Meredith is unschooling mom to Morgan and stepmom to Ray. Meredith has been active online in unschooling groups for years and I’ve enjoyed reading her writing for many of those. In this episode, we chat about what learning looks like with unschooling. It’s a big topic, and big episode. I hope you enjoy it!
Quote of the Week
“It could be said that unschooling has a recipe, but it’s not a recipe about unschooling. It’s a recipe about human nature. About people and relationships.” ~ Meredith Novak
Questions for Meredith
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and how you came to unschooling?
The vast majority of unschooling parents come from a school background, me included, so that’s what learning looks like to us when we first start learning about unschooling. So I thought it would be helpful to compare and contrast what learning looks like in the school system and with unschooling. I came up with five aspects to compare that I think will be helpful.
Comparison #1: school’s focus on teaching vs unschooling’s focus on learning
One of the first things people new to unschooling are encouraged to do is to shift their perspective from teaching to learning. Why is this such an important shift when we want to learn about unschooling?
Comparison #2: school’s focus on curriculum vs unschooling’s focus on curiosity
With unschooling, children are encouraged to, and actively supported as, they follow their interests, rather than a set curriculum. What advantages have you seen to learning this way?
One of the concerns people often mention is that there is a general set of knowledge and skills needed to get along in their community and world, and how will they learn them if they’re just doing what they want? How do you answer that one?
Comparison #3: school’s focus on the compulsory school years vs unschooling’s focus on lifelong learning
Unschooling and the concept of lifelong learning weave together so tightly, and leaving behind the idea that childhood is for learning and adulthood is for living can have a profound impact on everyone in an unschooling family, parents included. Have you found that to be true?
Comparison #4: school’s focus on the child to adapting to the classroom environment vs unschooling’s focus on the child’s learning style
What are some of the advantages you see for children who are learning outside the classroom?
Comparison #5: school’s focus on testing vs unschooling’s focus on being with the child
A common question from people trying to wrap their mind around unschooling is: If we aren’t testing them, how do we know they’re learning?
While conventional wisdom tells us that children resist learning and need to motivated to do it, unschooling parents see something very different. Why don’t unschooled kids hate learning?
One of the challenges newer unschooling parents sometimes encounter is interpreting the actions of experienced unschoolers as a set “rules for unschooling.” But unschooling doesn’t have a recipe, does it?
I’d love to talk about choice for a moment. I think one of the key aspects at the root of learning through unschooling is giving our children the space and support to make the choices that they think will work for them. What’s your perspective on the importance of choice?
One theme that has come up pretty regularly on the podcast is that, in the end, unschooling thrives when we have strong, connected, and trusting relationships with our children. You recently wrote something I loved: “It may help to step back from the idea that parenting is a job. It’s a relationship, first and foremost.” Can you expand on that?
Links to things mentioned in the show
Montaigne’s 1580 essay: On the education of children
Sandra Dodd’s article: To Get More Jokes
podcast episode 20: Unschooling as Alternative Education with Carlo Ricci