Homeschooling vocabulary is of particular interest to me, as both a writer and a former homeschooler. If you’ve been reading me for some time, you’ll know that I enjoy a well-written text that is free from spelling, grammar or other errors. I pride myself in producing such texts, and I dislike seeing that ugly red squiggle under a word in one of my posts.
But frequently when it comes to homeschooling, the dictionary simply hasn’t caught up with the vocabulary being used by people who homeschool their children or who study the homeschooling phenomenon. So whenever I write a post aimed at homeschoolers, I have to add the vocabulary to my word processor’s dictionary. And when I later input the post into a blog or writing site submission form, I also need to update the vocabulary in my browser’s dictionary.
So it was with great pleasure that I learned today that the Cambridge dictionary has added the word “unschooling” to its lexicon.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is pretty much what it sounds like: it’s a parent taking primary responsibility for a child’s education at home. There are many different approaches to homeschooling. They range from what is often called “school at home,” which is completing the state curriculum in a home setting, to unschooling at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Most homeschoolers will choose a homeschooling approach that matches their philosophy of education. They might lean towards a classical approach or a child-centered approach like Waldorf or Montessori. Homeschoolers often take a mixed approach that combines elements from several different methods. When we homeschooled, we combined two approaches that were heavily focused on learning from reading and great literature. We also used some workbooks, some unit study, and a few lapbooks.
What is Unschooling?
Unschooling is a homeschool approach that is completely child-centered. There is no structured curriculum, as the child decides what he wants to learn on any given day. There are no textbooks and there is no assigned work or testing.
In unschooling, the child’s learning is driven completely by delight – this is, by the things he loves and is curious about. This method is often doubted by teachers and school administrators, who worry that children will focus too much in a single area and will neglect their development in other areas. But there have been a large number of children educated this way, and their parents believe that children will naturally cover all the important facets of their education over the course of time.
Gaining Legitimacy for an Unconventional Approach to Education
I personally know several very intelligent and successful young people who were unschooled. I can’t see where they are “missing” anything because they were educated without a formal structure. I relate very well to them, in fact, and spent some time unschooling my own kids. I find that both my kids and I learned quite well when we followed our delight rather than sticking to a fixed curriculum.
Seeing the word “unschooling” in a dictionary is a sign of hope for me. First, I can hope that one day my virtual dictionaries will recognize “unschooling” among a full range of homeschool vocabulary. But more importantly, I can hope that this very effective approach to homeschooling will gain the legitimacy it deserves.