Tomorrow we return to our more structured learning mode. Though we view education as a year-round pursuit and believe in the philosophy of unschooling as our preferred learning mode, we still experience different “seasons” of learning throughout our year. We have been road-schooling since the beginning of June, traveling around New England and then spending the remainder of July and early August at an arts camp in Northwestern Michigan, where I teach creative writing and my boys attend camp (posts about our summer of road-schooling and camp are coming soon!).
For the five years we have been homeschooling, we have taken a near-pure unschooling approach: letting our boys chose what they learn, abandoning any form of traditional learning such as curricula, textbooks, and the dread worksheets, and using mostly real-world experiences to learn. Our house has lax bed, screen, and tech times. We have spent most our time outside of the house – one reason we shy away from using the word “homeschool” – taking various classes at libraries, community centers, and parks. As a result, I have two bright, curious, and happy boys sailing into the puberty and the teenage years.
Tomorrow marks a shift for us, though I believe the shift stays true to the unschooling philosophy of child-led learning. The boys will enter their middle school years and they have requested more rigor and structure to their learning. So we are introducing some more traditional elements this year such as IEW for writing and a couple online course through the state online education system. Our one learning tool that resembles a real curriculum, Life of Fred, is being replaced with CTC Math. It’s overwhelming, it’s exciting, the boys and I are all holding our breaths.
As with everything we have ever tried, we see this as a new era of trial and error. I go into these new years of more structure understanding that we will navigate them just as we have in the past five years, with open minds and an understanding that we are simply seeking the right fit, the best way to learn the things we seek to learn. And if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that you have to okay with things not working, plans not going as envisioned. So even though we are adding some new elements I still feel we are embracing the “not-back-to-school” mindset for the word “school” carries with it the connotation of “rigid structure”, an adherence to a set plan, no matter if it fails or succeeds. Unschooling is a deviation from that standard where learning- however it happens- is the goal.
So we welcome our new learning season. Not back to school, but a new adventure with much to discover.