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What is the Unschooling Method of Teaching?

Child-directed learining focuses on the child's natural inerests.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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Unschooling is a learning method sometimes used by people who have chosen to homeschool their children. Unschooling, also known as natural learning or child-directed learning, focuses on the child's natural interests and goals to create a learning environment in which children educate themselves. Homeschooling differs from the unschooling method in that homeschooling follows a set curriculum, with parents replacing traditional teachers as mentors and counselors. Unschooling, on the other hand, offers a child the freedom of learning what he or she considers important or useful. Parents, for the most part, either stay away or give general advice only when asked.

In unschooling education, children learn through hands-on experience, which includes anything from visiting libraries and museums to reading books, asking questions, and doing online research. In unschooling, real-world experience takes priority over curriculum, as defenders of the method believe that, given the freedom, children will choose to learn. Take for example a child's interest in computers. He could research how they work and what they can do (science), who invented them (biography), what were the first computers like (history). Or it could lead to him studying computer programming.

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The term unschooling was first used by John Holt, an educator who fought hard for school reform and eventually warmed up to the idea of homeschooling as the best educational option. Holt is the author of many books on education, including the bestsellers How Children Fail (1964), How Children Learn (1967), and The Underachieving School (1968). Holt became the spokesperson for the unschooling method, going as far as creating the magazine Growing Without Schooling.

Unschooling is not a deterrent to a college education. In fact, many universities see homeschoolers as self-motivated and "in love with learning," which makes them ideal candidates for acceptance. In lieu of a high school diploma, unschooled children can present a portfolio to their college of choice, including CLEP Achievement Test scores, samples of work done in the past, letters of recommendation, out-of-school achievements, etc.

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