Unschooling is the process of educating children in line with a genuine pursuit of knowledge based on curiosity and life experience, as opposed to the traditional school curriculum.
When parents decide to unschool their children, they typically do away with textbooks and formulaic assignments, instead preferring to allow their children to learn more independently, based on their interests.
Don’t confuse unschooling with homeschooling. Certainly, you can homeschool your child using an unschooling approach, but many parents homeschool their children based on the usual curriculum.
If you are interested in giving your child more freedom in their education, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn how to unschool your kids effectively.
1. Create A Stimulating Environment
The environment in which we learn has a huge impact on how eager we are to learn, and how likely we are to retain information.
Therefore, the first step in unschooling your children effectively should be to create a stimulating environment that fosters creativity, open-mindedness, and curiosity.
How you do this will depend on what your child responds to best, and what their interests are. If they love music, for example, fill your learning space with things relevant to the music that they enjoy.
Be prepared to adapt and change this space as your child grows and develops new interests.
2. Lead With Positivity
Unfortunately, many parents who follow the traditional curriculum are so eager for their child to learn that they will resort to negative reinforcement and criticism.
However, when unschooling a child, it is important to lead with love and positivity.
If you want to encourage your child to learn, they need to enjoy learning. That’s not going to happen if you criticize everything they do, or threaten punishments when they don’t want to study.
Instead, communicate with your child about the importance of knowledge, lead by example, and make sure they know that no matter what they choose to learn about or what their preferred learning style is, you will love and support them.
3. Consider The Values You Want To Impart
Learning isn’t just about math or science. If it were, there would be no problem with the traditional curriculum. Learning is also about core values, empathy, and seeing the world through different perspectives.
Before you start your unschooling journey with your child, be sure to think about what you want to teach them from an emotional and developmental standpoint.
For instance, if you want your child to be a kind person, make sure to expose them to texts and media that showcase different perspectives and life experiences, as this will teach them empathy.
4. Let Go Of Expectations
It’s totally natural to have a vision of who you would like your child to be, and what you would love for your child to be interested in.
However, letting go of these expectations will mean that feelings of frustration and resentment are less likely to arise.
If you carry an expectation that your child should be a healthcare professional when they grow up, but it then turns out they have no interest in biology or chemistry, feelings of disappointment can interfere with your ability to allow your child freedom in their educational journey.
5. Be In Tune With Your Child’s Emotions
Knowing when your child is feeling bored, tired, and frustrated means you’ll know when to call it a day with a specific subject or activity.
Similarly, being in tune with when your child feels stimulated, happy, or excited will provide you with some guidance of what they like learning about.
Don’t be so caught up in your own emotions that you forget to pay attention to how your child is feeling.
6. Avoid Forcing Things
As discussed above, being in tune with your child’s emotional reality will make it easier for you to avoid forcing things.
Remember, children will not learn effectively when they feel forced to do something that they don’t enjoy. They might retain information for a short while, but it will quickly be lost again.
When you sense that your child is not understanding something or isn’t interested in it, don’t force it. Maybe you can come back to it later, or maybe this simply isn’t the activity or subject for them.
7. Provide Plenty Of Variety
Your child may have specific areas of interest that they want to learn about most of the time, and that’s okay! However, in the interest of a well-rounded education, it’s a good idea to expose your child to as much variety as possible.
Let’s be clear, this does not mean forcing certain subjects on them, or limiting how much time they can spend learning what interests them.
It just means making plenty of resources and media available to them so that they can, either passively or actively, pick up a broad spectrum of information.
This will also stop them from getting bored with learning, because they’ll always have something new to delve into.
8. Focus On Experiencing The World
One major objection parents who unschool have with the traditional curriculum is that the vast majority of learning takes place in the classroom.
When unschooling, you should aim to provide your child with plenty of world experience.
Take them to new places and allow them to experience new things as much as you can, whether that means going to the zoo or trying a different kind of cuisine.
9. Allow For Independence
Of course, letting your child have some independence in their learning doesn’t mean just sending them into the world and letting them fend for themselves.
It just means accepting that you can’t necessarily protect them from everything, and that your child will need to learn some things for themselves.
Intervene when necessary for their safety, but don’t stifle their curiosity, and don’t let your own fears become theirs.
By following the 9 tips above, you should be able to lay a good foundation for successful and enriching unschooling.
Good luck on this incredible journey, and remember that every moment is an opportunity for learning.