Free Learning: Our Child's Education

Sean and I have both had the desire to homechool our son, but until recently we weren't sure what that would look like. I knew we had years to figure out logistics, but after Jehryn's first birthday, I began to feel a gnawing in my stomach whenever I thought about cirriculum and lesson plans. This summer, I started researching the unschooling movement. I read The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith (full of testamonials and wonderful resources), How Children Fail by John Holt, and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.  I listened to lectures by John Taylor Gatto and read much of Sandra Dodd's website. Sean and I discussed the concept of child-led learning and it felt like a perfect fit for our family. Nothing is set in stone, and that is the beauty of unschooling. As Jehryn grows older, we will continue support his interests and give him the freedom to explore. He won't have prescribed lesson plans or very structured days. He won't have homework or tests. He won't be expected to read or write by a certain age. He won't be limited to socializing only in his age group. He will visit museums and art galleries. He will continue to borrow books from the library. He will be exposed to live music and theater. He will have opportunities to participate in science experiments and play math games. He will learn to do practical things like count change, mail a letter, read a map. Sean and I are committed to being guides and facilitators in the education of our child. We want him to pursue his passions and learn whatever he desires.

Yesterday morning, Jehryn ran for the wireless computer keyboard as soon as we entered the living room. I opened a Word Document, enlarged the font on the screen and let him play. He spelled out gibberish and held the "h" key down for a really long time. At some point, he gestured and grunted toward me. I obliged him and spelled his name in capital letters. Then, I held the number keys down one by one and said the numbers. His eyes lit up and he pointed at the screen, then at the keyboard. "One." I said. Then, I spoke each number as I typed it. Jehryn squealed and reached to touch the screen. I enlarged the font even more and typed each number from 0-9. Jehryn pointed eagerly at each number, asking "that?" He went from 4 to 3, then 8 and 9. He repeated some of the numbers, especially 8 and 3. (It seems 8 is his favorite number right now.) Then, he went back to playing on the keyboard and talking to himself. Once in awhile, he muttered "Eight." Later that morning, we watched The Price is Right and he stood up, pointing at and repeating the numbers. This introductionary experience was magical. We have never attempted to "teach" him numbers, so it was incredible to witness his sudden interest. I am beyond excited about the endless possibilities of the future, but the truth is we are already "unschooling." 

 Abstract toddler water art

 King Jehryn theater

 Bubbles with cousins

Exploring a creek

Experimenting with gravity

 Touring a helicopter, one of his current interests 

 Discovering cicada shells

 Recalling story

 Learning our culture's language symbols

Always, experiments abound

More resources from the unschooling community:
The Free Child Project
Where the Wild Things Learn
Laurie A. Couture's website
John Taylor Gatto's YouTube channel

Would you consider unschooling your child? Why or why not?

6 Responses so far.

  1. I accidentally deleted a comment while trying to publish it. I apologize to the author and hope they will consider taking the time to rewrite it. I wasn't able to view all of it, but the author did address the importance of socializing with one's own age group and the danger of a child seeing the world only through her parents' eyes.

    I grew up in a homeschool and small private school environment and had a very hard time adjusting to society in my late teens. I remember feeling lost, anxious, and embarrassed. I didn't know anything about pop culture or how to interact with people outside of my religion. That panicky feeling is the last thing I want for my son. Just because I am not placing him in the compulsory education system does not mean I will be locking him in the house. He has friends and cousins his age who are also educated at home. He will have opportunities to play sports, learn instruments, sing, swim, dance and do plenty of other activities with kids his age. Beyond his age group, we will encourage him to interact with all ages. Isn't that how the real world is? I have friends my age but also much younger and much older. As far as our son only seeing our point of view, I will just say that I hope not! His father and I are very open minded and respectful of others' perspectives, including our son's.

  2. Brian Lotter says:

    Yep, you got my original comment's ideas from it before it was deleted. That's what I was asking.

    I'm glad that you already have first-person experience with the homeschooling "anxiousness". I think practicing social-dynamics is hard, even when you are allowed to do it for years in a school setting. So when I meet people that have been homeschooled and are socially awkward (most are), I understand why. Social nuance is a very difficult thing, and it changes constantly. As much as I dislike popular culture most of the time, cutting it out completely would leave your child a loner in a more and more information-connected culture. I think that is my biggest fear of homeschooling my own children...being able to find the proper balance.

    Although I commend you for your idea, and I in no way think that public school is perfect, I personally feel like _I_ could never make up for the lack of social atmosphere and the PRACTICING of living around and accepting differing opinions that being in a school provides. My goals for my own children (once I have them) will be to offer the balance at home once they come home from school.

  3. I wish I had you as my teacher all my life! I love this and it comes as no surprise that this is how you want your son to learn. Seems like the perfect fit!

  4. Haha! Thank you. I am very excited. It will be hard work, but hopefully incredibly rewarding for him.

  5. This sounds so nice. I'm interested in the books that you've mentioned. I seem to go through phases with researching alternative education for Fae, and I've skimmed over the unschooling movement but haven't dove in. So much has changed since we were young--mainly with having the internet. I don't think that our children's generation of homeschoolers will have the same struggles as our generation and that above us. Social experiences are absolutely everywhere these days. And our little ones are growing up in a possibly over-social and over-stimulating world, with not much privacy. I don't think it'll be hard at all to give Jehryn a well-rounded experience and education. Your such a great mom. <3

  6. I've also read about John Taylor Gatto's stuff, and a bit of it is fringey but for the most part, he makes a good a good emotional argument.

    I think that, each have their own pros and cons when it comes to schhooling.

    For example, you have to deal with a great chaotic mess children make, and sometimes they arn't kind little angels about it either. However, they do get better about it as they get older.

    Yet on the other hand, going to traditional school is like a jail sentence for 20 years!

    Good luck!

    <3 Tina

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