Saturday, 12 May 2012

Unschooling

I've been asked a few times recently how we plan to home educate our children, particularly whether we'll follow a curriculum-based structure or not.  Those who don't necessarily understand the concept of home ed, or who are scared or horrified by the idea, seem to find some comfort in the fact that I used to be a primary school teacher, and am fairly well-educated.  I don't dare ask whether this means Steve, who left school at 16 and is not a teacher, is somehow unqualified to help his children learn!


Our plan at the moment is to follow an unschooling approach.  This means that we won't 'teach' or 'educate' as such, rather we will let the children find their own path, and follow their own instincts.  This approach is based on the fact that children are naturally curious and will learn by exploring, experimenting and discovering the world.  It will be our job, as parents, to facilitate that ongoing adventure.

As we've all observed with our newborns, they learn from day one, boosting the connections in their brains from day to day, minute to minute.  This can, sadly, be restricted by circumstances and environment, but even then the majority of children will learn almost in spite of their parents, and/or their environment.

Unfortunately, this often means that an individual's skills and abilities will be restricted, and may not reach the heights they would have, given a more nurturing situation or set of circumstances.  This was illustrated well on a recent television programme, which discovered an amazing ability for languages in an apparently uneducated, homeless young man with seemingly limited prospects.  To see his transformation was truly amazing.

One of the main reasons (and there are many!), we won't be sending our children to school is that the ability to explore and investigate, to seek to learn naturally and discover the world, is very quickly knocked out of inidviduals.  This can happen as early as Year 1, and even before that in nursery, and even home, settings.

Play is often restricted to set times or areas, particularly for fear of 'mess', and is often seen as too time-consuming for parents, teachers and carers to get involved in - especially if the housework, or some other apparently pressing task is calling!  This is coupled too with a fear of letting children just get on with it.  They might eat mud/drop paint on the floor/do it 'wrong'/not 'play nicely'/use a toy the 'wrong' way etc etc.  All of this interferes with, and restricts, both experimentation and learning.

At school, as well as restricting play to certain times and settings, the ghastly Early Years Foundation guidelines require the creation of assessment opportunities.  While teachers are focussed mainly on assessment of their pupils', and thereby their own, performance and results, they cannot be openly creating learning opportunities.  Education in a school setting also requires a certain adherence to absurd structures and time divisions, a hallmark of conventional schooling which we then, as adults, refuse to question.

Our plan as unschooling facilitators, is that there will be no division between learning and play for our children.  There will be no set time for maths as a disparate topic, or decision that 45 minutes' history study is up, so now we must go on to science.

Rather, our children will follow their own interests and be encouraged to learn form them to their full potential.  So an interest in, and study of, dinosaurs might naturally encompass English (non-fiction reading and research skills); history (time periods); science (biology, evolution, digestion, theory); maths (how many 0000s?!), etc.  Whilst a visit to a museum might foster an interest in Ancient Egypt, or a country walk an interest in maps and mapping.  All of these interests will be encouraged and allowed to follow their natural course, embracing all of the learning opportunities they create along the way.

Our job as parents and educators will be to provide materials, such as books or online resources; take the children on as many visits as possible; create meetings with relevant people; and supply materials.  Our planned unschooling approach may well evolve in the years to come, according to all of our needs at the time, but we know already that natural learning is already taking place in our children every day, just as it is with every other toddler, baby and child out there.

You are indeed your child's first teacher, but they will naturally find opportunities to learn, if you let them, and these will often be through play, as long as their play is not restricted in any way.  It is a difficult task, as a parent, to encourage and facilitate play and learning without directing or interfering - I'm definitely still working on that one!  (Maybe that is due to a career in teaching.)  But we believe that a freer approach to learning and study will reap greater rewards for our children.

And that's how we plan to 'home educate'!

You can read more about the learning opportunities Lara is creating here.


And don't forget to enter our competitions!


7 comments :

  1. I certainly wish you luck in the endeavour.

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  2. Best Wishes. You have had experience of the education system. From all the news via media it seemed there was a fast pace of change and very frequent assessments in schooling. This sounds too much like competition and pressure to perform for me. I believe we learn best when relaxed, comfortable , curious etc. "Every child should reach potential" :- For this to happen I believe they all need opportunities. Fairness / Equality /Inclusion etc.
    Your views are interesting, especially given your experience, looking forward to your updates etc.

    Rachel Craig

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  3. I think it sounds great. I love the idea of home educating but as someone who does not have good social skills, dislikes groups and prefers my own (or my children's) company it wouldn't work for us.

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  4. We have been autonomously home educating our daughters for the past eight years. Best thing you can do for your children in my opinion. Enjoy!

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  5. I home educated my daughter for a while towards the end of primary school. At the end of the first week she said, "Why didn't you tell me home education was so interesting?" We both really enjoyed it - and the rate at which she searched for, and assimilated, new knowledge and skills far outstripped anything she had ever achieved at school.

    Hazel Rea - @beachrambler

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  6. we home educate our son, it was the best decision we've ever made taking him out of school, I wish you all well on the great adventure you're embarking on =D

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  7. We began to home ed or son last year. Sadly, he missed socialising with other children (mostly boys) because he has 3 sisters. He is now at a new school and doing well. I do feel that home educating is best for the child, but he really missed being around his pals.

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