Funschooling AKA Unschooling
In the past, whenever I heard the word “unschooling” I just figured it was a parent’s way to rationalize the fact that they didn’t want to work at educating their child. Harsh, I know. But I never ran across anyone who claimed to unschool and I never researched the subject, so I continued on with this believe. That is until about 5 weeks ago. I came to the end of my homeschooling rope (again) with my son, Caleb. Caleb and I do not see eye to eye on much of anything. I like peace and quiet (how a person really expects to find this with 11 children is a mystery, even to me) and he likes to beatbox and drum on everything in site. I like to educate my children by explaining a concept I have deemed is worthy, and then have my pupils regurgitate the information so I know they understand. Caleb believes most of my topics to be unworthy of his time, so he refuses to absorb what I teach. This leads to a lot of fear on my part. I can’t help but worry about Caleb’s future. What if he never has the self-discipline to do what is hard? What if he doesn’t succeed in life because he has no gumption? All of my teaching days with Caleb have been sprinkled with this kind of fear.
But NO MORE!! I have found a solution!! I will no longer have to beg Caleb to do his homework. He will no longer be forced to listen to subject matter that he is not interested in. I am going to unschool Caleb! And, if I have the guts, I am going to unschool all my children. I say “guts” because unschooling sounds risky!! But it sounds AWESOME too!! Since I started binge learning about unschooling five weeks ago, I have already started to put some principles in motion. Already I am seeing the fruit of unschooling. Really, it’s more like “funschooling.”
Let me tell you a little about what I have learned.
1-Children have a God given desire to learn. They can’t help but learn. It is just what naturally happens as they explore their surroundings. We don’t need to coerce them to learn.
2-Play isn’t just for fun. It’s how our children learn best. And if they are learning about what they are interested in, it is like play time. When it works like this, children actually enjoy learning. When we see our children interacting with each other, exploring their environment and creating- they are learning.
3-I have learned to focus on the learning, not the teaching. Oh my gosh!! My kids are learning machines!! They are learning all.the.time. They don’t need me stepping in and telling them whom to play with, what games to play, how to paint, how to draw, what to create. They don’t need me to orchestrate this. They are actually directing their own education. And their creativity is far superior to anything I could cook up. Why? Because they are experts on what is interesting to them. I am an expert on what is interesting to me.
4-I’m learning to be a “Yes Mom”, instead of a “No Mom”. What does this mean? Well let me tell you. In the past, I have spent my days telling my kids no. I don’t do it to be mean or kill their fun. I have just had this belief that if I say yes too many times, order will be lost and chaos will ensue. But, it turns out; I haven’t lost control of my little troops. Instead, we have just been having way more fun and enjoying life so much more. In my researching of unschooling, I have learned how the computer is a fountain of resource for learning. Of course, I have known this. I have learned so many valuable things on the Internet. But, I wouldn’t let my kids have much time on it because in my heart I thought it was “bad” for them. I thought if they spent too much time on it, their brains would turn to mush. I thought they would want to spend all their time on the computer. And you know, they do need sunshine and exercise. I figured that would all stop and I would have to exert huge amounts of energy to actually get them off the computer. But it hasn’t. They play their allotted time in their allotted slot. (Just FYI, having a schedule for computer time and a limited amount of computer time is not very unschooling of me. But, I do have 11 children and I do need some structure)
5-This leads me to another principle of unschooling. “Trust your children”. Trust that they know what they need. Trust that they won’t be ruined with to many “yes’s”. Trust that their mind won’t turn to mush. Trust that they will find what interests them and they will be little learning machines.
6-One of the most helpful things that was re-iterated in my unschooling journey is that relationships are what matters. Now, in my mind and heart I have known this to be true. But, I clearly needed a reminder of how true it is. If all we do is love on our children and develop a fabulous relationship with them, well then half the battle has been won. Maybe most of the battle has been won. I needed the reminder that the positive, close, healthy relationship we have with our children is instrumental in their success in life. Over the last 16 years I have felt so much stress in regard to the responsibility of homeschooling my children. It has felt like such a heavy burden. It felt like their future success rested on me being able to impart the perfect curriculum. And then the question is, what curriculum is best? What if my children won’t/can’t learn the curriculum (Caleb)? What if I am a boring teacher. What if I’m not creative enough? What if I am not smart enough? What if I’m too buys with all my kids to teach them their schooling well? You see where I’m going with this. It’s enough to make a person crazy. It certainly isn’t a way to enjoy homeschooling. But, What if in fact it is true (and I think it is), that the relationship my children have with their creator, with me, with their dad, with their family, and with themselves- what if that is what determines their success? If this is in fact the case, then I think our children will be successful. Because we do in fact work on relationships. Every.single.day! Every day of the week. Every week of the year. We are never NOT working on it. We have so many children in our family, that working on relationships has become a priority and a necessity.
I am including a two-minute recording of a voice message I sent to my girl friend Sara. It describes my excitement about my newly discovered unschooling principles.
Commentary from the Closet: