Monday, March 21, 2011

Unschool Monday: The Label

We refer to our style of home educating as "unschooling" because it is the popular term used to describe what most closely resembles our approach to the girls learning. But in truth I really don't like the term. For one thing, how can our girls be UNschooled when they've never been schooled?

My understanding of unschooling is that it refers to an approach to educating that nurtures natural learning. It is how people learn in the absence of an institution, when left to their own devices. While people are sometimes put off by the label, the reality is that everyone learns to walk and talk this way;  we wanted to, so we figured out how. 

Unschooling involves children leading the learning process, with parents playing a supporting role. Interests and passions take the place of formal curriculum. But that doesn't mean worksheets and textbooks are out of the question, they can be very much a part of the journey if the child wants them to be.

Given there is no teacher/student as such, no structured curriculum, or timetable, having the word "schooling" in the title is inappropriate. Furthermore, I object to "schooling" being the norm, which every educating style is defined against. UN-schooling/not schooling makes it sound as if our children are being denied something, and I'm sure some people hold this opinion. But it has been our observation that they're being denied a lot of psychological damage which is defined as "character building," "normal," and "necessary" within the school system.

Some more appropriate labels include:
  • Natural learning
  • Child-lead learning
  • Organic learning
  • Learning! 

Yet I still find myself using the label. I use it because it is well-known (amongst home educating folk) and it is less misleading than if I were to say we homeschool, which conjures images of a classroom in the home, parent as teacher, textbooks and curriculum. Also, my friends who are taking the same approach to educating their children use the term, like Owlet, who I'm joining in Unschool Monday.

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