Facilitating Unschooling // The Parents Role

As a parent, choosing to Unschool means choosing to be responsible for your child’s entire education right?

I don’t believe so. A child is an individual and therefore their education will be unique to them. Children are not a vessel to be filled with information and facts, rather they have their own ideas and thoughts that ideally need to be respected, trusted and encouraged and essentially this is the parents role in facilitating unschooling.

So what does that look like? Within an unschooling paradigm a parents role looks like :-

A lot can be learned simply by observing a child. Watching the way they interact with their environment and the people in it. Do they like to touch? Do they like to stand back and take their time? Do they love to speak, and act and voice their thoughts? Take notes (mental or physical) and put together a picture of your child. You’re learning about them, just the way you would a friend. You’re learning what they like, and what really brings out their inner light.

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With your deeper understanding of your child, you can now really have some meaningful conversations about the things they’re learning. Be the voice that says, “I can see you’ve really been practicing this.” or even, “Some things take a lot of practice to learn how to do.” It’s not about praising them, but acknowledging their successes, their challenges and their efforts and making them feel that they are genuinely seen by the people who they love most. A child who feels they have the true support and encouragement of their parents feels secure enough to try new things and extend their comfort zones.

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Within an unschooling family, connection is built upon principles of care and respect. Parents understand that a strong connection ensures that their children feel comfortable asking questions, being honest about their thoughts and ideas, and comfortable with making mistakes; seeing them not as failures but opportunities to grow. A secure connection between the parents and the child also means that an open dialogue can exist  where both parties can express their needs to each other and therefore there is little need for power struggles. If the connection begins to flounder it is often easily obvious to both parent and child. Making an effort to connect physically, emotionally and make time for each other, is vital to reinforce the strong connection.
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This is where you as a parent can positively add to your child’s interests or current project. A child only has access to the resources, people and experiences that they are offered, so as parents we can be the ones to provide those to our children when needed. However, this can often be overdone; we don’t need to give everything, all the time, eg, if your child is interested in China there is no need to go into debt to take a trip to China! Think outside the box and work with your child to make sure that although you can offer extension, that you are not completely taking over their personal learning journey. It’s a delicate balance but it’s worth taking the time to remember that when you are considering extending the child’s understanding or knowledge with extra resources or experiences, come from the child’s point of view and choose those things that will suit your child the best.
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Trust is perhaps the most important – and for some, the most difficult – element of unschooling for parents. There has to be trust for unschooling children to thrive. As parents we need to see the value in everything our children do. We need to see value in play, daydreaming, resting, or incessant desire to do the thing that currently interests them the most. Essentially, what and how you learn and live as an adult is very similar to how your children will be living and learning in an unschooling environment. A child who has the freedom to control what and how he/she learns, is motivated intrinsically to achieve their goals which sets up a great foundation for adult life. A parents role here is to trust that given support and a variety or materials and experiences, a child will learn what they need to know to grow into the adult they want to be. That might not be the same type of adult as the neighbours child, so it’s important not to compare and to truly trust that if learning and growing is always seen in a positive light, it will always be an overall positive experience for a child.
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I’d love to know, how do you support your child in an unschooling environment?