thing about Calc 2 other than these frustrating graphs that look like flower petals, and don't even get me started on most of my religious studies.) 
However, later on in life when I wanted to know about certain things like the history of my region, because I wanted to understand how it affected local politics, I started reading books and websites on the topic, and the subject became my pleasure reading and I actually remember what I read enough to debate using what I learned in my historical research as talking points. And this being despite the fact that history was my most hated subject in school. 
The point being- once it was relevant to my life and I actually had a desire to learn it, the same subject I despised before became my pleasure to learn, I devoured it, remembered it, and now it is the topic my kids and I enjoy learning about the most together and is one of the most common subjects we discuss.

However as much of the logic of the of unschooling appealed to me at first I was still apprehensive. Does it work? What if I try to unschool and my kids remain ignoramuses? So while I did decide to unschool, I decided that I will have a backup plan. While I was cool with completely unschooling my kids for most subjects, I felt if my kids didn't learn how to read or do math they'd be really at a disadvantage in life. So I said that if they didn't reach a bare minimal level in these by a certain age I'd school then in those subjects and let them unschool the rest.
Well I need not have worried. My boys both already taught themselves to read- 8 year old Lee can read books and 6 year old Ike is sounding out words pretty well now and 3.5 year old Anneliese knows all her ABC's and can identify many of the letters in another alphabet.  And as for math... Let's just say yesterday I was teaching my 6 year old basic algebra, we've been learning fractions and percentages together and have started learning about negative numbers. And all this has been without any regular scheduled formal math and reading lessons. Mind you, two years ago when my boys were in school, Ike refused to even go near the teacher when he sat down the kids to teach them the letters, let alone be receptive to learning. He had a huge resistance to that and yet now he's teaching himself to read.

So how does this work? How do kids actually learn when they aren't getting a formal education?

Learning From Games and Learning From Life

Well there is no one size fits all answer and every family is different and even within each family every kid is different. What I can say is how it's working for our family right now. I am also well aware that many people will have lots of criticism for me for what I say we do but that's OK with me, it works for us, and I'm liking how my kids are turning out so far- mature, well mannered, respectful, intelligent, helpful, kind, and creative. So even if "studies" say that what we're doing is "problematic" that's fine with me because what we're doing works for our kids.

So first of all my kids spend most of their time playing, chilling out, and having fun. A good chunk of their day is spent on their tablets (my boys each have one- we bought them cheap ones- a cross education expense and birthday gifts) and Anneliese typically comandeers my phone, and my kids decide what they want to do with their technology at their fingertips. 
Ike and Lee generally switch off between playing with various apps, and watching videos. 
Huge time waster, right?
Well, actually, not so.

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Lee's has two favorite games- Minecraft, and Draw Something. Draw Something's app involves choosing a word from a list, drawing that picture, and then having someone else guess what it is. Then the people you're playing with draw a picture for you to guess what it is, and so on, and so forth.
This app has been super educational and helpful for Lee. Of course, there's all the drawing practice- he's gotten amazing at drawing. But more "scholastically" it has helped his reading and spelling so much- he has to read the words before he can pick which to draw- and at first he'd come over to me, asking me to read the words for him, so that he could choose the one he wanted, but he got tired of asking me all the time what they said, so he practiced reading them himself, and now, only once in a very long while does he ask me what a word says (and usually its hard words). And then, of course, in order to move on to the next level, he can't just guess the word that they drew, he has to spell the word correctly. Many times he had to guess the word over and over and over until the spelling was correct, and now he knows spellings of all sorts of random words, even tricky spelling. I helped him more in the past with this, but as he practices and his spelling gets better, he rarely ever asks me to help him spell the words.
Minecraft is extremely educational for a variety of reasons, but instead of just enumerating what is educational about Minecraft, I'd suggest googling "Minecraft educational" because there are so many articles about the subject that it would be redundant. But there is lots of math needed, people skills, problem solving skills, cause and effect, learning about different types of geology, among many other things. There also is the teamwork aspect when my boys decide to set a task and get it done, working together, and compromising when each kid has a different way of looking at the world, and has different ideas of how things should be.
But for my kids, what I see happening with Minecraft is Lee and Ike want to do all sorts of cool things with Minecraft, but they don't know how to do that, so they research it on their own, finding tutorial videos showing them how to do it. (Lee routinely makes Rube Goldberg machines on Minecraft- that's one of his favorite things to do.) Internet research skills are very valuable, and actually open up the world to you. They started out just trying to use these internet research skills to figure out how to do those Minecraft tricks, but they've expanded it to be able to do research for various subjects that intrigue them- one of their recent bits of research was figuring out how much it would cost to buy a new computer, and then once they figured that out, calculated how much each of them would have to save up for it if they would buy it together, pooling their money.

