There is an article/video extolling the virtues of unschooling over on Reason, the libertarian-leaning web site. While I disagree with some of the article’s portrayal of teachers — and the site’s blanket dismissal of public schools — there are definitely circumstances where unstructured learning fits the needs of a child.
In Anna’s case, the past year has been a tremendous relief from the stress and anxiety associated with the standard educational curriculum. Her main areas of focus have included film, photography, graphic design, cooking (with the help of her grandmother), ethics (with help from the creators of The Good Place), and writing. I’ve been particularly pleased with her world-building exercise because it has allowed us to touch on a wide range of other topics such as biology, geography, climate, design, culture and politics.
We have made regular trips to the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Chicago Field Museum. We have also started to build a timeline of historic events culled from the “day in history” feature of our local paper. (The timeline covers over 600 years and — at an inch per year — is over 50 feet long. I’m hoping to write about this project in detail in the near future.)
The benefits of unschooling are tangible. I have witnessed the return of Anna’s enthusiasm for learning and the year has been filled with interesting and challenging conversations. While it may not be for everyone — and it certainly doesn’t always substitute for the resources and experience found in public schools — it can provide a welcome alternative.