We Are Unschoolers - Eva Varga

August 6, 2012

If you told me nine years ago when we first started our homeschooling journey that I would be an “Unschooler” I would not have believed you. As a matter of fact, I probably would have laughed. But here I am, a former public school teacher with my type-A personality doing just that – homeschooling my two munchkins using a very relaxed, eclectic approach.

To clarify what I mean by a relaxed, eclectic approach {the definition may vary depending on who you ask} … for our family this means that we do not stick to a rigid schedule where the same thing occurs at the same time every day. Rather we allow for flexibility and changes within our day to best suit that days learning. The only consistencies in our schedule are predominately our electives (Mandarin, violin/piano, & swim team); because these are scheduled events that are taught by others, they seldom get pushed aside.

When we first started on our homeschool journey,  I spent hours planning a schedule and writing out lesson plans in a planner but we never seemed to adhere to them.  Since then, I have come to learn that a tentative and flexible plan at the beginning of each school year (essentially an outline of what we want to accomplish each school year – unique to each child) is what suits us best. Therefore, I no longer write our lessons in a plan book ahead of time – they were changed so frequently, my pencil erasers were all worn down to the metal ring – instead, I record what we have accomplished and when after the fact.

I have also come to realize – very recently in fact – that my kiddos dislike busy work and while I love them, they also abhor lapbooks. I used to spend hours researching clever activities and projects to integrate into our lessons – but the kids were always reluctant and many of these projects remain incomplete to this day. When I inquired about what they could remember about past topics – some recent, others rather distant – I was surprised to hear how much they could recall. Additionally, they often times interject facts and tidbits they have picked up from BrainPop, Oregon Field Guide, and other educational resources into our daily living. These conversations proved to me that they are both remarkable auditory learners.

I strongly believe learning occurs best in a relaxed environment. This does NOT mean there is no structure, rather it means that our lives are not ruled by a strict schedule. Additionally, I try very hard not to over schedule extra- activities. There are kiddos on our swim team that are constantly rushed from one activity to another (swimming, soccer, tennis, music lessons, etc.). We wonder when they actually have time to “play”.

Our relaxed atmosphere has given our children a love for learning that never tires.  While we ‘school year-round’ we take frequent breaks and our levels of intensity ebb and flow as often as the tides.  The important thing though is that my kiddos love learning .. they love watching documentaries and programs like How It’s Made. We still teach our children how to stay within certain time constraints – deadlines are, after all, a part of life. Our relaxed approach, however, enables us to spend more time on a concept or subject if we choose. This gives us the ability to focus on something a little longer than originally planned.

“It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, 
very little of what is taught in school in learned, very little of what is learned is remembered,
and very little of what is remembered is used.  The things we learn, remember, 
and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, non-school parts of our lives.”
~ John Holt

By its very definition – there is no typical unschooling day! Unschooling is a philosophy that assumes learning is naturally part of life. It takes into account the innate curiosity of the child, the dynamic of the family living together under one roof, and the experiences we encounter each day and says, “This is education”.  This is not to say that there are not moments where I want to throw in the towel … even seemingly endless arguments and frustrations.  My little guy, for example, is a tough one.  I seldom seem to catch him in the frame of mind suitable to learning.  He is so very active and when we do sit down, he complains of being uncomfortable and wiggles about constantly.  He tests my patience on a daily basis.  Yet I can see evidence of growth and maturity.  One day at a time has become my mantra.

As they grow older, however, it is becoming clearer that they are capable of taking on the responsibility of their own education.  Making choices that best suit them.  It is my job to help guide them along their own journey, after all.

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