“We unschool on the weekend”. A phrase I’ve heard many a loving parent utter.
I’ve been an unschooling mama for eight years now, and prior to that I was a schooling mama, and a great supporter of public education. Before I began unschooling I really didn’t understand the intricacy and yet tremendous simplicity of it. I noticed a definite difference between my daughter on the school holidays, but was she unschooling? Is it possible to unschool and school? What would be the point of that?
When you school your children, they go to an educational institution for 30 hours a week in order to be taught things that the state you live in deems necessary. An unschooled child seeks information to fulfil their own interests, they learn how to facilitate their own learning with the support of a parent in the back ground. Often it is the process of locating sources and filtering the information that will best serve children when they venture into the world as adults – schooled or unschooled.
Education is so much more than fact retention. True, and purposeful education revolves around the acquisition of knowledge rather than just the knowledge itself. Knowing lots of stuff, is vastly different, if not completely incomparable to being able to search for, gather and apply information.
Schooling presents information to children and assigns each subject value, for example: maths is more important than art, you learn maths first thing in the morning and art in the afternoon. Whenever a greater value is assigned to one topic over another, the child’s own interests and values are undermined. This deters children from valuing their own knowledge base outside of what they are taught.
Parents who claim to be unschooling on the weekend often lack faith in the system, but equally, they lack faith in themselves to provide a space in which their children could thrive as unschoolers.
Institutionalised education can only function successfully by teaching students that questioning authority is unacceptable. Young schooled children may use their moral compass to question unjust punishment or arbitrary rules that they encounter at school, but by the time they leave they have come to accept these things as “just how things are” and worse yet, to question their own perception of certain events.
These are lessons that you can not unlearn on one weekend, or in two weeks holiday. These lessons take far longer and much deeper thinking than is possible in a short break which is filled with intense de-schooling, or unwinding. You can not learn to trust your own instincts over the Christmas break. you can de-school, but you can not begin to unschool until you have fully de-schooled.
Some sources claim that to fully de-school it will take a child six months of de-schooling per year of schooling. Overall this is probably a slight over estimate based on my own experiences and other anecdotal reading I have done, however other aspects of de-schooling may take longer, this is especially true for parents.
It takes a lot of work to de-school ourselves fully when we have lived with our schooled idealism for several decades. It’s often people who need intensive work on de-schooling, who claim to be unschooling their kids on the weekends, or if they homeschool, after the kids have done their book work.
Trusting children to gravitate towards numeracy, literacy and other subjects, as they are divided up by the school system is the basis for unschooling. However teaching children these subjects, and unschooling others assigns a value to maths, reading and writing, above that given to the child’s own interests.
Some homeschooling parents have no desire to unschool maths and english, they use a structured approach. That’s perfectly acceptable, however it’s a direct contradiction of the theory of unschooling. I absolutely support each family’s right to choose what is best for them, calling it unschooling is what I question.
Unschooling kids on the weekend or on school holidays would better fit with the term de-schooling. Unschooling is a whole life philosophy, you can not be unemployed on the weekend, you can not unschool on the weekend either. A weekend is about winding down, relaxing, de-schooling, but it is not unschooling.
De-schooling is a really intense experience once you choose to remove your kids from a school. It’s really a huge leap of faith into the unknown. It’s an exercise in trust. John Holt, an education academic and teacher, once remarked:
”Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”
If you school your children, and they are happy then there’s no reason to unschool! If you homeschool your kids and they’re happy, then there’s no reason to change that! If unschooling is something that really resonates with you, then maybe you should just try letting go, choose to trust your kids. Don’t de-school on the weekend, unschool all week – I’ve yet to meet a family who would go back once they were fully de-schooled.
Postscript: The use of the word de-schooling in this article is arguably inaccurate. De-schooling on the way to unschooling involves a great deal of unpacking previously held beliefs. The true nature of de-schooling is about learning to trust children, children learning to trust themselves, discovering how learning happens without a school, and totally redefining the purpose of learning for life. To thoroughly de-school you would need to do it for more than a weekend at the same time as examining all your beliefs about schooling. However in the early days of de-schooling, much of the work is simply about de-stressing, and that’s why I chose to use it here.
FOR FURTHER READING