Unschooling Method Defined

by Rhonda Todd
(Connersville, IN USA)

Indiana mom of nine shares an in-depth unschooling method explanation to help parents learn more about this child-led, or interest-based teaching approach.

Nine children and 21 years later, after much trial and some error, we have found the one "schooling" method we love the best. We have tried several curricula only to find that the one that fits our ADHD family is the one popularly called, "Unschooling". We, parents included, are very active mentally but sometimes the "sit down and do it" just does not happen, so we have devised a way to get what we need to do done without all the traditional baggage.

"Unschooling" is an interest based/child-led education method. It is NOT an undisciplined method as you, the parent/instructor, will be guiding them gently into the right path just as any concerned/involved parent would and should. This gentle guidance is done by simply providing access to learning experiences and materials. This does NOT mean spending lots of money!

First, we have a very large library of books, games and audio resources. No, we did not spend a fortune at one time but have invested in this project each year since before the children started arriving. Goodwill, garage sales and library book sales to name a few have been our go-to sources for such materials. Rarely do we purchase anything "brand new". I never turn down the gift of books whether it is from family, friends or on some occasions, school teachers/educators.

Next, we do invest in internet services as we use the web to find information that is more up-to-date than perhaps the materials we have in our library. We also use it as our "score key" when we are needing to find out the answer to something that we are researching. The wonderful plethora of sites available to "unschoolers" can be overwhelming but no site isn't without free information if you know how to assimilate the info. Learning has NO boundaries so we don't fence ourselves into any certain way things should be done.

Last, but certainly not least, we use trips to town, library visits, family vacations and other interesting excursions as field trips. The beauty of this is that we can go whenever the need, desire or opportunity arises and we do not have to "get permission" and we aren't missing "school".

We are a family of readers or ones working on getting there, we love to play games most all the time and interaction with various ages are a must as we are actively involved in our church outreach ministries. All of these experiences, along with working outside the home in whatever capacity, allow the children to develop their social skills. Not to brag but to state a fact, our children have ALL been thought to be older than their actual age due to the fact that they could interact with various age groups and transition well between each.

As for attendance, we treat all parts of our day as "school"! In our school, no one is absent. For instance, personal hygiene is simply Health class and as the children age, the necessary information is gleaned. Working around the house, lawn or garden can be Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Home Economics., Carpentry, etc. Sports can be Recess or Physical Ed. You get the picture. Sunday is never excluded from our school as this is a day of MORE concentrated Bible study, although, it is incorporated throughout our week, as well, and not just relegated to Sunday. We use the Bible to teach Literature, Reading, History, Etymology, and yes, even Math.

Because our state only requires an attendance record as proof of homeschooling, this is the only requirement we worry about but I have made the official county school calendar "the" calendar for our school although, we have more days in school than is actually reported.
Another thing that our state requests (not currently required) is that one register their home school and receive a number from the DOE. I have complied with this request and it has been very valuable to me when on a couple of occasions I was visited by the HHS for "not" schooling my children. Comments such as, "For someone not schooling their children, it appears you have taken the time to do it right." or "I was not aware that one could obtain such a number, this is great!"

Because we are constantly and consistently involved with our children, we can know whether or not they have attained any given information that they are needing. We do not do written testing as we are constantly watching their progress and as their educators we know when they "get it". No twenty dozen pages of multiplication problems just because the teacher has one student that hasn't gotten it yet. No, when the lesson is learned, move on! Most of the time, you will find they have learned something before your reach that area on the "scope and sequence" chart. I do use a scope and sequence chart to help keep ME on target. These charts are easily found on the internet if you search for them.

In our elementary grades, we use the pass/fail method. This is, in simple terms, we don't quit teaching or reiterating something until it is comprehended at least to a point that the child can proceed confidently. It doesn't mean they have mastered it but that they have enough to build on as they progress. One of the joys of the "unschooling" method, or homeschooling, for that matter, is the fact that you can work with your child and build their strengths and in turn strengthen their weaknesses whereas a classroom setting of 30 or more children would not allow for this type learning. I truly believe that there are NO stupid/dumb/disabled children but I do believe that if given the right tools, times and encouragement EVERY child can excel to the best of their ability.

By time they reach high school level, most of the children have been employed in some capacity or another, whether it be lawn mowing, babysitting or McDonald's. Most have shown entrepreneurial skills and once more, Math, Social Studies, Language Arts etc have been used for their upper level education. Up to this moment we have had the first five of our children take the state GED exam in order to "graduate out". A couple have gone on to the local community college and advanced through their education via this channel of which one has gone on to pursue a degree in Art and another is a Registered Nurse. Another left our school and entered a non accredited Bible college and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Theology. The other two have gotten their MRS degrees and have a child (or are expecting one) and have run (or are running) their own businesses. The next four may be taken on a different path to graduation but only if it is the best for the child/young person.
This, in a nutshell, is our family's school of choice. We love the liberation that "unschooling" has given us and our family. If you need further information, you can research "unschooling" on the internet and find more in depth information.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to help other parents learn more about the unschooling method and how this homeschooling approach has benefited your whole family. I am not sure if one needs to search the internet for more indepth info on unschooling - your well-written post provides great insight and answers! Blessings, Heather :)

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