Unschooling and Deschooling
Unschooling can be similar to an eclectic style of homeschooling, but usually with less structure. It's the belief that learning is a natural part of each day. As we live, so do we learn; the experiences encountered each day contribute to one's education. Unschooling usually follows the child's interests and learning style. Often the child is largely responsible for his weekly activities, with some guidance and input from mom or dad. Chapter 6 covers unschooling and self-directed learning in more detail.
Deschooling is similar to unschooling, in that it further distances itself from conventional schooling. Deschooling may be considered a part of the decompression period when a child leaves a traditional school environment and adjusts to the homeschool environment. The parent helps to deschool the child — separating him from a rigid school structure — by allowing the freedom to simply sit and think, to read books for pleasure, to function within his day without the sound of bells or moving through lines, and to spend time playing outdoors. During this time, the child can unwind and decompress, as he moves further away from the confines of a school environment.
Depending on the age of the child, their self-directed education can encompass a wide range of activities. When observing preschoolers, you'll quickly see how much they learn in a fairly short period of time. They love to imitate and play make-believe. Through this play and imitation of siblings or grownups, they naturally learn, grow, and fine-tune their skills.
By the time they are elementary-aged, most children are eager to play school. Again, their learning comes through play. By allowing them to play school, you are allowing them to learn. Sometimes, they want to be the student in their play schools, and sometimes they want to be the teacher. As teachers, these new, young students can teach you a lot! You need only sit back and watch in order to be amazed by their fresh knowledge and abilities.
By the time they are teenagers, children have so many interests, thoughts, and ideas they want to pursue that there is hardly enough time to embrace them all. When they are allowed to follow their interests and self-direct their learning, they are better able to experience — and learn from — the many elements of life that have captivated and inspired them.