I recently came across a wonderful post in a homelearner’s blog about the use of terms like “homeschooling”, “unschooling”, and “homelearning”. Unfortunately, the blog seems to be gone so I can’t link to it, but I’ve taken the liberty of quoting some of it here (from a cached page) because it was really helpful to me in trying to figure out where I stand among all the terms and definitions. These are taken from a post by APKimberMama on her blog Holistic Learning:
“I like to think that there are really only 2 things going on out there – schooling or unschooling. Homeschooling as a term is ambiguous at best. If you are doing “school at home” then you still buy into the educational philosophy of schooling. If you choose something else, something alternative that takes away the structure and rules of school and school-based learning, then you are unschooling. Or call it home learning, life learning, holistic learning…the point is that we aren’t schooling. We may use the term “homeschooling” so that other people understand what we mean, but for most of us home is not school. We aren’t ringing the bell at 8 a.m., saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and then spending 30-45 minutes per subject, breaking for lunch, and finishing at 2:00 p.m. Yes there are people out there doing that, but it is schooling, and the fact that it is at home probably doesn’t mean much.”
Being fairly new to the commitment of homelearning I am perusing boards and forums and am surprised at how many homelearners follow what I consider to be a fairly strict schedule of “doing lessons” whether scheduled by time of day, length of lesson, or a list of subjects to be covered. I wondered what the point was of doing it this way, but of course there is so much more to homelearning than just the learning part. In fact, it was the social benefits that first attracted me to the philosophy – the belief that the social dynamics arising from peer-segregated, mass-educated institutions are abnormal and serve as the fundamental “disease” that spawns the “symptoms” of bullying, cliques, peer-orientation, etc. rather than such institutions being a benign “host” to the “viruses” of said issues. Based on that belief alone, there is much benefit to be had in choosing to “do school” at home. So I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised that many people do just that.
But it makes me feel that I fall in the more “radical” camp of homelearners because I buy so fully into the unschooling idea. And the irony of that isn’t lost on me: I have 3 university degrees, including a Ph.D. I spent a total of 12 years at university and believe it was a wonderful way to have spent that time of my life. You’d think I’d be all for “schooling”. I still think post-secondary education is a extremely valuable, but I no longer think that holds true for everybody. I don’t believe that post-secondary education should be considered a critical component of any concerned parent’s plans for their children. It is not true that one requires a university degree to be “successful”. Indeed, in seeking a definition for “success” I’ve come to appreciate that being fulfilled and content in what you do is more important that what it is you actually do. Thus, surprisingly to some perhaps, I’m not really concerned about whether or not my children go to post-secondary institutions. I’m willing to bet that DD will end up there because she is already showing the same penchant for, and keen interest in, science that I had as a child. But if she doesn’t that is okay with me, too. What matters is that my children find something that drives them, fulfills them, ignites their passions and that they follow the path that enables them to persue that thing. If it involves college, great. If not, that’s fine too.
So, lest there is any doubt, I fall into the “unschooling” category. Which isn’t to say that, if one of my kids wants to try Singapore Math or Five in a Row that I’m going to say “no honey, we don’t do that”. The key is that it is child-led, and suited to that child’s learning style. But honestly, I have no desire to “teach” my children or to schedule lessons or construct curricula for them. I’m not that way inclined to start with, and I have total faith that they will lead the way. I’m not sure if that means I fit into the “strict” definition of an unschooler, and I’m not sure I want to restrict myself by thinking I need to adhere to what others decide “unschooling” means. So I use the term “homelearner” hoping it doesn’t squish me too tightly into any one pigeonhole.