Welcome to Unschooling to University!
Many unschoolers/self-directed learners often get asked the second most common question in home education, (after the one about socialization) which is “What about university? Aren’t you messing up your child’s chances of eligibility?” This blog’s sole purpose is to assure you that unschooled children can go to college, universities, trade schools or the post-secondary school of their choice, if they choose to go. When the time is right for them, they will often choose self-directed education to help themselves earn the requirements for admission acceptance. Parents do not have to be the teacher and “catch them up” unless they really want to. Believe me, my “math skills” end at grade 8 and I had 3 kids get accepted into STEM programs at university. Parents do not need high school subject matter expertise. They just need to be present when their child needs them, and help the child find the resources if asked. Most unschooled children reach an age that they wish to learn more and seek out tutors, online courses or simply teach themselves from the internet, Kahn Academy, and their jurisdiction’s textbooks. Whether they learn the entire high school program, or just the final year courses to prove previously acquired learning, or even challenge the leaving or entrance (SAT) exams, children that are motivated are serious, focused learners and nothing will stop them.
As Peter Gray outlines in his 2013 study of 75 grown homeschoolers, those children with the least number of formal schooling years (either in a classroom or homeschooled), were more likely to go on to post-secondary learning. That has been our experience in the homeschooling community as well. The more time children had for play and self-directed learning, the more likely they were to continue learning and became motivated for greater stimulation outside the family.
The other myth is that unschoolers tend to choose more arts and humanities fields when applying to post-secondary institutions. STEM options are also available to unschoolers. Many unschoolers find that the years of experiential learning from play, projects and travel help round out a solid background of understanding that numbers and formulas can build on when the child reaches their teens and acquires their abstract thinking skills from the development of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. They have real world applications for problem-solving with math and science tools.
We know that not everyone aspires to go to post-secondary schools, and that is fine. We know that some families do wish to plan for that type of education and we aim to help them navigate the waters from unschooling and self-determining their learning during the “school-age” years to a more formal learning environment during the adult years.
Many of these insights come from our family of 5 children, in which we unschooled (self-directed education) the children anywhere from 8 to 12 years that they would have been in school. We had many family friends that also unschooled and I tell their experiences (The Team of Twenty Five) in the Unschooling To University book. Over half the 25 children profiled, attended university in STEM careers. Only half went the high school diploma route. We live in the most homeschool-regulated place on earth and have managed to secure adequate credentials for university acceptance in at least 15 universities across Canada.
We are not outliers. The gates to education are still there but the walls are coming down. We hope you enjoy our experiences, thoughts and insights to help you make informed education choices. We also welcome your questions. Yes, unschooled children can go on to post-secondary education and they are excellent learners and free thinkers. We need thought leaders and world problem-solvers. Join us! #anyonecanhomeeducate
Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM
Respectful Cellphone Contract for Family Internet Health and Safety
MUTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY AGREEMENTS
Date to Review Contract to Ensure Functioning for Child and Parent: ______
Child and Parent’s Signatures_________________________________________
I had to wait until my third child graduated university, and my fourth child was accepted, and now I am ready to launch this book:
Unschooling To University
Do you have a child that is unmotivated in school? (It’s not your child or the teacher’s fault!) Are you worried that the school curriculum is not relevant in today’s society? (We still do not have mandatory coding lessons) Do you think your child would thrive if you pulled them out, but don’t wish to homeschool? (Not everybody wants to!)
Now there is an alternative. Learners can and do lead their learning! Follow the paths of 25 kids who unschooled and directed their own learning and still entered universities and colleges, with over half in the STEM fields.
Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the e-book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!
When I went to public school, I disliked it enormously. It seemed more like a maze to navigate intense social constructs, avoid bullying, constantly trying to fit in with peers, and mollify the teacher’s wrath. It was never thought of as a place of learning. I never fit in very well, but did my best to “get through it.”
I didn’t think I was going to try university, but when I was 25, I decided to give it an honest go. I didn’t have good marks, but in the 80’s I got in with a 62% average. What a surprise! University was totally different than high school. The difference was control. I could control what I wore because there was no peer pressure to look a certain way. I could control if I attended or not, what courses to take according to my interests, and what mark I wanted to earn with my efforts. I could drop courses, and take new ones. I could eat in class, smoke outside it (ok, it was the 80’s) and go to the bathroom whenever I wanted. I was treated like a customer, not a child. I loved it because I loved learning. I graduated with a 3.4 gpa.
