One of the first questions I had when I started Unschooling was…
What the hell did I get myself into?
Just kidding, I didn’t think that at all. Well, maybe a little bit, but my deeper question was…
“How will my children learn ALL SUBJECTS through Unschooling?”
I knew that unschooling was the way we all naturally learn, and I knew that I had seen passion in my children when they chose what they wanted to learn, but I also had a part of me that worried my children would be lacking in one or more subjects.
Traditional schooling typically organizes curriculum by subjects. At first this seems like a good method to make sure we don’t miss any subjects, but the problem is, this isn’t how we naturally learn.
We naturally learn by discovering an area of interest, and as we explore that interest, it crosses over into multiple subjects. By learning through an area of interest, we learn faster and deeper than we can ever imagine.
When people ask, “How do you unschool?” My answer is that we follow our interests – and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music – all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as “subjects”. A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. (source)
For those of us who went to a traditional school (myself included), this may be a hard concept to grasp, for possibly no other reason than it is new to us.
Here’s a good example. Let’s say you were interested in animals.
You probably would read a lot of books on animals. (NON-FICTION & FICTION READING) You would learn various facts (ZOOLOGY), the classification of species (PHONICS & WHOLE LANGUAGE), how different species/breeds were discovered and domesticated (HISTORY), and what areas of the world different species live (GEOGRAPHY). You probably would talk to others about animals and gain knowledge from others’ experiences (SOCIAL INTERACTION/SPEECH DEBATE). You probably would visit a zoo or a farm to learn about how to care for wild animals or how to raise domesticated animals. (REAL LIFE APPLICATION) You probably would draw animals, or purchase art/photos of animals. (ART) You probably would learn about how animals eat, what types of foods their bodies can handle, and the illnesses they can contract. (SCIENCE & PHYSIOLOGY) You probably would want to own some animals of your own, which would require you to figure the costs of raising an animal/feed costs/healthcare costs, or in purchasing any books, toys, games or activities related to your area of interest. (MATH) You may need to write or email people inquiring about animals, or you may love to write stories about animals (WRITING). And finally, your area of interest would lead you to experiences such as how the library works, how to search online, how to write and send an email, how to type, how to find local farms or zoos, & how to solve real world math problems.
Whoa! Those are a lot of subjects learned through one area of interest!
This example above comes from my son’s real life obsession with animals. His interest in animals is one of the things that led me to unschooling. I found he was learning more and covering more subjects by his interest in animals than he was from traditional schooling. At school, he was often reprimanded for drawing animals on his worksheets or for reading non-fiction animal books when it was time to read the required book for his reading group.
How we naturally learn ALL SUBJECTS through Unschooling.
When I first started unschooling, I decided I needed to compile a list of ways we learn and their corresponding subjects so I could reassure myself that learning was happening constantly. My “traditional-schooled” brain had a hard time grasping this concept, but after I printed this list and stuck it on the fridge, I was reminded daily that there are countless ways we learn! Hopefully it’ll help you too!
- How old your house is & why
- Why your town exists
- Where grandparents grew up and why
- Relatives in military
- Where car came from
- People living in different places with different accents and languages
- The history of miles and how it’s calculated
- Movies – why did cowboys wear bandanas
- People and what they do, believe, & wear.
- Mountains, rocks, rivers, and where rivers are empty.
- Can you look at “Mediterranean” and figure out why they called it that?
- What animals and plant are where and why?
- Who has oil, diamonds, gold, or uranium?
- Where do we get bananas, pineapples, oranges or dates?
- Why are some cities big shipping centers and others not?
- Where are the hub cities of railways and airlines and why?
- What parts of the world are crowded and which aren’t?
- What makes places dangerous?
- Why are some places more technologically advanced?
- How did smoke signals work?
- How does weather prediction work?
- What knowledge did space travel add to our knowledge of our planet?
SCIENCE is DISCOVERY!
- Miniature golf
- Water play
- Rescuing wounded birds
- Making goop
- Collecting rocks
- Drawing pictures of clouds
- Taking photos in different light
- Growing a garden
- Training a dog
- Looking through binoculars
- Waiting for a crystalis to open
- Making a sundial
- Making a webpage
- Flying a kite
- Catching fireflies
- Building a campfire
- Tracking planets
- Making snowballs
- Finding out how a truck works.
- The history of it
- The physics of it
- How instruments work and the different sounds they make
- Song lyrics and their mental triggers
- Dancing in the backyard
- Singing in the car
- Going to listen to a band
- Going to a street festival
- Listen to different stations
- Watch musical theaters in person or on video.
- Visit music stores or pawn shops
- Video games involving music: Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance games
- Arranging toys
- Combining outfits
- Setting the table
- Making & arranging food
- Gift wrapping
- Gates, Fences
- Taking sketchbooks on hikes, to museums, parks, zoos.
- Making maps
PHONICS & WHOLE LANUGAGE
- Why words are formed in everything we study.
- Book Reports – Happen naturally as we talk about what we’ve read. We don’t need to require they are written down. If a child can orally give a report, they can write it out if they choose.
- Letters – Will happen naturally, they can see examples online or from recent mail.
- Penmanship – Not needed in today’s world. The ability to express oneself vocally will translate to paper if ever needed.
- Cursive – “School cursive, called in my day Palmer penmanship, had evolved from an elaborate decorative script invented for engraving in copper, a very slow and painstaking form of writing that had nothing to do with speed. Someone, somewhere, decided that it would be nice if children learned to write like copperplate engraving, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
- Children will learn cursive & calligraphy if they want.
- Kid poetry books that are fun/gross, song lyrics, and nighttime reading all are poetry.
- Puppet shows, plays, live & on video. Acting out at home or in groups.
- SPEECH & DEBATE
- Watching current debates as they come, discussing events as a family.
- Historical novels, fairy tales, fables, mythology, science fiction, short stories, other novels, graphic novels, screenplays, movies.
- Books, movies, magazines, articles, newspapers, etc.
- VOCABULARY & SPELLING
- Happens naturally as children live life, read, talk, play. They become better as they read more.
- The only real math are word problems.
- Math is best learned naturally with patterns, proportions, deductive reasoning, graph-reading, real life problems, etc.
- Board games, video games, dice, cards, singing games, money, budgeting, etc.
- Create a home in which algebraic thinking is a standard part of conversation. Our interactions are analytical and involve factors and projections. They see the concepts and they use them without ever saying the word, “math”.
This is just a short list of ways we learn, but as you can see in my example above, just one area of interest can cross over many different subjects! It’s totally possible to learn and discover the world through unschooling!