The Top 5 Most Common Questions About Unschooling
Most people have an idea in their heads of what homeschooling is, but unschooling is another story. We've heard a lot of "Eh?" "What is Unschooling?" And seen confused looks when we tell people how we school our kids. Below are the top 5 most common unschooling questions we've gotten and how we answered them:
1. Are you qualified to homeschool/unschool? Did you take a certification in order to homeschool?
Well, yes and no. I didn't take a certification and yes, I'm qualified. Unschooling is all about teaching kids to figure things out on their own. Sure, we facilitate that "figuring out" process, but we are modeling ways they can find answers to questions they have or how to learn something new.
Our dentist, in particular, was grilling me about this unschooling "business" with these exact questions. Not in a nasty way, but almost in an envious way. By the end of our conversation she had managed to rattle off 10 different experiences we could take within driving distance from Denver. I wish I had taken better notes!
2. Do your kids have to take standardized state tests?
Again, yes and no. Traditional homeschoolers do have to follow state curriculum (in Colorado, anyway-check out your state's requirements) and take standardized tests. We are technically not homeschooling, but we are unschooling under the umbrella of a private school. We have complete freedom regarding curriculum and we are not required to administer any testing.
Read more about umbrella schools here.
Townes and Kate are technically private school kids with West River Academy. But there is no curriculum and we manage their learning 100%.
3. How do your kids socialize?
Believe it or not, we are more social now than we were when the kids were in public school. Sure, they were around kids their age more, but we believe that having relationships with people from every generation is a better, and more well-rounded way to socialize kids.
Kids can learn more from an elder who has more life experience under his belt than from a kid down the street or in his classroom.
BUT, we have connected with many other homeschooling families through homeschooling classes around Denver. And since we're all in the same boat, we really make an effort to connect and get the kids together.
This connection has been really nice for me, too! Making friends in your 40's is challenging and this common thread is a great jumping off point for starting a friendship.
4. Aren't you losing your mind being with your kids all day long? I could never do it!
I'm almost never alone any more and believe it or not, I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER. Our lives have done a complete 180--from hurried, stressed, and angst-ridden kids (and adults) to a calm, rested, and peaceful family. And this is coming from an introvert who really values down time and being by myself.
No one is clamoring for my attention since we're always together and everyone's needs are being met.
There are still times when I feel drained and like I can't finish a thought without an interruption (VERY reminiscent of having toddlers around in their 'why' phase), but I'm careful to take time for myself once Joe comes home, or even sneaking out to run a few errands while they are doing some screen time.
The bottom line is that we know without a doubt that this is the right thing for our kids' mental health and their future as productive and successful citizens.
Plus, how cool is it that we are deepening our bond? I'm less worried about the dreaded teen years since we have a better connection than we would if they were at school. I'm sure it won't be sunshine and butterflies every day, but I know it will be an epic success!
5. So how is the lesson planning going?
This one is pretty common, and I get it. Homeschooling is commonly known as: mom becomes the teacher--just like their school teacher. With worksheets and times tables and a chalk board in the dining room. That might be the case for some homeschoolers.
But we are unschoolers. Mom and dad are still the teachers, but I would prefer to call us, "facilitators". Sure, the kids will learn a lot from us, but we don't know everything (or anything? ha!) and their interests are varied. We will connect them with the right people or organizations to further their learning in areas that interest them.
The best part about unschooling is that our kids are learning more about themselves than they ever could in traditional school. I graduated from high school and knew nothing about my strengths and weaknesses. I was just floating through life, doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I didn't find photography until I was almost FORTY! I wish I had found it in my teens :)
So no real lesson plans (although, we did map out our travel and more for the year in a loose way in our post about planning for the year) because we are focusing on their curiosities and interests as they come and exploiting those interests to the fullest.
Some stick and some don't. That's the beauty of it! They are finding out more about themselves than they ever would in a traditional schooling environment.
I think that about covers the most common questions we get about unschooling our kids. Let me know if you have any other questions and I'd be happy to answer them (email me or leave a comment below).