≡ Menu

Our Unschooling Journey: Seeing Value in What Children Want to Learn

unschooling natural learning india homeschooling

I know I have taken some time to write about this most significant aspect of our life – homeschooling Pari. Well, to be honest – it’s not just an ‘aspect’ of our lives but life itself.

For homeschooling (actually ‘unschooling’ and I’ll explain that in a bit) for us is not limited to Pari’s learning, but involves living life in a way that involves making choices every day, every minute. From learning to chores to food, bed time, interactions, conversations – unschooling begins with examining our parental and other attitudes even in the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life. It begins with reflecting on our behavior that seeks to control, discipline and train.

Unschooling is letting go of our tendency to control our children (even spouses and other relations). It begins by trusting our children’s natural ability to learn and giving them the freedom to pursue their own ideas and passions. It lays utmost importance on building a loving, trusting bond with our children.

Read more about our unschooling story and experiences….

That loving, trusting bond is created when we as parents are not always looking for ways (even loving ways) to have our kids do as we want them to do. Even when our ways may be loving, if the underlying intention is to manipulate them into giving in to what WE think is right for them, without considering what THEY really want, our children can see through those intentions.

They are sensitive enough to know subtly that we’re deciding their life’s menu for them and not really empowering them to try out their own choices.

Unschooling seeks of us parents to open up our minds and hearts to see value in what our children want for themselves – their interests, their values, their passions, their dreams. Seeing those and then supporting them in achieving their own agendas. Not ours. 

unschooling - freedom to learn and grow

Yes, we must ask them if they want to do something. Like – “do you want to bake a cake with me”, “do you want me to read to you”, or “would you want to see some you tube videos about sketching/origami/water-colour technique (insert anything else the child is showing signs of interest in). By doing this, we are showing genuine enthusiasm for what interests them. Even what MIGHT interest them.

For example, when Pari is playing in her mud pie kitchen, I’m always excited to look for something that can make her mud bakery more fun. I go around rummaging through my kitchen cabinets to find something interesting that will multiply her joy.

A lot of learning happens this way – by way of parent being clued in to the child’s interests to be able to create interesting and creative ways for him to get more of that.

Here’s a really insightful article by Pam Sorooshian (I find her thoughts very inspiring) emphasizing how Parents play a BIG role in unschooling by helping, supporting and offering the child. Even recommending them what they ‘might be’ interested in, rather than waiting for them to say “I want to learn this”.

oportunities to learn naturally

I’ve figured, there’s much stress and anxiety and power struggles involved in getting them to follow our agendas.

Whereas there’s infinite peace, love and trust in we valuing and respecting their goals and dreams. And supporting them in ways that are non-intrusive.

So, you may want to know why I chose to homeschool Pari.

Actually, I began with homeschooling but gradually gravitated toward unschooling. Before I delve deeper into the reasons why we chose to unschool, I’ll explain the difference between homeschooling and unschooling.

Homeschooling is teaching your child at home using creative, hands-on ways.

By making lessons and concepts fun. Homeschoolers generally use a curriculum. There are many types of curriculums out there that are based on different approaches of teaching. In India, homeschoolers use an IGCSE curriculum, CBSE curriculum, ICSE or NIOS. They even make their own curriculum by borrowing from many. They use text books, too. They might create a schedule, incorporate field-trips etc. They may conduct an occasional test or a year-end review or a mid-year review to see what’s working and what’s not. The philosophy is to facilitate a ‘well-rounded’ education that is custom-made for the child and not standardized as it is in schools. So, they will ‘teach’ Math, Science, History, Geography covering all aspects of what they think the child should learn.

And they use interesting ways to have the child study those subjects in a timely, age-appropriate manner.

allowing children to pursue their interests

Unschooling, on the other hand, is nothing to do with ‘teaching’.

It’s rooted in the principle that every child can learn in the most natural way, given a loving, nourishing, supportive environment – an environment that’s rich in text, play, creativity, curiosity, interestingness, freedom, choices. By natural way, I don’t mean to say learning in natural surrounding. Well, learning in the middle of nature IS the most natural way of learning. But, learning naturally means learning by following your own curiosity and exploring your interests.

