10 Reasons to Unschool Your Children
I don't normally do top 10 lists. They are so... cliché? Spammy? Usually from BuzzFeed and an utter waste of time? Nevertheless, I really do think this might be a useful list to people who aren't super familiar with unschooling.
1. You already know how to do it (and so do they!)
If your little one managed to learn to walk, jump and catch a ball without being specifically taught by professional walkers, jumpers and ball catchers, then what makes you think you need a teaching degree to homeschool your kids? Children have an innate desire to acquire knowledge and to master life skills. They are natural learners. As a homeschool parent you can harness this passion and work alongside them. Your job is to facilitate their learning, offer opportunities for expansion and growth and, most of all, to provide a safe and nurturing environment for them to explore their world. Basically it’s what you’ve already been doing before the apparently magic age of 5 in which we’re told someone else must take over.
2. It’s how children learn
Have you ever tried to learn something new in a room full of 30 people all of whom have varying needs, learning styles, gifts and challenges? Of course you have if you’ve ever attended a public school. But just because this is what our society has deemed the most efficient way to educate our children doesn’t mean that it’s actually the best way for any child to learn. Most children learn by doing, by tinkering, by playing, by experimenting, by trying things out, by delving in for a while and then taking a break. They learn in the warm embrace of an adult who does not judge or compare, but rather witnesses, supports, engages and gives feedback when asked. And while most studies have shown that home learners, on average, outpace their peers, I’m wary of these kind of comparisons because beating out other kids has nothing to do with my reasons for choosing to unschool my kids.
3. You get to learn more about your children, yourself and the world around you
One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling/unschooling is that you get to learn with your child. You get to be a partner in learning. Together you get to explore the world and in so doing you get to know your child as they grow and change. When challenges come up in your relationship you will have the time and space to work them out (not to mention they’ll be staring you in the face day in day out, making dealing with them pretty unavoidable). Home learning means having the freedom to take a few days off from any scheduled activities when needed to just enjoy your child and reconnect on a deep heart level.
4. Your children will be internally motivated, self-directed learners
As I hinted at in point 1, there is simply no reason to think that a healthy child will want to stop learning at age 5 just because you don’t send them off to kindergarten. In fact, it is more likely that the kind of top-down teaching that characterizes most schools will eventually stamp out a child’s innate curiosity about the world or at the very least severely limit their expression of it.
5. Your children will be free to learn on their own terms and at their own pace
Being free from the constant comparison/testing and grading common in most classrooms allows a child the space to explore his/her interests without time limits, pressure, fear of failure or ridicule and the shame this can so often induce. Freedom from these worries correlates precisely with a life-long love of learning. One cannot stress enough just how deleterious the pressures of a regular classroom environment can be to a child’s desire and ability to learn.
6. Learning can and does happen anywhere, anytime
You go to the grocery store, you go to the park, you go to the museum. None of these things are sectioned off as ‘for learning’ or ‘not for learning’. Because learning is not something that is confined to a specific time of day or to a particular four-walled room, learning is allowed to remain part of who they are and how they operate in the world. Learning will not be separate from their daily lives, something that only happens under duress. There really are no limits.
7. Staying connected with your child
Nobody knows your kid like you do, but in our ever hastening drive to help our kids achieve independence at an early age, we tend to forget that a deep connection with our children requires us to put in ample amounts of time meeting them where they are each day. A deep connection with our child is the foundation upon which parenting rests and without it very little guidance or ‘educating’ will be possible. Sending our kids out for most of the day, 5 days a week makes it a good deal more difficult to keep that connection alive. This is especially the case as children get older and peers start to become the centerpiece of their worlds. I’m not saying that a parent that sends his/her children to school will not be able to maintain a deep emotional bond with their child (many do), but I am suggesting that, particularly as your children get older, the odds will be stacked against you.
8. Keeping your child safe from experiences and influences you’d like to avoid
While this might seem a bit ‘helicopter-ish’ of me, the fact of the matter is that my son is not yet 5 and as such I’m pretty comfortable being the one in charge of what he’s exposed to on a daily basis. Of course not everything needs to (or should for that matter) be bubbles and ice cream. But in my opinion and based on my deep knowledge of his rather sensitive nature, there are many things in this world I’d like to leave at the door for the moment.
9. Sibling relationships are fostered
Not only will your connection with your child deepen, but sibling relationships will likewise be given the space to grow unhampered by the historically and culturally unprecedented age-segregation that happens in schools. I don’t know if any studies have been done on how sibling relationships of homeschooled or unschooled kids fare in relation to their schooled counterparts, but my guess is that they would be closer. This is only a hunch I suppose as we’re simply to early in our home learning journey to say. For you seasoned homeschoolers, let me know if you have some insights here.
10. You get to stop comparing your child to Betty so and so
One of the most freeing aspects of any homeschooling or unschooling parent is that you can much more easily side-step the comparison trap. After many, many years of formal academic training, no doubt much of my family’s unschooling journey will be learning to trust in the process rather than getting hung up on any particular results. Being able to see my kids truly, deeply, and without the layers of judgement we’re conditioned to attach to each and every word and deed, will obviously be a life-long adventure (one which requires a good deal of unlearning on my part). Nevertheless, I know in my heart of hearts that this kind of ‘unconditional seeing’ will also be the greatest gift I can give to myself and my children.
There are of course many, many more reasons one could list. Let me know what inspired you most to forego sending your own kids to school!