028: What Will They LEARN? with Unschooling Expert Sue Patterson
Parents are stressing about their kids “falling behind” if they spend their newly acquired “at home time” goofing off and ignoring structure! Unschooling Expert Sue Patterson has some unconventional solutions that not only work but will bring down everyone’s stress levels!
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Who is Unschooling Expert Sue Patterson?
Sue Patterson began her homeschooling adventures with her three now-grown children back in 1996. She has a coaching practice now, sharing her 20+ years of experience with parents who are looking for information, support, and confidence on their homeschooling journey. You can find Sue in the Unschooling Mom2Mom social media platforms or work with her through group and 1:1 coaching, an online course, and a variety of helpful guides.
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What is Unschooling?
Unschooling is a non-traditional approach to education. There are no pre-defined paths to learning. You learn from life experiences and pursue your own educational interests.
Instead of putting the content and teaching as the priority, you put the student and learning as the priority and the content falls into place as needed.
Opportunities of Unschooling
While the idea of not having set schedules and lesson plans can be scary, there are actually many benefits to making learning a part of your life versus fitting learning in where you can.
Instead of basing your schedule around school and activities, you can make it around your family values. If you’ve always wanted to slow down and eat together as a family. You can.
When you unschool, you’re not beholden to a predetermined schedule and can instead build your routines based on what’s important to you.
Many think of unschooling and think the parent is completely uninvolved in the child’s education. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Conversations are one of the pillars of unschooling. Parents who unschool are actually usually more aware of where a child is at in their education because of the conversations they have.
When we allow our kids to voice their interests, to say no, and be allowed to disagree we create a culture of honesty. A child learns that you, their teacher and parent, really do care about what they want and think.
They learn to embrace their strengths and follow their interests. This allows them to be decisive and confident. And it shows them they don’t have to change who they are for someone else’s approval.
The Fears of Falling Behind
The fear of falling behind if you try and unschool versus following a specific curriculum is common. But the truth is Unschoolers often excel. They can see the learning in everyday situations, follow their passions which holds their attention, and are not left behind for the sake of needing to move on whether they understand something or not.
The truth also is that everyone is in the same boat. Teachers know what’s happening, they will adapt. They’re used to kids coming to them at all different levels. They would catch up even if you did nothing at all.
Finding All the Subjects Through Your Child’s Interests
One of the great ironies to me as a certified teacher was how segmented learning was in the classroom. When I got my masters to teach Elementary Education we were actually taught to teach through integration and student interests. So we could choose a theme like Penguins and learn science, math, geography, reading, writing and so much more just by delving deep into learning about penguins.
So Sue and I took this concept and quickly brainstormed all the different topics you could learn just by studying Sharks. And here’s what we came up with:
- Animal science- What species are sharks, what is their body make-up, how do they breathe? What do they eat?
- Geography- Where do sharks live? Why do they migrate?
- Art- Drawing them and where they live, making them out of clay…
- Cultural- What are the importance of sharks to different cultures?
- Language arts- Research, reading about sharks, maybe writing a letter to governments to stop the shark fin trade…
- Math- How fast do they swim, rate of extinction, how much do they eat…
All the subjects are found in our everyday life. All it takes is a little brainstorming to realize how integrated math, science, art, language, pe, music, and more are into everything we do!