Unschooling involves children learning at home and in their communities through the simple act of living life. Unschooling is intricately intertwined with peaceful and respectful parenting. For a really clear rundown, see Unschooling 101.
This is our third year of unschooling and here is what I have found to be the best things about Unschooling so far:
Connection and relationships
This is top of the list because it all starts and ends here. Unschooling starts to happen when parents are connected to their children and working on respectful relationships. The biggest contributing factor to more connection (aside from the desire to do so) is time. Time! So much time. Unhurried, generous time. Here are some examples of the ways Unschooling has enabled us to make more connections with our children:
⁃ Being able to wake up slowly and snuggle in bed or read books before breakfast.
⁃ Having increased opportunities to talk to and listen to our children about their interests, concerns, questions and dreams.
⁃ Being able to provide more choices because we are not tied to the rules and expectations of the school institution.
“There is no academic subject that is important enough to risk harming the parent-child relationship. Nothing is more important than your relationship. There is no work – school work, housework, yard work or anything else, that is more important than your relationship. Always put that first.” Pam Sorooshian (for more of Pam’s thoughts visit her blog Learning Happens).
Flexibility and more freedom
Just avoiding schoolish schedules alone affords more flexibility and greater freedom but it’s so much more than that. I’ve now started to experience not just the practical, material impact of Unschooling in this regard, but also the philosophical impact. Unschooling has led me to see the expansion of endless possibilities for learning as well as the contraction of appreciating the most minute detail in a tiny microcosm.
NB: I acknowledge that Unschooling is not absolute freedom – there are still limits and boundaries of all kinds – but it does afford greater freedom. Sandra Dodd makes this distinction.
We don’t have to do comparisons, tests or assessments for external validation of our abilities or worth. No one has to be better or work harder to meet someone else’s expectations. We just keep on living life, joyfully, contentedly knowing that we are lifelong learners.
“Living in the world peacefully and respectfully are good places to begin to focus when new to unschooling. The best advice I was given was to look at my son. Not at ideals. Not at freedom. Not at school or no school. Not at labels. Not at big ideas. Look at my son. Be with him. Get to know him deeply. And, then to read a bit about unschooling. Give something new a try. See how it goes in the context of our real day to day life. I still do that. I’m still learning.” – Karen James, quoted here.
We look at our children and check that they are happy, enjoying what they’re doing and feeling loved and supported to pursue interests and ideas. We are active partners (rather than ‘teachers’) in their life/learning, resourcing them in a range of ways. Life is learning, learning is life.
Less stress, more happiness
This is a biggie. If you practice Unschooling, you are likely to experience less stress and more happiness. You make your own schedules and rhythms. Your family members are able to choose what they do, where and when, within the reasonable abilities and practicalities of your family unit. Children are happier because they experience equitable relationships with adults. Imagine living your BEST life. That’s what Unschooling can be. Sara from Happiness is Here writes more about how Unschooling can help you to live your best life.
The conformity weight is lifted
You really have to start Unschooling to feel it; you don’t know the weight of conformity to unhappiness until you break free and realise there is an alternative, a truly legitimate alternative that will enhance your life. Unschooling isn’t just not doing school. It’s more and bigger. It is a noun and a verb – a philosophy and a practice. It’s taking off shackles you didn’t even know you had on. It’s not just for the children, the whole family is affected by this paradigm shift.