Homeschooling or unschooling?

Our 14-year-old chef at work. She's passionate about baking.

Our 14-year-old chef at work. She’s passionate about baking.

Today, Star and I attended an orientation for homeschooling.  After six months of “unschooling,” she is determined now more than ever not to go back  to regular school.

The past six months have not really been that easy.  Home-based study, whether through a structured curriculum or a free-willing one, like what we’re doing, needs focus, time and discipline.  I like the idea of homeschooling.  After all, the Bible tells us that parents should train their children the way they should go so that when they grow old, they will not depart from it.  But it is easier said than done.

Even for a work-at-home-mom like me, time management is always a challenge.  There are days when work load is too much and I would hardly get any sleep.  At times, my teenager is lethargic and doesn’t feel like cooperating in a structured learning method.  It became stressful for both of us.   Yet, because of her health condition, bringing her back to regular school is out of the question as of now.  As I researched, I “discovered” another educational philosophy that seemed more fitted in our situation — unschooling.

Unschooling is still homeschooling but  instead of following a curriculum, you allow your child to learn from natural life experiences.  One unschooling advocate  describes it as “like jazz. It’s done on the fly, changing as the student changes.”

Star likes the idea of unschooling.  She does only the things that she wants — she bakes, works on the computer for as long as she wants, plays the piano or sleeps.   She can go out with her friends any day of the week or enrol in whatever workshop she likes.  But at times, she just sleeps too much. Or sometimes, too little, depending on her mood.  There are times, too, that she would stay up until the wee hours to bake.

One good thing about unschooling though is that — Star has gained more “real world” experiences than kids her age.  When she “discovered” baking a few months ago, she became so passionate about it.  She was desperate on saving up  for a concert she so wanted to go (but knew we wouldn’t spend for).  And so she baked and baked  and in the end, saved up roughly $300 for a VIP ticket.

Star learned the value of hardwork and of saving, never mind that for now, the most important thing for her was going to a concert.  In the process, she learned real life chores like taking public transport on short distances, going to the grocery by herself and picking the best ingredients for her products.  She has learned baking techniques not found in recipe books.

But the downside of unschooling is that, there are days she doesn’t want to do anything but be on the computer “tweeting” or doing something else.  I became fearful that she might become too lax without the semblance of structure.

As we sat down this morning to listen to testimonials of homeschooling parents and children, I have no doubt that it is good.  In fact, I wished the hubby and I considered homeschooling earlier on.  But that is “wasteful” thinking.  What is important now is for us to find the right mix suitable to our situation.  And so now, we are on a journey again to decide whether to continue unschooling or go the way of the more structured homeschooling. ##

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About Andrea Echavez

I am an advocate for people with bleeding disorders. My daughter Star and I were diagnosed with von Willebrand's Disease Type 2M.