While I am an advocate for unschooling and typically write about more of the positive sides of unschooling, I thought I would take a moment to write about the cons of unschooling which is much less talked about. As with all things, thee will always be pros and with pros, comes the cons. This does not make unschooling bad, there are simply a few things to be aware of before plunging into the path of being an unschooler.
Constant Questioning- This would have to be the number one con of unschooling not only for you but your children as well. You will need to brace yourself and be prepared for an endless barrage of questioning from family, friends and many times strangers. The same questions will be asked repeatedly and for years, as long as you remain on the unschooling path. Your children will be questioned, grilled and even quizzed. People will want to know, what grade they are in and try to measure your children’s knowledge based on knowledge of peers within public school. Your parenting and learning philosophies will always be up for questioning by those who are not able to understand this approach.
No testing and no grading system can make learning hard to measure- Without testing and without any form of grading system, this can make measuring learning difficult for many or for others to understand how a child is learning or how much they are learning. This is where a simple journal or blog may come in handy to be able to see everything that was done over the course of a year. The lack of measurement can lead to doubt for many parents. However many parents KNOW how much and what their children learn that outsiders do not get by spending each and every day interacting with their kids. We see what they are doing every day, we constantly talk with them and through discussions we know what they learn. Still it makes concrete black and white measuring obsolete and this can lead to doubt for the unschooling parents as well as the public eye.
Doubts- There will be times, especially in the beginning where an unschooling parent will be filled with doubts. Doubts will raise it’s head and make the parent question if the children are learning, if they are learning enough, if they will learn enough to function in the real world when they are ready to leave home and if unschooling really is the best they can do for their kids educational path. Much of this seems to stem from trying to measure an unschooled child’s learning with their peers and the model of public educational system which in the beginning of an unschooled lifestyle is the only model of learning parents really know. Doubts tend to be more prevalent in the beginning stages and while the parents are going through the deschooling process. Panic attacks and anxiety about your children’s learning process will overtake the parent from time to time and this is a normal stage most unschoolers have gone through and still occasionally experience at any stage of unschooling.
Resources not always readily obtainable- This creates a difficult challenge for the unschooling parent. Part of the role for the parent is to take advantage when the children want to learn something and supply material on the spur of the moment when the desire to learn something strikes. While it can be easy to obtain items of interest you want to introduce your children to, it is not always easy to obtain the resources your children want. This can be due to many reasons starting with you have no clue what your children will want to learn nor when. So when an interest strikes, the area you live in alone may make obtaining what the child needs a challenge or money may be an issue at the moment or what they are requesting is just plain difficult to obtain period due to the complexity or rarity of their request. When unschooling is about being in the moment and going with the flow this at times can defiantly present it’s fair share of challenges in trying to fulfill the Childs needs.
Lack of Support- This can defiantly be a fairly large con for the unschooling family. Not all unschoolers live in areas where there are active support groups and the feelings of being totally on your own can be overwhelming for some. For children this can mean lack of friendships, for parents just a feeling of isolation and having nobody to discuss philosophies and questions about unschooling. While online support groups can help in this area a little, it is no way comparable to having real contact with real people living in similar philosophies you share. In this situation if a network of support is really important you either need to start a group yourself or consider moving to an area that would provide this.
While for me, the pros of unschooling far outweigh the cons, I did not think it totally fair to only share the pros. The cons should be considered as well and should be openly discussed so you come to the path of unschooling with both eyes open and your rose colored glasses left of the coffee table. The cons of unschooling are few but still must be considered before embarking into this free spirited lifestyle.