Unschooling; The Confidence Builder

Many people send me comments asking for more information about the topic of unschooling. This is the type of homeschooling our family gravitated to and I love it. The challenge with beginning to unschool is that there is no formula or absolute way to go about it. For this reason it can be dismissed as unproductive and chaotic by some. Far from it unschooling is a fantastic method to engender a love of learning and teach children to have confidence in their decision-making. The heart of unschoooling is the child and his or her ability to self-direct their learning. For parents this is often a scary thing to abdicate control but how else do we engender decision-making skills and confidence. As parents you are the guardian of the learning process, and the go to when things bog down or frustration sets in. In unschooling parents are not the sole source of learning ideas or the methods and content.

One of the best tools to explain how the cycle of unschooling works is to read the very first blog, Interest Based Learning, on my website, gayemarkham.com. It illustrates via a flowchart how one small idea leads to many topics and covers the whole spectrum of subjects. If you are interested in the unschooling approach I encourage you to read this blog and try this process with your child as a starting point. The real beauty of the process is it is self-perpetuating. One topic studied raises more questions that the child wants answered and this always leads to another subject to learn about. In all of the years we homeschooled my children never ran out of questions and topics to study. For this reason they trained themselves to be people responsible for continually learning even now as adults.

Record keeping is not an issue with unschooling but organization is important. Once again children are to be made responsible for items like attendance sheets and records of materials used for the subjects studied. Young children especially love this because they feel entrusted with very important documentation and they are usually very exacting in the process. If you need ideas for how to keep records one source is the appendix at the end of my e-book, Homeschooling; Start and Succeed with Lifelong Learning, where I have forms I used and created during the course of our unschooling years. I suggest that each child has a binder for their forms and as the parent you set up a schedule with your child to review it. This should not be a heavy-handed question and answer session but a time to make sure that things are on track and if not you and the child devise a way to correct any problems or lapses. Testing was not needed in our unschooling family. I was amazed at how much I could tell about what my children were learning just from listening to them talk amongst themselves and to me. Also they loved to test and use the knowledge learned, so projects and experiments happened naturally.

How does unschooling create confidence? First and foremost it allows your child to make mistakes and learn from them. This process of failing and recovering creates people who know they can think, create and move forward independently. Imagine if your child was stuck in a world where they always had to wait for someone else to step in and save the day. The reality of unschooling is that as a parent you can make allowances for maturity and different experience levels while creating a safety net for your child to learn and grow. What it also models for our children is how to forgive and rebuild trust when mistakes are made. Over time there is nothing more fulfilling than to see your children extend this to each other and to you as a parent. Families never stop learning together when it is an important part of their lives.

Further reading you might enjoy:

How Children Fail by John Holt

Parenting for the Launch by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence

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