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