When parents think of “unschooling” they imagine their child as a clerk flipping hamburgers at McDonalds. We all need hamburger flippers, but we also need to dispel the myth that unschooled children are uneducated. And especially in the STEM fields. Math is one area that many unschooling parents worry about and it is needless. Math is all around us.
When children unschool, they are empowered to explore their passions and for some children, that is interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Babies, toddlers and young children are natural scientists. My 2 year-old son’s favourite activity was to open the fridge door, reach high for the egg tray and drop each egg from the height of his eyelevel. He loved the sound of the eggs cracking on the floor. He was learning velocity, physics, and biology in an experiential learning environment. After we duct-taped the fridge door closed, he moved on to other science adventures.
We allowed as much exploration as our tolerance for mess and our need for safety would allow. The children learned math and science through play, watching Magic School Bus Videos and their own self-designed projects and experiences. And, by playing a lot of computer and video games. When they reached the age of 13, their brains developed their abstract thinking abilities and they took their first formal structured math class taught by a teacher at a grade 8 level. They skipped the grade 9 level and went structured again for grades 10, 11, and 12. Their first science class was grade 10. Many of these courses were self-taught by reading the textbook, trying the experiments and writing the qualifying exams. They were keyboarding at age 4 because we had few limits on computer and gaming time. They weren’t starting at a grade 1 level because math and science is all around us and they were familiar with many concepts at a experiential level. By the teen years, they were ready for textbook and workbook study. They were motivated because they wanted a career in STEM, not us.
Today, 1 child is now an electrical engineer, another has a degree in Bioscience and another is working on a degree in Chemistry. The other 2 kids could have persued a degree in STEM (their math marks in high school were 90’s) but decided on humanities instead.
The beauty of unschooling STEM is that the learner is in control of the learning insights, exploration and discovery. Do children need classes in STEM? No. If they desire them, fine, but STEM classes with proscribed curriculum can smother the joy, curiosity and creativity needed to succeed at finding out “why….?”
All children love science and are good at it…we just need to get out of their way and empower them to learn what they want to learn, not just what we want them to learn.
For more information about unschoolingSTEM, this video explains how to nurture interest in STEM and the appropriate times to introduce more structured learning. Be sure to join our dedicated world-wide facebook group on UnschoolingSTEM:
Yes, you can unschool and still have your child thrive in STEM careers.