Unschooling, generally speaking, does not espouse curriculums, text books, formal instruction. Text book may come into picture ONLY IF the child is interested in it and not because of the school-lish notion that learning happens through text books.

enrich your children's lives

The parent is the child’s partner in learning and supports by giving her the freedom, offering the tools and means and enriching the environment around her. Whether it’s reading, writing or math – nothing is a ‘have- to’ as Sandra Dodd says. Unschoolers believe that all these come as naturally as crawling, walking or talking. No child is taught to walk. It happens when the child is ready for that stage.

So, when the parent places an intrinsic trust in the child, the child’s dignity and self-esteem blooms. He finds the confidence to explore without the fear of being looked down upon, judged or belittled.

When exploration happens due to own’s own motivation and curiosity – rather than because a parent or a teacher said it’s important to learn and understand that specific subject – learning happens in the most natural way.

I’ll take an example from our family.

For a few months now, Pari is beyond fascinated by the world of Disney Princess. Yes, Disney Princess specifically and not any other princess character. She insists that we call her Aurora. And her two other friends have been ‘renamed’ Belle and Sleeping Beauty. She’s so enamoured by everything to do with these characters that she wants to know how these characters originated, where, who wrote these stories. She wants me to sit with her at my laptop while she googles all this information. We watch You Tube videos of Disney Princess. She once created a little play with her friends – based on these characters. Much of her writing revolves around Aurora and her life.

Through all this, I could have reacted in two ways.

One – showing enthusiasm for her love for Disney Princess and being there to share her joy as a friend. The other – fretting over it, worrying that there’s no value indulging in the world of Disney Princesses and such fantasy play. That, anything to do with Disney/dolls/princesses/dressing-up is fluff (as I used to think long back, I’m ashamed to admit) and only propagates rainbow-tinted view of the world.

Pari would have felt demeaned, degraded and belittled. She would have lost faith in her own interests and desires.

I took the former approach. It does not matter that she chooses to read mostly Disney Princess books these days. It’s okay that the ‘I Wonder Why’ books that are oh-so-laden with oh-so-wonderful-info are collecting dust in a corner. What would have I gained if she read those books begrudgingly – just to please me; all the while imagining how nice it would have been to read about Aurora and her life with Prince Phillip.

Instead, she’s over the moon that I went around the town looking for a Princess bedsheet. When I couldn’t find any within my budget, I went onto Ebay, thinking I might get a cheap deal. And, I did get. This pink, princess bedsheet makes her go to sleep with a huge grin on her face.

What did it take for me to make a kid that happy and joyful and to build a peaceful, trusting relationship with her?

Just a shift in perspective as an adult. An attitude to pause and think from HER perspective before turning on that automated “NO”.

Besides, the fact is, while she’s still enamored by Disney Princess, she’s found other interests to engage in passionately. Ice Age, for example. She’s gone on to see all four parts of Ice Age. Has come back and written reviews, explored the characters of the Saber-toothed tiger and why he’s called that; expanded her vocabulary reading English sub-titles while watching those movies; observed that they speak – sayin’ and talkin’ instead of saying and talking and that amuses her a lot!

You see, learning is happening every where, every moment.

All I have to do is appreciate and see with open eyes all that she’s learning. And create a home environment that’s interesting, fun-filled, joyful, loving, trusting and respectful of her choices.

Do you have any questions for me? Please don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂

Read more Unschooling Stories, Thoughts and Experiences:

  1. How Learning Happens Without School

  2. When Parents Don’t Have Any Passions and Talents, Can They Still Offer Enriched Learning to Children?

  3. The Spiritual Aspect of Unschooling
  4. Mindfulness, Mothering and Learning

 

{ 40 comments… add one }

  • Laura August 1, 2012, 7:30 pm

    It took me longer to come to your realizations, but they’ve made all the difference. Thank you for putting it so clearly. Sharing!

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs August 4, 2012, 1:24 pm

      Thank you, Laura, for the affirmation. Yes, those realizations have brought a new meaning to life and relationships. And, thank you for sharing on your Facebook page.

  • Ranjan Sharma August 1, 2012, 7:39 pm

    So well written that that I was tempted to share this with a group of parents who are still wondering to home school or not? Reading your blog they might get some sense of direction now.

