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Unschooling: Debunking Common Misconceptions and why it applies in our healthy lifestyle

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Children learning outdoors| unschooling as part of our healthy lifestyle

Have you heard of unschooling? This radical approach to education has been gaining in popularity in recent years, but it's often misunderstood. Many people assume that it's a chaotic, unstructured approach that leads to undereducated children who lack basic skills. But the truth is much more complex than that. My family has taken that approach, amongst other things, and we receive a lot of questions from people. Usually it comes from them not knowing exactly what it means or having heard of something which is not always true with the actual meaning of unschooling. Unschooling doesn't mean “not learning” it simply means not doing it the way the traditional school system teaches. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common misconceptions about unschooling and provide a clear explanation of what it is and how it works. Whether you're a parent, educator, or just curious about alternative approaches to education, read on to learn more.

Myth 1: Unschooling is Unstructured and Unplanned

While unschooling is often portrayed as an unstructured and unplanned approach to education, this is not entirely accurate. While it's true that unschooling doesn't follow a traditional curriculum, it's not a free-for-all either. There are interesting facts about the meaning behind the word curriculum and how it was determined throughout the years. We won't discuss them here but you can research about the evolution of the curriculums and how the history of your country was intertwined together.

Dad reading in nature to his child| unschooling as part of a healthy lifestyle

Unschooling parents work closely with their children to create a personalized plan for learning that builds on their interests and passions. This means that while there may not be a set curriculum to follow, there is still structure and planning involved. Unschooling parents often help their children find resources and opportunities to explore their interests, whether that's through books, online courses, or community programs. They also provide support and guidance when needed, but ultimately the child is in control of their own education. This level of autonomy can lead to more engaged and motivated learners.

For many people, the term “in control of their education” is what tips them off. They are still children and for all the families we got to know that applied unschooling in their lifestyle, that term does not mean they do whatever they want whenever they want. The best way to try and explain this is for you to think about classes that you loved and school activities that you did that you still remember today. See how it all comes back as you think about it. Being in control means pushing the interest and strength that your child has.

toddler playing outside with wood| unschooling in a healthy lifestyle

Children are supposed to experiment, discover and learn about themselves. They need to know what they like, their strengths and weaknesses. They need to figure out how to work with those weaknesses and learn to cope with failures. How can they do this if we are asking them to answer the same way, come to the same conclusions and never experiment because they aren’t allowed to fail. Unschooling parents learn to observe, listen and communicate with their children. They offer tools, advice that is appropriate for their child's age and let their children discover .

We have many examples but here are two highlights that showcase how unschooling families learn. My oldest loves to bake and try new recipes. He loves to try to find alternative ingredients when we are missing something. Think about how much he learned by cooking and experimenting. Did he always get it right? No and some of those times I heard him say what he was planning to do and I didn’t stop him. Why? Well in my opinion going through the process of trying and realizing by himself what he did wrong is the best way to learn. He won’t die if he eats something too sour or sweet or if his crust is overcooked or hard, which happened a few times.

Those moments are actually some of my favorite memories with my children. We laugh and have big discussions together as they try to understand what happened and how to fix it. They don't see this as a big failure and they don’t feel like they aren't good enough because we view this as a learning experience instead. My children are not afraid to try and fail and this will open so many doors to them because they will be leaders and they will know how to solve problems and find solutions.

Another example is one of my daughters who has been passionate about marine biology for years now. Instead of pushing curriculums so she can learn to read, write, research and so on, we have been focusing our attention on marine biology. I even learned so much about whales, sharks, currents, different types of fish, seaweeds and the impact on climate and much more. We have been snorkeling, we opened dead crabs, we looked at seashells under a microscope, we analyzed sand, rented books about those subjects, watched documentaries and so on. How many class subjects did we do in all of this?

child at whale fest answering marine biology questions| unschooling in our healthy lifestyle

This year, we went to whale fest and my children were so excited. One of the marine biologists present was playing a game with my daughter who is passionate about the subject, and remember that she was only in the middle of 4th grade when we went. She started asking the easier questions during the game that suited 4th graders. To her surprise she started asking harder questions, and harder questions and her eyes kept getting wider. In all those questions, she only got one wrong because she wasn't sure. The marine biologist couldn't believe her eyes. She told me that this was a first for her, in her 25 years doing this.

So while unschooling may not look like traditional schooling, it's far from unstructured and unplanned. It's a unique approach to education that puts the child's interests and passions at the forefront, while still providing the necessary structure and support for learning to occur.

Myth 2: Unschooling is Unproductive and Results in a Lack of Basic Skills

Another common myth surrounding unschooling is that it leads to unproductivity and a lack of basic skills. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, unschooling allows children to focus on their passions and interests, which often leads to increased motivation and engagement in learning.

Child using nature to learn| unschooling

Rather than following a strict curriculum, unschooling parents help their children find resources and opportunities to explore their interests. This can include books, online courses, and community programs. While the child is in control of their own education, parents still provide support and guidance when needed.

Additionally, unschooling doesn't necessarily mean a lack of structure or planning. Parents may work with their children to set goals and create a plan for achieving them. This can help children develop important skills such as time management and organization.

Overall, unschooling is far from unproductive or lacking in basic skills. In fact, it often leads to a more personalized and engaging learning experience for children. Unschooled children have an easier time figuring out what they want to do after highschool and develop many life skills. They learn to solve problems and think creatively. With that said, it's important to address the next myth - that unschooling is only for the privileged and excludes marginalized communities.

