My husband and I grew up in two very different school systems. I grew up in the US school system, attending both public school and Catholic school. Meanwhile, my husband grew up in India, attending a Catholic school. While these two systems are different, they both focus upon the traditional style of learning—a set list of subjects and learning dates, figures and formulas according to a predetermined structure. This is the way that the school system has been for some time now and for some it works. Then there are the other methods of education that are growing in popularity such as Waldorf and Montessori. Given that we identify as a location independent family, it appears to both of us that pursuing education using traditional structures is not going to work for us.
Welcome to location independent studying, called by different names such as unschooling or worldschooling. Such a concept is ideal given our family structure. Neither my husband or myself believe in the traditional school system. I believe that children will be able to thrive and be more successful by pursuing topics that they have interest in. In beginning our journey I have found that there are several others that think the same way. One such individual is Seth Godin, who has written a manifesto on the current state of education within the United States that I encourage everyone to read. Throughout his manifesto he discusses how the traditional education system was designed to create workers who would listen and do as they were told – something strongly desired with industrialization. However, by pursuing education in a different way can yield thinking, innovators, and leaders—individuals that question and search for answers. This is the type of individual that I wish for my children to be, and thus we are pursuing non-traditional forms of education (which also aligns with our lifestyle).
Based on my research and understanding, unschooling is following a child’s natural learning path and focuses on providing experience-based learning. Rather than being assigned a list of subjects and being given information on each subject to digest and regurgitate, a child is given the freedom to explore the topics that interest them. For instance, if a child is interested in dinosaurs, more in depth exploration can be provided, focusing on the various time periods of the earth, more detailed understandings of different dinosaur species, etc. The same is true for virtually any topic, be it physics, biology, art, music, etc. I personally believe that pursuing this method of education will be better for my children. Furthermore, by choosing to educate my children this way I will be able to adapt lessons based on wherever we find ourselves in the world. In Bali? Great. Let’s learn about the formation of islands, about volcanoes, about Balinese culture, etc. In the US? Awesome. Learn about how the country was formed, its relationship to other countries, economics and the role its economy plays in the world, etc. I really believe the possibilities are endless.
Perhaps this is all preemptive. Our two little ones are 1 year and 3 years and are just beginning their education journey. However, I believe it is never too early to start learning. Talk to children as though they are adults and they will step up to the plate and surprise you. Obviously, all things must be adjusted to age and maturity, but the overall concept can be applied at any age. The decision to pursue unchooling is something that simply works for us. It certainly isn’t for everyone. Who knows? Maybe it won’t even work for us. But we’re gonna give it a shot and see what comes of it.