What does “unschooling” mean?

What does “unschooling” mean?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Unschooling. It doesn’t mean you leave them to their own devices.

UnschoolingI have a boy interested in relative size and divisibility of matter and time. He tells me that matter is made of little tiny bits like people are made of cells and big LEGO things are made of smaller LEGO pieces. Everything, he tells me, is made of smaller pieces. Pointillism and pixels and color combining might happen this week. We’ll see.

Yesterday at the grocery store he not only took me through the divisibility of time but also proclaimed that matter could neither be created nor destroyed, it could only change shape. It was all still there. He ripped a hole in a tissue and explained that it had a hole in it, but it was all still there. I mentioned something about the laws of physics which he politely ignored. Keep your nomenclature to yourself, thank you.

Then he asked me what happened when matter collided with antimatter. Antimatter. I don’t know. We’ll have to look it up. Boom and energy and particles seems to be what happens.

Then today we had a look at a biology book. The Way Life Works. Excellent excellent illustrations. Biology in graphic form. We stopped briefly at the cell. Prokaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells. Organs. Organelles. Very little interest. Then DNA and recipes and transcription and why–if you and your brother have the same parents–are you and your brother not exactly alike? The Interactive Scale of the Universe. More interest but waning.

Then a little jaunt into A Child’s History of the World. The first three chapters read like Montessori’s Great Lesson, God With No Hands so he loves those and is always happy to listen to them. This took us back to the sun, the earth, the moon, the planets. The rocky planet we live on, the elements present and why they ended up where they did. Density, gravity, layers, air. Fish remove oxygen from water, people remove oxygen from air.

Then tools and Stone Age people and copper and tin ore and Minecraft and scarcity and subjective value and the Diamond Water Paradox and superabundance and property. Bronze Age people and what a Golden Age is and the nature of evil and I’m going to circle back to that later today.

Then we returned to genetics and he inhaled the first half of The Journey of Man–which is a great lesson, too. Geography. Physical maps, political maps, the San bushmen and the government of Botswana displacing them by making a political border that ignores a physical and cultural reality. DNA again. That’s why we aren’t exactly alike! More geography. Ice ages, climate change, land bridges, drought, deserts, scarcity.

That was before lunch and this was a summary and I left out a lot.

Unschooling doesn’t mean you leave them to their own devices. It means you see where they are going and you give them what they need to feast on the topic, explore it, and connect it to other topics they love. They don’t forget what they really want to know. They will forget what you really want them to know if they don’t care.

Updates from the home office.