Is Natural Learning the Same as Unschooling?
by Beverley Paine, March 2014
I define natural learning as something separate from unschooling.
Natural learning is something that we all do - it is the way we learn naturally and we do it all the time. We're not always aware of what we're learning. We're learning while we sleep, for example.
Unschooling is a choice: it is learning without school. We consciously work to take the school out of education.
Lots of unschoolers unschool without recognising or celebrating natural learning. And lots of unschoolers totally immerse themselves in the joy and efficiency of learning naturally. Both ends of the spectrum require a shift in focus and value from control to trust.
In her teens my daughter used school as part of her natural learning curriculum: she went to school to learn things that were not part of the school's curriculum and which were not accessible from our home environment. It took me a while to recognise what needs going to school were meeting - that is, recognise my daughter's need for learning these things. If I'd identified them earlier I might have helped to find a more suitable and appropriate environment. She used school as a tool to learn things that were important to her. She wasn't aware of those things at the time, but they definitely helped her to express and develop her personality in the way it needed to grow and develop. And it wasn't her only tool - she also, despite being fairly shy, chose to work part time.
Natural learning happens anyway. Unschooling is something we choose to do.
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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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