But that's Minecraft and Draw Something. Maybe these are more educational games in most peoples eyes, but its not just "educational games" that are actually educational.
My kids like Temple Run and these other racing games, not sure what exactly they're called. And these are the types of games that growing up we were forbidden from playing because they're complete wastes of time and not educational in the slightest.
Only I see my kids learning math from this all the time- they get points and they want to be able to know how to say what number it is, even when it has 7-10 digits. And they know that when they get a certain amount of points, they can level up or buy a new bonus item, so they do the math in their heads, calculating how much more they need to earn. But at first they couldn't do that, because it was really high numbers, and subtraction with multiple digits isn't so easy, so they asked me to show them how to do that math. And then realized how much fun math was, that they asked me to teach them more and more and more math, and now, as I mentioned before, my kids are way above grade level in math. And that was without my ever making them learn math, just teaching it to them when they asked to learn it.
And Ike, sick of always asking me to read to him what the games were saying, has been teaching himself how to read, sounding out letters, and he's actually getting quite good at reading, despite my never teaching it to him formally, and despite his wanting to run the other way when his teachers were trying to teach him to read at school.

And they watch quite a few movies and shows, but even from that, I see how much they're learning. I don't tell them what they must watch, but I introduce various shows to the kids that are more educational, and I see how much they learn from them, whether it's Magic School Bus, Wild Kratts, Super Why, Cyberchase, Octonauts, LMNS, or whatever, or just more life lessons from shows like Arthur. Anneliese doesn't really play games, but she does watch quite a few videos, but I see just how much she learns from them as well- she tends to go for more kids' songs videos, like Busy Beaver's songs about shapes and colors, or ABC related songs, number songs, or StoryBots outerspace songs. Yes, I know many consider watching shows to be pure mind numbing, brain wasting things, but I see for myself just how much my kids learn from these, so no, I don't consider it a waste of time, but valuable learning opportunities.

And of course there's always their Lego play, drawing, creative play, imagination games, etc.... which are all educational as well.

Then real life also involves many learning opportunities- my kids help me in the kitchen a lot, which ends up being a lot of math, involving fractions, multiplication, etc... discussions on nutrition, health and wellness, the science of cooking. Grocery shopping also is chock full of discussions on economics, budgeting, math, health, social studies, science, etc... Learning is simply everywhere, even without specifically teaching.
Recognizing that kids can and do learn this way is a big part of unschooling, that living provides you with valuable life skills as well as scholastic skills, and that formal education is simply unnecessary, because so much is learned even without it.

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Writing a recipe for the kids to follow ends up being reading, fractions, time telling, etc...

The Great Conversation

Other than learning via play and life, a big part of our learning takes place via question and answer sessions we have with our kids. I think the most important skill in life, the most beneficial trait to have that aids in learning is curiosity, insatiable curiosity and the constant quest for knowledge. Because of that I encourage my kids to ask questions, to question everything. There is no such a thing as a stupid question or an inappropriate question, in my books. (There may be situations where questions can be hurtful or inappropriate which is why I also teach them tact and to be considerate of other people's feelings, and that there is a time and place for everything.)
Because I am aware that for this stage in my kids' life I am their biggest source of information and their main source of getting answers to their questions, I do my best to answer every single question they ask and ideally every single time they ask a question. I make the time to answer their questions, even if the time isn't always the best, and there is something I'd rather be doing than answering their million questions. The reason being- when they're asking the question it means they're interested in the answer and their brain is thirsty for and receptive to knowledge and it is the perfect opportunity to teach them. We can then learn in short period of time what would generally take much longer, and then they remember so much more, because their brain is in maximum sponge mode. I don't test my kids on their retention of this knowledge but much of the time their future questions are based on things we've discussed in previous conversations, so I can see from the breadth and depth of their questions how much actually stays with them.
I try, when having these types of conversations, to bring up relevant subjects, and do what some friends have referred to as "stream of consciousness learning", but I consider it just a part of showing how everything is connected. A discussion that starts off about World War 2 can branch off into so many discussions, from discrimination, to free choice, to morality during wartime, to the media, to history of various wars, heroics, communism, the Berlin Wall, etc... One of my issues with how subjects are taught in school is how cut and dried and compartmentalized they are, when in real life they're all connected, so I use these conversations to show that to my kids.

