As you all know, Pari does not go to school. It’s been roughly 5+ years that we’re unschooling her. She’ll be 11 on November 30. And Sufiana, who’ll be three on November 2, does not go to any preschool or playschool either. So, yes, we’re homeschooling our children. Actually, unschooling. Because, homeschooling is often (not always and not exclusively) about doing school-like subject studies at home; about following a curriculum and maintaining a structure or a schedule at home. Whereas unschooling means breaking free from the trappings of school. The traps being – learning from a curriculum, following fixed hours, categorizing learning into subjects – science, math, biology, history, geography; testing and grading; sticking to schoolish habits, expectations, fears and terminology.
What is unschooling? If you’d ask me to define it, there’s no one way to explain unschooling. For, unschooling is not a parenting ‘technique’, unschooling is not a learning ‘formula’, definitely not a modus operandi for ‘education’. As I’ve come to understand, education starts with an end date. Unschooling is life-long learning.
Because, unschooling is life itself.
Okay, so let’s see, what unschooling is. Let’s see how many ways I can define it, picture it, explain it. This is going to be fun and introspective for me because by doing this, I’d be examining and introspecting our family and our lives – so steeped in unschooling for years now. This opportunity to write about what unschooling means will make me look at our lives with more clarity.
So, why don’t I do this – why don’t I share one definition per post. That’ll give you all something to chew on in small bites, and will also give me the satisfaction of posting something new more frequently than I do right now. :-)
Here goes the first thought or definition or way of looking at Unschooling:
The ‘learning’ that happens in unschooling happens because the learner wants it, it’s coming from within her. She’s pursuing it – either passionately at her excited pace, or gently at her simmering pace or haltingly at her solemn pace. There is freedom to learn what the learner wants, how he/she wants, when he/she wants, where and how much. The learner can quit when she’s done. Or, she can immerse in it for as long as she wants. The reign is in her hands and not in the hands of a teacher/parent.
The parent is a facilitator sometimes, a mentor at other times, or a co-learner once a while or often. This is quite unlike the ‘education’ that happens in schools and beyond, where ‘coercion’ plays an important role. Some authority figures pre-decide what’s important for the child to learn; they decide that 30+ kids will learn the same things at the same time. As if all humans minds and hearts were programmed the exact same way! The learner is not free to learn what she wants, when, where or how she wants. The learner (a human being!) has no right over how she’s going to spend her time. Others dictate it.
In contrast to this, as an unschooling mother, I’m not my child’s teacher or her ‘decider’! I don’t have to be. My child is an avid learner, a curious seeker. Every human is. They’ll pick and choose what they are keen on learning. Learn they will. It’s their intrinsic nature. As my child’s parent and mentor, my primary role is to facilitate her interest/passion. And also provide a rich environment at home (and outside) that will stimulate curiosity and nurture creativity and non-linear thinking. At home, this environment is created by my own varied interests and curiosity to learn. When my children see me pursuing fresh ideas, pending ideas, passions and interests, they may join me or watch from a distance, or ask questions or offer suggestions. Or well, sometimes, just shrug and leave the scene. And, I do my own thing not because I want to be a role model (I may be) but because I enjoy learning and without my own projects and ideas, my spirit would be dead.
So, new things they get exposed to – through conversations (a lot!), questions, debates (quite a lot!), festivals (all year round), people visiting us (conscious decision), we visiting their homes, museums, carnivals, nature treks (we moved cities just so we can do more of this!), evening walks, neighbourhood chit chat (we moved houses in a span of an year so we’ll have a thriving community). Unschooling, afterall is learning through living. Unschooling is life-in-progress.
Read more Unschooling Stories, Thoughts and Experiences: