Are Newcomers Calling Homeschooling Unschooling?
by Beverley Paine
I suspect that families seeking out home education as an option for their children think homeschooling and unschooling are the same thing.
What I think might be happening is that the promotion of the concept of unschooling, especially in the media, is the perception that unschooling is homeschooling - what we, as home educators, have traditionally described homeschooling as children learning without school. The new generation of potential home educators are calling it unschooling (as in un-schooling, not going to school), whereas we, who have been doing it for a while, define unschooling either as an educational approach with in the spectrum of different approaches available to parents or a way of living and looking at learning and life.
I tend to think of home education as the freedom to select whatever educational path and resources that best meets the needs of children. It can range from a school-at-home approach where parents replicate what teachers in classrooms do, but with obvious increased efficacy, using resources outside of the classroom to enhance children's opportunities across all curriculum areas. School-at-home parents use online learning programs as well as traditional school text and student work books, unit studies, projects, excursions,etc. Homeschoolers use a mix of school-at-home and unschooling - it's a wonderfully eclectic mix of styles and approaches and resources, usually more relaxed than school-at-home, usually with a focus on giving the child more autonomy and choice.
Unschooling focuses on learning rather than teaching. The focus in on meeting individual needs now, not teaching to meet assumed future needs. Learning is in context, meaningful, has purpose to the learner. The learner is responsible for the learning occurring. A learner can opt to be taught by someone using whatever resources are desired or appropriate. The difference between unschooling and homeschooling and schooling is that the learner is in control and is responsible for this process. Unschooling children still need guidance, mentoring, people to learn alongside and with, etc.
Unschooling can be a lifestyle, but it can also be an approach to home education. I know lots of homeschoolers who teach for part of the day and then allow their children to learn for the rest of the day in whatever way suits the individual children: this is also unschooling. The lines can and are blurry and that's okay.
I am comfortable with these definitions - they work for me and my generation of home educators. Those new to the idea of home education though bring with them new definitions and ways of doing things. And that's okay too.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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