Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that involves less structure and more child-centered learning. Parents who are unhappy with the way that learning is presented at schools have been turning to the unschooling movement as their solution for what their child’s education should be like.
Unschooling has some similarities with homeschooling. In both cases, a child stays home and receives his or her education there (instead of in a classroom at a school). Each educational style allows parents to be very involved in what their child is taught. Parents can set the speed that information is presented in order to match their child’s needs.
The biggest difference between unschooling and homeschooling is what it looks like to the casual observer. Homeschooling looks like a classroom style environment in which a parent creates a curriculum, and the child reads books, writes answers to questions, and fills out math worksheets. In addition, homeschooling can include enrichment field trips to museums and gatherings where the children can make friends and develop social skills with their peers.
Unschooling might not look like an educational style at all to the casual observer. Unschooling is centered around what the child wants to learn. There is no set curriculum. The goal is to allow a child to develop a love of learning that is intrinsic. Unschooling can involve reading books and visits to museums, but the timing of it is tailored to the child’s interests.
Another difference between unschooling and homeschooling is with the motivations of the parent. Many homeschoolers choose to homeschool because they want their child’s education to be presented in ways that fit with their family’s religious beliefs. Unschoolers want their child’s education to be presented in ways that prevent boredom and encourage curiosity. Both groups are unhappy with the environment in typical schools – but for different reasons.
Unschooling has less structure than homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean there is no structure at all. An article written by Ben Hewitt provides an vivid example of what unschooling can be like. His family lives on a farm, and there is structure that directly relates to farming.
His two sons help with farm chores, and then are able to explore the world around them guided by their own interests. They spend a lot of time outdoors together learning about the resources in their area that are edible. They might collect berries or go fishing.
Kathy Wentz followed a more classical approach to unschooling. For example, she would select the general topic of “math”. Then, she would present her child with fifteen different math resources and let the child choose which one they want to use.
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