How To Unschool? : Guide To Unschooling Part 2

This is part 2 of the series how to unschool your child. I have written about it before on the blog How to Unschool your child and Guide to Homeschooling Methods.

Check out the first of How to Unschool  Part 1.

By Leo Babauta

There are many more reasons, of course, and each person will find her own reasons. These are just a few of mine.

How to Unschool

This is the hard part, because there is no right way to do it, no single way. And parents who are starting out always, always want to know how to do it. I know we did, and the honest truth is, we’re still figuring out the answer.

Why is there no answer? Because every kid is different. Everyone has different needs, interests, abilities, goals, and environments. What would you say if people told you there was only one way to live your life, one way to do your job? You’d hate it, because it would take away your freedom, and also all the fun.

Telling you how to unschool is like taking away your freedom and all the fun out of it. The questions are everything, and the finding out is the fun.

That said, I will offer some ideas of how we unschool, and some ideas of how you might approach things — but these are just ideas to start you out!

  • College bound. Our 16-year-old has decided he wants to go to college, and so studies for the SAT on his own, and is taking some free college courses online, and writes practice college essays on topics he chooses. He also learns things on his own, like programming or 3D animation, and plays the guitar.
  • Origami master. Our 13-year-old wants to get good at math, so does some math courses on Khan Academy. She also makes origami and weaves friendship bracelets and reads teen novels and Archie comics and plays piano and goes to the park to play basketball and likes to learn to cook.
  • Wolves and wizards. Our 8-year-old loves to read about wolves, and often will pretend he’s a wolf. Also a wizard or werewolf. He likes to play games and read with us and make up stories and draw. He’s pretty good at math on his own, though we don’t really study that with him much.
  • Forts and restaurants. Our 6-year-old likes to be read to and isn’t into reading on her own, though she’s been learning to read through games and reading with us. She doesn’t like math but will do it in games. She makes forts and art and likes to play outside and pretend she owns a restaurant or store.
  • The power of questions. When the kids ask a question, that’s an opportunity to find out something. We’ll look it up together, or look for books on it in the library.
  • People you know are incredible resources. If your kid wants to be a chef, you might know someone who is a chef or owns a restaurant. If your kid wants to create iPhone games, you might know a programmer. If your kid is interested in science, you might know a marine biologist. And so on. Connect them with these people.
  • Games are your best friend. Play all kinds of games. Don’t be concerned with what they’re learning. They’ll have fun, and learn that life can be play, and so can learning.
  • Fun projects. Working on art and science projects can be a lot of fun.
  • Pursue interests. If the kid is interested in something, show her how to find out more, or play with it.
  • Deschool. If you’re new to unschooling, and your kid has gone to school for awhile, it’s often a good idea to “deschool”. That means to not worry about learning or schooling for awhile — a couple weeks, a couple months. The idea is to get them (and you) out of the mindset of schooling, which can be very difficult, because we’ve been trained to think in terms of school. We think we need to be productive teachers and students, and that school has to be done a certain way, and that if the kids aren’t learning something from an activity, it has no value. All that is crap, of course, so take some time getting out of that mindset.
  • Expose them. Learn to give kids a variety of stimuli — books and magazines lying around the house, watch shows about interesting things, play old board games, get out and explore your town, meet different people, find stuff together on the Internet. This exposure will help them to explore new interests — even if they don’t seem interested at first, the exposure will allow them to find new things on their own.
  • Learn as you go. The most important thing is that you need to figure out what works for you. Try different things. Play. Make things. Go out and do things, meet people, have fun learning about new things. Fun, always fun, never hard work unless it’s fun, never force, always get pulled.
  • Be patient. You won’t see “results” right away … changes in your kid will happen over time, as he learns that learning is fun and can be done all the time in lots of ways. You also might get frustrated that your kids doesn’t want to study or read or write papers or whatever. But instead, let him play music or play pretend games or read comic books or play outside.
  • Trust is important. It’s hard in the beginning (we’re still learning to do this), but it’s important to trust that kids can learn on their own, with minimal guidance, and that if they’re interested in something, they’ll learn about it. We all think kids can’t learn on their own, but they can.

Before you get the wrong idea, I should give credit to Eva for doing most of the unschooling work, and being better at it than I am (Eva is really great, though she won’t admit it). She has read more books and websites on the topic than I am, and does the majority of the unschooling on a daily basis (though I do help out as much as I can). I should also give credit to my awesome sister Kat, who inspired us to unschool, and is one of the most amazing unschooling moms I know.

More Reading

This isn’t a definitive guide — I don’t have the experience or knowledge to write that guide. Better people than I have written much more on the topic, and while I can’t provide a comprehensive list, I will share some books and sites to get you started (many are from Eva and my sister Kat):

  • Sandra Dodd – one of the first and best writers on unschooling.
  • John Holt – another of the seminal writers on unschooling, a classic.
  • A-Z Homeschooling – so many things for homeschoolers. So many.
  • Khan Academy – amazing resource for learning all kinds of subjects.
  • Open Culture – such a powerful collection of free learning resources, including a list of free online college courses, language learning, and so much more. Wow.
  • Clickschooling – newsletter with links to learn about different learning topics.
  • Schmoop – a fun way to learn literature, history and more.
  • Reading Rants – blog by a librarian who gives reading suggestions for young adults.
  • Free Rice – game for learning different subjects.
  • YouTube – It’s an interesting video site that you might not have heard of. But what an incredible resource for learning videos — learn French or Spanish, math raps, and much much more.
  • Self-Made Scholar – free classes.
  • Free-Range Kids – how to raise self-reliant children.
  • The Sparkling Martins – for unschooling inspiration.
  • Homeschoolers Guide to Getting Into College – it’s not only possible, but very doable.
  • Life Learning Magazine – on non-coercive, interest-based learning.
  • Natural Child – learning to treat children with with dignity, respect, understanding, and compassion.
  • Joyfully Rejoicing – great overview of unschooling philosophy with more resources for learning more.
  • Zinn Education Project – excellent resources for learning history, Howard Zinn style.
  • Coursera – free online courses.

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