Myth 3: Unschooling is Only for the Privileged and Excludes Marginalized Communities

Unschooling has been criticized for being a practice exclusive to the privileged, with critics arguing that it is a luxury that only a select few can afford. However, this is a common misconception. In reality, unschooling can be adopted by families of all financial backgrounds.

Children playing and crossing a suspending bridge| unschooling

The reality is that unschooling does not require expensive tools or resources. Instead, it focuses on the child's interests and encourages them to learn through real-world experiences. Parents of all income brackets can help their children explore their curiosities, whether that means visiting museums, reading books, or experimenting with hands-on activities.

Furthermore, unschooling does not exclude marginalized communities. In fact, it can be beneficial for children who have traditionally been underserved by the education system. Unschooling offers an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach of formal education, allowing children from diverse backgrounds to explore a range of subjects that are not typically taught in school.

With this in mind, it's important to recognize that unschooling can be adapted to fit a variety of lifestyles and financial situations. It's not a practice reserved for only the privileged few but can be embraced by families of all backgrounds. Unschooling can look very different from one family to another and even from one child to another. Unschooling also provides an opportunity for the child and family to try new things.

Myth 4: Unschooling is Isolating and Limits Socialization Opportunities

While it's true that unschoolers don't spend their days sitting in a classroom with peers, this doesn't mean they miss out on socializing. In fact, unschoolers often have more opportunities for socialization and building relationships than traditionally-schooled children.

Unschoolers are encouraged to pursue their interests and passions, which often include joining clubs, groups, or teams that align with those interests. This allows unschoolers to meet and engage with like-minded individuals who share their passions. Additionally, unschoolers often participate in community classes, workshops, and events, exposing them to diverse people and opportunities.

children playing at night with headlamps discovering| unschooling

Unschooling also provides children with the time and flexibility to spend with family and friends, which can strengthen relationships and foster deeper connections. This can lead to a more well-rounded view of the world and a greater understanding and appreciation for different perspectives.

With socialization opportunities abounding, it's clear that unschooling is not isolating. In fact, it can provide children with a wealth of meaningful relationships and connections that extend far beyond the walls of a classroom.

Myth 5: Unschooling does not push children to learn

It's common to assume that unschooling is a lazy approach to education, where children are left to do as they please without any guidance or encouragement to learn. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, unschooling is all about nurturing a child's natural curiosity and fostering a love of learning that goes beyond the classroom. We are teaching our children that learning is a lifelong journey.

Contrary to popular belief, unschooling involves a great deal of pushing children to learn. However, this push comes from the child instead of external pressure from parents or teachers. Unschooling parents create an environment that encourages exploration, experimentation, and discovery. They provide access to resources, such as books, technology, and museums, allowing children to pursue their interests and passions in depth. They ask open-ended questions and engage in discussions that challenge their children's thinking and expand their horizons.

children uncovering dinosaur bones in sand| unschooling

Every question is an opportunity for the child to explain his opinion, give his hypothesis, and conduct research. It gives them a sense of accomplishment to explain what they have learned to others and to recall what they learned years later. Unfortunately, school curriculums today give students a manual to swallow within a specific timeframe, then regurgitate their memories on paper, which our brains tend to entirely eliminate from our memory.

Unschooling parents also recognize that learning doesn't just happen in isolation. They actively seek socialization opportunities, such as homeschool co-ops, park days, and extracurricular activities, that allow their children to interact with peers and adults with different perspectives and life experiences. Through these interactions, children are exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking that push them to grow intellectually and emotionally. Thus, they are prepared to enter the workforce in the real world. We rarely work with peers in the same age bracket and with similar backgrounds and experiences as ourselves.

In short, unschooling may not look like traditional schooling, but that doesn't mean it lacks structure or rigor. Unschooling parents intentionally create an environment that supports and challenges their children to learn and grow in meaningful ways. It's a holistic approach to education recognizing that learning is a lifelong journey, not a destination. So if you're considering unschooling for your child, rest assured that you'll give them a solid foundation and a lifetime of learning and growth.

How does it apply to a healthy lifestyle? Ozeya Life believes a healthy lifestyle is more than just physical health. A happy and healthy lifestyle involves mental health, self-care, and self-growth. Although it is not easy to follow all of them every day and sometimes impossible, a balance will lead to an overall healthy lifestyle. Unschooled children will learn many things they can apply to their healthy lifestyles later in life. Among them are researching to find answers and support their opinions, learning to say no when things get overwhelming, finding solutions for what doesn't work, changing what doesn't work, and working with various cultures and personalities.

These are only a few benefits of using unschooling in a healthy lifestyle. As a parent, you learn and grow along with your children. Through the years, I've learned a lot of interesting facts you wouldn't believe. I understand science, physics, and chemistry in a way I couldn't understand in high school. Now I can explain things I didn't understand before. History is something I enjoy doing, whereas I hated it in high school. Understanding my brain and how it works helps me memorize things. Those skills and self-discovery should be taught to every child before they reach adulthood.

Children participating in a salmon presentation for plastic free and ocean friendly| unschooling

In conclusion, unschooling is a viable educational option that has been grossly misunderstood. It is neither unstructured nor unproductive nor reserved for the privileged. In fact, many families find that unschooling provides a unique and enriching experience that allows their children to grow and learn at their own pace. While it may not be for everyone, parents and educators should consider the benefits and drawbacks of unschooling before making a decision. It is important to remember that the needs and desires of the individual child should always come first in any educational approach. As we continue to explore new ways of learning, let us keep an open mind and remember the words of John Holt;

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.

For more information on the meaning of the word curriculum click here.


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