Many people seem to be confused on what unschooling is and if its legal in the United States. Let me start by saying that it is 100% legal in all 50 states of the USA. However some states, like New York, have stricter homeschooling regulations which is why it can be very confusing. Always know your state homeschooling laws. That is an absolute must.
What is it?
There are actually two types of unschoolers. There is unschooling and radical unschooling. Unschooling is a homeschooling teaching style where the child leads the lessons. It is not a set curriculum but your child will be the topic and how they want to learn about it. It encourages your child’s natural curiosity to unfold and teaches your child to find the answers through various sources. You will still cover all core subjects and so much more while having fun.
Radical unschooling is very much like unschooling but more in a way of life. Your child has control of their life when in it comes to meals, activities (ex: tv shows) and bed time. Radical unschoolers help their children learn to balance life in a healthy way while giving them the tools and information being mindful and intentional.
It is not a free for all nor is it neglectful parenting. You are still very much present but you help your child learn to balance with natural consequences (ex: not going to bed at a reasonable hours can mean cranky, not eating the right foods can give a tummy ache etc). What it does allow is a lot of freedom within your day and how learning happens.
Unschoolers understand that learning happens everyday, all day, even when you don’t realize it.
There are so many reasons on why unschooling is a great method but very successful both in school years and beyond. In fact one of the biggest voices for the unschooling community is John Taylor Gatto, a former New York State Teacher, among so many more.
Unschooling allows you to keep our child engaged not only through their interests but with how they learn best. Again it is not a set curriculum. One day your child can be interested in bees and using all sorts of questions to learn more about them, then the next it could be about castles, or wanting to do some sort of math. Learning does not need to look traditional. A set curriculum doesn’t guarantee your child will cover it all or retain the information.
Unschooling not only sets your child up for a love of learning but helps life long learners. Of course, no matter the age, you will continue to learn but so many adults deny that and aren’t as open as they didn’t find learning fun and enjoyable. Unschoolers continue their education on so many topics they have an interest in because learning can be fun.
Unschoolers tend to be happier and successful. Yes, homeschooling in the USA, does have that effect in general but unschoolers have the ability to pursue their interests and passions more then other homeschooling styles. They also have a more rounded education and more desirable skills entering the workforce. Unschoolers know how to get to where they
want to be and will research a topic until they are satisfied. This is how masters in their field become masters in what they do.
While homeschooling is a great time to bond as a family, even for working families, unschooling takes it a step higher. When your unschooling, families not only spend time together, they have fun and follow their passions all together. The bond isn’t just within the family dynamic but unschoolers making meaningful connections with others based on their interests from kids their age and all over, even adults. This helps form relationship for your personal self and professional self.
Schools and even some parents, just focus on getting their child to graduate high school. While unschoolers do want that, they also want to enjoy the journey. Life is too short in the scheme of things. Take things day to day. Enjoy your passions, your interests, your family time. Allowing your child to be themselves not only boosts their intellectual health but their emotional and social health as well.
Unschoolers learn through real life experiences. Being out and living your life, exploring the community, passions, the world and so much more doesn’t hold back from learning the same as kids in a traditional setting. The difference is that unschoolers get to think for themselves and aren’t stuck in such a robotic or mundane way. Instead of learning about money in a classroom, they are earning money, becoming entrepreneurs, helping pay at stores while doing errands and thats just one example. We always tell our children that they can be anything that they put their mind to but schools tend put down so many children and do not help them one on one where they need it. Kids in traditional school settings usually have a negative connotation when it comes to learning.
Cons to Unschooling
Just to be slightly un-bias here, who am I kidding? of course I’m biased but I want to bring the reality of unschooling, this includes some downsides to it. I know I make it look easy and free flowing but remember I’ve been doing this for 6 years now. Homeschooling isn’t easy. Even as veterans we still have worries. We run into our own issues. Situations may also change, including work, health, regulations, and a method not working. That is okay. Life happens, which is exactly what unschooling is about.
So one con, a big con for why so many parents choose not to unschool, is there is no schedule or structure to your day let alone the year. It can seem very chaotic and confusing. Usually your doing things at the drop of a dime (unless you plan field trips). This can seem scary to so many, especially being new. Unschooling takes a lot of creative thinking wen questions come up. You also don’t need to have the answers. Going to the library, google, youtube or movie search your answers. Ask your child what they think. Maybe your outside learning on the go. Not going to hold back that it can seem crazy but for me at least, I find it fun that we learn about something new everyday in so many ways. This doesn’t work for everyone. Some kids need the structure, especially to make them feel like they know what is happening. Structure can also help working parents, especially with non flexible jobs or those that work outside the home with little to no support.