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs August 4, 2012, 1:25 pm

      Ranjan,
      Thank you for stopping by and for sharing with in your circle. I’m glad our story might help them make a choice.

  • Surabhi August 1, 2012, 8:26 pm

    very true…they need freedom with supervision and support…

    My 2 year old surprises me with lots of creative stuff while he is on his own…and thats all of 24 hrs except when he sleeps!

    Appreciate your posts!

    – Surabhi

  • Parul Choudhary August 2, 2012, 5:43 am

    Hi Rashmi,

    Your article was so well written and so accurate timely.

    Recently i have been going through this dilemma of school education and its quality and effect on our kids psychology. You article just touches the areas where i feel my daughter and I both are vulnerable. Keep posting buddy!!!

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs August 4, 2012, 1:28 pm

      Parul,
      Your comment really made my day. It’s encouraging to know what I’m sharing is helping people RIGHT NOW – as you said – it did for you.
      I’ll be writing more about our every-day experiences and my learnings in this unschooling journey.
      Thank you, buddy 🙂

  • Kat August 2, 2012, 6:42 am

    I’m a firm believer in public school and I don’t think that will ever change, but this is truly beautiful! I think whether you choose a public school, home school, or unschool, this is a great way to view the time that you have with your kids at home! Children are such a blessing, and have so much to teach us!

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs August 4, 2012, 1:32 pm

      Kat,
      Yes, I firmly believe that we as parents choose what works best for our children and family in our own circumstances. And yet, specific experiences of each other – from school, unschool or homeschool – and our own learnings and stories can work despite the culture differences or life choices.
      I’m glad you find these ideas helpful even when your kids go to school.

  • Ranjan Sharma August 2, 2012, 7:13 am

    Originally Posted By Katthis is a great way to view the time that you have with your kids at home! Children are such a blessing, and have so much to teach us!

    Kat very well said, this time of early childhood is what kids cherish the most even when they grow old. With my younger daughter 2.5yrs I still have not sent her to school & many parents in neighborhood wonder why? My simple answer to them is I am enjoying her arrival in our family & like to spend time as much as I can, this bonding at young age is priceless which I don’t want to loose to the school.

  • Aravinda August 4, 2012, 8:59 am

    Hi Rashmie, thanks for sharing your story and especially these charming pictures.

    Just as learning happens “all the time” I think teaching also happens – though we may not always be aware of what we are teaching – through our example, tone, and what is unsaid as well as what we say.

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs August 4, 2012, 5:03 pm

      Aravinda,
      Thank you for being here and connecting. Glad you like the pictures.

      I think that unless the receiver ‘chooses’ to process the information around him (be it our tone, things said or unsaid, actions, words), he will not learn. Learning, I think, is a very internal process and is totally upto the learner.
      They learn things that they want to learn. We only ‘help’ them learn. Not teach. No amount of teaching can help the child truly learn if he chooses not to in his own head; if he’s not receptive – because it may not resonate with him or may not interest him.

      Besides, by using the word ‘learn’ more often than ‘teach’, I feel it shifts my perspective; I start placing my daughter in the active role and me in the passive.

  • marjie August 4, 2012, 5:48 pm

    Thankyou. Two of my children are within the mainstream school system and my youngest will start in 18months however I am always looking for ways to supplement that and keep alive their spirit of joyful learning (tricky). I too have been known to shy away from certain subject mattter but you are so correct in your approach of embracing all their interests (however banal) and assisting them in their journey. Pari is a very lucky little girl!

  • Aravinda August 5, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Rashmie, I was thinking of something like this:

    Say I routinely waste food. If asked, I would say that we should not waste food. But my actions are saying something else.

    On the other hand, say I waste food and also say, “who cares, I can’t be bothered on such trivial matters,” then my actions reflect my stated beliefs.

    What someone (e.g. a child) learns from these words and actions is in part up to the child (and other factors). It can actually happen in the latter case that one who sees and hears this is so turned off that they make it a point not to waste food, whereas in the former case, they may learn that it is okay to waste food, and also that it is okay to say one thing and do another.

    • Rashmie August 7, 2012, 10:59 am

      Aravinda,
      Yes, absolutely, What you said is right – saying something and doing another thing – that’s not a good inspiration to be or an example to set for your child.

