Unschooling: An Alternative to Traditional Education

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  • Unschooling: An Alternative to Traditional Education

Unschooling: An Alternative to Traditional Education

Across Australia, around 20,000 families are homeschooling their children and the numbers are growing.  

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Unschooling or homeschooling is a way to offer freedom and flexibility while still giving your kids an education.  Not being tied to a location for school is beneficial if your family travels, your child/children have special needs, or illness. 

Unschooling: An Alternative to Traditional Education | Stay at Home Mum

Why do we call it ‘Unschooling’?

The term was first was coined by John Holt; he was describing the fact that the child is still being educated, but not in within a school.  Holt observed that children learn through experiences and urged parents to be present with their children and help drive an interest led education. 

Simple activities can teach kids so much 

How many times do you go out with the kids and find that you are teaching them how to count back change at the shops? Or if they have a debit card helping them understand about using cards instead of cash, figuring out if they have enough money to buy something? Reading a map and seeing if we are getting closer to our destination? Explaining what a word means, or even practicing your spelling and times tables during a car trip? Learning about space when you see the moon and the stars at night, and it develops as a home project.

There are so many things you can teach kids while having adventures with the family. 

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There are many ways to homeschool:

  • Classical Education – Follow the curriculum from your local state.
  • Charlotte Mason Education – Mason believed that “the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind.”
  • Montessori Method – Child-led and hands on learning following Maria Montessori’s philosophy. 
  • Theory of multiple intelligences – Howard Garder’s theory says that children learn best with their own individual learning style. Homeschooling allows you to adapt all learnings to match your child/children’s learning style.
  • Unschooling – Works with each child’s interests and encourages exploration. 
  • Radical Unschooling – Unschooling for all aspects of life, rather than strict rules radical unschoolers use principles.
  • Waldorf Education/Steiner Education – Aims to develop students artistic, intellectual and practical skills holistically.
  • Hands on learning – Hands on learners need to be active and experience their lessons by trial and error. Finding ways to make lessons more hands on help these kids learn.

The concept of ‘unschooling’ is becoming a popular choice among homeschoolers, with many choosing to ditch structured lessons in favour of informal child-led experiences. Many think that having an unstructured lesson is crazy, but working with kids to let them explore, make mistakes and try again is important. Plus, learning at the child’s own pace and interests is key.

One thing to remember is what works at school, might not work at home.  You might have less to no formal lessons or just one formal lesson for maths. 

So, what exactly is unschooling? 

Unschooling, also known as natural learning or independent learning, is an unstructured, informal approach to learning.

Unschoolers learn from the world around them

Parents don’t take on the title of ‘teacher’ or ‘educator’, but instead work alongside their child and support them by providing their children with time, space and resources to explore the topics of their choice. 

Many people think that unschooling is all about removing all boundaries and limits in a child’s life: basically, letting children do what they want, when they want, without restriction. This makes people uncomfortable, because it goes against what the experts keep telling us: that children need the adults in their life to put in place firm boundaries and consistent consequences. While there are ‘radical unschoolers’ who do believe in a ‘no limits’ lifestyle, others take a more moderate approach. 

A lot of parents who are unschooling agree that this is an approach to learning, not an excuse to practice ‘unparenting’. 

They describe unschooling as removing restrictions on learning, but still having authority as parents to make rules and decisions for their children.  

“Legally children in Australia between the ages of 6 to 15 need to be at school or homeschooled.” My Home School Website

Do You Need to Register to Homeschool?

Yes, in Australia you need to register your child for home education (homeschooling/unschooling).

Each state has a different form and procedure: 

You will also need the following: 

  • A room/office that can have a desk big enough for our child/children (you might need more space depending on how many children you are teaching)
  • Items for homeschooling: Books, pens, colouring pencils, crayons, paper to draw on, iPad/laptop/desktop computer, whiteboard markers and whiteboard, printer to print out course materials from home and of course printer paper. 
  • Remember: Your classroom can be anywhere you want weather permitting. 
  • The My Home School Website has a detailed list and guidelines to help you get started. My Home School can even give you graded courses that align to your child’s year at school and the Australian Curriculum. 

