By Leo Babauta
Unschooling is a version, a subset, of homeschooling -- schooling at home. I also think it's the best version of homeschooling (or learning in general), because it prepares you for life, for being an entrepreneur, for learning anything, for being autonomous.
What makes unschooling different from other homeschooling methods? Often when people homeschool, they just do school at home -- do a curriculum with math, science, reading, history, etc. at home, often with similar teaching methods and books.
But that doesn't take advantage of the freedom of homeschooling! We can do whatever we want, because there are no rules, no one to tell us we're doing it wrong, which means we can get creative as hell.
So unschooling throws all the rules of school out the door:
- No one tells you what to learn. Instead of some administrator setting a curriculum, based on what the committee thinks a young person will need to know in a decade from now (unknowable), the student picks for himself.
- No one tells you how to learn. Instead of everyone basically cramming information down their heads, and spitting it back out on tests, the student can figure things out for herself, be creative, play, do projects, anything.
- There is no authority but the unschooler. When the schooler follows the authority of the teacher his whole life, he never learns to think for himself, solve problems, decide what's important, deal with uncertainty. As an adult, the schooler will then feel much safer having an authority telling him what to do -- a boss in a regular job. An unschooler, who has been her own authority all her life, is better prepared for the real world.
- You don't have to learn at the same pace as everyone else. My son was bored in school because the stuff he was learning was too easy, but his classmates learned at a different speed. That's fine for them, but why should he be forced to learn slowly and be bored? Why should someone who doesn't learn as quickly feel stupid if he falls behind?
- You don't learn a data set. Regular school decides what a kid should know by the time she's 18 ... but who decides this? How is it possible to know what the world will be like in 10 or 15 years? Who is so good at predicting the future that we should follow his predictions? Learning a data set is useless, because much of that will be obsolete. Even learning a skillset is mostly useless. Instead, learn how to learn anything, and then no matter what the world is like or what the jobforce requires in a decade from now, you'll be able to adapt and learn it.
- You learn that learning is fun. For me, school mostly drove out the joy of learning, and taught me that learning is boring. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned how fun learning is, and this discovery has led to incredible things. Why make learning boring? It should be play! It should be joyful!
- You learn to deal with uncertainty. If you're told what to do your whole life, then you never have to doubt if you're doing the right thing. But as an entrepreneur, there's never that certainty. You never know for sure if you're doing the right thing. So I think many people avoid starting their own business, because of fear of uncertainty. If you've dealt with uncertainty your whole life (unschooling), then this is not so scary as an adult.
- You learn how to motivate yourself. Kids in school have to be forced to do work they don't like. This means many of them never learn how to motivate themselves. If no one is forcing you, then what? Unschoolers deal with this on a daily basis, and while they often fail (who doesn't), they also learn more about themselves than most kids do.
OK, sounds great! But you have some questions:
- What do unschoolers actually do, then?
- What about socialization?
- How do they learn math?
- Can they still go to college?
- What if the parents both have jobs?
These are awesome questions. We'll explore this stuff in upcoming posts (update: I just wrote about most of these topics and linked above). (Btw, more about us here.)
Are you as excited as I am?