Do you know what people ask me a lot lately?
"Malia, what is unschooling?"
Yah... uhm... yah.
Is it clear yet?
You could spend hours researching unschooling or interest lead learning and never really get a definition, because honestly (and frustratingly) one doesn't really exist. And it tends to get confusing because there is a spectrum: from radical unschooling to more moderate interest lead learning. Here is the best way I can describe it:
We learn before we are "taught" anything. We learn to nurse, eat, walk, talk, play, and so many other things before we ever enter into a traditional school setting. Unschooling expands upon that concept. It affirms that we learn best when we are passionate about the subject, are able to learn in a way that makes sense to us, and have support rather than instruction - and allows that to happen.
Confused yet? This basically all sounds like impossible nonsense? You're tracking well.
I really loved the idea of unschooling, but wasn't really convinced or committed and kept thinking to myself "Rory is only 5 (now 6), if it doesn't work out we can always go back to homeschooling."
I should mention, my mother is a first grade teacher. So I am well aware of early childhood development markers and grade level expectations. I previously was really attached to them. But then my son taught himself to read.
When Rory left Kindergarten, my then 5 year old started to buck against me "teaching him" to read. He didn't want to do letters or writing because he is a perfectionist and it was never perfect. I knew a little of this had been happening in the classroom, but assumed that because I would be able to give him my full attention, he would thrive. Nope. Still hated it. And I got tired of pushing it, even the mention of reading or writing would cause a level 10 meltdown.
So we did a full stop.
No reading. No writing. No math. No curriculum. No sitting at the counter for a determined amount of time. No requirements. Nothing.
He would play Legos, with balls outside, we would play board games or card games, he run and rode his bike, drew pictures, played with his sister... And one day he picked up one of his Batman books. He found one word he could read on a page. The next day he picked up a different book. He would ask me about letters and sounds. I would answer his questions and NEVER push. Soon he would sound out one word and then another.
And all of the sudden? He is full on reading. Is he at grade level you ask? WHO CARES. He is reading. For fun. Because he loves it. And he is reading about everything from Super Heroes to Robots to Snakes to The Human Body. One book inspires another and then another, and I have nothing to do with it. School has nothing to do with it. Passion presses him forward in reading, and now? In writing as well. All of the sudden, my son wants to be an author. So he writes notes and descriptions, he keeps a planner (I so wish I could take credit for this, but it is 100% him), and draws pictures that will accompany his eventual book (or movie script, he hasn't decided yet).
If you're worried we don't do Math or Science? Don't be.
If I could get Rory to stop doing math facts out loud for fun, I would. It's very impressive. And awful. And you've already seen the million and five National Geographic STEAM kits we own (like this one), plus all the natural curiousity that comes with being a kid, plus their dad being a contractor and carpenter, plus their mom being an artist? They're fine.
So what is unschooling?
It's allowing your kids to pursue their interests and helping to facilitate that. It's trusting that their interest in the world around them will inspire them to become amazing human beings and providing them with the opportunities to do that.
Quick note: We are super privileged to be able to keep our kiddos home due to the nature of our jobs and not everyone has that. Unschooling works for us, but it isn't the only way and there is a huge spectrum even within it (from more moderates like us to radical unschoolers, more on that another time).