Here is a link to the youtube video, "Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life". Astra is a filmmaker who was unschooled until the age of 13. She has advanced degrees and even attended Brown University, but she never studied cinematography. She reflects on her unschooled life, her experiences in the public school system, and her time in college. She gives a balanced view of both the pros and cons of unschooling and distinguishes this mode of education from homeschooling.
One thing Astra wishes she had more of as an unschooler was an intellectual community where she could be creative with other kids, having fun and doing projects. This was an unmet need even though she had siblings. She found such a community among her public school friends, who she said were trying to give themselves the unschooling experience she had though they went to a public school. They sought to be self-directed learners.
Self-education is the cornerstone of unschooling. Adults facilitate the learning process rather than teach their children according to a schedule and curriculum. Astra emphasized her enriching home environment and the natural world outside as being sufficient motivation for spiking her curiosity and providing the materials to find out what she was interested in learning. This reminds me of my Montessori experience. The prepared classroom environment was key to this method. Children were free to choose any materials from the shelves, as long as they had been shown the proper handling and use of the material, and they were free to come up with their own variations.
The lessons teachers gave were predominantly individual and small group, and children had the right to not have the lesson if they were not interested or were busy working on something else. We did our best not to interrupt their concentration. But being a school situation, there were lunch times, group circle lessons, and outdoor play times. We tried to make transitions smooth and not hurry the children, and to allow a child who really did not want to break away from his work to finish it whenever possible. It wasn't an ideal situation, and for some children, the school day was excessively long. They could come as early as 7:30 a.m. and stay until 6:00 p.m. The spirit of following the child, a child-centered rather than teacher-centered approach, was intrinsic to this method.
But what about the unschooled child who does not have an enriching home environment or adequate exposure to the community and the arts? Who doesn't have books at home or access to a library? The idea of "radical unschooling" disturbs me, by which I refer to the practice of giving children no rules, no formation of good habits, no regular routines of sleep or meal times, letting them do whatever they want, whenever they want, trusting them to somehow "self-regulate". If they are not exposed to certain things, how will they know what interests they would like to pursue?
So to further my understanding of unschooling and the different types that may exist, I am inviting unschooling parents, and even the kids themselves, to be guest authors on this blog. We could do a Q&A session, or you can write your own article. Please contact me via Facebook or on the blog comments site if you are interested! I look forward to learning more about the unschooling process.