      Just that, I think, it’s the child who processes these examples/events – whether these examples were good or bad. The child’s value system is at work.

      It may also happen that the child sees his parent/teacher saying something and doing another thing but he may choose not to be influenced by it. On the contrary, he may shun it, reflect on it and choose his own path…

      Honestly, I have seen such things happening in my own life and family and feel that being influenced by the actions of parents is not as straight forward. Ultimately the child’s own value system, conscience and soul leads him. We can ‘inspire’ them for sure…..

  • Keshia August 6, 2012, 9:30 pm

    I’m curious as to what unschooling families think about college or their child’s future careers? Can a child get into post-secondary school without grades or test scores to show? What if your daughter decides she wants to grow up to be a doctor? How will she do that if she doesn’t have any grades to show to college admissions? In fact, how will she do any job at all? I’m not sure about the culture in India, but I am from North America and there are unschooling families here as well, and most workplaces require at least a high school diploma from employees who are over 18, even if it is a retail position or fast food. How do you plan to prepare her for a future career?

    • Rashmie August 7, 2012, 11:09 am

      Keshia,
      Very valid question. My thinking is that if my daughter wants to go to college, I’ll support her in every way. It’s quite possible that she wants to pursue a career that needs a minimum degree to qualify or sit for an entrance test/exam/SAT etc.

      And for that situation, it’s important to keep having discussion with the child (not very early but later on) – to know where she wants to go and get her access to such resources on the way.
      In India and I think in the US too, homeschooled children can take 10th/high school exams privately. If the kid has to take exam, he can prepare for it for a timeframe and that’s okay because HE sees the need and the desire. To do that he doesn’t have to go through the whole schooling grind.

      It’s been seen that homeschooled/unschooled children do very well in college. They have not been burned out like school kids have been. They have the desire to go out and explore and seek learning actively. Many unschooled kids in the US have gone on to graduate with highest honours.

      Besides, there are many careers other than medical, engineering that homeschooled kids can pursue without having to go for a degree. Vocational courses are very useful. They offer specialized learning.

  • Aravinda August 6, 2012, 11:32 pm

    Education reformers in the US are also trying to move away from grades and standardized tests even for those in schools.

    See The Case Against Grades
    By Alfie Kohn
    EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
    November 2011
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm

  • Keshia August 7, 2012, 10:43 pm

    @Rashmie

    Thank you for your response! I’m glad to know that if they decided they wanted to go to college or some form of vocational school, there would be a way.

  • Wild and Carefree Mama August 9, 2012, 10:46 pm

    Beautiful. I am bookmarking this to refer back to again and again……….. I love your perspective, and though I am not an official ‘unschooler’, I love the concept and this essay is most persuasive ♥

  • tricia August 14, 2012, 9:08 am

    This was very interesting- I haven’t read much prior to this that explained the difference between homeschooling and unschooling- You are very passionate and loving mother!

  • poonam August 29, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Rashmi, I have been reading about homeschooling here and on mumpaintslives, its a bold step, and i adore you ! totally! I am however a full time working mom, who is living every day as it comes, and homeschooling is probably not what we can do with my daughter, but your activities inspire me, to do more with her each day!
    Great blog

  • rashmi October 9, 2012, 4:06 pm

    Hey Rashmie,
    I m amazed by you spirit and the way you are nurturing your daughter. Its really fun but require lot of patience and courage to break the boundaries and choose the less travelled path.. Pari is lucky to got you as mother 🙂

    I want to know how unschooling idea struck you..Did you have bad pre-school experience or you just decided from begnining that you want to unschool Pari ?

  • veens November 6, 2012, 4:54 pm

    Very beautiful and meaningful post! It took me a long time to read this and re-read it. What I was doing till this time was asking my son to do what i wanted him to do ( or what I perceived he should do) and focusing on what he knew compared to other kids his age (2.5 yrs).

    Somewhere I had forgotten what was important for me… for s to be happy and not constantly battling it out.

    Thank you for writing this post. It has really given me a clarity in the chaos I had created for myself and my family.

    Now let me just restart, it is never to do that 🙂

  • Setjay December 7, 2012, 7:20 pm

    This is very interesting. I didn’t know about unschooling.

