I don’t like the word unschooling (or homeschooling for that matter). I use the term because people use taxonomy to understand the world around them and it provides a nice little box for people to quickly and easily identify our path. But it’s really not authentic for us.
I don’t want to be defined by a contrary position to traditional public schooling because I don’t see the modern iteration of education as normal (much in the same way I don’t see full term breastfeeding as extended breastfeeding). Our approach to life and learning is actually not about bucking against the system but living a lifestyle of connection, joy, and natural learning.
The term that does feel authentic in describing our approach to education is natural learning. Our path is informed by a research based and evolutionary perspective that looks at everything we have learned through scientific study and history about how children learn combined with intuition. Of course, our children themselves are our greatest teachers as freedom and respect yield tremendous dividends on the parenting learning curve.
The bottom line is that we support our children in following the lead of their curiosity, creativity, and drive. We trust them to grow wild and free (experiential, child-led learning) and have faith in their path. This trust is not always easy. But they continue to show me that they endlessly reach for new understanding in all the ways that have context for them today. In turn, they have the drive and ability to seek out gaps in their understanding tomorrow (and everyday thereafter) and fill them in (they have learned how to learn and so are able to learn anything they feel a need or desire to learn).
The unique thing about this natural learning approach is that it is not confined to a subject or a schedule. Natural learning is life learning. It’s all the time. It’s every way. It’s role modeling. It’s experimenting. It’s questioning. It’s failing. It’s experiencing. Which means that natural learning is more than an educational approach – it’s a lifestyle.
We build a lifestyle around meaningful experiences. Bliss, challenge, stimulation, relaxation, togetherness, connection – it all blends together to form the picture of our life, which we paint with the greatest of intention through every choice we make.
This learning and lifestyle are inseparable from our parenting philosophy. They are one in the same. To thrive and soar children need freedom, respect, compassion, and love, which inform the dynamics of our relationships. You cannot have one without the other. For us, natural learning has been an extension of attachment parenting beyond infancy: being trusting, responsive, and making informed choices even when they are outside the mainstream.
So if you ask me where my child attends school, I might say, “We homeschool.” If a homeschooler asks how we homeschool I might say, “We’re unschooly.” But if someone really wants to know how we approach learning in living, the answer is natural learning, which is how I interpret unschooling.