We are an unschooling family. I generally don’t tell people that, though, because in my experience it tends to freak them out. Those that don’t understand what that term means immediately think that our children don’t learn anything. I see it in their eyes. They equate school with learning so to them ‘unschooling’ may as well mean ‘unlearning’. So I don’t tend to use the term. Yet when I tell people that we ‘homeschool’ it leaves me feeling as though I haven’t satisfactorily described our life. Because ‘homeschooling’ is a far from adequate ‘label’ for what happens in our home, and yet it seems to satisfy the majority of people’s curiosity. I see it in their eyes. They immediately think that we do what they do in school only we do it at home. And they seem to feel secure about that.
To be honest, we used to operate that way, because that was all my husband and I knew. We went to school and we were trained that there is a certain way to deliver information to children in order for them to learn, and so that is what we did. But we burned out. It was like we lived our lives and then we stopped to ‘do school’. After awhile it didn’t seem natural, and it wasn’t authentic.
So now we learn by doing, and I view education in a whole-life learning kind of way. I truly believe that if people are doing something then they are learning something. Whatever that is. Sometimes it’s something big and life changing, sometimes its an important little thing that doesn’t make sense now but will in the future. And increasingly, it is not the learning that I focus on, its the actual doing. The enjoyment, the fascination, the frustration… the ‘whatever’ of just doing what it is that interests us, doing what we sometimes need to do even though we don’t want to…learning to live together, growing in our relationships with each other.
I am very green when it comes to explaining the concept of unschooling to others, mostly because I am a new convert myself! But I think that it is important to learn the right way to communicate that school does not equal learning. Sure, learning happens at school, but that is because learning happens everywhere. I think that those of us who ‘get’ this basic idea need to find ways to help others ‘get’ this also.
I haven’t found it yet, but I know that I am getting closer. In the meantime, I am enjoying the journey immensely.
People tend to associate schooling with learning or education. However, let’s make clear that unschooling does not imply unlearning or uneducating. Unschooling simply describes living and learning without the limitations of school. Let’s imagine a life of unlimited possibilities. ~ Sara McGrath, Unschooling: A Lifestyle of Learning
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