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UnschoolingTeens and Children in General

This isn't an exhaustive - it's a collection of bits and pieces a few links
to help parents of unschooled children - especially teens - feel confident and calm
about how kids interact with the world inside and outside their families.

Most of these sites are from the USA - We will expand on these as we find more.. Insha'Allah.

What Is Unschooling?

This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term "unschooling" has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn't use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an "on demand" basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work. So, for instance, a young child's interest in hot rods can lead him to a study of how the engine works (science), how and when the car was built (history and business), who built and designed the car (biography), etc. Certainly these interests can lead to reading texts, taking courses, or doing projects, but the important difference is that these activities were chosen and engaged in freely by the learner. They were not dictated to the learner through curricular mandate to be done at a specific time and place, though parents with a more hands-on approach to unschooling certainly can influence and guide their children's choices.

Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not "natural" processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn't unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.—Pat Farenga, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

If you don't do school, what do you do?

Read, play, sing, dance, grow things, write. All of these things and more are things unschoolers do. We do them because they interest us and bring us joy or because they help us accomplish our dreams. We do the things that have meaning in our lives and contained within those activities is real learning.

You mean I'm supposed to let them run wild?

Unschooling doesn't mean not being a parent. Children need loving adults interested in helping them grow and learn. Choosing to build a lego village will include the opportunity to learn math and culture, maybe even history depending on the type of village. We do chores, have a family life, and participate in the wider community. The children are actively engaged in living and learning during all of this.

But, what about math?

It's easy to see how children can learn many things without using traditional, formal methods of teaching, but many people see math as a huge stumbling block, mainly, because most of us have learned to hate math because of the way it was taught in school. There are a great many ways to encounter math in the real world. Geometry can be found in quilt making, algebra in painting a room. Shifting perspectives, from textbooks to the real world is sometimes difficult, but math that is actually used is math truly learned.

How do you know they are learning?

You will know by listening to them speak, by watching them play, just by being with them. You will know they are leaning at 8 the same way you knew they were learning at 18 months. You will see them use their skills and knowledge. This does take some effort on the part of the parent. The information is not contained on a worksheet or within a report. It is not all nice and neat and tied up with a grade. It's spread out over the course of the day while the children are living their lives. You have to be observant and tuned into your child, in order to know. The nice thing about this is that it's great fun to observe your children so closely, to be so in tune with their lives. It brings contentment to both parent and child to know each other so well.

But what about discipline?

What most people mean when they ask about discipline is not the external system of punishment and rewards, but of an internal understanding of self discipline. Jumping through onerous academic hoops will not necessarily lead to self discipline. Our children gain a sense of how important self discipline is by watching us. Our ability to model a self disciplined life is much more powerful than handing in book reports in time. Helping children reach their own goals will mean there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss stick-to-itiveness, follow through, and how sometimes it's worth doing the things that are no fun in order to reach the desired goal. These lessons have much more meaning when they are in conjuction with goals the children set for themselves.

Can unschooling be structured?

It depends on what you mean by structure. Imposing external structure onto the learner, by specifying materials and methods, is not unschooling. A person creating structure to suit his or her own purpose, that is unschooling. Some people are by nature methodical, and we want our children to respect and work with their own internal rhythms. Our job as parent is to help them create what they need. For example, it is entirely possible that one child will learn everything in a more relaxed, free flowing way, except for one subject- perhaps history. With history that child may want a time line and a access to materials in chronological order. If it works for the child and is created at the behest of the child, then structured, methodical learning is also unschooling.

Questions Asked by Unschooled Kids or Their Parents

"I'm not good at anything"

Understanding angst: encouragement for the mother of a fifteen year old.

"How will they function?"

How will they know how to write essays in college classes? Cool stories of success at writing without formal training.

Will they get JOBS!?

How are they as people?

Read how 14-yr-old Brenna's life changed drastically after an unschooling conference.

