Homschooling vs. Unschooling
by Karole Dolen-Proffit

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Homeschooling as an educational alternative is one of the oldest methods of instruction in this country. There are a lot of reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home. Once the journey begins you will likely seek to define a particular way of learning. The term "homeschooling" will often conjure up images of children confined to their kitchen tables, being taught the fundamentals by their parents in reproduced miniature classrooms. Often these families are viewed as doing it for religious reasons. On the other hand, the term "unschooling" may bring up images of children loafing around on the couch doing nothing at all. However, these archaic stereotypes do not come close to describing the vast diversity in the homeschooling community today.

On one end of the spectrum you will find a more structured, "school at home" approach, and on the other end a very unstructured style called, "unschooling." In between these two ends are many different mixtures of instruction. No two families are going look exactly alike. Over time, usually with a degree of trial and error, homeschooling families will form their own way of learning to best suit their specific needs.

There was a time when the terms homeschooling and unschooling meant the same thing - not going to school, or simply learning at home. John Holt originally coined the term "unschooling" in his newsletter, "Growing Without Schooling". While one phrase has remained the generic description of educating children at home, the other has grown into a specific style. Some unschoolers even believe it is not just a way of learning, but a way of living. Other terms used to describe it are - child-led learning, interest-driven learning, natural learning, and child-directed learning.

Unschoolers believe that every person is born with a natural desire to learn. Parents, sometimes referred to as facilitators and guides, trust and nurture that natural desire. It does not mean leaving a child alone to fend for himself though. Just the opposite, actually. These families are very interactive ones. Parents must learn to listen to their child carefully, be ready to ask and answer tough questions, provide endless resources, and encourage every one of their child's interests. It is a family effort, with the parents learning right alongside their children.

Learning to trust your child is the hardest part of the unschooling journey. Most parents who are doing this with their children today, grew up in a much more traditional education setting. To switch into a more natural way of learning, requires them to throw out everything they were ever taught about how people learn. This style not about randomly filling a child's mind with facts and figures at predetermined times, but about showing them the pure joy of learning. It is about giving children the tools to find out what they need to know, when they need to know it.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to home education. Each child and family will search and decide upon whatever is the best fit for them. Regardless of the style chosen, homeschooling in any form teaches children responsibility, independence, and self-confidence.



Here are descriptions about some of the different styles and methods:

"School at home" This is where parents try and re-create a public or private school classroom setting at home. There is usually a special room or place set aside just for this. It is very structured, usually using a packaged curriculum, and working around predetermined schedules.

"Classical Schooling/Education" This is based on something called the trivium, which means three-fold way or road. The three stages (or ways) of learning are - Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Each stage is taught in order, and uses language, rather than images.

"Charlotte Mason Method" This method uses "living books" that are full of characters and places that come alive, instead of dry, boring textbooks. It's focus is strongly on the liberal arts.

"Unit Studies" A specific topic is chosen, and all subjects - Math, English, Geography, etc. - are integrated into that one topic.

"Eclectic" Eclectic learners pick and choose from all the different educational methods to develop a unique learning style that works best for them.

"Unschooling" This term was originally coined to describe "not going to school" or "learning without school." They believe that a person does not have to be in a school setting to learn, and that learning is not something that needs to be restricted to a specific time of day.



About The Author: Karole Dolen-Proffit is a website designer and freelance writer from Northern California. In addition to being a blessed member of a proud unschooling family, she runs several websites including http://unschoolers.com, Your Go 2 Girl, BaaadMedia!, and http://moonriverdesigns.com