Deschooling

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A couple of weeks ago, we were at a soft play place and, after running round madly with Joe for about ten minutes, Harry appeared next to me (I had the iPad and a bacon sarnie) and said, “Homeschool me now.”
“Er… what do you want to do?”
“Just learn!”
“That’s not really how it works,” I started to say, but he interrupted with, “What you know, you tell me!” accompanied by a tap on my head and then a tap on his own.
“Think of this as PE,” I said.
“Okay!” he said and darted off to join Joe on the trampoline.

The above exchange made me laugh because whenever I do try to “homeschool” him, he resists. Strenuously. Plus we’ve discussed how unschooling works and he loves the idea (obviously), but apparently he still, every now and then, thinks he should be doing some formal learning.

And I don’t blame him, I still think that too sometimes. Because unschooling is so different, it’s hard not to try to slip in a bit of formal learning too. I’m trying to do something every day that I can actually make a note of if anyone asks what he’s learning, but everything I’ve read suggests that I really don’t even need to do that. And Harry asks me about something every day, so I could just wait and take his lead, but… I’m just not comfortable with that yet. *twitches*

I’m currently reading How Children Learn at Home and the authors suggest that a child who has been taken out of school should be left alone for a year. (At least, I’m pretty sure they do, I can’t find it now to quote it.) Not literally alone, you understand, but left to learn when and what they want to learn, without being steered or pushed.

There’s a brilliant article about unschooling in the current issue of Green Parent magazine (if anyone’s interested, I have a scan of it and am happy to email it to you) and the author, Chaley-Ann Scott, also claims a period of “deschooling” is essential:

“This is both for the parent and for the child and is basically just like taking a long holiday where your children are free to decompress, and you let go of all your assumptions given to you by school.”

I’ve read somewhere that a good way to think about unschooling is to think of the long summer holiday. Children may not do any formal learning, but they are still learning every day. Because that’s what children do.

That’s what we all do.

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