Unschooling is the opposite of everything you know about what school should look like. It’s unstructured. It’s giving children “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests”.
I read this article this morning and it really resonated with me. Ben Hewitt writes about his experiences unschooling his two sons. This part, about trust and responsibility, echoes what I want for my own daughters and what I’ve seen from them.
Our sons are not entirely self-taught; we understand the limits of the young mind and its still-developing capacity for judgment. None of these responsibilities were granted at an arbitrary, age-based marker, but rather as the natural outgrowth of their evolving skills and maturity. We have noticed, however, that the more responsibility we give our sons, the more they assume. The more we trust them, the more trustworthy they become. This may sound patronizingly obvious, yet I cannot help but notice the starring role that institutionalized education—with its inherent risk aversion—plays in expunging these qualities.
Then he talks about whether or not unschooling, the complete lack of traditional structure, will cripple his children for future “normal” careers.
Which brings us to the inevitable issue of what will become of my boys. Of course, I cannot answer in full, because their childhoods are still unfolding.
But not infrequently I field questions from parents who seem skeptical that my sons will be exposed to particular fields of study or potential career paths. The assumption seems to be that by educating our children at home and letting them pursue their own interests, we are limiting their choices and perhaps even depriving them. The only honest answer is, Of course we are. But then, that’s true of every choice a parent makes: no matter what we choose for our children, we are by default not choosing something else.
That, that right there, struck a chord. As an amateur economist-in-training, I’ve been learning over and over that every choice I make means that I’ve also chosen not to follow a different course, or a hundred different courses. There is no way to prepare our children for everything. They will, inevitably, be unprepared for many things in life. All we can do is make the best choices we can and prepare them for a life of learning and exploration, rather than settling for a few short years of imprisonment and drudgery.
This is what I want for my sons: freedom. Not just physical freedom, but intellectual and emotional freedom from the formulaic learning that prevails in our schools. I want for them the freedom to immerse themselves in the fields and forest that surround our home, to wander aimlessly or with purpose. I want for them the freedom to develop at whatever pace is etched into their DNA, not the pace dictated by an institution looking to meet the benchmarks that will in part determine its funding. I want them to be free to love learning for its own sake, the way that all children love learning for its own sake when it is not forced on them or attached to reward. I want them to remain free of social pressures to look, act, or think any way but that which feels most natural to them.
I want for them the freedom to be children. And no one can teach them how to do that.
I still haven’t made the choice to unschool our children. But Mr. Hewitt has pushed me further in that direction than I’ve ever been before.