Speaking of conversations, I actually would refer to our style of unschooling as 'the great conversation'- never a lecture but always a conversation between two or more interested parties.
However sometimes my kids ask a question and they don't have the patience for a long answer so I guage where their head is at and ask them if they want a long answer or a short one, and then answer them accordingly. No need for a 10 minute discussion on something if the kid is just looking for a 5 second answer. But often after getting that 5 second answer the kid realizes the topic interests them and they ask for the longer answer. When it comes to more sensitive subjects, ones that I may not necessarily have wanted to get into at such a young age, I don't ignore the question or tell them they're too young to discuss it, but I try to answer the bare minimum at a time and if they're satisfied with that, leave it at that, but if they're not, give them bit by bit more until they are satisfied.
That said, that doesn't mean that I always answer every question of theirs. Sometimes I answer that people deserve their privacy and they need to respect that, the same way other people need to respect theirs. (That is my answer typically when my kids ask me where I'm going and what I'm doing if I don't feel like sharing. Or if they ask me why people do xyz.)
The biggest part of unschooling is gauging the kid's interest, never pushing them to learn something when they have no interest in learning it, and capitalizing on those moments of desire to learn, jumping in and making the most of it.

The thing is, as much as I relish these discussions with my kids I also want to teach my kids to think and how to find their own answers. Often, before getting into discussions with the kids and answering their questions, I ask them to first tell me what they think and we discuss that. Or, when they asked me what dryer lint was, I gave them a microscope and suggested that they inspect the lint and many other things through the microscope to figure it out themselves. And depending on the question (sometimes if I don't know the answer off the top of my head, or if it is something that I would think would be best to show via video, etc...), I show them how to research their question on the Internet to find the answer.

I would say that the majority of our structured learning takes place via these discussions that we have. And yes, other good/involved parents have similar discussions with their kids as well and I'd say the biggest difference is that being around each other most of the time there is simply more time available for these types of discussions (they're not at school for many hours and their at home hours aren't taken up by homework), and I place a huge priority on making these discussions a big part of our life, sometimes staying up long past their bedtime to continue said discussions because I am showing them in action that I value their questions and desire to learn.
I can't talk for other families but I can say that during the year that my boys went to school these discussions happened much less frequently and with much less intensity, since they spent so much time being forced to sit still and learn in school that when they were home they just wanted a break and to decompress. I saw school quashing my kids' desire to learn and their quest for knowledge.

But I don't just wait for these conversations to happen. I also initiate learning, make suggestions, and try to spark interest in subjects that they might not have thought to ask about otherwise. However if I see they aren't interested in a subject at the moment I simply leave it alone for then and see if they're interested in it another time.

Inspiring Kids to Learn
So, how do you inspire a kid to want to learn something?

A big part of it is strewing, which is leaving things around the house for the kids to find that may spark their interest.
I try to purchase eye catching educational books with many pictures to make my kids want to pick them up. We have a whole bunch of science books, on a variety of subjects, plus atlases and books on animals. Notable books that we especially love- Lonely Planet Kid's Amazing World, National Geographic's Animal Encyclopedia, some religious picture books, etc...
I don't always have these books out- often they're just on the shelves, but sometimes I take them out for the kids to find, and then they can spend hours looking at their favorite books.

I also suggest games, crafts, science experiments, and competitions (often a combination of them) for my kids to do if they tell me they're bored. One we did recently- I gave my boys paper, scissors, and tape, and asked them if they could build bridges strong enough to hold up coins.

Ever notice kids are more interested in eating the food that you're eating? Learning often works the same way. I find that the best way to get my kids interested in a subject is to discuss it with my husband, or turn on a video for myself to watch- then everyone wants to see what it is that I'm watching, and then we all enjoy a great documentary together.

Since the kids see me always learning new things, and kids learn via example, they learn to value the process of seeking out knowledge. I discuss these new things that I learn, and share information with my kids when it is age appropriate and/or if it is something that I think would interest them.

I also try to make learning fun, never a chore, so whenever I can impart knowledge in a fun way, I try to do that, whether it is via educational computer programs/games, like Starfall.com, TeachYourMonsterToRead.com, PBSKids.org, or AnimalJam.com. Hour of Code, etc...And of course, since my kids happen to love math, they love doing math problems on Khan Academy, and leveling up when they prove that they know more, so that is fun for them as well.

