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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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