m i a o w

–YOU KNOW YOU KNEAD IT–

unschool monday : what the hell is it?

So I’ve been posting on this topic on Mondays when I can manage it. Your eyes may glaze over. Or they may not. But I was asked on the weekend “What is unschooling? And are you actually going to do it with Small Z?”

I don’t know a HUGE amount about unschooling, but I know enough about it to feel like it’s worth investigating as a definite option for our family. So here’s how Wikipedia lays it out:

Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. There are some who find it controversial.

Unschooling encourages exploration of activities, often initiated by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.

Are we going to give it a go? I’m not sure. Our future is too fluid. I do like what the bit on the Wikipedia entry says about socialisation. Because it ties in so well with what we’ve always read and heard about kids that are brought up aboard boats:

They [parents] feel that their children benefit from coming in contact with people of diverse ages and backgrounds in a variety of contexts. They also feel that their children benefit from having some ability to influence what people they encounter, and in what contexts they encounter them.

The entry says a good deal more than just that. But I suppose socialisation is the main concern I have. I don’t doubt Small Z will learn like a sponge – she’s interested in everything. But it’s hard because our future is so unknown… Obviously in an ideal unschooling situation I’d like to be either committed to living aboard a boat (debtfree – of course) or in a community where other unschoolers were not too far away…

We may well sell our boat. We are going to have to live aboard our boat when our lease runs out. What that means for Small Z and her education next year is still up in the air. It may mean that we live aboard somehow in this local area and she continues to attend her excellent kindergarten. An idea which sounds completely opposite to unschooling – my justification – if I need to have one – is if she is in a learning situation that she enjoys – why not nurture it?

At the age of four – if she’s happy going to kindergarten a few times a week, then party on! I have no problem with it. I have a problem with the idea of her attending school five full days a week and being in a class with over twenty other kids all of different abilities with one teacher trying to give them all attention.

I’m still trying to grapple with the whole thing. ‘Going to school’ is such a given in our society. But why do you have a baby, pour yourself into nurturing that little person for five years and give them the groundwork for the person they will become, only to hand them over to an institution for the next 13 years? One that segregates by age instead of ability?

I am not sure that it’s what I want for the Smalls. I am not sure it would be the best thing for them. It might be the easiest thing – for all concerned, but I don’t want easy. If I did I would have weaned Small DB by now and have her sleeping alone in her own room. I want what is going to be best – for all of us.

But I’m still trying to figure out what that might be.

Read more unschool monday posts over at owlet

…and I would LOVE to be able to attend this conference next month – finances won’t stretch that far – but doesn’t it look amazing?!

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5 Comments

  1. Jen

    Too big a minefield to comment on this one! So here’s my non-post. Good luck with it! ; )

  2. beth

    Ah Jen, you didn’t study politics for nothing! I have to say that if I lived near you and had the option to send Small Z to the school that Not-So-Small C goes to… I’m pretty sure I’d do it. M and money permitting…

  3. I don’t think unschooling would be for every parent. I think you’d have to have a commitment and the ability to be able to make sure your child is getting/learning what they need. I guess what I’m trying to say is that not everyone has the smarts to do this concept. Having said that I think you’d be one of those who could make it work. Thing is it’d take a lot of effort and probably stress/worry on your part and are you up for this?

  4. beth

    @Karen – good question. I think there is a large element of relief of sending your kids off to school after doing the hard yards for the first five years. I find the idea tantalising.

    That said, I think I could make unschooling work, but out situation would need to be right. I’d be up for it if the stress involved was fairly miniman – which would mean good community support…

    I continue to muse…

  5. Sam

    Thanks for sharing… I’d been wondering what unschooling exactly was. Funny you are thinking about it as we are toying with the idea of homeschooling, which comes from the same ideals I think. Though it seems a long way off for us yet, it would make perfect sense if we are still living on the island (where there are no schools) then.

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