Are We Unschoolers or Do I Just Have PMS?

unschooling Do you ever just get antsy?  I don’t know if it is hormones, a genuine mid-life crisis, or seasonal affective disorder, but I’ve got this sudden hankering to really change things up.  (You can relax, sweetheart.  I don’t mean you.  I’ve just now got you trained to take out the trash before I ask…why would I want to go messing with that formula?!)

But the one thing that has been nagging in my brain for almost a year is this whole unschooling business.  Thanks to great bloggers like Jena at Yarns of the Heart, and Teresa over at Tech Trek, I’m feeling more and more intrigued about the idea.  I mean, there has always been a LOT of child-led learning around here, but OCD-afflicted as I am, I could still never fully let go of the structured days (and my youngest has always really craved structure as well). 

So I’ve been asking myself the question…what if we did it as an experiment?  What if we took the first semester of next school year and gave it a whirl? (did you catch my use of “semester” there?  I’m really primed for this unschooling thing, eh?)   Calling it an “experiment” takes the pressure off, and allows me to chalk it up as experience if we don’t take to it as well as I think we will.

I sat the boys down on Monday and gave them an intro to what unschooling might look like.  They had never even heard the term – – that’s how traditional our local homeschool circles are.  So the first thing Uber did for the next six hours was research unschooling and what it would mean for him, and what it would mean for his transcripts, and what it would mean to have to tell your friends you are an “unschooler.”  (Geez, he gets enough flack among his buddies for being a vegetarian!) 

But watching him go through that particular identity crisis was really interesting for me.  First of all, it made me see that in some ways he is already an unschooler.  When he wants to know something, he figures a way to find it out.  And it also made me see that a lot of our thoughts about learning are tied into what other people think of how we learn.  (I know that you unschoolers have known this for ages, so forgive me for the late catch-up)

Anyway, now that my kids have wrapped their heads around it, they are already getting psyched about next school year.  Uber was asking if we could start school in August instead of September.  Yes, I know that true unschoolers don’t think about a “starting date” for when to begin learning, but it is fun from a mom’s perspective to see them get excited in general about learning – – unschooling or otherwise. 

This could be a life-changing experience for us. 

Or it could just be PMS.  Time will tell…


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12 Responses

  1. Hi, I’ve just started reading your blog recently. I’ve read this post, and also a previous post about how you consider unschooling to be like Santa Claus (ah such a transformation…) and thought I’d throw my two cents worth in.

    My own philosophy for homeschooling (and admittedly I haven’t been a teacher yet, I was homeschooled myself, through multiple systems from highly structured distance education right through to full unschooling and back again. I also played a large part in my younger siblings education, and will be a second generation homeschooler when I have children) is a bit inbetween, it covers enough to make me happy even if nothing else is learnt, but isn’t fully structured. I think it sounds similar to what you’ve already been doing to be honest.

    Maths and English are covered in some form constantly. Maths is generally covered by a curriculum just so I know everything is there and we haven’t missed a section. English can be as simple as reading a book, and having a writing assignment.

    Past that, what the kids want goes, however (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there :P) for me they have to be learning SOMETHING, and personally, I thnk I’m a little too obsessive to let them go without some form of report or assignment. The theory is nice, but I don’t think I trust myself on the practice. I’ve seen unschooling families, primarily ones where they have had some sort of highly structured education like day-school or distance education first so they’ve been put off learning, where the child isn’t interested in learning anything at the time so they don’t. It gets messy at that stage when the child isn’t interested. Do you continue unschooling and hope they pick something up or do you go against unschooling and make them learn again? By the sounds of it that wont be a problem with your young ones! They’re already wanting to know all about it lol.

    Child led learning is just a more structured version of unschooling. Lets say your child comes to you saying they are interested in the way engines work. A child led learning structure will put it in for the next unit, sort out books and some assignments and sit down regularly and learn it. An unschooled learner will go to the library, get those books now and read them in his/her own time, no assignments. At least, this is my intepritation. The key thing in unschooling is allowing the child to learn what they want to learn and not things they have no intrest in. If you already have that, you’re well on your way, you just need to take the structure away from it, if you want to try this path.

    Don’t stress, they aren’t going to be at a huge loss if the experiment fails. It’s only one semester and chances are they’re doing well against their peers already. Have some fun with it, see what works. And if you find that you yourself are too OCD to allow for unschooling, don’t be disapointed, it dosen’t work for everyone, just like structure dosen’t work for everyone. The most important thing is to make sure everyones happy, that no one is stressing out about things. There should be no need to stress over learning.

    Good luck! I’ll keep reading so keep us posted!

  2. I love it! Start unschooling in August…priceless. How do you start not doing school? I’m really enjoying this post. When you mentioned Uber doing his research, I thought of my Peter. Looks like your guy is perfect for unschooling. The sky’s the limit. If he’s interested in learning something, he’ll have all the time in the world to pursue it.

    And you know, you can have as much structure as you like. It’s that continuum thing–very structured to not structured at all. Just find your place on that line.

    I hope you do this little experiment. Just think of all the great blogging material you’ll have. 🙂

    And thanks for the linkie love.

  3. I’m still very confused about this…
    what DOES it mean for transcripts?

    I’m utterly fascinated.

  4. I’m jumping in here again. Akaisha, I recently wrote a post about writing a transcript for my son who is now at the University of Chicago. You can see it here:

    He was unschooled for all but 9th grade. Hope that helps a little.

  5. You are *planning* on *starting* unschooling for a *semester* Hehe – I love it! Now I’ll be looking forward to your posts about you “experiment” ;D

  6. I love this post. I think I am unschooler in my heart of hearts who is just too dang chicken. I have planned times of unschooling as well, lol, and then hopped back into a relaxed but structured schooling when I start to panic, and then throw in some unit studies, back to a little unschooling, panic and add in structured schooling- you get the picture. I do love curriculum, not textbooks, but tend to tweak everything to fit what I want and use multiple curriculums in the same year (it gets boring to stay with the same thing most of the time!). I’m really interested to see how your “experiment” goes!

  7. As the mom of an 8 year-old who was “allergic to school,” I can tell you that as much as I wanted to give him the school experience at home, he balked, totally and completely, every time. So, we ended up accidental unschoolers and much to my surprise, even I love it!
    I hope you enjoy your unschooling experience, I am cracking up at the thought that you must ‘plan’ to do it 🙂

  8. I love your aseesment. can’t wait to see the experiment :-).

    • Just so you know…we plan on starting unschooling next August 25th at exactly 8:15 a.m. Thank goodness the boys have such a laid back mom, or it would probably be 7:30!!!

  9. PMS makes me do crazy things, too. Like, start thinking about finding a curriculum to use! 😉

    So, um, are you planning to school through July?

    • Thanks everyone for your kind words of encouragement, celebration, and even commiseration!! I’m lucky to have such a great group of gals who have my back when these things happen. And a big WELCOME to those of you who are new commenters. I promise it isn’t always this sappy around T-T land!

  10. Hmm. Sorry I missed this post when it first came out. I’ve been out doing a cyberspace “walkabout” for months now but that’s what unschooling folks tend to do, right?.

    Whether we’re doing a structured day or trying the unschooling approach, I’m convinced that the most important thing is that our kids come to love learning and learn how to find information on their own. You’ve already accomplished that!

    Cheers to you. Keep up the great work!

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