Maybe not unschooled, but a good story either way: The saga of Benjamin, the backwoods, homeschool boy who wanted to get a job


"Quo Vadis is a weeklong gathering for people interested in creating strong, supportive community for adult unschoolers and self-educators. We work to empower those dedicated to lifelong learning by facilitating an event that cultivates, sustains, and unites individual self-educators and their allies..." http://www.quovadis-gathering.org


The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher A famous 1991 essay by John Taylor Gatto.

Our 8 Year Old Son Still Doesn't Read:  And believe it or not, we're not panic-stricken by John Anderson

So What Do You Do?:  Come explore just what we are doing out here on this newly blazed path. by Lisa Bugg

Certificate of Empowerment:  A classic piece, giving "permission" where none is needed, by Sandra 

The Adventures of Holly Dodd in East Yorkshire:  Holly, an unschooling 8 year old visits England!

Unschooling the Gifted Child: Defining the Challenge from Within:  Like beauty, the meaning of the question will depend in large part on how we understand the terms: What does it mean to unschool at all?

Interstate or Scenic Route?: Norma talks about how sometimes the long way around is the best way there. Learning as a journey.

Inexpensive Educational Supplies: Some suggestions for where to look and what to look for in the quest to bring the world home.

Questions and Answers by Nancy Wooten.  Nancy answers those questions we all have asked at one time or another, and her answers are filled with common sense insight.

All Kinds of Homeschooling: Sandra Dodd talks about different learning styles.

Living Together Learning Together, by Karen Mende-Fridkis.  " For us, homeschooling is a process that keeps changing and evolving over time. The more we live it, the more we learn."

Bringing Shakespeare Home: Sandra Dodd talks about a variety of ways to learn about Shakespeare, and how combining different ways of looking at things keeps them from getting dull.

Swinging: Learning while apparently "doing nothing".  Math as it should be!

Moving a Puddle: Sandra Dodd talks about the beauty of the unplanned experience.

When Jon Came Home by Nancy E. Dodge.  One family begins their homeschooling journey.  It was a bit rocky at first!

How My Children Learned to Read, by Pam Sorooshian.  Watching 3 daughters learn to read gives Pam some wonderful insights, which she shares with us.

No Fear!, by Jeanne Mills.  "My son is also learning he doesn't have to be afraid. He's a homeschooler now. He's free to learn in his own way at a safe pace. Learning is now his adventure, not his fear."

Conversation With a Relative, part 1 by Deesha Philyaw Thomas  and Conversation With a Relative, part 2 by Deesha Philyaw Thomas.  Deesha responds to the questions of a relative and gives us a solid foundation with which to begin an unschooling journey.

Refining Basics by Earl Stevens."I found that the basic skills which deserve most of my attention have to do with Jamie's attitudes about life..."

When Does Independence Arrive? by Joyce Fetteroll.  "Start thinking in terms of fun, intriguing, challenging things they might like to do that just happen to use those skills. The skills are *tools*"

Rejecting A Pre-packaged Life:  Sandra writes about changing paradigms and how to create your own life, not life from a box.

Natural Child Project.

We're NOT Off to See the Wizard an essay by John O. Andersen on eschewing college and careerism in favour of lifelong learning and voluntary simplicity.

Frequently Questioned Answers A fun variant on the FAQ, also by Dave Mankins.

Beautiful Colors of Change Tammy Takahashi explains why giving up on a once-beloved activity isn't always such a bad thing for a kid to do. by Tammy Takahashi - HEM J/A 05

The Buffalo Jumps of Learning Just as the buffalo jumps were used as effective, efficient means of procuring meat for the tribe, so are the buffalo jumps of learning a very effective, efficient means of getting knowledge into a child. By Diana Warring

Car School This year, when I filled out the state-required paperwork for homeschooling, and I came to the line for "address of your school," I was tempted to put "CT 804." That, you see, is my car's license plate number. English fundamentals on Third Street. Here's a loose transcript. by Nancy Winningham

A day in the life of an unschooling family I have documented a real day for our family.  I havent pieced together what might happen -- I actually carried around a piece of paper and logged in the activities of our 7 member brood -- at least those activities I was aware were happening. By Catherine Pillinger.

