A friend recently asked:
"As parents who don't feel they can take the plunge into fully unschooling, what can we do that will give us some of the benefits of unschooling while still having our kids in a traditional school system?"
Great question. And this is one of the brilliant things about unschooling -- there's no one way to do it. It's a mindset and an approach, not a method. It's about breaking free from the reliance on a teacher for information, allowing the student to direct his own learning, to be self-reliant, to figure things out, to break down the line between Learning and Life. They're the same thing -- learning doesn't only happen in a classroom or while you're doing homework.
So how can you unschool while going to a traditional school? However the hell you want! :)
Seriously, you don't need me to tell you how to do it, though if you're looking for suggestions, here are a few:
- Start your kid young on the unschooling philosophy. Before school starts. Most parents do this anyway, but slowly withdraw from the process once the kid starts going to school. But anyway ... you can get the kid interested in learning by exploring with her, helping her pursue her curiosity and interests, building stuff together, reading together. Talk to her about what learning is, how she can do it on her own, how she doesn't need someone to spoon feed it to her. Then she'll have the right mindset as she goes to school.
- Raise a rebel. Schools try to teach kids to follow orders, to be obedient and listen. That's great if you want them to grow up following orders. Instead, I'd suggest teaching your child to think for himself, to take initiative, to understand what's needed and to figure out his own path. But also to work with others -- this is a key skill that takes practice. So think for yourself, but collaborate. Allow him to challenge the teacher's ideas, in a respectful way, and to propose alternatives, to question things, to take initiative.
- Do stuff after school. Learning doesn't start and end at school. That's just a part of it. There's a ton of fun stuff you can do with your kid in the few hours you have together, and of course on weekends. Not schoolwork, but fun projects, exploration, building.
- Encourage her to start a business. This is an awesome way to learn, to build skills, to do things that she's passionate about. She can do a lemonade stand at 7 years old, a car-washing service at 10, start programming a video game at 12 or 14.
That's a good start, but I encourage you to explore and figure this stuff out with your child. And read about unschooling to get a better idea of the philosophy and ideas for what you might try.
All that said, I encourage you to think outside what you think is possible -- read about your unschooling options.