Sunday, August 28, 2011

Embracing Unschooling

I searched and googled, trying to find a local homeschool group that I thought would be a good fit for us.    I was looking for diversity, which the few other groups I found, didn't offer.  I figured others might be looking for something different too.   So, I decided to start a.l.l.  The prevailing idea behind the group is secular and inclusive with the hopes of creating a diverse group of home learners where everyone feels welcome.  

As my husband recently shared on Facebook, we picked the group name and the acronym because it describes our family and our style of learning, but also addresses my desires for a secular and inclusive group.  It might not be the right group for everyone, but I hope anyone who appreciates diversity, will find our group welcoming.  Admittedly, I kind of hope that a.l.l. will lean in the unschooling direction, but at the same time, I want a.l.l. to support all homeschoolers.

So, as it turns out, when you get a bunch of Alaskan homeschoolers together, two questions regularly come up:  "What program are you with?"  and "What curriculum do you use?" Being at the unschooling end of the homeschooling spectrum, my answers often surprise folks. 

Not only are we life learners, aka unschoolers, we're independent. I often get a blank look or simply "Why?  Why wouldn't you want the money?"

In the past, I have often used the fact that I am a former classroom teacher as a quick out.  I usually add that I have boxes and boxes of education material left over from my teaching days.  In other words, I don't want the funding to buy curriculum.   We use a lot of that material, but not like they might imagine.  It is my kids' decision, not mine, whether we do something or not.  We're independent because I believe in my children's innate desire to learn.  I want to support them in their learning, not direct it.  I also do not want testing to have any bearing on how I support them.  I think standardized testing is one of the biggest problems with public school, but that is another post altogether.

Many people think unschooled is equal to uneducated.  It absolutely is not.  Dealing with those blank stares and the occasional criticism has made me reluctant to embrace the term unschooling.  Lately though, I have felt a responsibility to speak up for child-led learning.  I really believe it is what is best for my kids and quite frankly, for most kids.  So, call us life learners or unschoolers,  I am ok with either one.  


  1. I have to admit I felt a little awkward around everyone as they were talking about the programs they're with and lesson plans and all that. We just started the unschooling thing in our house, and I'm still trying to get out of that guilty feeling like I'm not doing the right thing!

  2. Hi Char- I know what you mean. I was thinking about having a unschoolers parent dinner/coffee out. It is a different mindset from the package curriculum folks. It might be nice to hear other people's successes and hear a little encouragement.

  3. I'm sorry I didn't get to have that conversation with you! You mentioned you were a former classroom teacher as I was curious how that affected your view of homeschooling. One thing that I appreciate in Alaska is the freedom to school in whatever way works for my family and my kids. I have been slow to embrace a program that might limit that freedom.

  4. Hi Christabelle- I love the freedom of homeschooling, especially in Alaska! Money always comes with restrictions. We each have to decide what is best for our families. If the state money is essential to being able to stay home or to buy the supplies you need, then maybe it is worth it to work in the system. For us, right now, we're doing ok without, but it could always change in the future.