People have often asked what unschooling is and what it looks like. Well let me give you a little sneak peek into what it looks like in our life.
A couple of months ago, all tucked in bed, me reciting nighttime azkar to children, all ready to doze off, little Miss turns around to me reflectively, “Mama, when we enter tomorrow, tomorrow becomes today, day after tomorrow becomes tomorrow, and today becomes yesterday.”
I was trying to process it all with a half-asleep mind when little Mr interrupts. “Mama I just figured out the five times table!” And he goes on to narrate it till 12 and beyond and concludes, “Mama you know what? I think times tables are just the same number added again and again!”
In my head, I was like, “Kids please have mercy on me and let me get some sleep!” After all, after a day’s work, is that too much for a tired mom to ask for?
But that’s how life is in an unschooling family…
Learning is happening all the time!
It just happens and unfolds along with life.
Those light bulb moments and the epiphanies come at the oddest of moments and times. But I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world for there’s so much joy to watch a child taking the lead in his own learning.
The thing is if we let children be, they have it in-built in them to learn. Learning is to them like air is for breathing! They all observe, experiment, and build connections between observations and all the happenings in their surroundings and lives. Hence they can come to conclusions on their own very easily (if we allow them). Isn’t this how knowledge is gained and built upon?
Well, that makes our children born scientists. And aren’t they just that? Discovering life and exploring everything around them.
But how we want to make children learn (in schools), is totally antithesis to it all.
With things separated out from one another as “subjects”, education in schools is nothing but learned facts and crammed information. And with this crammed information, most of the time they don’t have an inkling of how to apply that in real life.
This takes me back to the time I memorized the timetables…
Thinking of that time still horrifies me. It wasn’t until many years later that it dawned on me what they really meant. Because numbers never really were my thing (or maybe it was the schooling that made me detest them). I was more crafty, sporty, and empathetic….those were my strengths and intelligences. Considering my grades, I was still a good student. But had I been tested in things I was “intelligent” in, it would have been a whole different game. That’s one of the reasons we took on unschooling as a family.
(If you are curious to know why we chose unschooling, you can read up on it here.)
Anyhow, I feel it’s very supercilious of most of us adults to think that children need to be taught by us. As is apparent from the Qur’an how Allah created Adam and taught him the names of everything (Surah al-Baqarah:31). Considering that, Allah has already sent down each and every child knowing what he wants to know. Every skill, every piece of information just needs a proper time to come forth.
It’s just because of that knowledge a child knows how to suckle at his mother’s breast right after he’s born, that’s how he knows how to cry to have his demands met, that’s how he knows how to use his hands to put food in his mouth and not in his ear. And that’s how he eventually learns to walk without any intervention. When we try to intervene in our gist to make them learn, we usually do more harm than good.
I have come to believe, that our job as parents and caretakers should be to “facilitate” them through this all.
Yes, the keyword here is “facilitate”.
As unschooling parents, we try to assist, to support, help, and make an environment conducive to learning whatever that they want, whenever they want.
And how is that in unschooling?
Here is what we do. We have some (if not many) books and other resources lying around the house which children are free to choose from, observe and try to read. We try to answer whatever questions they have, listen to their own made-up theories, have a dialogue, and look up things that we both can’t figure out. It’s a very holistic way of leading their interests and curiosities where they come to conclusions on their own rather than try to pump facts down their throats which does no one no good.
And did I tell you, it’s such a joy to see their faces light up when they figure out things on their own? That joy honestly knows no bounds. And that’s the kind of knowledge that sticks through life rather than forgotten right after giving an exam.
However what I don’t get is, why these philosophical and mathematical realizations have to come at night when after a tiring day a mama could really use some sleep 😓.