21 reasons why we’re choosing unschooling

Chances are you’re already familiar with homeschooling, right? But what in the name of the wee man is unschooling?

Essentially, homeschooling is where you are taking responsibility for the education of your child by way of structured teaching, whereas unschooling is letting your child’s education unfold naturally, not being the teacher but facilitating self-directed learning.

Unschooling is a method of homeschooling that puts the desire, drive, motive and responsibility for life – this thing we call learning, or education – in the hands of the learner.*

I think the above captures so beautifully the essence of empowered learning I crave for my child(ren), but I wanted to throw together a quick (and possibly controversial) post on why we’ve chosen unschooling as our soup du jour.

Disclaimer: these are just my opinions. People can get triggered emotionally when they think their parenting choices are being judged. That’s not what this is about. Plenty of children are schooled traditionally and that’s swell, I was. It’s just that we’re choosing a different approach. Horses for courses and all that. Also, whilst the following list encompasses all my desires, should my child(ren) decide they want to attend school then that is something I will of course support!

So here we go…

I think 5 years old is far too young to be starting school. Play is a viable method of learning which should be continued indefinitely. 🙂

5 year olds should be outside playing and learning about nature and the world on our doorstep. Outside as much as possible.

I think children aged 6, 7, 8, 9 years old (and above, say up to 99) should be outside playing and climbing trees and learning about nature.

I don’t think children should be sat on chairs at desks. Ever. I don’t think adults should either. Unnatural and unhealthy.

I don’t think children should be being taught to sit still and be quiet and listen to someone talk. I think that’s the most unnatural thing for children to do. Children love to move and make noise and interact with each other and the world, not sit and listen.

I don’t know what notions or concepts of the world are being taught by teachers and frankly, that scares me a little. Of course they are told what curriculum to teach and I doubt it includes some of the things I think are valuable for children to learn. In fact, I’m certain it doesn’t.

If we rotated teachers every day to include elders, environmentalists, permaculturists, philosophers, painters, astronauts, gardeners, people with real life skills (including foraging, bushcraft and herbal medicine), shaman AND The Shamen, then maybes… 😉

We can’t expect one teacher to give our children well-rounded, well thought out, diverse and interesting information. Just not possible.

I absolutely do think children should socialise. They should be free to spend time with people they want to at times they want to. If playtime was 5 hours a day and learning time 1 hour, then maybe.

I think children should be socialising with children and adults of all ages and backgrounds, not segregated by age in a classroom.

Uniforms, homework, bells, “pupil of the week”, rules, having to ask to go to the toilet and punishment. Nope.

I don’t think one teacher in a class of 20-30 is going to give my child enough any attention in order to foster his personal style of learning, his passion for particular subjects or his natural and innate skills and passions.

I don’t think children should be made to learn subjects that don’t interest them. Try teaching me Science and I’ll give you the finger. Twice.

I don’t think there’s enough “real world” education at school. I think that primarily the purpose is to prime children for the marketplace. We ought to be focusing on things that they’ll have to do in the real world, relationships, growing and preparing food, making love, having babies, fighting zombies, moving our bodies, health, contributing to our community, charitable work, understanding our environment etc. Hippie? Me?

I’d prefer my child(ren) to be passionate about learning, not do it because they have to. Children love to learn. And then a lot of them stop loving it so much. I think school is a big reason. I think school is the reason.

I think every kind of test and exam is absolutely abhorrent. This does not evaluate knowledge and understanding. It evaluates memory and puts children under unnecessary stress and pressure.

I think the education system basically teaches children how to regurgitate what they’ve been told is the right answer rather than think for themselves.

I know I’m just as more than capable of facilitating my child(ren)’s learning, more so than a teacher who has many other children and endless paperwork to take care of. My child(ren) will have my 100% undivided attention and support.

I want to spend time with my child(ren). I want to be there when they’re learning about the world. I’m going to learn just as much as they do I know it.

I don’t think all schools are bad. I don’t think all teachers are bad. There are certain to be people out there doing amazing work. The whole Forest School thing is a step in the right direction

I know my child(ren) are more than capable of discovering what interests them and pursuing their own natural desire to learn for themselves. I think in this “age of information” it’s more than possible to learn about the things you’re naturally driven towards without the need of classrooms and teachers. Learning something because you want to is a whole different ball game from learning something because you’re force-fed it! Hey, it’s on the curriculum.

I realise that unschooling and homeschooling is not for every family. We’re fortunate that it’s a very real and available opportunity for us. Saying that, I’ve attended the local home-ed group here in Glasgow and met people (children and adults) with very different stories, approaches and backgrounds.

I also know that this whole unschooling thing is going to be a steep learning curve for us as a family. I don’t presume to have all the answers right now. We’ll just need to see how we get on. But fear not, it’s my intention to blog about our unschooling adventures right here!

For anyone interested in learning more, I highly recommend ‘How Children Learn‘ and ‘How Children Fail‘ by John Holt, ‘Summerhill– A Radical Approach to Education by A.S. Neill or check out this awesome blog about homeschooling by a Glasgow family or the UK Home Education Forums.

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8 thoughts on “21 reasons why we’re choosing unschooling

  1. Sam January 29, 2015 / 11:17 pm

    You nailed it on the head!! My thoughts to a T!

  2. Sam January 29, 2015 / 11:20 pm

    You are so right! My thoughts to a T. Can we be friends? 🙂

    • Emma January 30, 2015 / 8:03 am

      Sure! 🙂

  3. Ralph September 19, 2015 / 5:28 pm

    Totally agree with you on all points Emma. An excellent article. My other half is well educated in sciences and maths and unfortunately we clash on this subject, but I would have loved for my kids to have been homeschooled. You are right though five is way too young to be caught up in the education system. I’ve just watched my youngest start her reception/primary school at aged four… All very depressing.
    Sorry I didn’t catch this article earlier. Well done!

    • Emma Calvert November 20, 2015 / 5:32 pm

      Thanks so much, Ralph. I only just saw your comment so apologies for not replying sooner. My husband is hugely academic and I’m sure he has his reservations but thankfully is trusting me on this. We’ve agreed to see how things go and reevaluate from time to time. If it’s any consolation I started school at 4 and turned out awesome 😉 I jest. I think we all try to do what’s best for our kids and ultimately if they are getting the right kind of interaction and learning environment out of school then that can help to negate some of the negative aspects of standard classroom education…

  4. caz December 9, 2016 / 1:40 pm

    love your article and i agree with it wholeheartedly. looking for opportunities for my three unschooled children to socialise/hang out…do you guys go anywhere for that to meet like-minded(ish) others?? mine are aged 6,11 and 17.

    • Emma Calvert January 1, 2017 / 11:46 am

      Hi Caz

      Thank you for your message. Not really, there is a great homeschooling movement in Glasgow that meet every Wednesday. I’ve been a couple of times and it’s great. I haven’t been for a while but it’s my intention to start up again 🙂 x

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