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UN-schooling, a deliberate rejection of school, more than self-directed learning

by Beverley Paine

Natural learners

"Learning is as natural as breathing." John Holt

We probably will never know the exact moment we start learning but I believe it's in utero, before we're born. There's no doubt that a newborn baby is already busy adjusting and adapting to her environment, taking in the new sensations and working out what they mean. Children are born with the ability to learn: they don't need to be taught how to do it.

Rather than consider childhood as a preparation for life, look at it as your child living life to the full right now. Instead of focusing on the your child's 'potential' and how you can help them realise that at some future date, help them live fully in this moment, today. Think of education not as a preparation for life but as an ongoing, never-ending joyous opportunity to continue learning.

Until they are convinced otherwise children understand and trust that they are capable thinkers and learners. Just because they don't call it thinking or learning doesn't mean it isn't happening. Recognise and celebrate the learning that underpins their every action and response.

If our trust in our ability as innate learners is never dented or undermined we won't ever buy into the myth that we need to tap into those popular learning and thinking enhancing strategies which have been developed to help students obtain higher grades. We will instinctively know that we're capable learners with exceptional problem solving abilities because that's part of the condition of being human. Learning is as natural as breathing. We are all life-long learners, learning every day, for the rest of our lives.

"Children come into the world with instinctive
drives to educate themselves." Peter Gray

Led by nature

"When we work with nature instead of trying to impose our will,
the solution is often found within the problem." David Holmgren

Natural learning is led by nature: we draw on our emerging understanding of the nature of ourselves and the world in which we live, how things happen and why. Roland Meighan, author of Natural Learning and the Natural Learning Curriculum summed it up as a set of existential questions-who am I, who are you, who are they, where do we belong, who gets what, how do we find out, where are we going, how am I doing, who decides what, and so on-"that stays with us permanently with the answers being reviewed constantly throughout our lives, as we assemble our tool-kit of knowledge."

Natural learning is not 'child-led' learning, it is 'nature-led' learning. Unschooling parents seek to understand and work with the nature of their child, to help her understand and work with her nature, and to help her successfully achieve her dreams, visions and goals within the context of family and community life. Allowing the process of learning to unfold naturally, respecting and in response to the nature of the elements present, is more than an educational choice, it's a lifestyle choice.

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." Lao Tzu

"Look deep into nature, and then you will
understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

"The latest research on the brain tells us that
babies 'hit the ground running' as active learners.
Their brains are already programmed to begin their
lifelong course of study by interacting with their environment...
Indeed, one definition of what it is to be human is given
in the title of a John Holt book-we are human because
we are Learning All the Time."
Roland Meighan

Deliberately Un

Unschool: as in not school, no school. I like that. It says exactly what I mean.

Education and school don't mean the same thing. I think it is sad that people recognise that education happens outside of school for everyone except children.

The word school isn't synonymous with learning either. People recognise that learning happens throughout life, not just when we're at school.

It is a laziness of habit, promoted by ignorant people, to swap the words education and learning with the word school. However, I'm not lazy or ignorant when I use the word unschooling. I'm saying something very deliberate.

Unschooling describes my approach to education and learning. It removes the assumption that people learn only when taught, in a particular way, in a particular place and at a particular time.

I call myself a natural learner, a whole life-learner, and a self-directed learner... in fact, I use many words to describe what I do, but when I say I am an unschooler I am telling everyone that I don't think school is the only place children learn or become educated. It's a deliberate statement about my thoughts and beliefs about schooling, education and learning.

School isn't just a place: it's a way of thinking about education and learning. As an unschooler I reject the philosophy behind schooling. The word unschool is deliberately provocative: it challenges people to think about what the words school, education and learning mean. It challenges them to redefine education and embrace the nature of learning, consider them in the context of no school, living and learning everyday without school. A typical unschooling day is busy, constructive, and interesting but it won't look anything like school, it will look like life.

Unschooling is an attitude: it's saying "I'm learning because that's the nature of me, I'm a learner, and I'm learning what I need to learn from this situation, not necessarily what you or anyone else wants or needs me to learn." Empowering our children to continue to think like this, from birth onwards, is our role as unschooling parents.

One of the things I love about the way my children were educated is that they now remind me that learning is life-long. I can learn whatever I want to now or at any age. If the need to learn is there and it is important to me, then I will either be motivated or motivate myself to learn.

Unschooling and natural learning unfold from the centre: ours, our children's and our families'. The question we need to ask each day is what is central to our needs, as individuals within the family, as a community and society, and within the family of humanity. Keep it honest and frank and we will naturally meet our needs in a timely and satisfactory manner.

Life-long learners start their education at home. As unschoolers we are guided by principles. There are no arbitrary or rigid rules as to how we unschool or live our lives, only a collection of principles that build and support peaceful and respectful relationships and nurture our love of learning. In this booklet I've collected together a handy list of tips and reassuring quotes that guide me as an unschooler. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful too.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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with increased confidence in my ability to provide and
share a wonderful learning journey with my family!"

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wisdom changed our lives. We now offer support and
organise many homeschooling events for others."

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"Thank you for all your many,many reassuring words
over many, many years. You probably don't know exactly how
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I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
And I'm very grateful."

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Welcome to the World of Home Education
and Learning without School!

We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

The Educating Parent acknowledges the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Owners, the Custodians of Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this website.

To see the full range of Beverley Paine's books on homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning visit Always Learning Books

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to suit the individual needs of their children.

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