Could Unschooling Your Child Actually Make Them Smarter?

Could Unschooling Your Child Actually Make Them Smarter?

The number of parents who homeschool their children has increased in recent years, but there’s another version of anti-public schooling that is fast gaining popularity — despite being the most radical idea to come along in education in years. It’s called “unschooling.”

There were reportedly 150,000 children who were unschooled in 2005, and that number continues to rise. So just what is it? Proponents say it’s very difficult to define. There are a vast number of versions because each family has its own way of doing it. However, most people who unschool their kids use an unconstructed method of learning at home that requires no curriculum, tests, writing book reports or even sitting behind a desk. Most families have no set schedule or plan on any given day. Children are encouraged to self-teach whatever interests them by playing, watching television or browsing the Internet. Proponents say that a child’s God-given curiosity will naturally lead them to learn, that it’s not only possible to gain knowledge in this way, but that it’s a superior method. While parents are there to guide him as needed, the unschooled child is responsible for his own education.

But some child experts believe unschooling does a grave disservice to kids by stifling opportunity and instilling the idea in children that they are the “center of the universe.” Unschooling works on the premise that a child will get to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Opponents worry about what will happen when the child grows up and becomes part of the adult world. Because unschooled kids will not graduate with a high school diploma, they will not be competitive in the work force, forcing them to take lower-paying jobs — if they can get a job at all.

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But parents who unschool their kids are not worried about their children’s future success. They believe that children should learn in their own time, not on a school’s imposed schedule. Unschooling, they say, is “primarily about process, not content.” Their children learn just like other kids do at a public school or in a homeschool setting. But their kids learn without the “trappings of school.” Learning isn’t separate from daily life, it’s an integral part of it. Algebra is used when figuring out how much paint to buy for a room. Geometry is taught while cutting up a pizza. Party planning utilizes math and other education skills. Even though learning is child-led, proponents admit that parents must be engaged with their children and ready to take every opportunity to teach in order for their child to fully benefit from unschooling.