Updated: Jun 23, 2020
COVID-19 Sparks Renewed Interest in Special Type of Homeschooling
“You must be so patient. I could never do that.”
“Unschooling? What is that?”
“We could never homeschool. My child is an introvert, so he needs school for socialization.”
I'm pleased to introduce Jean Nunnally as this week's guest blogger for Beyond Introversion. Jean is both a writing buddy and a friend. She has an awesome outlook on life and lots of personal experience on the unschooling topic. Given the COVID-prompted changes to education these days, I'm thrilled for Jean to educate us a bit on unschooling and especially how it may apply to our introverted kids.
to have Jean share her thouThese were a few of the many comments and questions during the years that I unschooled my two children from birth to college. The reference to my patience always made me chuckle. Was I patient? Not naturally, definitely not at first, and not all the time, but I learned that patience, like many things, improves with practice and application.
What is Unschooling?
It’s a type of homeschooling that embraces freedom and choice. Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning, this is a philosophy of allowing children to follow their curiosity, and to learn through living instead of using a curriculum prepared by others.
Rather than teaching my children, my job was to introduce them to the world as we moved through it and then allow them time and space to process it. They were free to explore whatever caught their attention. There were no boring lessons, no tests, and no work on my part to keep them motivated.
A Warm Cocoon Your Introvert
If you are the parent of an introvert, you may feel that school is necessary for them to learn to socialize, a view widely accepted as an important function of school. But is it really the best place for social interaction?
Comparing my own traditional education with the unschooling approach made me aware of the ways school inadvertently hampers meaningful relationships. Instead of bonding with classmates in a relaxed, natural way, much of the day is spent listening to a teacher or working on assignments. Conversation is discouraged. Competition for the teacher’s attention, class standing, or grades doesn’t encourage trust or cooperation. Classes segregated by age provide little opportunity to spend time with older or younger children, or even adults, whose mutual interests might make them more compatible friends.
Ironically, the respectful nature of kids we observed at an unschooling conference was a big reason my husband and I chose the path we did. We were taken with how happy and confident the kids were and how kind they were to each other. Over our years of meeting other homeschoolers, these were traits I found fairly universal. The meanness and cruelty that I remember from school were absent.
Learning outside of school lets you and your child control the amount of social interaction that is comfortable. My kids played with neighbors after school. During the day, they played contentedly with each other or we met other homeschoolers for park days or in each other’s homes. We banded together for group activities like a gymnastics class, a junior master gardening course, or blueberry picking.
The natural range of ages, a mix of kids older and younger, as well as parents, was a wholesome blend of youthful enthusiasm and parental mentorship. Alliances formed through mutual interests independent of age. Kids learned from and with each other without competition or pressure, without bullying, swearing, or inappropriate behavior.
The abundance of unstructured time together fostered deep friendships, and this set a foundation for healthy attachments as adults. As part of the real world, the kids went with me to the grocery, the bank, and the post office. They were as comfortable talking with our librarian or the grocery cashier as they were with other kids and their parents. I didn’t force them to be social, simply encouraged them to engage when they were ready and willing.
Honoring Your Child
My daughter is primarily an extrovert who also enjoys time alone. My son is an introvert who is comfortable by himself for hours on end, yet friendly and engaging when circumstances require otherwise. Neither are extremes, but all personalities can benefit from unschooling as it honors each child’s natural tendencies.
Extroverts will make friends everywhere, whether it’s the waitstaff at a restaurant or someone in line at Starbucks. Introverts who prefer the peace and quiet of learning on their own are happy with books, online information, or one-on-one coaching with a tutor. Everyone is free to choose and pursue their subjects without interruption and at a pace that suits them.