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Pros and Cons of Unschooling?

(31 Posts)
mumtoboys Mon 02-Mar-09 18:40:36

I've started a blog on home education which is in it's very early stages! I'd like to be able to pool ideas and resources for all kinds of different home-schooling approaches.

I'm very new to home education myself as my kids are small but I've been thinking it would be great to get lots of information in one place for people starting out.

I want to cover things in the future like "how to avoid burning out" , "how to teach with little ones around", "what are my kids favourite picture books".

Anyway, I've decided to start with a summary of each of the main approaches. Does anyone have any personal experience of Unschooling? What would you say are the pros and cons in your experience and what books and websites would you recommend? Did you transition to a more formal approach when your kids were older or did you continue unschooling all the way through?

Here's my blog if you want to take a look.

Thanks in advance

mumtoboys Mon 02-Mar-09 18:41:30

julienoshoes Mon 02-Mar-09 22:31:47

Have you had a look at the main HE websites?
There is a thread here about them-and I'll bump that one and the one about books on home ed.

Alan Thomas' books which are well worth a read as are books by Jan Fortune-Wood. Both write about autonomous home based education (which is what it is generally called in the UK rather than unschooling)

We are totally autonomous home educators and for us there has been no regrets, we have such a lot of fun.
The children have all followed their own interests and that has led them to have a very personalised education.
We didn't find out about home education until the children were 13, 11 and 8-and we deregistered them immediately as they were very unhappy in school. I suppose we started off quite structured, as we knew no different, but eventually worked out that our children needed time to 'deschool' and so did we. With the support and example of local and national home educators, deschooling led us to autonomous home based education and we have done that all the way through their teens-after all that is the way adults tend to live and learn, so why wouldn't we do it all the way through IYSWIM?

For us it has been very successful and the children are nearly all grown up and definitely intending to home educate their children in the same way. Our youngest started an OU course last year aged 15 and will probably carry on with her whole degree that way, in her own time around a musical career.

I'd recommend Joyce Fetteroll's Joyfully Rejoycing and the writings of Sandra Dodd I don't think we have a website equivelant in the UK.

We do have an Autonomous Home Educators email support list and I especially enjoy the 'Sometimes It's Peaceful blog (which is usually a really great place to read about an autonomously home educating family-right now though Gill the owner is concentrating on the Governments review/attack on home education in the UK) This blog will probably lead a reader onto other autonomous education blogs.

My biggest problem with autonomous education is that I can't flaming well spell the word! I am dyslexic and miss out the last 'O' every time! blush You can always tell when I have forgotten to use the spell checker!

I'm sure to think of something else-and will pop back and throw it in, thats if 'onwardandupward doesn't get here first! wink

Lindenlass Tue 03-Mar-09 08:32:13

Hi there

I'd second all of Julie's links. I love autonomous learning - it's such great fun watching them be passionate about things, and intend on doing it their entire lives. But then we've come to HE from the angle of being child led from the start, so can't imagine how doing any structured education would work in our family life.

The cons are having to answer questions at awkward times because the most profound questions always come when you're in the middle of changing a nappy or making supper or something grin

Books - as well as the one's Julie's mentioned, John Holt is fab - all his books. And yes, follow links from the sometimesitspeaceful blog to other blogs along the same lines. You'll need to read quite a way back on sometimesitspeaceful to get to some autonomous learning posts as Gill's doing loads about the gov etc. at the moment, but I think she has a sidebar thingy to take you to posts about certain subjects.

Lindenlass Tue 03-Mar-09 08:33:22

ps. If you're in the UK, we tend to call it 'autonomous learning' or Alan Thomas has coined the term 'informal learning' in his new book. 'Unschooling' is a US term really.

mumtoboys Tue 03-Mar-09 11:04:40

Thanks for your help. Loads of great ideas here. This is really interesting. I have been initially looking at quite structured methods but I'd definitely like to find out more about autonomous learning blush. I'm sure we'll end up with a mixture of approaches!

Do you find your kids end up missing out on some areas if they're not interested in them iyswim?

Thanks again

julienoshoes Tue 03-Mar-09 11:56:00

I don't think they are missing out-and more importantly they don't think they are missing out
Life and learning are not separated into little boxes when you educate autonomously.

They are out and about in the world that schooled children cannot be, as they are in the classrooms for so much of the time. They are mixing with all sorts of people, with different life experiences to us.
I can't think of anything that we haven't covered really-anything and everything comes up in everyday life-and then if they want to explore it further we/they do. If they are not interested then we don't take it further-but that doesn't mean it is put down forever.
We facilitate whatever they are interested in, rather than teach. Sometimes we have had to be inventive in getting there as we are on a limited budget, but get there we have.

