3.21.2016

What is an unschooling program?

I periodically look into "unschooling programs" offered by schools, not because I'm thinking of enrolling my children, but because I like to know what's out there. If one of my children did want to try school or some unforeseen circumstance warranted school enrollment, for example, I'd want it to really work for her. Unschooling school is an intriguing concept. I can certainly imagine a better school than conventional offerings, so I like to see what's brewing.

What is an unschooling program or curriculum?
It's a school or curriculum program that attempts to respect and support the unschooling approach to education (education being life itself, as the famous John Dewey suggested) with the freedom to direct one's one activities.

I often say that unschooling is not a program, but if it was, what might the rules be?

1. The child will have full freedom to choose and direct his or her activities, including full control of his or her body, and will be treated with the same courtesy, respect, and compassion as everyone else.
All kinds of questions and challenges would come up, I'm certain, but I think that covers the essential philosophy.

With increasing popularity of unschooling, I've begun to see various curricula and educational products marketed specifically to unschoolers, despite the silly idea that unschoolers shun learning tools.

Distance Learning. The Global Village School, an accredited distance program based in Ojai, California, aims to "educate for a better world, one person at a time." They have an unschooling program in addition to design-your-own and several holistic programs, using "living books." The school's literature advertises some of the more intelligent educational ideas, in my opinion, and you can choose to use their curriculum supplies without enrolling.

The Independent Project. I got pretty excited about The Independent Project conducted at a public high school in Massachusetts, which profoundly affected the participants who directed their own learning for a year. One young man said: "Everybody has interests. Everybody truly wants to learn. This isn't a pilot to me. This is real. This is actual learning." Just imagine if more public schools were willing to give this approach a try.

Sudbury Schools. I first explored "free schools" on my unschooling blog. I've been less enthused by these democratic schools, which may sound strange since they're often referred to as unschooling schools, but I suppose it's mainly the philosophical emphasis placed on separating children from parental influence and mandatory attendance that don't sit right with me. Nonetheless, I'd probably still choose that option over conventional schooling, if I couldn't find a better option.

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