What’s unschooling?


One of the first things people ask me about homeschooling is how I know I can teach Harry everything he needs to know. As if I’m just going to be doing school, but at home. That’s what I would’ve thought too, before I started reading up on homeschooling and that is, I think, what a lot of homeschoolers at least start out trying to do.

Even with the Flexischooling, we started trying to do a bit of writing, maths, French, science, but found very quickly that it didn’t work. Harry resisted being “taught” by me and I wasn’t that keen on it either, mainly because it just wasn’t fun. One of the main reasons I wanted to try homeschooling in the first place was because Harry has such a love of learning and when we tried to do it “formally” I felt like I was bashing the love right out of it.

I remember when Harry first started school, I wrote a blog post complaining about some homework he’d been given and a friend said she wanted her son to do homework because she wanted him to know that school wasn’t the only place for learning. That baffled me at the time and it still baffles me now. You don’t have to spend very long with children before you realise that they’re learning all the time. Learning doesn’t have to be done with books or tests or even interactive whiteboards. You know when toddlers drive you round the bend asking “Why?” all the time? That’s learning.

So the main thing about unschooling is that I won’t be ‘teaching’ Harry, he’ll be learning through, you know, living. The first thing I read that really made me think about how this works was that children learn some of the biggest things they’ll EVER learn – walking and talking, for a start – just by living and playing and being in the world, but then suddenly, at age 4, society suggests the only education is formal education.

From everything I’ve read, it seems that children can pick up everything they need to know (obviously what they need to know is another discussion!) by themselves. They follow their own interests/passions and parents act more as facilitators than teachers.

Kate Fridkis has a really great post about learning how to write. This is my favourite part:

As the founder and leader of The Manhattan Free School, Pat Werner recently explained to a group of educators, kids never stop learning. They are learning all along. They don’t “learn to read” the moment when they pick up a book and can sound out the words. They’ve been processing relevant information since they were born, and that moment is only the moment when the information begins to fit together in a way others can plainly observe and categorize.


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