Who doesn't like stories? My kids certainly do. So when I am teaching something to them, if I can tell it in story form, they usually love to hear it. So if I have something that I would like to impart to them, it usually starts off by my asking my kids if they want to hear a story, and if they do want to hear it, I tell it to them, and we all enjoy it.

Trips are yet another way to spark interest in subjects, whether its to an art museum, a historical museum/site, science museum, botanical garden, the zoo, a forest, or really anywhere. There is so much to be learned everywhere; sometimes all you need to do is put kids in a new environment, experiencing new things, and they'll be inspired to learn about so many different new things.

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As kids get older, there are more and more ways that unschooling is possible, whether it is via a child deciding that they want to learn a certain subject and deciding to take private lessons in that subject, or taking online college classes, or learning "on the job" via apprenticeships, etc... Unschooling doesn't mean that the parent is the only teacher, but rather, that this is child directed.

Does It Work?

That is probably the most pivotal question. Does unschooling actually work? Do kids actually learn if they aren't formally taught? Well, as I hope I've covered in this post, absolutely, certainly, without a doubt. My kids, even without official lessons, are super knowledgable kids who, in most subjects, are well ahead of what their peers are learning in school (we've learned together things that I only learned in high school, or post high school), a few things on par with their peers, and a few small things lagging behind their peers, and slowly but surely they're catching up on those.
And that is cool with me. Everyone learns at their own pace.
But one thing they all have in common- they love to learn, they retain what they learn, and they constantly are looking for new opportunities to learn.
Well, what about being challenged? How are kids challenged when their learning is self initiated? Not a problem at all. In fact, just as much as kids innately love learning, they innately love challenging themselves, pushing themselves to new and further limits. You know they do that when they're first learning to crawl, stand, walk, climb, etc... and they don't stop. Unless you make challenging them a goal. In which case it kills that natural desire to challenge themselves. I constantly seem them pushing themselves to do more and more, like trying to do pull ups on our pull up bar, building a working Lego candy dispenser, building their Rube Goldberg machines, writing out math problems for themselves to do, seeing how far they can jump, etc...
Of course, I do sometimes help them along, giving them ideas of how to challenge themselves, like when I give them suggestions for fun activities like building a supportive bridge, suggest books for them to read or research projects for them to do, etc....

And as for the last, most common question I get about homeschooling and unschooling specifically- how will my kids learn to deal with difficult situations if they never have to deal with difficult classmates and teachers in school, well, I already addressed that question in this post.

So, unschooling. It's more than just having conversations with your kids, but of course, involves that. And it is super effective, at least for our family.
And it really works for us.
And that is why we love it.

Have you ever heard of unschooling before? Did you know what exactly it was? Any questions?


  1. Thank you! Well said, well written, and colored with your enthusiasm. As a grandparent of 2 boys who are being unschooled, I often find myself trying to explain to friends why my grands aren't "in school." You've helped immensely! best wishes. prtimothea@aol.com

  2. 18 years ago I wish I had had the courage to unschool my child. I had homeschooled him for preschool, and then moved to a foreign country with a language I did not speak. so he went into the ultra religious school system. he is a kinetic learner, and the school teaching style was horrible for him. keep doing what you are doing. it's working.

  3. Just more hippie crunchy granola nonsense, like the equally silly attachment parenting and baby wearing, gluten-free, sugar-free, homebirthing ridiculousness. Ugh.

    1. Thanks for the laugh of the night.
      No, but seriously. Obviously my blog is not your speed, so why bother reading it, instead of some super uber medical anti natural anti crunchy money saving blog, if money is your thing? There are plenty of those out there. :-D

    2. I really enjoy your blog, and it makes great sense!
      Thanks for sharing!

    3. Ordinarily, I enjoy your blog and respect your sort of nutty, yet fascinating, endeavors. But, you are doing your children a HUGE disservice by not educating them in the local schools (I happen to be one of the readers who knows where you live). Why you are choosing to set them up to be at an extreme disadvantage as adults truly baffles me. They need to be learning the local language completely fluently. Period. They need to learn to adapt to the local culture. Period. Your local country can be brutal on the job and higher education front. Give them the best shot you can to succeed so they won't ever need to worry about finances. You are very bright and I assume your children are. The activities you mentioned are great for after school and weekends. Keep it up, just reconsider real school (as I know you are constantly doing to make the best decision for your family).

