When people are told about unschooling, a common question is, “How will kids learn if they don’t follow the school curriculum?” The answer is, kids learn when they need to learn. The best inspiration for learning is a motivating reason. It is how adults learn.
The best way for kids to learn how to write, is when they have something to say. When they feel passionate about expressing a point of view on politics, or sharing their reason why a video game is awesome, or why they think school should be optional, writing becomes second nature. Of course, they need to know the structure of writing to put their thoughts and content into, but kids can easily look up how to write a 5 paragraph essay on the internet.
It doesn’t take twelve years of school curriculum to learn how to write a five paragraph essay. Children learn how to write sentences. The sentences turn into paragraphs, and then the paragraphs turn into a structured essay form. Do they need to have this drilled into them every year from grade 1 to 12? No. Above are photos of a Grade 12 student workbook outlining how to write different kinds of essays including the basic 5 paragraph one. In the very unlikely case that a child has never written anything in their life, they will learn how to in Grade 12, again!
A common question is, “Will not knowing their letters or how to read at 9 and 11 make reading harder when they are ready?” Underneath this is the assumption that practice makes perfect, and in some skills like figure skating, it does. But cognitive skills in learning math or reading doesn’t get better by practice. It’s all about brain maturation.
When the brain is ready, it is ready. It can learn fast. All my kids took their first math class in grade 8. They learned 8 years of math in one year, because they had their abstract thinking skills from the pre-frontal cortex maturation and they can figure things out so much better at 13 than at ages 6-11. My 9 and 10 year old children who couldn’t read, were reading novels (Warriors and Redwall) within a year of mastering BOB Learn-to-read books. Catch up is super fast when the neurons are firing and the brain is maturing. Another example from parenting is that kids who are toilet trained at age 2 takes months to learn it. At age 4, they can learn in one day.
A child not bound by the mandated school curriculum can go further because they have time – they can write novels, self-study character development, setting and mood. They can read a wide variety of texts and analyze literature such as “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver. They can read difficult non-fiction books such as Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” Kids who read are kids who can write. The average homeschooled child in my informal survey of 20 families’ reading habits read anywhere from 12 to 50 books and novels a year. In school, they read 1 novel in English classes for the whole year. That’s 3 novels for the entire high school program. Motivated kids can go beyond uninspiring school curriculum. Don’t allow them to be held back.