While the issues around the legalities of home education are escalating worldwide, another dilemma which seems to quietly plague homeschoolers is which approach to use.
The simplest way I’ve come to understand the difference between home- and unschooling, can be illustrated in these two extreme views:
Homeschoolers, doing “school at home”, have essentially just uprooted the classroom from the school ground and brought it home, together with all of its tools, teaching aids, and very defined structure. In this home, you will typically find a room with the alphabet, times tables, Periodic Table of Elements and the schedule for the week stuck up on the walls. There will also most likely be a scale globe model of the earth on a desk somewhere.
One of a myriad of available curricula will probably also be in evidence.
Everything except the class pet’s shiny apple on teacher’s table, and those horrible school desks.
Unschoolers have chosen to abandon the classroom altogether and the kids in this family will typically each have their own learning space, either in their bedroom or a similarly designated space somewhere in the house. Or there may be no particular workspace at all, and they will use the dining or kitchen table as and when they need it. Unschoolers will typically be sourcing learning material from several curricula at once, if at all.
Another difference between home- and unschoolers is typically a “grade” vs a “skills” approach.
Homeschoolers are more comfortable in sticking to some form of grading structure and this is also what would influence the curriculum they would choose to use.
Unschoolers are more focused on making sure children acquire and develop skills necessary for adulthood, independent of any particular grading system.
Homeschooling could be seen to be more parent-driven, while unschoolers typically allow the interests, passions and vocational aptitudes of the child to guide the learning. To quote John Holt, a school teacher and founder of the Unschooling movement: “We can see that there is no difference between living and learning, that living is learning, that it is impossible and misleading, and harmful to think of them as being separate. We say to children, ‘you come to school to learn.’ We say to each other [educators], ‘our job is to teach children to learn.’ But the children have been learning, all the time, for all of their lives before they met us. What is more, they are very likely to be much better at learning than most of us who plan to teach them something.”
So which approach is better? I am just grateful that we still do have the freedom to choose here in South Africa, and while there will be families on the extreme ends of this sliding scale, I am willing to wager that most home educating families fit somewhere in between and that there are those who generously utilise the fact that it is a flexible sliding scale!
This freedom is essential to defend, and I would recommend that all homeschoolers/unschoolers ensure that they understand the legal implications of the choices they make! ECHSA is now officially an NPO, and as such we can represent homeschoolers in the Eastern Cape at government level. If you are not a member of ECHSA yet, please get in contact with us – we will be glad to answer all of your questions.
Allow me to share a few links on Facebook for any who may not be aware of them:
Oh, and did I forget Wildschooling? Sorry!!…
Of course, there is the World Wide Web for any of your own, private research into these matters – don’t say I didn’t warn you about the ABUNDANT availability of resources and advice online! (Pinterest alone can keep you busy for months.) Heads up – with so much info available online don’t get into the trap of allowing research to “freeze” you into inaction. Making a decision on which way to go, and getting on with your child’s education, is what is important…
We also welcome further commentary (see the comment box below) and input on home- vs unschooling. It would be great to hear from homeschoolers which approach they decided on, and the reasons why. And of course the results you are achieving, or have achieved!