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Unschooling. This homeschooling label has a lot of moms intrigued but often intimidated, simply because it sounds like a recipe for a chaotic and unorganized lifestyle. However, in recent years, unschooling has grown in popularity because of its flexibility and amazing benefits. Parents are seeing the positive side of unschooling, especially when it comes to kids leading their own learning.
A major question that a lot of parents have before jumping into unschooing is how can I organize unschooling and be intentional while letting my kids take the lead? This is a completely valid question, because unschooling does offer academic freedom, but is not equivalent to a household free-for-all.
Here are 5 ways you can be intentional with unschooling:
1. Learn about what your kids are interested in and track your kids’ interests.
One of the most important pieces to unschooling success is making sure you are staying in tune with your kids’ interests. After all, this will be what leads you and your kids each and every day.
It is easy to figure out what kids are interested in. Through conversations, and observing what your kids do in their free time, you can come up with a great list of interests that can be a jumping off point for your adventures, projects and experiences.
When you sit back and really learn about your kids and their interests, it will open your eyes to a whole new side of them.
2. Set goals with your child.
A common misconception is that unschooling means you live a willy-nilly lifestyle, with little to no direction. One thing that turns people away from unschooling is the thought that it is completely hands-off and the days progress without intentionality. Yuck! That doesn’t make for a good experience.
Goal setting is the perfect addition to unschooling. Setting goals does not mean that the organic and natural way of unschooling is negated. Goal setting is actually a great way to model organization and intentional productivity for your kids.
When you are goal setting with your kids, keep it age appropriate. For older kids (8+), it may be best to set week-long goals that are broken down by daily plans. For younger kids, it is most beneficial to have daily goals, broken into morning/afternoon.
What is most important is that your kids learn that goal setting is valuable and productivity feels good.
Goal setting with your kids does not have to be fancy or elaborate. It can be a simple pen-to-paper activity, or you can write goals on a chalkboard/whiteboard. Once the goal has been reached, your child can cross it off the list.
3. Plan outings and experiences.
A lot of parents who want to unschool are put off by the idea of not being able to organize and plan out their days via curriculum and/or lesson plans. It can feel uncomfortable for a homeschool mom to go from planning out the details of each day, to not planning much at all.
Researching, organizing and planning outings and other experiences is a great way to find the balance of giving your kids academic freedom and still staying intentional.
If your child loves dinosaurs, you can plan a day to find dinosaur books at the library, or find somewhere that might have dinosaur tracks to look at.
You don’t have to plan lavish getaways for your kids to benefit from the experience. Simply going to the library, local park or children’s museum regularly is a great way to spend your days.
4. Intentionally show your kids how to love learning.
Another important key to being intentional in your unschooling journey is to show your kids how to love learning. For some parents, this might come naturally, and for others it might not.
Our kids need to see us showing interest in different topics and seeking out more information to grow our knowledge. This part of unschooling is important, because our kids will replicate what we model for them.
The true beauty of unschooling is not necessarily the information that kids can attain, but that they love to learn and that we can help ignite that spark in them.
5. Stick to your good parenting practices.
Sometimes we get so caught up in being “pure” to the homeschooling style we choose that we forget that good parenting trumps all. Unschooling is not meant to be a replacement to good parenting practices. There are some guidelines for what a parent’s role in unschooling looks like, and they go hand-in-hand with positive parenting.
Though unschooling (especially radical unschooling) does take a mind-shift for most moms, it doesn’t mean that your knowledge of good parenting gets overridden. For example, a common concern about unschooling is helping too much. You absolutely can and should help your kids if they need it!
You can still help, encourage and even make suggestions while unschooling your kids. Good parenting is the basis of a great unschooling experience and should be built upon with that in mind.
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My strong-willed son needs unschooling. I’ve been meaning to sit down with my son to discuss his goals and make some plans. This was encouraging!
Deborah Bown says
I believe I am already doing unschooling but want to learn more. My daughter enjoys learning about what she wants.
Heidi R. says
Thank you for the information and encouragement. My autistic son would benefit form this, far more than traditional schooling.
Sara @ Heart and Soul Homeschooling says
It’s so nice to hear others finding success with this approach! I’ve been doing this since my oldest daughter was 6 and she’s now 17 and ready to graduate. I’ve always called it purposeful homeschooling and delight-directed learning. It’s awesome! I wouldn’t have it any other way. When we first started homeschooling, there was a “stigma” with radical unschooling since most people had a wrong impression of it. I’ve always felt that homeschooling is an extension of the attachment parenting I began when they were babies. It’s a lifestyle!
I have on that loves workbooks and structure, and one that is basically unschooling. I need to learn how to let go and not kill the process.
I am excited to be starting to shift my thinking to unschooling in the future!
I unschooled my son through high school and he went into University with a scholarships and grants that we sort of fell into. He took two years between ‘graduation’ and going to University and is excelling! My 14 yo daughter is unschooled pretty completely. It is wonderful to find a forum where unschooling is not only understood-it is celebrated and insights, wisdoms, and loving care, freely offered!
Health and Happiness
Beth Blanchard says
We’re working on unschooling and fun schooling this year. I think it’s a great concept and it seems to be working well for my kiddos!
Shawnell Rogers says
We are needing a little more life breathed into our day!
Shauna C says
I’m glad I came across this post. It really did clear up some things on unschooling for me and definitely sounds right up our school alley.
Ameryn Briggs says
We are unschool-ish. Definitely still finding the balance. Thanks for the info!
I’m hoping to add more unschooling practices to our homeschool, and could certainly use some guidance.
Karyn Ashley-Smith says
I think I’m an undercover unschooler…. I need to learn more!
Judith Martinez says
I’ve tried to be more intentional but over the years we’ve fallen into unschooling during difficult seasons. I’m amazed all the time by what my children have learned on their own because they love to learn.
I’m very intrigued by unschooling. I’m on my 30th year of homeschooling. Just graduated my youngest child last year, and I’m starting over at PreK with my granddaughter this year. I need more flexibility in my homeschooling now than I did previously, because of running a very busy educational theatre studio.
Jenny Hurst says
I would love to try unschooling with my 11 year old…traditional schooling is not a good fit for him….he gets so bored so easily. Time for a change
Good information! I’ve been hearing more and more about unschooling!
Olivia Hamilton says
We have been thinking of trying this method & the article was helpful & have me some good tips & a starting point!
I am interested in learning more about this topic. I genuinely don’t know enough. I think this article was very top layer, but it has intrigued me 🙂 I think the name is probably misleading? Unschooling sounds like undoing something that has been learned, but this article does not make it sound like that at all! Thank you for the spark!