I think we just see it as whole life learning-not something that is stopped at 16/18 or whenever-but then in some ways it isn't so different from school, I hated History at school, but am fascinated now as an adult. I have learnt so much more 'History' (mostly from reading books and watching the History channel and visiting museums and reenactment days since home educating the children) than I ever did then and our children's education is like that, so what they are not interested in now, they may well come to enjoylater in life.

Does that answer your question, or did you mean something else?

julienoshoes Tue 03-Mar-09 12:16:50

Have just posted the following onto another thread-but thought you might be interested, as it is my answer to 'Does it matter what Children are taught?' and there is an article mentioned, by Alan Thomas.

We are an autonomously educating family-we don't 'teach' our children anything.
We haven't done any formal work for years, instead we 'facilitate' whatever they are interested in, answer questions, go out and about in the world, and talk and talk and talk about anything and everything.

For us, our priorities were raising happy young people who are confident, articulate, problem solvers and free thinkers, able to explore and research whatever they want to.

It turns out this is a very efficient way of educating-for us certainly it has worked, with both of the elder two in full time work, enjoying life and with a mixture of OU and A Level qualifications gained.
There is an article that compares informal and formal home based education which might go someway to explaining what I am talking about

milou2 Tue 03-Mar-09 13:25:02

The pros for me are that I don't spend all night worrying about what subjects are being covered or not. I have a trusting faith that all topics suitable and unsuitable will come up in their own time.

I can see the children's vocabulary is absolutely massive and all I have done is chat with them and let them watch Hitchhikers Guide etc. I make a little note each time they use a new word and pronounce it wrongly, that is evidence that they have read it but never heard anyone say it. "scalding" came up yesterday. I always correct the pronunciation immediately.

The cons are I feel I have a lack of conventional control over the children!! So I feel that looks bad in front of other family members and friends.

I don't have much to say about my methods other than I reckon it's the way to go for us. I compare it to summer hiolidays and weekends. I point out that pre school the children had autonomous education and they seem to have learnt quite enough at home with me even though I was comatose with tiredness and up several times in the night.

DS1 is at school and ds2 is HE by the way.

Hope this helps.

techpep Fri 06-Mar-09 21:43:00

Sorry, i am completely ignorant about all things HE, but am considering particularly for ds. If you do autonomous education, do you have to provide proof of their learning to anybody?

ommmwardandupward Sat 07-Mar-09 14:49:26

If you have children in school currently, then you'd have to deregister them and the LA might well approach to ask about your educational provision.

They might well demand curricula and timetables and formal written work and all sorts, but they are not legally allowed to, and you are definitely allowed to say "er... no we won't be doing it like school at home. We are autonomous home educators, and here is a statement of our educational philosophy" (which would be a few paragraphs explaining what you understand autonomous HE to be, and why you think it'll be giving your children an education suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any SEN they may have (that's the legal requirement on every parent, whether their child is educated at school or otherwise) and maybe a bit about how that's likely to pan out in practice or in a typical day or whatever, if you feel like it)

mumtoboys Tue 10-Mar-09 21:10:05

Hi guys

I have now put something on Autonomous Education on my blog. Can I ask you expert people if I've got it about right or missed anything?! Also feel free to chip in any comments on the blog or experiences of how it works in real life.
Thanks for your input.

nickschick Tue 10-Mar-09 21:16:30

I actually veer from the 'norm' of H.e.....we tend to do lots of workbooks and lots of structured learning although I am finding recently that ds3 (the only ds H.E now) will quite often become engrossed in a science activity that it takes up much of the time ive set for learning and then later in the afternoon will suddenly grab his notebook and his pencil and start writing things down.

So far so good ds3 is 8 and has never been in school he is well upto par in comparison to his friends and is thriving although i can see that our individual learning is fast becoming autonomous.

Kayteee Wed 11-Mar-09 14:57:02

We're autonomous and our LA have been happy with one "educational philosophy", which is basically a letter explaining how you and your dc see education. Also a breakdown of all the different "subjects" we'd covered and were intending to cover. These were as diverse as horse-riding, pottery, candle-making, cookery, music, biology, swimming, reading, climbing, get the idea wink Some of these activities had been tried only once, but it's all relevant to their education.

We've been left, unbothered by the LA for nearly four years now. Sometimes they call to check that we're still HomeEdding and we say "yes, thank you very much". They just need something for their records really.

Some LAs try it on, but if you keep all contact in writing they often back off.

shanothan Tue 09-Mar-10 19:40:07

I was home educated all of my school life. I would say that looking back, I am glad to have undergone this type of education, but some areas were lacking and caused me to suffer later on in life. These were:
A lack of social interaction with other children - please ensure you join extra-curricular groups so your kids get to interact!
No opportunity to do exams - I have no GCSEs and this has proved both annoying and embarrassing over the years - even if you don't agree with it, please explain the usefullness of GCSEs to your kids and give them the option of doing them!
I'm terrible at maths - my Mum didn't like maths so didn't teach me much - if there is an area you are lacking in, don't try to struggle on alone - ask the local authority for help, or try to afford a private tutor - don't pass on your inadequacies to your kids!

