The Joy of Unschooling
I’ve been thinking lately about unschooling. Unschooling is a type of homeschooling in which the child learns about the world by exploring his or her interests in an environment full of opportunities and materials, rather than following a set curriculum. (To learn more about unschooling, click here for a short essay that explains it well).
Going beyond the definition of unschooling as it relates to kids, I find that this is the way I learn. I find something I’m interested in or passionate about and explore it using various resources: reading, researching, practicing, talking to people, taking classes, and more. I think this approach could be beneficial to all of us.
Many adults, however, don’t take the time to pursue their true passions. We get caught up in day jobs, socializing, parenting, housework, TV, and many other tasks and distractions. In Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” she writes about a community in which everyone shares the necessary tasks of living, such as cooking, home repairs and garbage collection, and then, for the rest of the day, they pursue their passions. People who love gardening or health care or playing with young children do those things for the community. People who wish to learn about something can voluntarily apprentice with an expert. There is plenty of time for relaxing, yet no one is “lazy” because there are so many interesting opportunities to learn and grow. We humans are curious by nature, and when our learning is allowed and encouraged, we enthusiastically pursue what interests us most.
I think working toward such a society is a goal that would benefit not only humans but also the environment and all the Earth’s creatures. We would be much more satisfied and fulfilled, and less likely to over-consume out of boredom and a search for mindless entertainment. Those among us who enjoy science and inventing would come up with solutions for environmental problems that we face, and would be encouraged to implement them for everyone’s benefit. Instead of wasting time and energy trying to get everyone to conform to others’ expectations, each person would be supported in fulfilling their dreams.
In the meantime, as we work toward that vision, we can also make unschooling happen in our daily lives. By prioritizing your time, you can explore new things and pursue the things that interest you. Instead of watching TV or a movie, practice a new hobby that sounds intriguing. Get a group of friends together to learn something new, such as cooking a gourmet feast or building a tree house. Invite the children in your life to take a field trip with you to learn about organic farming. Come up with creative solutions to problems or challenges in your life. Experience and encourage the fun and joy in learning new things.
If you’re intrigued by the concept of unschooling, Home Education magazine has a page with several interesting articles by parents of unschoolers. Click here to check it out.