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How to Start HomeSchooling

If you are deciding to homeschool your kids one parent needs to be available during the week to do so.  

Firstly, you need to register with your state for homeschooling, get all the approvals and then work on the curriculum and course structure you wish to start at home. 

Benefits of homeschooling

  • Freedom from timetables.
  • Ability to travel anywhere and still do schoolwork.
  • Fit the work around your day.
  • Focus on ability and learning style rather than a rigid learning structure at schools.
  • Allow children to turn all experiences into a learning exercise.
  • Use interest to work on all areas of school work, For example if the child is interested in cars then you chose books related to cars to read, for maths pick car related themes, and science can revolve around a car theme. 
  • No packed lunches unless your all going out.
  • Sleeping in as there is no need to be somewhere before 9am!
  • You can all work in your PJ’s if you wish.
  • Parents can spend more time with their children and watch them grow. 

I know that we have mentioned a bunch of wonderful things that unschooling can bring, however many will argue that there are some negatives as well:

Negatives of HomeSchooling

  • One parent must be the educator and therefore not be in paid work (You could do some part time work from home roles if you are able)
  • Many detractors of homeschooling state that children miss out on the social aspect of school and miss out on friendships. However, if you join drama groups, visit playgroups, and make plans to catch up with friends, then your children will not miss out on the social side of schooling. If you know other families that homeschool you can always make days where you have combined lessons. 
  • As a parent you might get impatient and not have the motivation to keep homeschooling your child. Not everyone is a teacher or has the knack to explain things multiple times and keep calm. 
  • Worry about making sure that you are teaching your children what they need to know (will there be gaps in my child’s education?) I know that I for one would be hard pressed to teach my kids maths and science and would need some expert help in these areas. Regarding resources there are so much available online that I’m sure you will be spoilt for choice. 

Those who are against unschooling believe that unschooling is not teaching children about the real world and life skills.  Not having tests, grades, and deadlines doesn’t help children for the world of work. Many feel that structure is needed to survive in our capitalistic society and without this structure a child will be set up to fail. 

The Parents who choose unschooling are not shirking their parenting duties, in fact they are investing in their child’s education with learning directly from real life experiences and embracing standard schoolwork in a less formal way.

Resources for Parents: 

 

 

 

What do you think?  Are you thinking of homeschooling your child/children?

Is unschooling genius or reckless?

Join in the discussion anonymously at Ask Stay at Home Mum

Many people think that unschooling is all about removing all boundaries and limits in a child’s life: basically, letting children do what they want, when they want, without restriction. This makes people uncomfortable, because it goes against what the experts keep telling us: that children need the adults in their life to put in place firm boundaries and consistent consequences. While there are ‘radical unschoolers’ who do believe in a ‘no limits’ lifestyle, others take a more moderate approach.

A lot of parents who are unschooling agree that this is an approach to learning, not an excuse to practice ‘unparenting’.

They describe unschooling as removing restrictions on learning, but still having authority as parents to make rules and decisions for their children. 

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There are some educational experts who agree with the concept of unschooling, however others are staunch opponents to it. One argument against unschooling is that it’s unrealistic to think that children can learn efficiently without some level of explicit instruction, and others think there will be gaps in a child’s learning because children are, well, children and they don’t know what they need to learn or may choose to engage in activities that don’t further their education.

Some people believe unschooling doesn’t teach children about general life skills they might learn in a school, like being able to complete repetitive, boring or unpleasant tasks. There are also questions around whether some parents are looking for an easy way out, choose to say they are unschooling simply because they see it as less intensive and demanding than more traditional approaches to homeschooling.

What do you think? Is unschooling genius or reckless?

Join in the discussion anonymously at Ask Stay at Home Mum!

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