A Gift of Time By homeschooling, you give them the gift of time to explore the world. By homeschooling, you give them the gift of time to discover ideas. By Sue Smith-Heavenrich,HEM S/O 01.

Gleanings of Wisdom on Unschooling Unschooling Quotes: "When YOU ask the questions, teaching is going on. When the CHILD asks the questions, learning is going on.

Learning Every Minute
Our daily lives are teeming with opportunities for learning. If you look at your life closely, you will realize there are a myriad of teachable moments each day.

Learning Through Living When I did not lead and when I did not push from behind, but when I embraced learning hand in hand with my children- then we started to meet our goals of homeschooling. By Beverly Behr.

A Matter of Trust As I congratulated them on their persistence and hard work, I reflected on how glad I was to have been able to suppress my doubts and allow them the opportunity for learning and growth. By Avivah Werner, HEM N/D 2002.

My Growing Up: An Unschooler's Reflections Maybe everything about my upbringing wasn't perfect, but I will never, ever complain about the results. By Laurie Chancey.

Nurturing Children's Natural Love of Learning Jan Hunt writes for The Natural Child Project: "The main element in successful homeschooling is trust."

Playtime: A Time for Children and Parents to Share and to Grow By Amber P. Keefer, HEM, an essay on how children learn so much while playing with their parents.

Stupid Learning
I suggest a curriculum broken down into three areas:
1. What's practical.
2. Familiar interests.
3. New interests.

Unschooling High School If we set their goals for them, externally, if we direct their learning and their schedule, how do they learn to do this themselves? How will they ever become internally motivated if someone other than themselves is always setting their schedule? By Karen Gibson.


Here are some sites by homeschoolers, on projects, arts, writing, and sometimes just their lives. If you have sites to add, e-mail ummshaheed.
Heather Martin talks about unschooling college and other unschooling topics.

"I am The Unprocessed Child" Laurie Chancey's mother has published a book about Laurie's life thusfar and how she learned without school. Read Laurie's own words.

Christy, in Alberta, writes about her own learning and has advice for parents of new homeschoolers.

Stirling is a movie being made by homeschooled teens, and has at least one unschooler acting. They have a website.

Gina Trujillo's Sonic Fan Site, "Flipside Element," has some biographical information, and lots of Gina's art and writing. Gina is the #1 child of the three discussed in the short article "Public School on Your Own Terms," which has been published in a couple of homeschooling newsletters and in Linda Dobson's book The Homeschool Book of Answers.

Laurie's Page. She's doing weddings, for one thing. Laurie's a young adult who was unschooled throughout. "Bedtime??? HA! When I get tired, my friend!"

Natural Learning Page By Amy Bell.

The Family Unschoolers Network"provides resources and support to all homeschoolers regardless of educational approach or religious belief."

unschooling.com An unschooling Web site run by Home Education Magazine.

Unschooling Undefined Unrests unveiled by Eric Anderson.

Growing Without Schooling.

What is Unschooling? By Earl Stevens.

Ungraduation An essay by Luz Shosie of Connecticut's Unschoolers Support on 'finishing' unschooling.

College Considerations for Unschoolers

Some 2004 news and sources to watch:

The July issue of Live Free: Learn Free has a section on college.

Tammy Cardwell is starting work on a book about homeschooled (not just unschooled) teens as they go into the larger world of adults.

An article on Kirby Dodd turning 18

Life Learning Magazine has taken Peter Kowalke as a columnist to interview young adults who were unschooled.

Tales of teens taking their first college-level classes (and other teen-related things): Unschooling Teens

We're NOT Off to See the Wizard:
March 9, 2001

Alison McKee Q&A format information on unschoolers getting into college

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience." -- Anne Sullivan

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