Hudson Valley Parent

HVP September 2015

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26 Hudson Valley Parent ■ September 2015 By KELLY AURIEMMO S o many of us are familiar with the term homeschooling, but have you heard of unschool- ing? While homeschooling is pretty straightforward (teaching your child at home), unschooling is a little harder to defi ne. Unschooling is the notion that chil- dren are innate learners. When left to their own devices, they will seek out information and learn on their own. Parents who unschool see themselves as facilitators of learning opportuni- ties rather than teachers. Learning through life experience When fi rst faced with term "un- schooling," many parents see it as just letting your kids do whatever they want all day. The actuality of unschooling is that children learn through their natural lives and life experiences. So unless you lock your- selves up in a room with nothing, then learning is going to happen. Simple trips to the store, bank or post offi ce lead to learning. Seeing plays or musical concerts leads to learning. Talking to a grandparent or aunt leads to learning. Kids are natural born learners, curious beings, who will seek out learning in their interest areas. Now does that mean they are go- ing to learn about a tadpole growing into a frog at the same time as all other 2nd graders? Probably not. Will they learn about the American Rev- olution at the same time as all other 4th graders? Doubt it. But when they seek it out them- selves, the learning can be so much more meaningful than being forced to memorize facts from a book. Letting the child lead As an unschooling parent myself, I provide the exposure that allows my child to seek out information. As par- ents, we are the facilitators of their life experiences and we are responsi- ble for offering our children as many rich experiences as we can give them. For example, if my children are interested in the solar system, I would take them to a planetarium, get books out from the library on the solar system, or fi nd videos on the topic. Amy Robertson Nielsen from Ulster County defi nes unschooling as "child-led learning." "My daughters choose the topic of interest and I endeavor to give them age appropriate resources to discover all they can about the topic at hand," she says. "This includes fi eld trips, books to read, fi nding experts to interview, internet work, and lots of discussion. To me, it's always an- swering 'why' with the fullest extent possible. I don't have to push them to do their work because they decide what we are learning and how we are going to go about learning it." Local resources If they aren't showing interest in anything (I have yet to have that hap- pen) then I might bring them some- where to try to stimulate curiosity. As facilitators, we are responsible Taking the school out of schooling Local families on 'unschooling' and how it works for them (Continued on Page 28) "Kids are wired for learning. What they are not wired for is sitting still for hours on end being lectured at." — Amy Robertson Nielsen, unschooling parent

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