Earlier this year, my daughter Maia and I created a myth-challenging interview with a radical unschooling whole life learner detailing her approach to living and learning through a peak into her daily life. The interview headings summed up what unschooling means to my family:
1) No assignments. Lots of learning activities.
2) No rules. Lots of guidance.
I wrote the article to illustrate how “schooly” unschooling can look, yet feel decidedly “unschooly.” Maia often surprises people with her “schooliness.” She reads fat novels. She loves science. Her favorite subject, if asked, is math. She has her career goals in sight and is actively working toward them.
Maia wants to enter contests. Believe me, it’s not my idea. She wants to take the more involved homeschool tests rather than have me fill out a mail-in assessment, which would satisfy the legal requirement in our state. She bounces happily in her chair while filling out multiple-choice quizzes online and is presently working through a standardized test preparation workbook.
I do admit that Maia’s love of academic study makes it easy for me to remain a confident unschooling mom when people ask questions such as “What about math?” Nonetheless, I would choose unschooling even if Maia didn’t love workbooks. Her sister, for example, says workbooks are boring. Luckily for her and other unschoolers, there’s a whole world of alternatives.
This summer Maia entered a Creative Communication essay contest titled “What is important to me.” Her submission, “I Love Dinosaurs and Dolphins,” was the first essay she had ever written. In fact, she didn’t know what an essay was when she encountered the contest, but she is now a proud published author. Creative Communication contests are run by teachers and educators. According to the website, they reject more submissions than they accept, so inclusion is an honor.
Maia has developed a good command of language, because she loves to read. From learning to read by age 5 to learning to write an essay at age 8, Maia took every step along the way because she wanted it. This illustrates one way that unschooling “works.” Not only does my 8-year-old daughter have a good grasp of the passive literacy of reading, the one focused on in conventional schools, she demonstrates the more powerful active literacy of expressing herself in a clear and organized way through both writing and speaking (She created her own online show).