Homeschooling – Unschooling, Freedom or Anarchy?

While some parents may still balk at the thought of homeschooling their children, it is more widely accepted than the relatively new educational approach: unschooling. Unschooling is a rather unstructured approach to education. As the name would suggest, it means approaching learning, sans a curriculum, but instead allowing the child to explore whatever interests them. The child proceeds at his or her own pace and can choose to learn any topic in any order that they choose.

The basic concept that underlies this movement comes from two views regarding child development. One is that children are naturally curious. They begin exploring their environment almost from birth. They want to touch, taste, smell, hear and see everything around them. They want to discover for themselves what they can do. As they become verbal they ask question after question.

The second concept is that a child will naturally take an interest in certain things in the world around them but may be less interested in other things. They make these value choices early in life.

By using these two fundamental concepts as a jumping off point, those who advocate unschooling assert that the best approach to learning is to allow the child to lead. The child chooses what to study, when and how. These children have no pre set curriculum, but simply explore the things that interest them.

Unschoolers differ in their approach to parental involvement and guidance. Some believe that the child should take the helm and the parent should adopt a hands off approach entirely while others are more involved, sharing topics that excited them, answer questions and even assist in finding solutions to problems. This experiential approach is controversial and the results are mixed.

This approach is very successful with children who are very independent and highly motivated. These children will actively seek out areas that are interesting to them and useful, making use of the knowledge later. Many unschooled children have gone on to pursue Ivy League academic careers and excelled. These children have a lifelong love of learning.

Other children take a more scattershot approach, gaining in depth knowledge in just one or two areas and getting very little or no knowledge is other areas. Many homeschoolers disagree on just what subjects are important and should be learned and which are not as important. It is a common area of contention among homeschooling families.

For instance, many people do not learning science and mathematics. Either they have a difficult time learning it or they are not interested. For a small population, this is not a problem, but for the majority of people, they need an understanding of math and science that extends beyond the rudimentary, particularly with our society experiencing such rapid technological advances.

On the other hand, some people may focus heavily on subjects such as science and mathematics but have no exposure to art, literature, fine music, history and other areas of the humanities. For some people that is perfectly fine, but for many homeschoolers it indicates a deprivation in an area where the child could be enriched and enlightened.

There is no doubt that there must be a balance between these two camps. Many argue that it is essential. However unschooling does not work to achieve that when it relies solely on the child to discover and choose the route he or she wants to take.

Unschooling has been advocated as far back as the mid 1960s by John Holt, one of the foremost writers on homeschooling. However, as of this date, studies that have followed unschoolers and have analyzed the long term effects of this approach are still inconclusive and on going. At this time only personal views and experience are the only guide to determine the worth of this educational method.