The unschooling mindset can be essentially summed up in one word: Why? That might be followed by other questions like: How did it stay like that? Where is it different? When did it start? What can I do about it? But in the end, why is the first and foremost. Why is about questioning the status quo, the assumed. But why (no pun intended) is that connected to unschooling?
Unschooling is built on “why?” It’s starts with “why school?” That leads to research, conversations, personal reflection and more (notice the learning that’s inherent in those activities). You may have been planning to unschool since before you were a parent. You might even homeschooled when you were a kid. Or you may have just read the Teenage Liberation Handbook and left immediately. But in the end the truth is, in this world, to unschool you have to make the active choice to not attend school or have your kids not attend school. You have to question something that’s assumed, and then keep on questioning (Why assignments? Why tests? Why forced learning?). Unschooling families are most often avid questioners (yes, I think you can be avid about asking questions) because they need it to claim their unschooling title.
Unschooling is driven by “why?” Self-directed learning comes from a hunger to know more. To consume knowledge about a given subject. To have the drive to learn and understand more, you need to keep wondering. When unschooling, learning doesn’t come from someone else’s decision. No one else tells you what you should or need to learn. You learn things that fascinate you, that you don’t know all about. Everything is fueled by a burning desire to know more about the world.
An important part of transferring into unschooling is changing your mindset. Your goal as a parent is to fuel your child’s desire to learn, and your goal as a child is to remind yourself of your desire to learn. Let’s focus for a minute on what a parent can do to support their child in this endeavor. I’m choosing to do this for two reasons. One is simply because I think the child has it easier. In my experience, they’re (we’re) full of questions. The other is that often parents set the mood of the household. A question like “why?”, which can seem regular in some families, can also be seen as accusatory. It’s important that we work towards a world where “why?” simply means “I want to know more” and not “that’s a stupid thing to think/say/do.”
Ask questions. When you’re thinking about something, ask about it out loud. Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to (that’s like a test at school and we’re trying to get away from that), but be openly curious about the world around you.
Answer all the questions. If you don’t know the answer, work with your child to find it. I want to discourage you from brushing off questions that seems silly, or uninteresting. Answer the questions as simply and truthfully as possible.
Do you work to inspire a culture of questions in your house? What interesting questions have come up lately?