We recently had a discussion on our Unschooling Catholics email list…on that ubiquitious statement, oh so familiar to all homeschoolers with an unschooling bent…Unschooling sounds great but *I* could never do it.
Maybe the speaker couldn’t. Or shouldn’t.
Or maybe they should and could…if they are willing to step out of their box.
I’m on my seventh teenage unschooler here.. And my thought and experience is that unschooling works with relationship and time.
Time because a child who does not pick up a book at age eight can become a a teen studying liberal arts at university and reading and enjoying philosophy and theology… And yes, I am describing one of my sons! I would strew books that he would never pick up unless they were non fiction full-of-pictures DK and Usborne books. However, we kept reading aloud and listening to books on CD and watching movie versions of books and letting him follow his interests… Which when he was young was all about the outdoors and activity. So I think Unschooling works best over time.
Time because it takes awhile for “no strings attached” strewing to take… By no strings I mean that I really don’t mind if no one takes up my strewing but instead strews their own stuff. And with expectations off, my sons have been more likely to explore new ideas and activities and books.
Relationship because that has been the way Unschooling works in our house. It has enhanced our relationships because we spent time together not doing school but reading aloud, watching movies, drawing, cooking, going to parks and outings and talking. It’s this quantity time that is sometimes missing when mums and kids are rushing to do school and then to homeschool activities. And yet this quantity time has been the biggest aid to our learning… so one son, who used to make a big fuss about any sort of formal work when young is the one who is now at university, writing essays and talking to me about chastity and celibacy and how he doesn’t think celibacy would be so hard as your mind, his mind, is on other things.. At the moment Cicero. (!) Now, he was the one who you could have said would not be a poster child for Unschooling, would spend oodles of time on computer games and make a big fuss about chores and really did spend a year or two around age sixteen or so just playing games and hanging out ( and doing chores and serving at mass and helping in the parish).
Or let me give an example of another son ( did I mention I have seven sons…thus many examples!) who was also a non writer and often a non reader. But who grew, however, into reading Shakespeare as a teen, who has a degree and now works in politics, works hard, long hours and yet still finds time to go to mass or confession on weekdays as well.
Are they perfect? No.
Were they the perfect poster unschooler kids? No.
Were we the perfect unschooler poster family? No, not with our problems, financial problems, moving many many times, mum’s health problems and miscarriages, unemployment, extended family crises, months where we did nothing but chores and watch movies and read and cook and eat. And I went through stages of let’s try this ( CM or classical or curriculum) but we always came back to just living and learning.
Where am I going with this?
That I would wish Unschooling for everyone.
That blossoming of self and interests and relationships.
Unschooling tweaked to suit each family but Unschooling where the child and family are more important than is he reading, is he doing maths, can he meet these outcomes? Ad infinitum.
In my experience, the unschooled children can meet outcomes, over time, with a good relationship ( “darling , for uni you will need more maths and writing so how about we try x and y… “…Easily suggested and more likely to be taken up when relationship in place) and with tweaking to suit each child and family.
Unschooling has brought me to my knees, to my Faith, to the sacraments , many many times… Heck, I became a Catholic! Me! It’s that trust in Our Lord, in the Holy Spirit’s workings in my life and in the life of my kids, in the graces of the sacraments.
So my answer to is Unschooling for everyone is.. It’s up to the parent!
Are you prepared to read more, pray more, live with your kids, daily give more of yourself, move out of your comfort zone, educate yourself, give it a good long try, no strings attached!?
For Unschooling requires effort as the vocation of mothering requires effort .. Effort and prayer… It’s just that the effort is spent in time with the child and family and not with curriculum and programmes.
And the rewards are manifold.