Unschooling Articles from Live Free Learn Free

Learning by Living
by Dana Laquidara

When my children were babies they learned things naturally, by watching, imitating, exploring, and asking questions. When they reached the age of five, our lives inevitably began to focus on school schedules, buses, and homework. Their endless curiosity and uninhibited learning slowly but surely were restrained to accommodate the curriculum. They had little tolerance for crowds or the constant hum of a noisy school day, and they were increasingly frustrated with their lack of time for their own passions such as art, music, and dance.

I might never have questioned my long-held belief that children are supposed to go to school, but my own children revolted against the setup to such an extent that I had to think of an alternative. Their sick days became more and more frequent. While I worried about their waning attendance, I also noticed that on the days they were home, even while sick, they were relaxed and blissfully productive. They would read, create art, and delve into projects of their own choosing. There was joy and spontaneity in their learning and time to reflect on what had been absorbed. It was mindful, not hurried or forced. One day it hit me. This is how I want their learning to be. This is the life I want for my family.

The following school year, we began our homeschooling journey. Initially, I purchased a packaged curriculum and followed its agenda. Before long, I realized that my “school at home” approach was squelching my children’s own ideas, thoughts, and love of learning. Since then I have simply made sure they have a variety of materials, and I have been available to assist, answer questions, take them places, and nurture their drive to follow their own interests. I offer guidance and enthusiasm for their self-directed learning. They set goals for themselves, such as learning a new song on the piano, or the multiplication tables, or how to breed guppies. Then, they own the learning because it is theirs.

We have been able to cut out the busy work and get on with learning by living. My youngest child learned to read by reading, to tell time by looking at the clock, to use a dictionary by using one, and to count money to know how much allowance she had left. She was motivated by desire and necessity, with no worksheets or drills involved. One of her and her sisters’ favorite activities is to write to pen pals from all over the United States. There is no coaxing involved. This is not to say we don’t have textbooks or workbooks in our home. We have several to use as resources. Some days they are used. Other days they aren’t.

My children are learning valuable life skills such as cooking, doing their own laundry, and making bank transactions. They are learning firsthand what it takes to live life. They each have a few scheduled activities that they enjoy, and we are fortunate to be able to travel. Instead of just reading about places, we get to visit some of them.

My children are becoming seekers of information, and they know that no question is too trivial or too big to ask. The questions and the seeking have become as important as the answers.

Dana Laquidara is a writer, wellness counselor and yoga instructor living and learning with her family in Massachusetts.

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