Unschooling, education hacking, and homeschooling are all different terms with the same intention: parents wanting to take education into their own hands. Many parents believe that the public education system just isn't cutting it. This could be because of enormous class sizes, school violence, bullying, special needs, or political/religious views. Whatever the reason, parents are taking control and looking for a better way.
To accomplish this, parents must buy curriculum sets, which can cost anywhere from $200-$800 for books, software, and games every year. This does not include the cost of materials or field trips. Curriculum sets are often generic; not tailor made for your child's strengths and weaknesses, which defeats the purpose. Option two: private school, which can give you more choice in curriculum and more hands-on help due to smaller class sizes. Although this option frees you up to work, it is also the more expensive option with prices ranging from $4,000 to $18,000 per year. Finally, you could write your own curriculum, organize your own outings with other homeschoolers, and spend your money how and where you want to. This was the option my wife and I chose and I will tell you how we did it in five easy steps.
Step one – Research
Research the various education philosophies and choose one or more that resonate with you and sounds right for your child. There are many great philosophies out there; some of the more notable ones are classical, Montessori (preferred by British Royalty), Waldorf, democratic, and critical pedagogy. Chances are, the private school or curriculum you are considering focuses on one of these. The great part of unschooling is that you can pick and choose what you like in any or all of these philosophies to tailor make your own. Be sure to check out different education talks on TED Talks as well, Sir Ken Robinson has had a huge impact on my curriculum development.
Step two – Connect
Using Kjjiji, Facebook and other social media sites connect with local unschoolers, education hackers, and homeschoolers to talk about education over a coffee or two. Be sure to keep in contact with the parents you like and who are of the same mind so that you can organize play dates and field trips with the kids. These conversations should help inspire you in curriculum development, warn you about problems experienced by homeschoolers and develop your understanding of the practical component of teaching your child.
Step three – Rip-off and Duplicate
Look into online curriculum, borrow used curriculum from your new friends, and research your local government rules and guidelines for homeschooling to ensure your curriculum will meet or exceed their standards. As you begin to shape your curriculum hold tight to your educational philosophies so that your local requirements or duplicated lesson plans don’t steal the control you wanted when you first begun this journey. For our own curriculum we wanted learning to be fun so that our son would want to continue learning throughout his lifetime and do so independently from schools or employers. We get inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s talks on education, Montessori method, democratic learning and even a little critical pedagogy from time to time. The recent boom in unschooling has also been a great inspiration for us as we journey through our son’s education and I imagine that this trend will continue to grow giving unschoolers more and more ideas on how to improve their education.
Step Four – The Curriculum
As you write your curriculum try to imagine yourself giving the lesson plans. Are you excited reading it? If not, try again. If you’re not excited they won’t be either. Now imagine how your child will react? Are they excited, or are they staring out the window wishing they were somewhere else? What sort of learning styles is your child great at? What styles do they need help in? Use their strongest learning styles to work on their most difficult subjects and develop their weakest learning styles while covering their best subjects. Be sure to get out and explore the world with the other homeschoolers in the area. Involve your child in local teams, churches, clubs, etc… so that they can make friends and play with people their own age as well.
Step Five – Be Flexible
So you’ve written your lesson plans for the next three years but your child is plowing through your English lessons in twice the expected time and taking twice as long to do the math. That’s ok, just write more English curriculum and find a better way to teach math by using the child’s interests. Also, if you find your child’s interests or strengths change over time, roll with it. Modify your curriculum till it works best. There is no school superintendent looking over your shoulder to ensure you’re keeping with the curriculum, no one’s going to fire you for trying something wild and new. If you stay flexible you will find that your child is well above average in one or more subjects which should help them in picking a career that makes them happy and that they will excel in.
What is your unschooling, homeshooling, or education hacking method? What inspires you?