Are you considering Unschooling? I know what you are thinking: I Could Never Homeschool, and Unschooling Scares Me. When I first began, I was just as scared as you were when I started, but I jumped headfirst into the homeschooling world and learned as I went. I am still learning every day, reading, and searching the internet. On playdates, with my other homeschooling families I would ask parents questions and always ask my kids what they think. I am here to offer answers to questions I get asked and to help you understand what worked for me and my family. Remember, there is no wrong or right way to homeschool. My best advice is to do what works for your family.
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Is Unschooling legal?
Yes and Hell Yes! Parents’ responsibility is their child’s education. Making sure you abide by the state laws is your responsibility. Most states require you to teach 180 days and around three to five hours a day. Most states require a test every three years to show students’ progress, and some states require a portfolio. This is different for each state so check out your laws here.
Unschooled children fall under homeschool laws and in most cases become better educated and better equipped for the future. Unschooling is child-led learning, where the child picks what they want to learn or learn what interests them. My children decide what they want to learn and how they want to go about learning said subject. I guide them or lead them to find those answers.
What do Unschoolers learn?
These children learn about anything and everything. We learn about the main subjects our state requires like reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science. The girls will also be learning code using Minecraft and getting college credit. The kids might do magic tricks for hours on end, and learn how to make doll furniture out of cardboard. My girls choose these things because it interests them. It is also fun and the best part is they incorporate all the basic subjects that the state requires us to learn.
Example: My oldest daughter is learning magic tricks from a kit she got for Christmas. She is doing math, science, acting skills, public speaking, following directions, and practice, practice, practice. My youngest daughter makes doll furniture out of cardboard. She found the YouTube videos herself. She follows the directions, sets a budget, uses recycled items, learns how to use tools, and plans out her ideas (architecture). Hugs use her imagination, engineering, and technology (STEAM education).
What about Algebra?
Why are people so caught up on math past the sixth grade, really? Don’t get me wrong, I think every kid should know how to balance a checkbook and know how to do percentages in their head. Example: How much am I going to save on that sale item? They should be able to do square footage if they need to paint a room. I want them to know if a paycheck is correct, or know how to make a budget so you can take your mom and dad on that amazing trip.
Unless your kids want to be an engineer, architects, or finance managers then do you really need college-level math? Honestly if your kid knows the basics they will teach the rest of it to you in college. Yep, that probably is a bad attitude and I have lots of
arguments and discussions with my husband about how much math should we teach to our kids. I change my mind day to day, and my kids love math, so we go through phases. Right now we use several math programs because they ask us to do the math. We use Khan Academy (it’s free), Hands-on Equation (high school algebra – finished the whole course twice), Dragon box (app for iPad – algebra), and lots of fun games I get from the internet.
Isn’t Unschooling just laziness or parent neglect?
No. Parents should be encouraged to make an environment where kids get inspired, enjoy learning, and have every opportunity to learn what interests them. Parents take a hands OFF approach and let the child decide what they want to learn, but they are there to answer questions, encourage to dig deeper, and lead them in a direction they might not have thought of.
We may start off at the library learning about a president but may end up discussing politics. Then may talk about wars, government policies, or why that particular president’s wife was dressed so well. This may lead the discussion to discuss fashion and then build a cardboard fashion stage for our dolls. I encourage my girls to use Google and YouTube to find the answers they seek.
What if my child chooses to watch TV or play video games all day?
Do a simple thing and change the words ‘watch TV or play video games to read. Now read the question again. What if my child chooses to read all day? How does that make you feel? Wow, I would love the idea of my child reading all day. He or she would be the smartest person in the world.
Honestly, your child would get bored and find something else to do after they finished their book, watched every single episode of their favorite show, or get to a level they can’t beat on their favorite video game. Think about kids on summer break. They are very lazy for the first couple of weeks, and then they get bored and find things to do.
They may make up new games, meet new people, insist on going swimming, go to the beach, etc. Homeschooled kids are on summer break all the time and will find things to entertain themselves. Yes, they may watch TV or play a video game for days or weeks, but this is just deschooling, and this is a process that needs to happen to get it out of their system. Think about what you would do if all of a sudden you didn’t have to go to work, didn’t have to get up at a certain time, had no appointments…what would you do for the first couple of weeks?
How will my child succeed in life?
People believe that schools prepare children for real life and that it will teach your child everything they need to know to succeed. In fact, children in schools are often put in an artificial environment, tested to death, and only socialize with kids their own age.
Unschooled children live in the real world and never leave. They learn what they need to know, have opportunities ‘normal’ school children don’t get, and socialize with people of all ages. My kids are taking a college course in elementary school ‘Lean-to Mod” that is teaching them code, not because they are super smart, but because they got an opportunity and have the time to do so.
To answer the technical question, an Unschooler can get a high school diploma through the homeschooling path. This might entail taking some tests depending on the state they are in. Most Unschoolers find these tests simple (it’s the schooled students who have problems with them). Many colleges are realizing that SATs and GPAs tell very little of the story. Most make homeschoolers write extra essays to show what they have done during their homeschooled years. There are also some colleges dotted around the country that many students are drawn to. College isn’t the be-all and end-all in life. If you’re doing what you love and you’re amazing at it, no one will care if you have a college degree or not. Check out more about Uncollege here.
How do I start Unschooling?
I am a parent and have a lot of opinions and love to give advice (really if you ask I will talk your ear off). I would recommend searching the internet and talking to your kids about it a lot. If they have been in school, there will be a deschooling process for both you and your child. Until you’ll get the expectations and definitions out of your head that has been lodged there by the traditional school system. Honestly, this will be the hardest part but then you will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
The important thing is to TRUST your child. As adults, we don’t know what your child will want to learn or what will interest them. Encourage your kids to try everything and push them to ask questions. My mentor (my uncle who encouraged me to Unschool) has said over and over, “Unschooling is about asking questions and exploring ideas and learning about the world around you.” I tell my kids that they have to learn one thing a day (hopefully more), no matter what it is, because learning should be fun, interesting, exciting, and will help us grow into amazing people.