MrsWobbleTheWaitress Tue 09-Mar-10 20:02:24

Those are really helpful tips, shanothan. Personally, I work hard to make sure those things happen (well GCSEs are far off, just yet!), but it's good to hear from the horse's mouth, as it were!

juuule Wed 10-Mar-10 08:03:34

Shanothan - This is a genuine question as I'm curious. If you have found your lack of GCSEs embarrassing/annoying why haven't you taken them? Or have you got them now and you are speaking of a particular period of your life?

MrsWobbleTheWaitress Wed 10-Mar-10 11:12:16

Yes, good question, Juuule. I have lots of adult friends with no GCSEs, even though they went to school, because they were so fed up with learning that they made no effort and failed the lot of them! One, in particular, who wanted to get her GCSE maths as an adult, did it within the space of two weeks, with some help from a friend who was a maths teacher, at the age of 34.

MathsMadMummy Wed 10-Mar-10 13:42:56

marking my place on the thread (and will read your blog soon OP!)

DH and I are thinking about HEing but the one thing we can't quite agree on is, if this is the right way to put it, the level of autonomy? DH wants more structure but I'd like to be more child-led.

Finishing Sun 14-Mar-10 22:45:41

MathsMadMummy (glad I'm not the only one)
Perhaps your OH needs a reading list. I would guess it's you who has done your research into education and home education. When learning at home with very personalised education, I have found most of what I have read falls clearly in favour of autonomous education.

My eldest is nearly four and already loves doing mazes, dot to dots and puzzles. I hate the word worksheet; it makes them sound like a chore.

Becoming more formal with age would not necessarily be incompatable with unschooling, so long as it was child driven. Can you envisage a 10 year old gagging to enter child fiction competitions, or to take part in amateur robotics contests. It would require a great deal of research and hard graft, but without the need for compulsion.

Finishing Sun 14-Mar-10 22:51:26

Can I share your blog with other HE people, my Facebook Friends, anyone else?

kathywhite Sun 28-Jul-13 15:53:13

I am delighted that my DH and I are about to embark on an adventure of homeschooling/unschooling.

I was always thinking that we would have to sit down with our kids and be teachers - the thought of which filled me with dread - nothing against teachers - it's just I know I'm not one !

Then through contact with reading John Holt, Naomi Aldort and others, and recognizing the difference between autonomous learning / child led education, I trust children are naturally curious and much more I see they will learn what they want to / need to.

I think of all the rubbish I had to learn for exams imposed because somebody/ some system deemed it necessary vs. the wisdom I picked up from books I wanted to read, chats with parents and friends... My best subject at school as a young teenager was Theory of Knowledge - where for the very first time it was explained to me that knowledge (collection, dissemination, sharing, storing and retrieving information and knowledge is an art in itself).

I am more confident having seen my children teach themselves what they want to, ask for help with their interests, enjoy their own activities and interests. So with them (now DD 10 and DS 6) we are about to be able to make the decision to move to Erraid with them this Sept. Erraid is a small Island off the west coast of scotland and a paradise for unschooling children !

I'll be blogging about this journey regularly

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Aug-13 22:38:31

We started H.ed last year and have tried several approaches.
I think it can be hard at first to settle and have confidence in your chosen approach and if you look through these threads you can see I have had several wobbles.
I would love to say its autonomy all the way because I know this suits dds personality and what she wants to do for a career, but I worry she will never learn enough and end up being semi structured.
I am hoping this year to settle to one approach and have confidence in it.

Karen433 Sat 18-Mar-17 19:43:42

Unschooling can be something you just fall into naturally, as happened with our family. We started out as homeschoolers and this naturally led to my children taking charge of their own education. We have been unschooling for some years now. My daughter Maisie has written her own Kindle eBook - called Unschooling: A Teenager's Experience - about her experiences of unschooling which she published on Amazon. In itself it was an educational project which involved her in developing many new skills but she also felt it was important to do because unschoolers get a lot of stick and criticism. It is often assumed that unschooling means chaos and doing nothing. In reality, children learn much more when they choose what they want to learn. They really assimilate learning when they choose it. Most of what we learn in traditional schools is forgotten by the time we are adults and often has no relevance to our lives after school.

Keehar256 Sun 19-Mar-17 19:36:24

I'm totally scared of unschooling! My DD would spend her entire time watching Netflix playing mine craft and face timing her friends shock

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