    4. So, ''Anonymous'' I guess all the work Penny does seems like a lot of hassle to you, I guess you prefer to hand your kids over to the state, and let them deal with it?

      And this is how you justify your stance? By trying to put down mothers who work with their kids?

      Thats OK, hun. You continue treating your kids like an unwelcome burden, and keep doing the minimum required to keep them alive.

      Then you can sit back & wonder at the strangers you (didnt) raise.

    5. it's funny that you mention the language. my husband was raised in the capital city of a foreign country, and got by with english. he ended up in a very good position, making more than most of our friends (+spouses). he still has a very hard time with the language. if someone is bright, they'll find a way to do what they want.

    6. It's safer here in the herd Penny. Baa baa

    7. Thanks for the tl:dr.

      Why are you here?

    8. To the second anon who wants to know why I don't just send them to "real school"- I did send them to real school, the "best in the area" from everything I checked out, and I was sorely disappointed. I am constantly keeping my eyes and ears open to hear if there is a school that might be remotely appropriate for my kids, but there simply is not one as far as I can tell- and my husband works for the school system here, has seen what goes on in many of these "amazing schools" behind the scenes, which has just convinced us more not to send the kids to the local schools. But since it is important for us that they speak the local language well, that is actually a big emphasis here, and one of the few less "unschooly" things we do, with a big focus on learning the local language, and we see the kids grasp of the local language improving exponentially and it just gets better and better. My husband grew up here from the age of six, and speaks and reads the local language like a native- knows it better than english, actually, so that helps a lot with that. And via unschooling and having the time to pursue their unique interests and traits, my kids will actually be more lucky on the job front. My "ideal" for them, that I won't make them do, but will suggest to them, why I think it is ideal, is for them to attend the local college here that has open acceptance- from the time they are 15 or so, so they can ideally get a BA by the time they're 18 or so, which will really give them a leg up in the system. I already see what my kids' unique strengths are, and am giving them tools to help develop those strengths, and even already mentioning potential career paths with those strengths so they can already get ideas now about what they'd want to do as adults.

    9. To the person below - I am not an unschooler nor do I believe in unschooling. BUT, I DO believe that every parent does what works for them. You being condescending and rude and basically saying that anyone who sends their children to school is a bad parent and does the minimum for their kids. That is absurd. The person who you were replying to was not rude at all... she stated her opinion honestly and not rudely or critically. You, on the other hand, are the only person on this entire thread who acted like a total jerk. So anyone who sends their kids to school views them as an "unwelcome burden"? And is doing the "minimum possible to keep them alive"? Are you serious? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? Do you have any idea how many people send their kids to school because they feel it is best for THEIR children? Or maybe they have to work to be able to support their children? Talk about a rude, ignorant, uniformed generalization. I am sad for you that you have such a narrow view of the world that you have to put down others to make yourself feel important.

      AnonymousSeptember 11, 2015 at 2:33 AM
      So, ''Anonymous'' I guess all the work Penny does seems like a lot of hassle to you, I guess you prefer to hand your kids over to the state, and let them deal with it?

      And this is how you justify your stance? By trying to put down mothers who work with their kids?

      Thats OK, hun. You continue treating your kids like an unwelcome burden, and keep doing the minimum required to keep them alive.

      Then you can sit back & wonder at the strangers you (didnt) raise.

  4. This is a great summary of unschooling. If anyone brings up the topic, I'll send them here.

  5. May I ask if you keep records of their academic progress? I know in the US, any type of homeschooling is mandated to have annual evaluation tests.

    1. That is at best quite an exaggeration. I am usually in the U.S., (tho I happen to be visiting Penny's country right now, for a few months, to give my kid some exposure to another language via immersion).
      I do not have to give my child an annual evaluation. (I have lived in a few really large states actually, and only one of them had any sort of requirement remotely like that (the requirement was to keep a portfolio of work in case the superintendent of schools requested it. I do not know anyone who ever had to show it. No annual evaluation.
      It is farfetched to say about almost anything in the U.S. that something is a national requirement, given the sacred rights of individual states.
      Liza Bennett

  6. OK--I still don't understand how that is different from good parenting.

    1. Yes, neither do I. My kids like educational games on electronic devices. My 8yo asked for a crossword solver for her birthday to play the word games (after using the one my mil has). When the kids are interested in a subject, we have conversations about it, and do further research as they desire.

