Big confession: I’m not an unschooler. Whew! There, I said it. To be honest, I am still not one hundred percent sure how it works, and I say that without condescension. Just have not paid enough attention, I guess, because I know it’s not for us. Why? Well, before I get serious, you have to allow me a joke or two, and believe me when I tell you that if I had to “follow the child”, I would be watching something called “Jaiden Animations” on my tablet, at the side of a tennis court, Monday to Friday. I know that unschoolers will have one of two responses: either, a) this is good, what’s your problem?, or b) eventually children settle into a stage where they are ready for, and want to tackle formal study. However, if you have been home educating for a while and both of those answers still make you really uncomfortable, then, like me, you are probably not an unschooler. You genuinely do understand what a friend is getting at when she says, “My son is teaching ME,” but you also wonder, at the back of your mind, how the child would naturally desire to know the method for converting fractions to decimals and percentage!
It’s easy for those of us who want more structure to feel like we’re doing something wrong. The reason, ofcourse, is because as a non-unschooler (oh dear!?) you probably do not confine yourself to “delight-directed” learning. Know what I mean? Now, there may well be kids out there who find delight in writing a descriptive paragraph in Afrikaans (as a second language), or who enjoy word sums. But those kids have never lived in my home. Oh, and I’ve been creative. Don’t look at me like that! Fractions? Licorice, girls, cut up a hundred different ways! Creative writing?: “Honey, anything. Just twenty lines – Star Wars? Yes! Star Wars is good!!” My point is, there are areas of learning that my children truly dislike and would never choose to pursue on their own. Many of these areas, however, are fundamental, in my opinion, to a good basic education, and not only that, but are best gotten under their belts as soon as the children are developmentally ready for them, so that when heavier workloads/more difficult concepts arrive down the road, we are not overwhelmed.
Perhaps, then, there are different types of unschoolers. Some who keep up with fundamentals like math and reading, but allow their children to “choose” everything else. Well, firstly, that is semi-structured. (And imposed.) So, careful how you sell it, unschoolers! Secondly, even then I would not be happy. For example: I know for sure, now, that one of my children would not have “chosen” history! And for reasons, which perhaps I shall elucidate in another article, I am not sure any child’s education is complete without a good history component. So, yes, like it or not, in my home the history shall be read, and discussed, and watched, and marveled at, so that when that particular child is 35 and pondering the meaning of life, the hearts and deeds of the great men will speak to him and comfort him, and his conversations and relationships will be that much more interesting and full, for his historical knowledge and understanding.
And YOU, fellow non-unschooler, may feel the same about science. And music. And many other subjects and activities. My aim is not to belittle unschooling as a philosophy, but to encourage those who may lean another way. There may be a little more tug-o-war in our homes. Maybe even tears. That. Is. Okay. Who said the homeschooling home would be without conflict? We discipline those we love, and that happens in many ways. Sometimes it’s academically. We should not be ashamed of it.