What is the difference between the two you might ask?
Homeschooling is very structure based. The kids would receive books or programs on their computer to accomplish the tasks given to them. Pretty much like what you would do at school, except at home.
Unschooling is way more unstructured. The kids have the freedom to pick and choose what they wish to learn about. To discover what really lights their spark and what they are interested in. It is way more stress-free.
I often hear the question "well, what do they do for testing?" Well they don't test them. But that isn't as scary as you would think. Depending on what it is that they wish to aspire to when they are older. They can go and take programs and courses to Level Up towards that which they wish to achieve for themselves. Kind of like how we get our License to drive, we have to study and practice in order to get that piece of ID, to acquire the skill to drive. Well that is kind of how it is for the Unschooling life for these guys. Whatever it is they become passionate about learning then they can pick and choose what they will need to do to get there. They really have the freedom to think outside the box and to not be pushed to fit inside one.
You can't put a star shape inside the square slot, unless you really determined to make it fit.
"Get back in the Box and start thinking like the rest of us."
When we first made this decision as a family, we were honestly scared, we had NO idea what we were doing, or how we would do things. I worried whether or not they would learn enough. It was sometimes a battle to get them to keep with their basics of reading, writing and math. But I could not push them to do it. They had to make the choice of their own will. Which is so beautiful.
At the end of their public school year in the summer of 2016, the boys were fed up with school, which of course is normal by the time summer break arrives, but this was a bit different. They were unhappy, they were stressed, my oldest son Mason had developed deep anxiety. I was grateful though, that his year before this big change, he had a great year with a wonderful teacher. Someone who understood what it's like to be a boy, and who actually cared! It was a blessing.
My youngest son Noah was only in Grade 1 and he was already tired of the system and more than happy to stay home. His words, "I feel like I am not learning anything", "they are not teaching the things that I want to learn about" which at the time was Dinosaurs. Noah knows SO much info about Dinosaurs, he has read books upon books of Dino information, that he actually got to the point that he could not find any books that told him any new information. That was it, and that is why we chose Self Design, because well, the name says it all. They have total freedom for the way they want to learn and what they want to learn about. Creative Educational Freedom!
BRAG ALERT: Noah began to get more into fantasy than learning more about Dinos, he got himself into the first Lord of The Rings book, the Fellowship of the Ring, yes I did just say that my 8 year old is reading Lord of The Rings, and yes he is grasping it. He actually can tell you what parts were different in the book than in the movie. He also reached Grade 3 Level Math, which he felt he was not being nearly challenged enough when he was in public school doing Grade 1 Math. It was too easy for him. So while being at home, through a program called Kahn Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/), Noah reached Grade 3 Level Math and is now almost at Grade 4 Level. Yeah, I am pretty blown away too. He has now decided to read from the beginning of the series with The Silmarillion.
This year for Mason, was a bit challenging, but it was an excellent learning process for myself and my spouse. This year for him was mostly a healing year, of letting go of the old system of schooling and easing into this 'Unschooling' way. It was often a battle with him to do anything, but what we learned from that is, when you don't use it, you lose it! Mason and Noah have made the decision to do better this new learning year, and to really make sure they keep up with their basics, because they really don't want to lose that. Which is fantastic that they made this discovery for themselves. Teaching happens, when the pupil is READY to Learn.
Speak to your children, as if they were the wisest, kindest, most beautiful, and magical humans on earth. For what they believe is what they will become.
Our first year on this adventure, was pretty much a year of Unlearning, in order to WANT to Learn.
The fears that came up for myself, was that I did not feel disciplined enough to be able to pull this off for my kids, will I be good enough at teaching my kids? do I know enough to be able to teach them? I worried a lot and well my worry looked a lot like being an angry Momma Bear. Which was some great awareness for myself. When I get scared/worried I often came across as angry or sad. Oh, the beauty of fear. The worry of whether they were learning enough, especially when they would show no interest in wanting to learn the basics. The boys were amazing teachers for me when those moments would come up. Often saying, "Mom, don't worry about it", well they showed me. Looking back I really did not need to worry, they got this! I have been blown away at how much my kids know and how much they process.
I came out of that year knowing HOW to teach my kids, and also learned a beautiful thing called PATIENCE. I got to see how different they were in their learning ways, and it was a well of knowledge.
This Summer, the boys decided they want to learn Spanish, just so they can understand what the people in their video game Assassin's Creed are saying. I say, that is AWESOME!! That a video game has inspired them to be curious about a different language. Once they become fluent in it, they can take that with them anywhere. Another skill acquired.
Video Games have inspired my kids on many accounts, they learned how to read from video games (and by my teaching) and when they did go to public school. They learned hand eye coordination from video games, they get curious about how they are made, and also because we are a family of geeks, we like to look at life as if it were a video game, except we only have one life. We Level Up, we purchase items, we fight bosses (inside ourselves=challenges), we CREATE THE WORLD WE WISH TO SEE! That one is my favorite. The boys have even made up their own learning lessons using video games like Minecraft. They would work on designing buildings, and running their own little villages. They would add, subtract, divide and multiply with blocks. It may sound like my kids have a very virtual life, but I assure you they also have an incredible balance of getting outside to play in Nature, and socialize with other Humans. They understand the importance of living a balanced life.
We have raised our kids to be very open, they will talk to us about anything they are curious about, because honestly, how wonderful is it to be able to talk to someone about anything, and working on it together to find solutions to our challenges. Something my Mom has always said to me since the day my first came into this physical plain of existence was, "always talk to your kids." In doing so, my kids have grown to be incredible young men. I am constantly beyond blown away about how much my kids have learned, the challenges they faced, and the incredible lessons learned from them.
I no longer worry, because when I see how they engage with the world around them, I know we have done all that we can as parents. Our family has created an amazing Team Unit, and everyone has their own part to play.
When we sat down for a family meeting and talked about public school and how the boys felt about it, we took a HUGE leap into the Unknown. It was scary, especially when you have no idea what you are doing, but that is where the beauty lies, because in not knowing you begin to learn and understand and only get better day by day with every lesson. We have learned SO much as a family and as individuals and honestly it is only going to get better. We welcome every challenge, so that we may learn and grow, and to always become a better version of ourselves everyday.
BRING IT ON!
One of my favorite quotes, by the beautiful Maya Angelou:
"you want me to do something, tell me I can't do it".
We look forward to diving into this New Year of Self Designing!
So excited for all that comes our way and watching my boys grow like the mighty trees that they are.
Much Love and Gratitude