By Arthur Grant
We often notice how little prompting kids require to learn outside the classroom. Simply setting them free in nature does wonders for their curious spirits, as each overturned rock and never-before-seen leaf piques new interest and inquiries. Their instinct is to explore and learn, and structure isn’t always needed for learning to be meaningful and beneficial.
The term “unschooling” puts a name on child-led, non-prescriptive educational practices. This often centers around exploration of the outside world, making unschooling a natural companion to the Nature Connection Movement. It is considered an extension of homeschooling, but often chooses to eschew formal curriculum in favor of learning through doing and allowing children to pursue things that naturally interest them.
The practice of unschooling is considered relatively new within the context of modern education, but many families who engage with the method feel it better reflects and nurtures their children’s mental and emotional needs than the hectic schedules and rote curriculum of traditional schooling. As its growing popularity is recent, there are few studies surrounding unschooling experiences and outcomes. Keeping that in mind, the studies that do exist point to positive social, emotional, and practical outcomes for unschooled children.
Though the unschooling community is growing in numbers, it is not a program of study, and the definition is flexible. Some parents may choose to include book learning, doing so in a low-pressure way which kids find engaging – in fact, one study demonstrated that unschooled kids may even learn to read without formal teaching, leading to a natural, lifelong love of learning through reading. Concern over access to formal education is also addressed by one 2015 study, in which 83% of adult children of unschooling reported seeking higher education, 44% of which were enrolled in or had completed a bachelor’s degree.
The evidence in favor of unschooling is stacking up, and it doesn’t stop there. Muddy Smiles have put together a list of 15 key science-backed studies pointing to the many potential benefits of taking education outside the traditional classroom. Take a look.
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