    I’m living in France, and here there are very few people homeschooling, which is almost consider as not schooling at all. However, the National Education take tests once a year to check the school level of these students. I think that if they do not comply with the test, the children assistance get involved, and they might be removed from their parents…
    Also, in France it is almost impossible to find a job without school qualifications. Now, they even ask for a diploma (baccalaureate) to clean the floor…

    So i read this post yesterday, and then i got thinking. I thought that i learned reading english fluently because i knew “Pinterest”, and it opened a WHOLE NEW WORLD to me : new recipes, activities with my kids (which is why i caught your blog), diy, home organization…
    I learned an ability from my curiosity and research. One never stop learning.
    But i could not do that if :
    – i’d never learned the alphabet
    – i’d never learned to read in french
    – i’d never learned english basis in college
    These things were taught to me. I never could learned them all by myself.
    So i think you play a big part in your child education, even if you leave her the greatest freedom that you can. You are sort of personal teacher !

    And you inspired me too. Now i will try having less school expectations for my children. And it is a BIG DEAL since i’m a french infant school teacher…

  • Swetha February 4, 2013, 10:21 pm

    Hi Rashmie,

    Though i’m not a frequent reader of your blog, i do check your blog for inspirations. I’m very glad that you are brave enough to take up unschooling for your daughter and know that it requires immense support from the family. Although i find the idea of unschooling very fascinating, i’m also not a fan of traditional schooling. I have found my middle ground by giving my child a Montessori education and also be involved with him as a parent. I really liked your article and you were so true when you said that children learn to walk and talk on their own and they do have an inner urge to learn. But i also understand from your article that you seem to take a lot of resource from youtube. Why confine yourself to youtube when the whole natural world out there has all the resources for learning? I have not read many of your articles so i might have missed out on many of the good things you do. But please do correct me if i’m wrong cos i feel there is more scope for learning when we watch and experience it in nature.

  • Setjay February 4, 2013, 11:58 pm

    I disagree when you say “children learn to walk and talk on their own”. It’s a human faculty learned by mime (didn’t you hear about this girl raised by wolves, who was found at 16 and who never could learned to speak and walk like us ?). I think it’s important in the way that if you unschool your kids, you have to teach / show them life (even if you think you aren’t), or they will be animals.@Swetha

  • Pooja Bajaj February 21, 2013, 7:47 am

    Hi Rashmi,

    I have read your blog, which I chanced upon as I was looking for options for home schooling my little daughter who is just going to be 4yrs in April . You have made a wonderful , informative website and are really a great mother who has given her child the freedom to blossom the way she wishes to and that I feel is a great achievement. Whether it is education or healthcare, everything has become a money making business model more than anything else.So we are all the more losing hope on these institutions.

    Having read the Studio Summerhill by John Holt, both me and my husband who is a journalist, has strong opinions about sending her to a formal school. That book really inspires one to let the child be and learn from his or her own environment for them to grow naturally. My husband is confident that he will not be sending her to formal school for nursery and so we did not fill up any forms this year.
    My only cause of worry is that she may not get the company of kids and be able to socialize with kids as she is our only child and there aren’t many kids around who come out to play where we live. She had been going to Playschool till last month and is very active . But is never ready or eager to go to school. The only reason she gives, when asked why she doesn’t want to go to school is that the teacher scolds her.There are times when she goes to school but just doesn’t want to come back, and wants to play there even after school time.
    Since you are home schooling your little daughter, do you also meet up with other parents who are also home schooling their kids, is there any home schooling group you are engaged with in Delhi ? Please advice, I am based in Delhi too.

  • Peinos peinos June 23, 2013, 11:29 pm

    Hi, rashmi.
    I’m a mother of 2 boys, I recently decided I will homeschool the oldest one( Moses ) he has been on a public school for 7 years , but now, going onto 7th grade, he has strugled so much and he is sooooooo stressed that he asked me to be homeschooled . I have been reading about what it takes to do so. I know it will take lot from him and me, but I rader have no time for other things that to let my child be dragged by the public school system and no to learn what he really needs. Your article is very inspiring and I hope I can soon have my other son ( Sebastian ) homeschooled too. If u have any other suggestions for me, will be highly appreciated ……. Good day!

