An Idea Whose Time Has Come:
Building the Unschooling/Homeschooling Village
By Vicki Johnston
Unschooling is so different for every family. The advantage of unschooling is that the child enjoys opportunities to learn naturally throughout the day. For alert guides of children, teachable moments occur whenever interest is piqued by some household project, shopping or cultural excursion. The more relaxed the child, the more she is allowed to remain in a state of enthusiastic involvement with livingness, the more learning occurs effortlessly. It's almost as if osmosis occurs. I hear homeschooling mothers of young children remark, "I don't know how she learned to read as well as she does."
Will unschooling work for you?
Unschooling can be a viable and wonderful alternative to traditional schooling. However, I hear your concern about balancing your own work while offering adequate learning opportunities for your daughter. You probably decided to homeschool because you wanted to preserve your daughter's sense of wonder and enthusiasm for learning. You realize that learning and life are one and the same.
Your question about your unique circumstances is one that only you and your daughter can answer. It does seems that there would be certain signs you would look for. These are precisely your daughter's happy involvement with life while you are working.
Does she initiate activities that are satisfying and meaningful to her because they are aligned with her nature? When she's not engaged in an activity, is she bored and restless or peaceful and reflective? Does the time you spend together fill her up emotionally and offer her the spark to continue happily along while you are working? From questions and observations such as these, you will know in your heart what adjustments to make on behalf of your daughter.
It takes a village
It may be that you will find that you and your daughter benefit from the support of a group of like-minded families. We have noticed a trend which we believe is leading to the next step for parents who are actively involved in guiding and educating their children. Homeschoolers, including unschoolers, are forming co-operatives so that parents as teachers can share the responsibility for facilitating the children's interests and burgeoning curiosity and so that the children can enjoy a social group. In some cases, the homeschooling groups even hire teachers to teach certain subjects.
The important thing is that the parents become a group of mentors to share in the responsibility and joy of bringing the world to the child and the child to the world. We believe this tendency is the embryonic stage of the most powerful means of enriching our children's lives that humanity has ever devised -- the community. Of course, this is nothing new. Our own ancestors and indigenous peoples all over the world know the power of the village. Families have always needed the support of the village.
We wonder if participating in a community of like-minded families wouldn't free up time for you to accomplish your work, while ensuring adequate mentoring and stimulating opportunities for your daughter. We wonder if a single individual, whether a mother or a classroom teacher, is likely to be able to supply all the benefits of a consciously collaborative community.
The time is ripe for people to come together to co-create the protective, creative, dynamic womb of the village around the children. This doesn't have to mean that people give up their vocations. It does mean a creative pooling of talents and resources that includes diverse ways of participating in the community and supporting the development of the children. In the best scenario, an environmentally conscious group envisions ways to create a sustainable future for all children while living these principles in their immediate biome. The informed, heart-filled community is the ideal organ for transformative global interchanges, while nurturing the heart and soul of each and every child in its midst.
© Vicki Johnston. First appeared at VegetarianBaby.com.
Vicki Johnston is the founder and director of the Robert Muller Center for Living Ethics in Fairview, Texas. Johnston incorporates the World Core Curriculum with Waldorf, Montessori and other educational paradigms to create an environment of cooperation, respect and honor for the earth, humanity and the spirit.