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Define Unschooling – Child Lead Learning Made Simple

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Define Unschooling

The Eyes Of The Wise Define Unschooling

How do you describe a sunset or a beautiful coastline with rolling waves crashing along a white sand beach? What words would you use to fully encapsulate the beauty that is a pigeon landing gracefully on a post or the effortless motion of a trout swimming through a tumultuous stream? Words can be used for definitions, explanations, and descriptions but to each and every person, actual experience is likely difficult to capture completely. Unschooling is very similar to those un-definable visuals, it’s a beautiful philosophy, a graceful approach to learning and at times a little tough to navigate. 

When it comes to education and what it means to unschool, an internet search on the topic yields thousands of pages, hundreds of blogs, and so many groups it’s mind-blowing. Yet the average person would likely struggle to define it? Let’s attempt to define unschooling here! 

Wikipedia will give you a very sterile definition of unschooling. It lays out the fundamentals, the paradigm shift in education, and includes a healthy amount of criticism. But does it really capture what defines unschooling? A definition should be painted by those that live it, love it, and can muster up words from the bottom of their hearts to define it. I’ve reached out to several groups, individuals, and professionals in the unschooling world to paint a fantastic tapestry of experience that creates a more vivid image of unschooling.

Cassandra Stratton, from the Facebook group Unschoolers Collective writes:

“Unschooling philosophy is the trust that kids will learn what they need to know when they’re ready to learn it, and that learning happens all the time. What it looks like in practice is creating an environment where learning can happen, and giving them the space and time to learn in whatever way is best for them, without coercion.”

This definition adds to the idea of unschooling an element of philosophy. Learning happens differently for each individual, especially those with learning disabilities and setbacks. By allowing a process of self-directed learning (as opposed to punishment for non-conformance) the ability to fully absorb knowledge is unparalleled to the conventional mainstream teaching methods. 

Unschoolers Online, a popular Facebook group writes:

“Unschooling can’t be boxed or defined in my opinion. It is fluid and constantly evolving within each family who educates under this philosophy.”

This attitude towards the practice illustrates exactly how much the definition can change from person to person. For one family it may be viewed from the perspective of nourishing a child’s education based on their abilities. For another family, it might be viewed as a way to shield their children from some of the ridiculous practices forced upon those subject to public education. Unschooling unravels itself with a different definition and perspective every day for every family. The basic foundational building block of unschooling is throwing out archaic structures and replacing them with curiosity and discovery.

From Sue Patterson of UnschoolingMom2Mom 

“The unschooling philosophy of learning relies on the fact that humans are hard-wired to learn. Our innate curiosity propels us toward what is interesting to us. We don’t need lesson plans, quizzes, grading or classrooms, in fact, they can become obstacles in our learning process. We successfully learned what we needed before we were school age, and adults can attest to how much we have learned after graduating from school. When we worry about whether this individualized approach will “equip our kids for the real world,” that’s conditioning from our years in school. The answer is “Yes.” Grown unschoolers are showing us every day that they’re ready for young adulthood. They didn’t need to spend time in a classroom to do that. They’ve been actively living life within their communities – The Real World – all along.”

How many of us got into the “real world” and absolutely panicked? We were quizzed to death, all the while never really learning to live a practical and well-rounded life.

A few pillars of the unschooling community couldn’t be immediately contacted but have a wealth of wisdom available on their blogs. A few examples are listed below that help us to define unschooling.

Idzie Desmarais, who has created the blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I can Write has coined several definitions of unschooling on her blog. One that resonates with us:

“Unschooling, at its heart, is nothing more complicated or simple than the realization that life and learning are not two separate things. And when you realize that living and learning are inseparable, it all starts to truly make sense.”

How often do we learn from the most basic things? Standing in line at the bank overhearing a conversation, you can learn about whats going on in the community. Reading a post on a friend’s social media page may inspire you to delve into an entire world that has otherwise been unknown to you. When you close the door on education and learning simply because you’re not sitting at a desk in front of a blackboard you’re basically holding the shovel to dig your own very intellectual grave.

The Natural Child Project states,

“A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can’t buy with a curriculum.”

Curriculums are often eschewed in unschooling communities. For some, the word curriculum may as well be a curse word. The beauty of unschooling is the fact that learning flows naturally and free and doesn’t conform to a standardized lesson plan. A forced structure can limit the ways that a child grows mentally, and stifle creative and personal accomplishments. A curriculum can set ceilings whereas with unschooling the sky is the limit. Your children will be able to shoot for the moon and end up among the intelligent stars.

define unschooling

The exciting thing about unschooling is that there are so many different interpretations but all with a single, solid theme: a child can learn in ways that are natural to them and within their comfort zones without force.

“You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”

-Galileo Galilei

At Anarchapulco 2020 unschoolers, homeschoolers, and those wanting to learn more will be treated to hearing from some of the most phenomenal voices in the unschooling world. You’ll be able to rub shoulders with other unschoolers who can share their own vantage points on the unschooling philosophy. If you’re still curious and need a little more direction than you’ve found with the resources shared above, make yourself free in February for the Family Stage events at Anarchapulco. Not only will you learn from the savants of the philosophy and hear them define unschooling, but you’ll also be surrounded by other like-minded individuals that will inspire you takes the first steps towards creating a free and fun learning environment for your child. Check out some of the exciting discussions covered at the Free Your Family stage here! Then grab your ticket. Anarchapulco accepts Bitcoin!

How do you define unschooling? Leave your comments below!

define unschooling

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