      We also supplement their schooling with further discussions at home eg. when my son was learning about the renaissance in history class, he had learned the big pieces, but it took a conversation around the dinner table to put all the big pieces in place and give him a broader understanding of what it was and what it meant.

      My son's interest in computers and robotics has been furthered via school in ways that would be very difficult to access as an unschooler, since he wouldn't have been introduced to the technology in the first place, or have the chance to enter the contests.

      I also live as a minority language speaker, so going to primary school (up to age 12) in the local language, has given my children a fluency and natural sounding speech that I just cannot obtain for myself or help them learn. It amazes me how well reading in one language has transitioned to reading in our own language at home. My 8yo reads above grade level in both languages and loves books. She learned multiplication because she wanted to, before she was taught in school. Going to school doesn't stop them from learning on their own.


    2. The difference between unschooling and good parenting is unschoolers specifically being anti the very concept of school, believing that just learning from life is better, not learning from life in addition to learning from school. I'm glad your schooling is working for your family, but for now, this is working very well for our family. If at any point I see it isnt, I would reconsider.

    3. And of course, the other main difference being that simply because they arent in school for many hours of the day, they have much more time to pursue the subjects that interest them.

    4. The difference for me lies in my opinion of the schools in my area. My opinion and experience is very bad. So removing school was just as important as adding in the extra things at home. I know many people see school and extras at home as two positives, and it works for their children. But for us school was an enormous negative that was overshadowing what we were doing at home.

  7. sounds good, how do you know it works?

  8. Every time I read blogs about u schooling, I yearn for it. I just put my 4 yo in preschool, but it was mostly to meet other kids her age. We are new in small town. She definitely NEEDed to socialize. What do do for your kids on that aspect?

  9. Anonymous who asked about records and testing - it is state by state, and many states do not require any records or testing.

  10. I do like how you mention multiple times that you are doing what's best for YOU and YOUR KIDS. It doesn't seems like you are saying this is the best method for everyone, everywhere. You are always extremely respectful when sharing your views. I wish others who disagree could do the same.

    Having said that, my only concern with unschooling is when the kids reach college age. Are they going to be able to learn in the traditional college atmosphere in order to earn a degree? My husband doesn't have any formal higher education and has been in his field (oil/fuel) since he was 17 - he is 45 now. He knows the field up, down, back and forth, but he is often passed over for great positions/jobs just because he doesn't have a degree. It's ashamed because he has a plethora of experience that is as good, if not better, than most degrees. :(

    1. Thank you! It happens to be that unschooled kids generally do very well in college, and most colleges actually like them, because they tend to be very motivated learners. I will encourage my kids to go to college, and ideally at a young age, so they dont get passed over for the jobs they want due to lack of a degree. I know quite a few local unschooling/homeschooling families that send their kids to college at a very young age, and have found out already what the acceptance criteria are for kids under 18. :-D

  11. My only concern with unschooling is that you wouldn't necessarily be teaching them how to deal with facts that contradict your beliefs; for instance, that sunscreen doesn't cause skin cancer, or that GMOs aren't, in fact, dangerous. These are facts, based on statistics and numbers and hard science, and not some mumbo-jumbo about "natural-ness" and "purity" and all that. It seems as if you're just teaching them things you believe, which is fine, but what happens if/when they find out facts to the contrary? I think back to your "lesson" about GMOs and it makes me shudder to think that this is what you're teaching your kids because it isn't what actually happens and if you'd just talk to a food scientist you'd realize that the process is a lot more fascinating and a lot more interesting than it is dangerous. But you're so anti-GMO that you won't even begin to have that conversation, and from where I'm sitting, I doubt you'll be able to teach your kids how to talk with people you inherently disagree with.

    For my part, it's illegal to homeschool where I live--or at least, it's very difficult to get permission to do it. The schools here are excellent, and kidlet really looks forward to going to preschool twice a week. He's babbling a lot in two languages, "reading" in both (I don't know if he actually reads, or if he just knows which words go with which pictures, but suffice it to say he loves books and frequently falls asleep with books in his bed in a circle of stuffed animals). So I'm happy with allowing him to follow the normal course here.

