Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Review of an Unmanual

Little children love the world.  That is why they are so good at learning about it.  For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning.  Can we bring ourselves to let children learn and grow through that love?  --John Holt

While walking down our homeschool path I recently read a small book.  The Unschooling Unmanual.  Actually, it is the first book I have read regarding what is popularly called unschooling.  Rather than a dry text of words and theories, overlaid with how’s and whys, the various authors in the small book approached it more like a diary or a letter to an old and trusted friend.  It was an easy read, dry at times, but lively overall. 

Now, onto the review.  When I first heard the term unschooling we had just let it be known we were homeschooling Bear to the general public.  She was just three years old.  We were nearly certain before she was born that homeschooling was the path we wished to travel but we were not convinced until it came time to search for preschools.  The thought of my baby girl being away from me and in school being taught by a stranger just didn’t set well.  I know that sounds odd to some but the emotion was very strong.  I never tire of spending time with her, sometimes I get tired and want a break, but I still love spending time with Bear.  We have fun together learning about all sorts of things and her mind and knowledge about the world just blows me away sometimes, I can’t imagine stifling this freedom of learning.  Anyway, the term, when I first heard it, frightened me.  I was told about all the negatives, lack of parental oversight, or unparenting.  I was glad to see in this little book that the majority of parents have boundaries based upon the age of the child.  It’s more about how one approaches education,and that approach filters over into life. 

The idea that was a thread throughout all the essays was that parents were not so much teachers as facilitators.  In his essay, “What is Unschooling?” Earl Stevens wrote:

Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents.  Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen (65). 
These words were a salve to my worried heart.  Those first negative utterances to me about “unschoolers” and the lack of hygiene and boundaries put fear in my heart.  This salve of words  helped to comfort this momma’s heart.  What welcome words they were. 

The essay by Daniel Quinn, “Schooling:  The Hidden Agenda,” is a thought-provoking piece with his correlation between culture and education and how education has progressed throughout recent history.  While he doesn’t give proof of his allegations, there is a strong ring of truth there. 

This small book gave a reader an opportunity to glimpse inside the private domains of the unschooler families; a rare chance to see what really goes on and like one essay stated, show that every family does something a bit different and that there is no ‘recipe’ for unschooling.
Check your local library for the book. 

“Unschooling isn’t a technique; it’s living and learning naturally, lovingly, and respectfully together.”—Jan Hunt

The Natural Child Project—More information on Unschooling

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