Families who are comfortable throwing away the textbooks and not inflicting any sort of lesson plan or agenda upon their child’s education might want to try unschooling. Unschooled children are free to learn (or not) according to their own whims and aren’t directed to working from workbooks or textbooks. Learning for an unschooler is the result of pursuing an interest and self-studying it until the interest is satisfied.

The term unschooling originated in the 1960s in the teachings of a Boston public educator named John Holt. He did not agree with the way children were being forced to learn through teacher dictation. Holt believed that children learn best through free or child-led education, where the child is free to learn at his own pace, in his own unique way, guided by his interests. Holt often lectured on his view of free education, hoping to change the public education methods. After becoming disillusioned with the public schools’ resistance to change, Holt began to encourage disheartened parents to try unschooling or schooling in the home. His basic message was to “unschool” their children, a parent only needs to allow the child to direct his own learning through his interests and provide the child with educational experiences and materials. If the child asks questions, simply answer him; if you don’t know the answer, show the child the direction needed to discover the answer.

The philosophy behind the unschooling approach is that the child learns and retains much more when allowed to follow interests, share in real life experiences and exploration. The adults within this approach recognize how imperative it is for children to have access to the things that interest them. Because of this, the unschooled parent is always seeking materials, classes, and other teachers that can take the child to deeper depths and broader horizons. The parent understands that learning can occur anytime and anywhere, so she is constantly facilitating, and mentoring this collaborative process. In this independent, natural and experiential philosophy, it is important for the child to feel comfortable so that he can perceive the interconnectedness of everything.

The unschooled method is a hands-on approach. The adult takes learning cues from the child and introduces all education subjects through the child’s interests. There is no set curriculum, materials or schedules. The days flow to the child’s changing needs and experiences. Topics or interests come from rich experiences or experimentation in a conducive environment or are sparked from books, television, radio, computers and conversations. Learning experiences can last for a short period of time or a long period of time. Learning experiences are based on the child’s timetable, interest and readiness.

The unschooling method is the most unstructured of all of the homeschooling methods and philosophies. This less formal approach to education has been often said to be a good transition for children coming from institutional experiences. Many parents have reported that they used the unschooling method until finding an approach that worked best for them. Others have started the unschooling method and never left it.

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