‘Unschooling’ Approach Appealing to More US, UK Families


Unschooling and attachment parenting coach Laurie Couture insists that foregoing more structured forms of education allows children to be truly free to explore their educational interests. Her son was unschooled through his adolescence and until his graduation from high school, and she believes he reaped incredible benefits from his nontraditional education, writes Mary McCoy of Yahoo! Parenting.

“There were few ‘typical’ days in our adventurous family,” she says. “As a single, working mom I built my career around my son and being able to open the world up to him.”

Couture explained that her son’s weeks consisted of home-school groups, exploring natural habitats, connecting with the neighborhood through art, speaking engagements, volunteering, and visiting extended family. The Natural Child Project applauds Couture’s efforts.

“Unschooling is a unique opportunity for each family to do whatever makes sense for the growth and development of their children,” the organization explains. “If we have a reason for using curriculum and traditional school materials, then we use them.”

One of the goals is to foster a lifelong love of learning and fascination with the world. Couture says the field trips and fun activities served as a support to her son’s life and future career. She believes unschooling can serve as a way to set the course for the career a child may want in adulthood.

Her son ran a business of his own beginning at 12 years-old. He recorded music and went with her on speaking gigs, and Couture says these creative career opportunities would not have occurred if her son had been “pigeonholed into a one-size-fits-all public education.

Couture’s son earned scholarships for his continuing education, and as he followed his own passions and interests he remained engaged in his learning.

Parenting expert Dayna Martin is one of the major proponents of an idea called “radical unschooling.” She believes that parents should focus on principles and not on confining rules that prohibit both a child’s freedom and growth. Martin also thinks children should eat what they want and stay up as late as their eyes will allow.

The followers of this style of parenting get plenty of backlash, CafeMom’s Tanvier Pearl says. Tanvier says she can understand some of Ms. Martin’s sentiments. There are parents who would just like to have their children escape from “learning robotic-like lessons that rob them of the joys of life.” She adds that she, however, believes there should be a balance where learning is concerned, since “too much of a good thing can be bad.”

When Kim Constable of the UK decided to try the Dayna Martin parenting method, her husband said it sounded like chaos to him, but the two agreed to try it out for three months. She found the letting go difficult, but saw her children learning, growing, and happy.

Kate Graham writes in The Telegraph that unschooling, or as it is sometimes called, whole life unschooling, is on the rise in the UK. Martin said, “It used to be hippy types but in the past few months I’ve spoken to doctors, educators and lawyers. It’s becoming more mainstream.”

UK parents do not have to register their homeschooled children, nor do they have to follow the national curriculum or take exams.

“Despite knowing everything we do is legal, we know people who are hounded by their local education authority when they find out they don’t do lessons like in school,” says Alison (not her real name), 38, mother to three children under 10. Her radical unschooling (RU) blog may have seen hits double in a year, but she will only speak anonymously. “I wouldn’t want to wave a flag that says, ‘Come and find me,’” she says.

09 6, 2015
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