  • Aparna June 24, 2013, 11:09 am

    Hi Rashmie,

    I almost stumbled on your site……………but what a relief…
    We will go through your web site and hope to get in touch with you soon.
    Thnaks very much for the wonderful work
    love
    aparna

  • audrey February 13, 2014, 8:19 am

    In Georgia, we have homeschool rules that say you are required to keep progress reports and children have to be tested every 3 years. How is unschooling possible within those bounds. I love the idea of unschooling, but I’m afraid my children will not meet the standards. Any ideas? Thanks, Audrey Newnan, GA USA

  • Leah July 2, 2014, 2:59 am

    My son began homeschooling my grandchildren two years ago
    I was a bit apprehensive but have read lots on un schooling
    That’s the route they will follow from now on !!
    They live and are so interested in wildlife , and have followed along with their parents
    Showing them the bluebirds nest in their front yard bird houses
    They have taken videos of the tiny new babies without even feathers!!
    As well they love art so every we’d since January( I care for them mom we’d afternoons
    Weave had art
    We took a pottery course last Dec then started with a manual and many different
    Mediums and have all learned so much,,!’
    More than any classroom for sure,!,
    They also chose where they wanted to go for a vacation and with a few choices
    Went to the Gaspe and will go on a whale watch tour and learn so much at one of Canadas great Parks-Forillion
    Can’t wait to hear all the things they found out about
    They also like taking Photos. Preparing little surprise tea parties and crest their own themes!
    They are ages 8 and six!’
    Sincerely Leah Reid

  • Neha October 20, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Very well written! I need to remind myself constantly to keep looking at my daughter’s interests closely and making her journeys into those interests as enriching as possible.

  • Saju Joseph June 18, 2015, 4:25 pm

    We home school our children in India as well and this is how it started for us – http://afathersheartbeat.com/why-we-homeschool-our-children-starting-point/

  • shamimoon.shaik October 3, 2015, 3:56 pm

    hi.rashmi
    I have seen your blog .It’s very nice.I would like to share some of my experiences with my children,aman(14) and amreen(9).They have been unschooling from 14 years.My son aman when he was months baby whenever he was crying if he heard a song or any instrumental music ,he stopped crying and listen to it.while i was doing my primery teacher tryning i have to learn some songs ,when i was singing he seemed to playing but i came to my room; he sangs the same songs in his own way . I was surprised,then he was 3 years old. We never insist him to learn music or to go to school.Now he is learning vocal and practicing guitar in his own decision and he is enjoying it. He never went to school, he has so many friends who are living around us .We never felt that he is losing something from school, and we are happy. I would like to stay with your blog and share my experiences. my daughter also not going to school.

  • A Chic Behind The Scenes December 8, 2015, 2:03 am

    Where are you based Rashmi?
    I am from Mumbai. A 21 yr, single mom to 13 months old girl ira. I decided to home school ira even before she was born. I was researching for methods to learn without the need to go to school & came across your blog. I think I might go for unschooling soon. But for now I need to home school her till she can understand colors, shapes, speak, read, write and other basic things.
    I always wanted to live an eco friendly life. But things are different here. No space so that 2 people can cook in kitchen forget about nurturing your own garden. But I am happy for now with what I have, and will try to make things super fun for my daughter as you are doing for pari.

  • giants Blank Jersey October 13, 2016, 9:38 pm

    New York City is additionally praised for a Broadway artistry and musico theaters. Pay a marvelous evening witnessing the actual colorful operates of recent York’s Broadway demonstrates and musical technology dances. Watch for bargains for Broadway entry pass and enjoy the night going through Brand new York’s lifestyle and really like for movie theater martial arts disciplines.

  • Ashley Wright January 11, 2017, 11:49 am

    I enjoy spending every fleeting yet precious moments with my boys, serving our gospel community, cooking and wallow in reading and listening to inspirational gospel music

  • Atul Yadav January 29, 2017, 12:35 am

    Hi Rashmie,
    Your experience is very inspiring as i also believe that learning is never ending. Hats off to the proud parents for choosing a new path and contributing more in the developmental aspects of the child.

Cancel reply

Leave a Comment