Terminology–Unschooling, Homeschooling, and Schooling at Home

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J-Man and I. He is pretty unperturbed about terminology. He just wants to take a selfie.

What we call ourselves is a hot debate in any tribe. My family has a strong Cherokee heritage and I cringe every time some one says Indians and they are not referring to the people from the country of India. I don’t like Native Americans either, as this wasn’t America when they came here. I actually prefer the term First People. At times I have been accused of being too PC (that’s politically correct). People say that what you call something doesn’t matter, it is the intent behind the words that really counts, but I was an English teacher, a word-smith as one of my former professors liked to say. As such, I know the power of words to not just reflect and express our thoughts, but also to shape meaning and create mutual understanding. What we call ourselves and others reflects what we believe and it shapes who we become.

I say these things because initially this blog was going to be about unschooling, and now I am not sure that is the best term for what it is we are doing.  The terminology used by homeschoolers and unschoolers can mean different things to different people as I am learning on our journey. If you, like me, are new to this journey, it might be helpful for you to learn some of the background and terminology.

People have been teaching their children at home since the dawn of time. It wasn’t until compulsory education was mandated that teaching at home needed a name and a movement. John Holt was a writer and a teacher who wrote a series of books beginning in the 60s on how children do and do not learn. According to his biographical website, “Holt originally called “unschooling.” Unschooling—learning that doesn’t look like school nor has to happen at home—is an effective way to work with, not on, young children and teenagers to help them learn.” As time went on, Holt became more and more disillusioned with public schools and lost faith in school reform, though he did not doubt their good intentions. Holt started a movement of parents who were wanted an education for their children that not only aligned with their values, but also met the individual needs.

For information on John Holt Click Here

There seem to be three movements in the homeschooling community.

Schooling at Home

Schooling at Home is not a term I have seen everywhere, and truthfully I forget where I first saw it, but essentially what it means is that children are learning in basically the same way as they would at school, but they are at home. These families purchased pre-made curricula and take a very conventional approach to education. They may be schooling at home due to religious reasons, distance, or other life situations.

Homeschooling

When people say they are homeschooling, I have found that they are doing any number of things to make sure their children are learning. These could be taking children to homeschooling co-op classes, buying a curriculum, or designing a learning program around the child’s interest. The key difference here from unschooling is that the adult maintains at least a degree of control over the direction of the learning.

Unschooling

Unschoolers themselves lead the learning. Parents of unschoolers have mastered the art of trusting in their child. Unschooled children tend to have the freedom to make more decisions on what, how, and when they want to learn. The parent is the facilitator of the knowledge, not the giver.

So. With these highly rudimentary definitions in mind, I am not sure what to call us. I don’t think we are unschoolers yet, and I know we aren’t schooling at home. I am guessing we are somewhere in the homeschooler area. We’ve sat down and set some goals together (I definitely did not know he wanted to learn how to juggle), but I am still guiding most of the learning. Maybe I should say we are still finding our flow. Maybe what we are is Flowschooling? You heard it here first, kids.

Here are two amazing resources I came across in putting this post together.

BEST PLACE TO START–Sandra Dodd’s Disposable Checklists

John Holt and Unschooling

Comments

  1. Ashli Givens says

    Flowschooling. I think that is just perfect. I think we are Flowschooling too;) As much as I want to assume the role of “facilitator” and not “teacher” (in the traditional sense), I’m having a hard time envisioning how that will work. I think my lack of complete trust in myself and the fear of the unknown has resulted in my need to structure our learning experiences more than I would ultimately like. I do think that we will find our own rhythm and I know I need to give myself some time to allow that to happen. When we get back in town I would love to have a sit down with you!

    • says

      Absolutely! I feel the same way and years in the classroom are hard to undo. Really look at that checklist link to Sandra Dodd. It is really helping me to get started thinking about how this is going to look and what I need to do. Also, there is a method called strewing (sanradodd.com) that really works. J-Man is currently reading a picture book on grammar, because I just put it on the table and walked off. Strewing is positioning interesting items so that the child can discover them for himself. It really works!

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