Unschoolers live as if such a thing as school doesn’t exist.
We know that school isn’t necessary for learning.
It sounds simple. No lesson plans. No grades. No tests. No curriculum.
But for those who are used to thinking in terms of planning a kid’s day with programs, lessons, assignments, and schedules, it might be difficult to imagine what an unschooler’s day is like. Perhaps that’s where the misconeption of unschoolers sitting around bored and mindless comes from. If you’re used to schools and schedules telling you what to do all the time, you might not find it easy to imagine knowing what to do with yourself everyday without schoolish things.
For those who are used to thinking about their relationship with their kids in terms of coercing them into doing programs, lessons, assignments, and schedules, it can be difficult to imagine spending all day with their kids.
New unschoolers take some time to get used to living life as if such a thing as school doesn’t exist. We call that process deschooling, and those who experience say it takes 1-3 months for every year of formal education.
Those of us who have been unschooling for a long time, though, are so outside of the paradigm of school that back to school time means nothing to us, other than perhaps some sales in the stores for shoes and markers. We have no beginning or end to our school year, because we have no school. Sharpening pencils means nothing more to us than that our writing implement was getting dull.
We don’t divide our life into subjects, because dividing life into subjects is an unnatural school construct. If we play a board game that has some math naturally built into it, we don’t think, “Whew! Covered math for the day!” If we sit down to read a good story together, we don’t say, “That was reading class!” If we watch a Youtube video that tells us interesting science facts, we don’t check science off the list of required subjects. We just play games, read, and watch videos because those things are all a part of living a life that interests us.
We don’t quiz our kids to make sure they’re learning. Of course they’re learning! That’s what humans do. What an absurd idea the culture of school has given us, making us think that learning can be doled out and measured.
Nor do we separate what we do into “educational” and “not educational”. We might sometimes be heard saying, “Everything is educational,” because we’re trying to communicate that learning happens everywhere, all the time.
But in practice, we don’t classify slices of life into educational or uneducational categories. We just live. If we play a video game, we don’t try to encourage the kids to play one that is more educational or soothe ourselves by saying, “at least there’s something educational about it”. There’s learning in all of it. Once you know that–really know that–you can live as though such a thing as school doesn’t exist.
We dive into life with excitement. One interest leads to another then another then another, and soon our lives are bubbling with so many interesting things to do! With lots of people in the family exploring lots of things, our interests intersect and influence each other to an extent, making our family’s learning look like a gigantic collage.
Every unschooling family’s collage looks different based on what the family members are into. Ours would include:
video games-travel-making makeup and bath products.-pets-Swimming-Japanese-Skylanders-writing-computers-social media-Amazon selling-Lego-crafts-pipecleaners-markers-good restaurants-stuffed animals-t-shirt design-natural healing-birthdays-balloons-garage sales-paint-puzzles-Sponge Bob-yoga-playgrounds-children’s museums-ipads-audio books-reptiles-games-angry birds-Thomas the Tank Engine-concerts-friends-anime-play doh-toads-turtles-Youtube-kayaking-river play-rocks-cooking-lightning bugs-trampoline-puddles-movies…
The list could go on and on, one thing leading to another and another and another. We don’t have to pause our life for school and homework. We don’t have to squeeze fun things in on the weekend.
While every family’s “collages” are different, every unschooling family’s collage should be filled with a love of life, passion, intention, and creativity. It can be messy and loud and peaceful all at the same time. These unschooling “collages” are always filled with learning, of course, but nothing to do with school.
I get it. Even some unschoolers are still stuck (or at least still have one foot still stuck) in the sticky paradigm of SCHOOL. You think you need a lesson plan. You need to know that at least when you go to that museum, they’ll learn some history or science there. At least when you’re cooking, you talk about fractions. At least when you go to that ethnic restaurant, you’re learning about another culture.
What if you pretended for a day? For a week? For a year? Pretend that school doesn’t even exist. Pretend that all of those schoolish ideas, like subjects and lesson plans and quizzing simply never existed. Pretend that you never learned that kids can’t be trusted and that learning is difficult. (These schoolish ideas should never should have existed anyway…they were born of fear and doubt). Keep pretending. Keep living as if such a thing as school never existed.
And someday..you really will forget that such a thing as school exists. You’ll be out with your kids during the day and someone will ask you why your kids aren’t in school, or the dentist will ask if you need a note for school, and it will jar you, because you forgot it was a school day for some kids. Someone will ask what grade your kids are in and it will jar you, because the fact that some kids are given grade levels is buried so deep in your memory. Someone will ask if you give your kids summers off, and it will jar you, because you forgot that some people have a distinction between school learning and summer fun. Someone will ask you what curriculum you use, and it will jar you, because you will have forgotten that some people force lessons on their kids.
Forgetting is good. When you forget that such a thing as school exists, that’s when unschooling is at its most beautiful.