How Unschooling Differs from Homeschooling and Public School
There is a strong movement among homeschoolers to go the unschooling route. Unschooling? That doesn't sound much like learning does it? I looked up unschooling in the Merriam Webster's online dictionary and there is not a definition for it. I think this makes sense as I have known many unschoolers (even dabbled in it myself for a bit) and they all seem to take a different approach.
When I talk with unschooling parents the general definition that I can come up with is to let the children guide the learning pace, not do any workbook learning, and let the children pick the subjects to learn about. But I have also seen other types of unschooling. Some people unschool in certain subjects, while making sure their children get math and writing each day. Other people just figure a child will learn what they need by being exposed to the world and don't ever sit down to teach their children anything. Some parents will guide their child's unschooling. If there is a subject they child is interested in the parent provides information and helps them learn about that through books, games, the internet and field trips. I think this is the best way to learn. Amazingly enough all the "unschooled" children I have met have been very smart and done well in life.
One of the benefits of unschooling that I see is that the children end up with a love for learning because they always learned about exactly what they were interested in. One of the drawbacks I see is that it doesn't make for a very well rounded education sometimes. With unschooling - as opposed to typical homeschooling and the public/private school option - your child might not be interested in many of the subjects out there and won't end up learning some pertinent information.
This is one of the biggest drawbacks to unschooling in my mind - that your child will not learn everything they need to know. With that being said though, much of what I learned in school (before college) I don't remember today. There is something to be said for life skills. There is so much to living that book learning won't really help you with. I do see a need for a strong foundation in the basics though. Honestly, your child will not get very far in life if they don't know how to do math and how to read and write well.
Now that homeschooling has become popular and pretty much accepted everywhere there are tons of classes available to homeschoolers. When we homeschooled we took classes in history, art, sewing, outdoor survival, ice skating, physical education, science, animal study and more. My kids loved that kind of learning more than anything we did at home. Another fun way to learn is through magazines. Every week I checked out a few magazines from the library on topics my kids were interested in or to go along with our studies. They loved learning like this and frequently at the dinner table they would tell us all about what they read. They didn't get so excited about their spelling workbook or their math worksheet.
Seeing my kids love to learn in such a casual way made me look into unschooling for my family. For a year we did the bare minimum workbook stuff (the basics) and spent the afternoon learning in whatever way they choose that day. It worked great and helped them so much. One of the great things about unschooling (and homeschooling too) is that there can be more hands on learning and individual attention than could happen in a public school. As a parent you know your child better than anyone else and this can be a big benefit.
Unschooling is quite different from being in a regular school setting or even homeschooling. It is a totally different approach to learning than what we are used to. But that doesn't make it bad and it doesn't mean that it won't work. I firmly believe that parents want what is best for their child and sometimes unschooling is it.