    1. I am teaching my kids to do their own research, and I gladly welcome conversations on both sides of the spectrum. Most of my family is super "anti crunchy" so trust me, all the time they'll be dealing with and hearing things from both perspectives. I just share with my kids my opinions, and what I know, and they'll hear things from other people, what they know, and then make up my own mind. For the record, about GMO, what my kids know about them only is that they're a scientific unknown with no long term studies done on it, and its a gamble. We eat GMOs sometimes because i cant afford organic, but i dont tell my kids lies about it, only that its an unknown and i'd rather not be a guinea pig without having a choice in the matter.

    2. Except that there have been studies done showing, quite demonstrably, no effects. There have been many long-terms studies done, and it isn't a gamble. GMOs have the potential to do a whole ton of good in the world. If you want to demonize the politics about patent law and how unethical it is to program a "self-destruct" sequence into F1 crosses, that's one thing. But saying it's not known whether they are harmful is like saying that we don't know if vaccines cause autism. We know the answer.


    3. GMOs and sunscreen are beneficial- this is an OPINION. There are reputable scientists who disagree. Stop acting like your opinions are fact, and someone else's opinions can be easily dismissed.

    4. Respectfully @ Jules: I know I am a bit late in reading and replying to this post, but I wanted to share my 'scientific' study on GMOs. For the past 16 years I have lived on 2 rural acres with a lawn of some grass, some dandelions and mostly clover. The first 5 years living here, the farmland adjacent to our lawn and gardens consisted of organic hay fields. Beneficial insects, toads, peeper frogs, etc, abounded. Then one spring day a monstrous tractor lumbered in, unfolded its spray and seed arms and made several passes over the fields. A few short weeks later, all foliage died and GMO corn was sprouting. These fields have grown GMO corn and soy beans alternating yearly. In the past 10 years I have seen the beneficial bee population decline to the point of seeing only 1-6 honeybees on the lawn clover flowers in my lawn at any given time. The pollinating bees have also declined. We no longer hear peeper frogs. The bird population has decreased. There are other wildlife changes noticed also. The appearance of the dormant fields after harvest during winter months are gray and sick looking vs a healthy soil color. I find it interesting to watch the deer feeding. While they have access to all of this corn, they choose to forage in the woods behind our house, eating whatever grows among the trees instead of the corn or grazing on our lawn. Then there is the issue of my allergies morphing and increasing ridiculously since the beginning of GMOs near me. So, I will keep my opinion of nasty, Round-up ready and other GMOs based on what I see first hand instead of relying on 'scientific' studies funded by the very companies that produce, control and sell the GMOs. In other words, follow the money. Do whatever works for you and yours, not just what is mandated/forced upon you. In this same vein regarding education..learning is an individual process. Do what works achieving the best possible results.

  12. I'm really not big fan of a lot of screen time for kids, personally. I know several kids who have actual addictions to Minecraft and other apps and I've seen the kids completely change because of it.

    That said, while unschooling is not a good fit for my family, I do appreciate child-led learning and think it's very effective. The way our public schools are here, there is a lot of teaching towards the tests that I don't agree with at all.

    1. I have really kept my eyes and ears open for signs of screen addiction, and it has never gotten anywhere near the point that it would remotely be called addiction. If it even got close, I'd absolutely step in with intervention. But we have one day a week at least with zero screen time whatsoever for the entire family, and the kids will do plenty of things other than just play minecraft or use the tablet, etc... so i'm not worried. If i saw them having any addiction symptoms (I've looked it up) I'd make changes pronto.

  13. Have you read studies about a great deal of screen time and the damage it can do to children? even without addiction? Such as this: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain

    Also learning with multiple stimulants, as available on the internet/ computer games etc. means children will find it difficult to be stimulated by "boring" books. How much reading for pleasure (black and white story or information books) do your children do? How will they manage "less exciting" texts in the future?

    I also strongly agree that you are setting your children up for academic/ cultural/ social problems in the future, since they are not at an appropriate age level for the language of the country they live in, and they do not live its culture. An immigrant's children should not just be able to "get by" in the local language. They should be able to study in it - all kinds of texts, including academic, religious, etc. Attend lectures on a high level, etc.

    1. I don't think it's as big a problem as people make it out to be, frankly. I don't limit kidlet's screen time at all, other than to say "only one movie a day" (and most of the time, he doesn't even want that). And one of his favorite things to do is "read" books aloud to his stuffed animals. He doesn't even ask for my phone anymore. It really depends on the kid.

  14. I loved how detailed this is. Our home life looks very similar, and we also started down this path the same way as you. Sharing!


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