Family Profile: Unschooling Benefits

This is part of our occasional Family Profiles series that features families who are utilizing educational options for their children. This portrait comes from an unschooling family with four girls and the benefits they’ve experienced along their journey.

I have been a home schooling mom for over ten years. I have four daughters. Two have graduated and two are in their high school years now. There are many attributes of home schooling and unschooling that have appealed to and benefited our family over the years, but I’ll mention just a few main ones.

FLEXIBILITY- this attribute is perhaps our favorite. Our ability to travel and explore any time we wished, the opportunities to learn in unconventional and preferable methods from actual sources (like Vietnam vets, actual farmers and business people in desired fields of interest, at locations where industry is performed vs. reading about it in a book in a room, etc.), the chance to spend much more time on a subject of interest or a passion than a typical school syllabus can allow, and the ability to set aside some subjects that other authorities demand are studied, but our child would have absolutely no interest in, and focus on what they ARE interested in, so as to entice actual learning, not rote memorization for test taking sake–these are what helped our girls succeed into the talented young women they are today.

DIVERSITY- Nearly every year of our homeschooling experience was different. And often each girl learned in a different way. Once we saw that one wanted to be a writer above all else, we decided to let her pursue that interest with total freedom. She has learned more in her research to complete a novel in many subjects (science, medicine, history) than we could have “taught” her parsing out those subjects separately. She has written and published her first novel at the age of 16, and has fan fiction online with a massive following, allowing her to learn marketing, time management, customer service, and other topics in a way that suits her interest best.  Another daughter was not motivated by studies as much as work, so we let her take what is called a “gap year” in the middle of her high school years. (Gap year often refers to a time period between graduation from high school and entrance to college or trade school, allowing the student to seek out what they want to do as opposed to just muddling along in some predetermined route of life learning.) She was able to work at 16 years old. She has worked a few part time jobs, but also started a photography business that has flourished. She has not only taken senior photos for her friends, but has taken baby portraits (needing the upmost care to work with new mothers!), full family pictures (lots of coordination and patience required!) and even has photographed three weddings in two years, one also while creating all the flowers for the wedding! She could never pursue her passion for photography and wedding floral design, to the extent she has, if she were attending a regular school program and was bogged down with the busywork called homework.

FAMILY TOGETHERNESS- So often we hear that the American family is crumbling, being torn apart, is dysfunctional. With children away at school, parents working, demands coming from every angle it is no wonder. Families need time to be together to forge strong bonds. Both my husband and I worked from home while homeschooling with our girls. We were available, involved, and enjoyed our time with them. Sisters who would be not only in different grades, but possibly different schools, got to learn together, teach each other, eat together, play together. Pets were part of our learning experience and enjoyed ALL day long, not only in the couple hours between school, sports, activities, homework and bedtime. Extended family members were part of our normal day, not some holiday occasion to enjoy. The girls were not sequestered away from real life, but totally immersed in it on a daily basis.

CHOICE- It all comes down to choice. This is essential. As adults we all have choices. We can choose our jobs, our interests, where we live, with whom we are friends, our food, our clothes, our passions. Every single thing in life, we can choose. There is almost no standardization for adults, so why should there be for children? True, there are basic points of knowledge that everyone needs to function well in our society, but nearly as many ways to learn them as there are children. All children need to learn in ways that suit them best, and families of New Hampshire must retain the rights to attend to their children’s educational needs, as they do all their other needs, however it works best for them.