Unschooling is as much about parents as it is children. For most of us this is a completely new way of life and learning. In truth, for the parent it is often more about unlearning. Here is what I personally need to unlearn.
I need to unlearn the idea that children need to be taught. They don’t. They need to be supported in their learning. Learning can not be stopped, it comes as naturally as breathing, but it does need a champion who will honour, encourage and facilitate it.
I need to unlearn the idea that successful learning is measured in pre-determined outcomes. A test won’t tell me what you have learnt, only highlight what you have forgotten in this moment. It can’t tell me what those hours of play helped you discover, or show me your passions, or tell me everything you uncovered about flying.
I need to unlearn the concept that learning is linear. Set facts do NOT need to be taught in a certain order at a certain age. Who decided that Ancient Egypt should be studied in grade three and that all prep students should learn about ocean life in the midnight zone? Why can’t you discover algebra and fractions before you memorised your time tables? If it is useful or meaningful to you, you won’t miss out. Everyone has gaps in their education, we can all fill them when we want to or need to.
I need to unlearn the idea that there is only one right way to learn. Learning doesn’t come just from textbooks and worksheets. Screens aren’t all bad. Joining a sports team isn’t more important and valuable than hours spent outdoors with your cousins and friends.
I need to unlearn the notion that only an expert can understand my child’s needs as a person and as a learner. And I say learner and not student quite deliberately. No teacher has the time to understand his quirks, to give him the freedom to satisfy his sensory needs, to allow him to discover the world in his own way and on his own timetable. A loving parent is naturally more invested in a child than even the best teacher.
I need to unlearn the bizarre concept that socialisation can only properly occur when a child spends 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year in a room with other children of the same age. I know that there is more benefit to spending time in mixed age groups, of having your extended family be the epicentre of your world, of learning about the community by actively participating in the everyday life of your community… Rather than try to become socialised in a strictly regimented fashion, with bums on seats, mouths closed and eyes to the front.
Our ideas around education are the result of our own upbringing and are often rooted in a fear of failing our children. It isn’t always easy to step outside the norm, to let go of what we have been conditioned to believe, to try something new. Yes, for me as a parent unschooling is most definitely a journey of unlearning.