Any Unschooling Regrets?
© Beverley Paine
It's hard to be rigid about definitions of unschooling, natural learning and hoemschooling because I honestly believe that all families approach home education by using all of these approaches in a wonderful homogenous blend. In some areas learning is definitely natural, in others it is through unschooling, and with others it definitely looks exactly like what children would be doing at school.
I was recently asked if I had any regrets about unschooling our children. Elsewhere I've written extensively about how we actually educated our children, and my book, Learning in the Absence of Education gives a reasonably detailed account of a decade of our homeschooling life. We aren't purists to any particular approach to homeschooling.
Throughout our journey as home educators I foudn that as unschoolers we learned from books, even text books. Always have done. I also wrote lesson plans and we did structured learning in all subject areas. I believe that we use whatever tools we need to do the job.
I tended to look for tools that I know will work for my individual children. Recognising which tools they were took time - in my case several years as I'm a bit of slow learner (my arrogance got in the way - I always figured I knew best before I found out that I, too, am a learner!).
At some stage I began to learn about learning styles and that helped quite a bit. Thomas challenged me as he developed his language skills later than his older siblings. What worked with April didn't work with Roger and then Thomas. I was forever learning new tricks!
What sets unschoolers aside from school-at-homers is that we don't rigidly follow a curriculum written and devised by someone outside of our family. We may use a set of text books, or a set of books, or documentaries. These can offer what I called a 'backbone' to our learning in a particular area, which would then branch out in many different directions, with us accessing a huge range of varied resources.
My haphazard recording - conducted throughout our homeschooling adventure - was paramount in building confidence that even when we weren't doing 'bookwork' the children were learning in leaps and bounds.
John Holt advocated learning from books and mentors and tutors - and he apparently coined the term 'unschooler'. What he was against was coercing children to learn from books, or only using books - as they did in schools way back.
I do my level best not to have regrets in any area of my life. If I had my time as a homeschooling mum over again, I'd do things very differently. But I'm happy with the outcome nonetheless. We achieved my goals - the ones I wrote in 1986. I'd give our homeschooling assignment a B+ if I had to grade it. Which is something to be proud of.
If I had known then what I knew now - something none of us can do - I'd probably have given us an A. That's my problem though. We did what we did and how we did it for a reason and life worked out the way it did for a reason and we're all learners with lessons to learn each and every day. The reason is that we learn by trying, by stumbling and by thinking about the problems, coming up with solutions and trying them out, and stumbling again, and trying again, and again and along the way we learn so much about the nature of life, of ourselves, of the natural world, of others, of the materials we use and need, how it all interacts, and why we need to keep learning, and helping each other learn.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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