3.19.2012

Is child-led the same as unschooling?

People sometimes misinterpret descriptions of unschooling that sound as if a child is left to discover everything on his or her own without any guidance or suggestion from adults. However, in my experience, unschooling parents are often significantly involved with their children’s activities and put effort into introducing topics and activities to their children.

Is Unschooling the Same as Child-Led Learning?

Not necessarily. An unschooler can certainly, and may often, initiate and lead his or her own activities. However, the voluntary nature of participation is the defining factor in unschooling. An unschooling parent, family friend, another child, mentor, instructor, coach, etc., can certainly lead an activity that an unschooler voluntarily and enthusiastically participates in.

See: What is child-led learning?

Academic Structure and Guidance

My daughters sometimes come to me and say “I’m bored. What can I do?” I’ve long kept track of the academic learning requirements and performance expectations nationally and in my state. I refer to those “standards” for ideas when my girls are looking for something new to learn or do. My children also have their own self-designed unschooling curriculum.

Unschooling doesn’t imply that a child doesn’t take classes or participate in structured learning activities. It doesn't mean they don't ask for lessons, instructions, guidance, help, or support from us or other adults. It means that we, the parents, don’t attempt to make our children learn by giving assignments or otherwise manipulating or threatening them into learning and doing things.

I’m usually on the look out for new and interesting topics, supplies, or activities that my children might enjoy, especially things that relate to their particular current interests. I want to introduce them to as much of the world as possible. However, if they tell me they’re not interested, I drop it for the time being.

Unschooling or Radical Unschooling?

The way I see it, unschooling isn’t limited to academic “learning activities,” no more than it excludes them. Whether we call it radical unschooling or not, I trust that my children have reasons for all the activities they choose to do, which might look like doing nothing, just playing, or doing the same thing for days at a time.
I prefer to take a broad view of my children's chosen activities and avoid judging their choices over days or weeks. If a child enjoys his or her everyday life, I see that as success. If your child wants for nothing, because he or she is happily living and growing everyday, what more could you want?

Source: Unschooling 101: Top 10 Questions About Learning Without School

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