Our Top 6 Favourite Answers to Those Awkward Questions about Unschooling.

We love the freedom, individuality and creativity that unschooling allows. However I am quite sure that it doesn’t suit every child or family, this is not an attempt to convert anyone over to our way of thinking.

This is list of answers, with some beautifully written quotes that we use to fend off those awkward questions people like to ask about unschooling.

1. How will your children get ‘socialised’ and make friends?

“Nothing bothers me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.”

– Seymour Papert

This quote packs some punch and I feel like I don’t need to add much more in response to people asking this question! The answer I normally offer people is ‘socialisation’ in preparation for the big world out there, is best learned out there in the big world.

If they persist, I might also mention that it doesn’t feel natural to only have the chance to make friends with people our own age. No other area of our lives works like this. I would welcome the chance for my child to learn great skills and wisdom from older people, or gain empathy and patience from supporting younger ones.

In times before all but the most recent of human history the whole tribe, family or village would have raised a child and I think the deviation away from this could be leaving us with a lot of disconnect in today’s society.

Children do not need to be ‘socialised’ they are born social creatures, complete naturals! The chance to have social interactions in real life, with all sorts of people is rewarding. These days there are so many home school groups, holiday camps and child friendly places to hang out and make friends, it’s never like you are actually stuck alone at home with your children doing all their school work like I swear some people must imagine.

2. Is unschooling in the UK even allowed?

Quote from the official GOV.UK website:

‘As a parent, you must make sure your child receives a full-time education from age of 5 but you don’t have to follow the national curriculum’.

https://www.gov.uk/home-education

So yes, in the UK unschooling is completely legal. Plus it’s really straightforward you only have to de-register your child from the state education system if they were enrolled in the first place.

3. Don’t you need to follow some sort of curriculum to evaluate learning?

Some people enjoy following a plan, I understand. If you want a plan, have a plan.

However if you don’t want a plan, I think that’s ok too. Until the age of five parents know how to support their children how to develop and learn. Children learn how to recognise facial expressions, eat food, walk, and speak a language, maybe learn colours or start to write their name.

Nothing needs to be planned, measured or checked. It’s only the way that schools work that makes us feel like we have to evaluate what we have learned for it to have any value.

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.”

– Linda Darling-Hammond

‘The function of school, then, is not so much to communicate knowledge as to oblige children finally to accept the grading system as a measure of their inner excellence. And a function of the self-destructive process in children is to make them willing to accept not their own, but a variety of other standards, like a grading system, for measuring themselves. It is thus apparent that the way our culture is now integrated it would fall apart if it did not engender feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.”

– Jules Henry

4. What if your children actually want to go to school?

Absolutely yes, I would support them to attend school. I would talk to them openly about what school can offer and how it differs from unschooling (making every effort not to taint their fresh new opinion with my own old cynical one!)

I would not restrict their learning just because it didn’t fit in with my ideals.

When our daughter was two and a half lots of her friends were starting nursery school, she asked about it and we supported her to enrol and attend a local nursery. She loved it for three or four weeks, so we kept taking her. Feeling genuinely happy for her to have an exciting new world and some independence away from home on her own terms.

However one morning in the car park she suddenly tensed up with fear, started sobbing and asked us not to drop her off as usual. We listened and agreed. We drove her down on two other days and got the same reaction. We asked her many times after if she would like to return? she consitently said no, so we respected her decision.

‘Believe nothing merely because you have been told it . . . or because it is tradition, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conductive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings – that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.’

– Gautama Buddha

5. What if your children want to go to university or get a job?

If and when my children decide they want to get a degree we can find ways to support them to get the entry qualifications via private tutoring and attending exams at a centre if needed.

Also there are many other routes into the world of careers, jobs and making money to live.

My hope is that whatever path my children take in learning how to earn a living it will be by following their passions and immersing themselves in whatever has most intrinsic value for them. If this path leads them to university then we would find every way to support them.

“Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school.”

– Wendy Priesnitz

6. How will your children ever know how to fit into society?

Who is saying that it is a priority for our children to fit in with society? That would mean me placing this society on a huge pedestal that i’m just not sure I’m ready to do at the moment. I can see a lot of problems in our society, I don’t want my children to join in and be part of the problem or be heavily influenced by these old ideals.

Our biggest priority is for our children to be free thinkers, brave, happy, powerful and compassionate. Yes, we need people who help keep the cogs oiled in society whilst this is currently our only option, but we also need people on the periphery, standing up for what they believe, drawing lines in the sand and pushing our society to new ways of thinking.

Everyone should be free to play the part they are drawn to.

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.

– Ivan Illich

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