As an unschooling family, I am dismayed to hear from others that post-secondary education is over-rated. It certainly may not be for everyone. And in this day when knowledge can be gained from anywhere, I believe that some rules in university must change, like the ability to challenge courses that learners already have self-taught knowledge in. But I do believe in post-secondary education as one way of many ways to learn and should not be discouraged. Here is why:
In this age, when many required core high school courses can be attained by writing exams to demonstrate self-directed knowledge, there is no barrier to post-secondary education. Loans, grants, scholarships, and part-time jobs can also help. There are many benefits to post-secondary education. Don’t rule them out. When the learner is truly ready, the education will appear.
Many unschooled children do not do “chores” mandated by parents. Instead, they live in a home environment where contribution and appreciation is freely given among family members of all ages, both within the family and within the bigger community. The result is children who *want* to help out and feel good about what they can do. Young children want to help their parents from the time they can walk. Welcome it by inviting them to help, and watch it grow! Feed their contributions by expressing verbal appreciation. By the teen years, they will be shoveling the neighbor’s walk, building the neighbor a lawn border, sorting food at the food bank, picking up garbage on the river bank, and volunteering in the community for no other reward than the good feeling of making the world a better place to live.
Someone posed this question to me the other day: “My daughter is showing increased interest in math and science. Should I enroll her in STEM day-camps, after-school classes, or extra-curricular activities geared to STEM?” Which got me thinking, do children really need to be taught STEM learning, and do formal classes in STEM help or hurt children’s curiosity?
When my son was two years-old, he loved those metal coiled, rubber tipped door-stoppers that went twaaaannggg. He would play with them while lying on his belly on the cold floor, and the sound drove us crazy, because he would do it over and over again. He needed to reinforce those learning pathways in his brain, and he was accumulating experience of the door stopper workings, so that twenty years later, he would have first hand knowledge of the sound oscillations in his electric engineering class when he had to do the paper calculations.
As an unschooling mom to 3 children who chose STEM careers, I would say that you don’t have to enroll him in anything. In fact, it may even be harmful to do so, in that the lack of experimentation could stunt his interest. Not all children take instruction well. Some children just want to follow their own agenda and experiment with their materials and ideas. Instead of prescribed classes, here is the best way to raise a child interested in STEM:
The only thing you have to practice with him in your parenting is problem-solving, because the world of STEM is all about creatively solving problems. This may involve risk and mess, but it is free and has unlimited possibilities. Don’t limit the exploration except for extreme safety issues. Even with reasonable safety issues, use the opportunity to teach about safety precautions and managing risk. Children are going to experiment with fire and water, and they critically need limits and supervision. Better they do it while you are around and not behind your back. (More about “The Power Plant” later!)
I am skeptical of all the classes and extra-curricular classes that are often structured and have very little creativity involved, popping up to cash in on parent’s homeschool funding, or childcare budgets, and/or their anxiety that they should do more to encourage interests in STEM. Many of the extra-curricular classes are just like “more school.” I was having a discussion yesterday with my engineering son and he said the one element that helped further his interest in STEM was having the “control.” In STEM classes, the control is not with the students; it is with the teacher. In order to experiment, one needs to have the control to manipulate things, make hypothesis and plans, and especially carry out plan B. Lack of control is a big turn off, and kids take back control by losing interest in formal, structured, and planned outcome classes.
As well, most classes are geared to under-aged kids and liability issues will limit all the cool stuff that kids want to do. In school, the most my kids ever did was experiments with baking soda and vinegar. Boring. Parents at home, can accept the liability and their kids can do much more under their supervision.
As one mom said, “I couldn’t agree more – my son who is now headed off to study physics at University hated his online high school physics courses but loves physics. I would like to think it might be because we owned balls and hot wheels and elastic and marbles and … and that I sat in the driveway (as the safety monitor) while he lit things and launched things and built things that rolled and put his little brother in them and pushed him down the hill and I let him jump in elevators and watch Youtube videos of other people doing crazy things for the first 9 years of schooling. It all made high school physics easy but very dissatisfying. He is now looking forward to being able to study at a much higher level and with people passionate about this area.”
If parents have a child geared to STEM, they will know it. Sure, some classes might be fun, but fund what the child wants to do, not what some advertisement says they need. This applies to any gender! If the class is awful, let him quit. You don’t want to turn him off of a STEM interest with boring, limited, mediocre, controlled classes that will stunt them instead of empower them. Get them access to what they need, supervise the scary stuff, show them how to clean up, and get out of their way! Einstein didn’t have STEM daycamps or extra-curricular classes!
By Judy Arnall, Excerpted from, Unschooling to University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. http://www.unschoolingtouniversity.com
Children raised in self-directed environments are kind, giving and empathetic. Just as school is a community, so is a family who unschools. They don’t shield themselves from the world, but do their part to make it better. The difference is that unschooling families can choose what areas they think need help, rather than what the curriculum or government dictates. Families who volunteer together, head out to vote together, and help their neighbor when-ever they can, entrench the practice into a regular family ritual and they do much good in the world.