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Unschooling: How these Parents are Making it Work

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  • Unschooling: How these Parents are Making it Work

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    Traditional school versus homeschool. Nowadays, that is the typical education debate. I know personally that this is the debate in my household, and we still have a few years before my son goes to school.
    But now, we’ve come across another type of learning. One that doesn’t involve classrooms, or schedules to follow with parentsand children at the dining room table, or anything that involves traditional learning, really. Let’s introduce you to the idea of unschooling (aka worldschooling or free-range learning).
    Personally, I really have no idea what this entails. However, just from reading just the beginning of the article by Akilah Richards with regards to her two daughters, I’m learning that it involves no sense of structure, but rather children learning what they want to learn at their own pace. Let’s all learn a little bit of what this entails, and then you, as a parent, can really make a decision to decide if unschooling is right for your family. I know that right now, I have a lot of questions that would need to be answered first, but let’s just see what Richards says and how it’s working for her family

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    Richards and her husband have given up their jobs and the girls have left their gifted school programs behind in order to live a life fully independent life without alarm clocks, deadlines, or a formal school environment. They prefer “flow over structure,” which means in part that there are no bedtimes or rituals, so to speak. Their girls age 9 and 11 are usually going to bed at around midnight and the parents after that at some point. Somehow, I can’t even imagine this, because the thought of my son going to bed at 11pm makes me want to cry. Then again, I’m up with an alarm clock before sunrise every morning, so that probably makes a difference.
    It’s not that they don’t work, but rather that they do what they enjoy. Akilah Richards is a writer, coach, and public speaker, and her husband, Kris, is a creative brander for both people and organizations who want to express on- or off-line. They also have a familial support system that’s available to help in case things get a little tight. But they also have a great approach to life and parenting that allows for this type of learning to occur.
    An important idea to remember is that they are not anti-school, they are pro-learning. They do not think that learning should be defined by textbooks, sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day, and daydreaming out the window. They believe learning should be productive, not a mere checklist of requirements to cross off.
    As parents their motto is, “work toward a shared goal of raining women who are comfortable in their skin, versed in the skill of confident autonomy, and experienced in how to mine and utilize information in the digital age.” Looking at their lives, they are dedicated to travelling; their children are getting information via their own interests and research. These girls have travelled more in their 11 years on this earth than I have in my 29. I’m starting to feel a little sad for myself, but no worries, I’m still interested in their learning and I’m okay with my stance right now (although more travelling always sounds nice).
    Something that I do agree on was her feelings about how black children are underrepresented in the teachers’ area. She stated, “school can create a dangerous reliance on external validation, which we find particularly dangerous for Black children, as most of the teachers in our daughters’ school did not look like our daughters, nor did they share our family’s cultural and spiritual values.” Very true. This is an important topic that we discuss in my household, which is one of our primary rationale for most likely choosing to homeschool our child. We want our son to learn what we feel is important based on our culture, not necessarily what the teachers value.
    Now, she says that the lifestyle and learning style isn’t for everyone, just as other styles aren’t either. However, she says that this is the normal she is attempting to create for her daughters, by equipping them with the ability to change the world without feeling bogged down by homework and needing to feel validated by society. She shows them about their culture by buying from black-owned merchants, getting locally grown in-season foods, and exploring what their hearts truly desire. This is how she plans on raising them to be the people they want to be.
    I can understand her views on parenting as well as education. Education here seems to be something that is so structured, that it leaves little room for exploration of what a child is truly interested in. Imagine if they didn’t have all the homework that they do now; what they would do with their time? If they were able to travel more, would they learn more, and be interested in other things?
    My only question with her way of education is, how do they get into college if they decide they want to go? Do they have the credentials to take the entrance exams, and the other requirements that are needed to apply to universities? That is my only fear, and that really needs to be looked into. So, if you’re contemplating taking this route, just be sure that it’s well-researched, as well as any other path to education that you choose. For me, I plan on maybe instilling some of these ideas into our plan for education. We really want to focus on what our son wants to learn, not what society is forcing him to learn.