The Unschooling Unmanual {Book Review}

Friday, August 08, 2014 0 Comments A+ a-

This article was originally published in 2013. With school time right around the corner, I thought this would be a perfect time to revisit this article.

Ever since deciding to homeschool, I've learned quite a bit about homeschooling in general. I listen to podcasts, read blogs, and have even read a few books about the subject matter. Part of the reason why I wanted to homeschool was to tailor Phoenix's education to his learning style. I didn't want to replicate the school environment at home. I wanted to do something different... but I had no idea what that something different was. Well, that all changed when I discovered a new homeschool method called unschooling. What Is Unschooling? It's different things to different people. To me, it means allowing Phoenix to learn at his own pace about things that interest him in ways that interest him. It means I don't sit him at a table to do workbooks. He doesn't enjoy learning that way. What he does enjoy is being read to, talking to people, exploring his world, using his imagination, and watching television.

Yes, despite this relaxed learning method, he is learning more than ever! The other day, while we were eating dinner, Phoenix said, "Hey Dad, Jupiter is a planet with a lot of storms. They crash and bash, and there's big lightning." I looked an Ken with a big smile and asked, "Impressive, huh?" "Uh-huh," was his reply. I was shocked he wasn't more impress with Phoenix's random burst of knowledge, so when I asked him about it later that night, he said that he didn't know if Phoenix was just saying things, not really knowing what he was talking about. I told Ken he knew a bit of what he was talking about. Certainly he knew that storms existed... and that they can happen on other planets. After a bit more prodding with Ken, the truth came out. Ken didn't know about the storms on Jupiter, so thought Phoenix was just talking jibberish. But, it wasn't jibberish at all! This was stuff Phoenix knows... even as a 4-year-old. How? Well, I read to him from Atlas of the Universe. We have an Outer Space Science Kit he likes to play with. He also has a solar system placemat. We've also been to the planetarium once. I don't force him to learn about this stuff... I just surround him with opportunities to learn, and he takes what he can from them. To me, that's what unschooling us about.
Recently, I read The Unschooling Unmanual, and found it to be very inspirational as a new homeschooler. If you're considering homeschooling, unschooling, or if you're around children on a regular basis, I highly recommend it. At only 88 pages, it's an easy read that will certainly change how you look at how children learn. The book can be summed up in this quote by John Holt:
"Little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning abut it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning. Can we bring ourselves to let children learn and grow through that love?" - John Holt
This book isn't your typical how-to book. It doesn't give you activities to do or things to try. It gives you eleven bite-size bits of inspiration in various categories. It covers how it is natural for children to be with their families, and it's natural for families to want to teach their own children. The book really emphasizes how children are truly natural learners, and I've already seen this myself. It's not uncommon for Phoenix to bust out some addition or subtraction figuring out how many people there are at the dinner table. He's always testing out his reading skills and memorization skills when we're in the car.

This book also me confidence. It gave me confidence to follow my heart & choose my own path for my family. It gave me confidence in knowing that just because most people send their children to school at age 4 doesn't mean that I have to. It gave me the tools to see that, yes, despite not going to school, my son can still learn! In fact, he learns more when he's not being forced or bribed to learn. He learns more when he doesn't think he's learning. Maybe I'll unschool forever. Maybe it'll only last until tomorrow. Either way, I feel confident in knowing that it's what's right for us today. At age 4 & 1½, I think the most important thing to do is just meet the needs of my children's interests. I'll read to them, take them to library story times, go on nature walks, go the park, meet with friends, etc... and enjoy life with my children every minute along the way. :)

  I love to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Leave a comment letting me know. :)
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