Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What is unschooling? And can a Catholic unschool? ( Part 1)

Recently we have had discussions on these topics on both an email list and an internet forum of which I am a member.

How do we define unschoolng?

Didn't the encyclical Christian Education of Youth by Pope Pius XI speak against unschooling?

I want to save some thoughts here on the blog, for future reference. If this bores you, feel free to skip these posts! lol!

What is unschooling? I think, perhaps, that unschooling can be an idea held in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. An idea that differs among people.

I say we are unschooly. That we learn from interests and from life, family centred learning, not necessarily using school methods or following a school curriculum.

And I like these unschooling definitions ~

Patrick Farenga, who succeeded John Holt as the Publisher of GWS magazine, : "When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear." ( Teach Your Own, page 238).

Mary Griffith, author of The Homeschooling Handbook, writes about unschooling and John Holt: " Children learn best, he argued, not by being taught, but by being a part of the world, free to explore what most interests them, by having their questions answered as they ask them, and by being treated with respect.." ( page 56 -57).

In Homeschooling With Gentleness, Suzie Andres writes: "Unschooling is a form of education in which the child is trusted to be the primary agent in learning what he needs to know to lead him to happiness ( page 12)...'form of education' refers in particular to academic education, not to moral education....those who are trusting the child are his parents.They are trusting him to be the primary agent in his learning, but this does not amount to neglect on their part. The parents assume the role of secondary agents, meaning they do not forsake their duties in their child's education, but rather they recognize and honour his natural ability to learn...( page 12)....While other approaches tend to focus on the teaching done by the parent, unschooling concentrates on the learning done by the student..." ( page 13).

Finally, a simple definition/phrase, from Parenting a Free Child by Rue Kream: "Our unschooling is our parenting is our life together."

So, are we relaxed homeschoolers or are we unschoolers? To be frank, I doubt that the terminology matters. We are what we are. Learnin and living together in Faith and with growth.

On Sunday, Fr mentioned that one's Faith should grow; it should not be simply the Faith we had at age twelve. There should be growth. It should be living.

The same with our learning, our homeschooling. It is not held static by a label but is organic, education that changes as the children and family changes. We learn and add to our Faith, to our knowledge, to who and what we are.

That said, I wouldn't personally call myself a relaxed homeschooler, mostly because we don't have daily sit down basics to do and we don't necessarily have a framework within which we follow interests.

We may do these things but we also may throw them all out and live life and learn that way together.

It may be that I see unschooling ( giving kids choice, learning from life) as a philosophy but how it works out in my life differs from season to season.


Anonymous said...

I love the quotes! Especially Pat's. It was the first homeschooling book I read and it is *the* quote that has liberated me time again and again.


Leonie said...

I think Pat Farenga has a very common sense approach to unschooling - so glad you liked the quote and the book, too! :-)

Heather said...

I liked your post. I sometimes struggle with defining what we do. It is easier to say we are relaxed homeschoolers just because so many people don't get unschooling and think unschooling means there is no learning go on what-so-ever. But also I say relaxed because many unschoolers wouldn't say we unschool since we'll do a sit down lesson/unit study/activity I plan together from time to time.

We just do what we do...and my kids are just fine....and HAPPY!

Leonie said...

I agree Heather - we do what we do, we change things as we need to, we ponder education, we live and learn - regardless of labels!