I am often asked what exactly unschooled students do all day long. After all, they are not forced to comply with a particular curriculum or program. State standards and Common Core are not chosen by the parents. So what do unschoolers do all day?
Unschooling is the practice of student-chosen, student-led learning. The unschool educational model encourages lifelong learning rather than a race to a finish line or a race to a test score. A parent who allows unschooling encourages a child’s interests even if that means the child is not doing book work and tests.
So what does a day in an unschooled child’s life look like?
Some unschool students like to be outdoors playing, climbing, and exploring. Other students ask for worksheets and classes. Sometimes children choose to use a computer game to learn coding skills all day. However, most children choose a mixture of activities. The idea is that parents support a child’s choices rather than the parents choosing for the child. This not only gives the student power to follow his interests, but also enables the pursuit of learning without the constraints of testing or a one size fits all curriculum. Read on to see a few examples of unschool life.
Joey likes to play Minecraft. He joined a club so he can learn to code. He wants to create his own mod for the game. He also joined a club where he works on pixel art. He wants to design graphic t-shirts and create his own website. Joey recently went to the library to check out books about coding. His mom cannot understand coding, yet Joey has already mastered Java utilizing books, his classes, and YouTube.
Elise wants to be a chef. She thinks about foods, recipes, and dish presentation all day long. She chose to take a class about making sushi recently. She then began a website with a blog. She now reviews restaurants, writes about new recipes she creates, and uses her blog to explain fractions to younger children. Elise found reading difficult when she was five years old, but by age eight she had renewed interest and read through several chapter books each day. Her mother chalks this up to waiting until she was developmentally ready and interested in reading. After all, everyone develops at their own pace.
Trevor loves to be outdoors. He paints, sketches, takes photographs, and more. He also enjoys hosting small meetups with other students to discuss plants and animals native to his area. He often brings examples of leaves for others to try to name. He recently used his birthday money to buy a microscope and guidebook. Trevor now enjoys gathering soil and water samples, then deciphering what is in each sample. He hopes to be an environmental scientist one day. Trevor will begin dual enrollment courses at the local college once he is old enough.
As you can see, there is not one way to unschool. Unschooling does not mean doing nothing. Parents may be involved in supporting the child any number of ways. Paying for classes, having discussions, driving a child to the library, and other similar actions are supportive of an unschool education. Students choose. Parents support. That is unschooling. Unschooling is not a lack of education, but a lack of forced education where a student cannot choose topics and activities.