Unschooling is like a smorgasbord – it’s different for everybody.
In my view, there is a spectrum of unschooling approaches, from “free-range” (radical) unschooling to what I refer to as “blended” unschooling.
Our family tends toward the “blended” side of unschooling. My (10 year-old) daughter and I frequently discuss the topics and methods of her learning. In this manner, I am able to tailor how and what she learns. We even created a list of the different ways she can learn about things, and she prioritized her favorites.
I learned that one of her favorite methods is to read things with me, and then follow up with discussion, practice, and assignments. Examples of this approach:
- Math. We are now using the Art of Problem Solving textbooks (PreAlgebra). We previously tried Khan Academy and ST Math, but have found that interaction and discussion are necessary.
- English/writing. We are currently using “Models for Writing” to stimulate ideas to improve her writing. We previously tried studying grammar, but I gave up on that. I have concluded that her knowledge of grammar (probably from reading extensively) is adequate.
- History/Social Studies. She got interested in Ancient Rome as a result of watching some BBC videos on YouTube. We have followed up by reading and discussing Mary Beard’s “SPQR”.This has led to a variety of interesting discussions on topics such as geography, politics, laws, etc.
She also likes watching videos. Examples include:
- Science on YouTube (e.g. vSauce, Veritasium). These are entirely self-chosen.
- Lectures on Coursera. She has selected courses on Newtonian Physics and Astronomy.
- Oceanography and Latin. She likes the format of the online courses because, if she gets bored, she can “chat” with the other students. I have to monitor carefully to ensure she isn’t playing games during the classes.
- Piano; violin; swimming; badminton.
The reason I refer to our method as “blended” unschooling is that I work with our daughter to choose the best methods for learning, and provide some guidance on topics. She has significant input into “what” she learns, but I reserve the right to guide her selections. For example, she told us she wanted to learn violin, so we facilitate that by providing lessons and ensuring she practices. On the other hand, I want her to learn math, but we collaborate on how she learns. Another example – I came across an online Latin class which looked interesting, so I presented it to her as an option. She agreed that it looked interesting, so we signed her up for it.
The key to unschooling is student-led interest. However, in my opinion, that does not mean that a student can be left completely to their own devices. I view my role as similar to a mentor, providing experience to help guide our student, and to make her aware of the various learning opportunities available to her. If done properly, she retains the passion for learning, while the possibilities available to her are exploited effectively and continue to expand. So far, in the last year, the journey is going well.