The second biggest con for many parents, is the lack of proof (testing) when it comes to unschooling. Unschoolers don’t quiz or test. Now yes, some states do require assessment test, including New York, but most do not. It can feel like you are unsure if your child is actually learning or retaining the information. Sometimes, which is natural in all forms of
homeschooling and traditional schooling, a child may fall behind in certain areas until they are ready. With unschooling you do not force it, you just encourage the learning through their interests. That can be frustrating.
Third con, which really goes to all homeschoolers, but for some reason, us unschoolers tend to get the brunt of it, people are very critical. There is a lot of ignorance and misconceptions when it comes to homeschooling in general but people assume unschooling is being neglectful. They assume its not possible even with regulations. They assume unschooling means you do not school. There is so much more. There will always be critical people but you have to do what is right for your family.
How to make unschooling work for you?
So I’ve gone over the definition of what unschooling is and the regulations. Now is time to explain how unschooling happens. So as you know, when you unschooled your child leads. This can mean so much. Your child can choose the topic for the day or week, your child can choose how they want to study or a combination of.
Get creative with your topics. Not all for has to be done in a workbook, online or a worksheets. Create projects, let them do research online and in the library. If your child asks a question, answer it, look for those answers together.
Reading is important, not just for vocabulary but all to get information. Write about what you are studying, work on spelling too. It will come.
As far as Science, ids are naturally curious. You can do experiments, go on field trips. watch science shows or documentaries. Let them go out in the world and explore. Many places, not just full of sciences, allow children to interview experts or shadow people depending on the age of the child (usually its 14 and older).
History and geography are fun to learn for most kids. Every day we are living history but of course we need to talk about the past. Watch movies, read books, field trips, not all history will be 100% accurate. Try thing a look from other point of views. For the geography aspect, map it out. Learn about the culture, clothing, food, music. Make it a game if you have to. Even if its just a conversation, your child is still learning.
Math, the most dreaded subject out there. Did you know that cooking has math in it? Playing most games have a math element. Even videos games like Minecraft too. Here is an idea, let your child become an entrepreneur. Let them learn what finance, budgeting, what it will take.
PE happens naturally in most children. Dance, trampoline, walks, scooter rides, bike rides, swimming, team sports all count. It doesn’t matter when you so it or for how long. Kids need to be moving. You can cover multiple topics all while on the go.
Art, just like PE, can also be done on the go. You can of course learn to paint, draw or do pottery but Photography, architecture and Minecraft are just a few other ways to incorporate art into your day.
For Music most use learning an instrument, which is perfectly okay. We do too but most of our music lessons are through listening to music either on the radio, through music videos and through movie soundtracks. When we go into detail about music, we tae about different genres, artists, instruments and the musical vocabulary.
Health education also comes naturally. At least for us. We talk about what we see when we are not in our home. Are people smoking? Doing drugs? (having lived in New York City we passed it a lot) Are people working out? Are we eating healthy? Just a few ways to spark conversations. He’s still young so I haven’t gone too in-depth about certain subjects but it will come.
Fire safety we usually do with our local firefighters. My son loves doing this. We also count it as a field trip but we also go camping and reiterate some of what we learned as well.
Highway safety covers driving, biking and pedestrian. It doesn’t matter if you are in the city or out in the country. Take a look at your surroundings. Observe the cars, bikes and pedestrians. Are you following the laws? What are they? Maybe do some research if you don’t know them.
My point is, you get creative with what your doing usually on the spot. You can be learning about one topic and be covering all subjects. It happens. There are times were we’ve gone from learning about toads and frogs one day to medieval castles to bees the next. A lot of our time learning is through Minecraft with his interest or cooking. I relate what we are learning about to those subjects. Sometimes its playing games, field trips or watching those movies I mentioned. Every day is different. Every moment is a lesson whether its important for the future or not. You are harnessing your child’s interests. You are encouraging their curiosity and helping them love to learn.
If anyone of you need any help in finding ways to be creative, please reach out to me through http://www.homeschoolinginnyc.org or look through the posts I have up. Everything I’ve posted are what we do as unschoolers. Thank you so much for purchasing my book. I hope I helped you on your journey and I hope you have fun.