By Leo Babauta
I've had a number of parents of young kids (toddlers and preschool-aged) ask what age they should start unschooling -- when is too early? And some parents of older kids (middle school, high school) are also wondering if it's too late to start unschooling.
I'll do my best to answer those two questions in this post.
First -- what age is too early? When can you start, if you have a young child? The simple answer is that you're already doing it. You're unschooling.
Say what? Let me explain: unschooling isn't a specific method of learning. It's basically just living your life, exploring and playing and doing whatever you normally do -- outside of the artificial learning environment we call the classroom. Everyone does it, from adults to toddlers to yes, even kids who go to school. We all unschool.
So if you have a toddler, you're already unschooling her. You're playing, and talking to her, and teaching her manners and teaching her about how the world works. You're using language and maybe numbers and possibly reading and doing arts and crafts. You're setting an example in everything you do. This is unschooling.
Can you do other things with your toddler before regular school age? Of course! You can start learning a language together (toddlers apparently learn better than adults, though honestly I never tried it), you can watch fun documentaries about dinosaurs and sea animals, you can explore nature and museums, you can read together and write stories and make art and build forts. Unschooling is fun!
What About Older Kids?
Can older kids, who have been in school for a long time, be unschooled? Is it too late?
Yes, they can absolutely be unschooled. And no, it's never too late.
If your kid has been going to school for years, you can always start unschooling whenever you like (within the legal limits of wherever you live, of course). It's not too late -- start next month if you like!
But you can start at any age, and I would recommend you start whenever you think you want to give it a try. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your kid. Start brainstorming ideas of things you'd like to do. Do a trial period to see if you like it. Read more about unschooling. Have fun with it!