Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our Decision To Unschool

Eric and I spend a lot of time talking about how we want to raise our children. It's been one of our favorite pastimes since before we were even married. I'm lucky to be married to a man who is openminded enough to embrace a radically different form of education than what most people are used to and he is kind enough to listen to me ramble on about it on a regular basis. Even though Echo is nowhere near school age we discuss her education at great lengths and have a pretty cear idea of how we want things to go. I was raised with an educational philosophy known as unschooling, a form of home schooling that most people aren't familiar with. I had such a positive experience with unschooling and after my experiences with the public school system when I was student teaching, I am positive this is how I want to raise our daughter.

This is such a huge topic and one I don't often go in to detail with people about. Of course once you get me going I won't shut up about it :-) The heart of the unschooling movement is centered around the idea that children are natural learners. They love to build, explore, create and learn, in fact they are positively joyful about it. When I tell people I was home schooled I'm pretty sure than many of you picture me sitting at a desk in front of a blackboard while my mom spouts off facts about history and math. This image could not be further from the truth. With unschooling there are no scheduled lessons, no memorization, no drills, no tests and no grades. There are no "school days" because every day and every hour are opportunities for learning. We don't take Summers off and we don't take attendance. Basically we embrace the idea that we are all learning, all the time, and by following our natural curiosity and interests we eliminate the need for structured schooling.

This idea sounds pretty radical to most, can you really do that? I'm sure I would be skeptical too if it weren't for the fact that I lived this way until my college years. I have to give my mother credit for her tremendous courage in choosing to unschool my brother and I at a time when even the legality of homeschooling was questionable. She had no way to know that this crazy idea would work other than her own conviction that this was the right choice for her family. I used to worry that I wouldn't measure up with my traditionally schooled peers but my mother had never ending faith in my intelligence and ability to learn. Now both my brother and I hold advanced degrees and and are happy and successful members of society. Clearly our unschooling didn't put us at a disadvantage. In fact I feel that it was quite the opposite. Through unschooling we became intrinsically motivated, enthusiastic learners and we still love to learn to this day. We also didn't have to waste any of our precious childhood cramming for pointless tests that we would forget as soon as they were over. We were allowed to be children and explore, read and experiment with vigor and gusto. We pursued things that mattered to us and delved deep in to the subjects that interested us most.

I wouldn't presume to say that this is the right choice for everyone and I respect others feelings and choices about their own children's education. However I hope this will give some of you a better understand of where I am coming from and maybe open your eyes to a new way of thinking about education. I'm so grateful that I was raised this way and that I will be able to give my children the benefits of an unschooled education.


  1. I can't wait to learn more. I taught at a school that I loved in Rhode Island, but my teaching experience in Georgia really turned me off to the schools in this area. (I'm sure there are some great ones, but I'm not sure I could afford private school tuition or the cost of living in a good school district.) As a teacher, I loathe standardized tests too, and I don't want to subject my child to that. I look forward to hearing more about unschooling- it sounds like something I might be interested in.

    1. I'd love to talk to you about it some time Emily! I don't often get in to the details with people because it takes some time to explain. It might be a good option for you since you may be living in places without access to good schooling.