Monday, March 14, 2011

Education Theory: Unschooling

Type 'unschooling' into the search field in Twitter (or see it hashtagged as I often do with all my education pals), and you will gleam that an education movement is gaining momentum. I clicked on a few posts concerning unschooling and found interesting websites. One stood out, Why Unschool.
The website gave the following as the definition for unschooling:

Unschooling is an educational philosophy which holds that all children are born with a natural and insatiable curiosity, and that people learn best in non-coerced, self-directed situations. Unschooled children and teens choose which topics to learn and when, with encouragement from their parents, and without a curriculum. In other words, learning occurs when the child is engaged and interested in a subject that they themselves chose to study.

Several ideas popped into my mind when I read that. One, I related it to myself. I did not really care for high school, but enjoyed college beyond any expectations. I have always credited this to the idea that I chose what I studied. My degree is in English, and I packed my schedules with literature and writing courses. I had fun, and I learned in an honest, soul-wrenching way. I did not just pass tests and quizzes, I understood the material. When I researched papers, I grabbed more books off the library shelves then I needed because the subject matter thrilled me. I voraciously consumed information.

The second thought was that I do a bit of unschooling with Ty and Za, especially in the way that I allow them to lead me in their learning. Ty loves vehicles, and I used that interest to teach him colors. He was curious about everything concerning vehicles, so once we discussed their colors, I added on the parts - windshield, tires, wheels, doors - and we covered the letters required to spell all those parts. This of course led to other conversations about who assembled cars, where they were made, and how they needed fuel to run.

Za learned her colors in a different manner. She was actually more interested in learning her letters first, so when we would read alphabet books or identify letters associated with her toys or the household, colors came secondary. The order that my kids learned colors and letters was reversed, but they learned them in a way that had emotional connections for them, which is actually a brain-based learning theory, but that is way off topic.

So slowing down my thoughts, I am excited that I stumbled upon unschooling and researched it a bit. As a teacher, I had never heard of it, but it seems that teachers are encouraged to use some of its properties.

Unschooling still isn't well known enough for my Google spell-check to stop underlining it in red as I type this post. Unschooling, however, does have roots and valid points. I believe that some instances I have unschooled my children, and other parents have as well without realizing so.

For this education blog, I would appreciate more information about this subject. Any unschooling bloggers or writers who would like to leave a comment - feel free. I have a hunch I will be covering this for years to come.

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