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Unschooling from an
African-American perspective

Unschooling As Philosophy of Life

Often it is said that Unschooling is more than a learning style, but a philosophy of life. For me, I do not find value in arguing the point one way or the other. People have different experiences which shape their philosophies or systems of values by which they live. Choosing to unschool over the school at home approach or even a traditional school, is not enough to define a person. Well, at least my conscious will not allow me to be so lazy. Even people born in the same year, same zipcode, and same culture, can develop different systems of values based on the experiences they have.

Is homeschooling a philosophy of life? Is living in a rural area off the grid and self-sufficient a philosophy of life? Does choosing to drive an SUV in the city imply a philosophy of life? The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, defines philosophy, among other meanings, as a system of motivating concepts or principles. In that narrow sense, unschooling is A system of motivating concepts but not THE system of principles by which I live. My personal philosophy of life is based on Christ Jesus crucified, as Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians in Chapter 1 verses 18 and 23-24.

I believe that freedom comes from God; yet the enemy can pervert the desire for freedom and make it a legalistic type of bondage, leading to hell both in this life and after. Some Unschoolers deny God in the monotheistic form and prefer the freedom of doing without or having many gods (including themselves). However, I contend that rebellion to God is not unschooling and unschooling is not rebellion to God. God is the original Unschooler, just like He is the original Artist, Scientist and Mathematician. God walked and talked and deposited into the spirit (mind, will and emotions) of Adam and Eve, making them like Him. I believe He is the same God today and that unschooling is a tool, guided by the Holy Spirit, which leads to life and liberty and the fulfillment of God's good plan in my childrens lives. Do my unschooled children brush their teeth? Yes. Are my unschooled children expected to clean up after themselves and help keep our home comfortable and welcoming for friends and family? Yes. My children are unschooled but not uncooperative.

My Unschooled Children

I am grateful for the opportunity and freedom to unschool. My children have such beautiful minds and I believe that they each, with their own individual learning styles and strengths, interests and abilities, is more than capable of discovering and comprehending the world around them without assignments from a textbook. My children have always been autodidactic and I thank God for blessing them to continue.

All of that aside, all anyone is really interested in is, "Does unschooling work?" For our children, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Without phonics or trendy reading programs, our six and eight year olds are fluent, independent readers, and the four year old is well on his way to becoming one. Our readers learned the old fashioned way, by being read to and seeing others read. The children are exposed to reading and writing in the real world, and have been aware of letters, symbols and meaning from an early age. One daughter at 6 months old would sit next to her daddy as he wrote in his notebook and studied the Bible. Her head turned left to right and left again, watching as he pointed to one page and wrote on another. From the look on her face, she knew something was going on! While learning to write, one child "invented" the binary code. She would write letters and stories in 1s and 0s and read them to me. All of this took place without textbooks or workbook sheets.

Minus a curriculum to guide us in introducing math facts and concepts, our six and eight year olds have learned addition, multiplication, division and subtraction -- in that order. Outside of age appropriate textbooks, my oldest "discovered" the science behind the change of seasons, all from simple observation, time for contemplation and access to resources which answered her questions and confirmed her hypothesis. The children often proclaim, when making a new discovery, "See, (fill in the blank with math or science) _______ is everywhere! Just like God!" Who needs a classroom when you have a real life to live?

My Unschooled children love books, and books of all kinds are to be found in any unschooling library--fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, encyclopedias--all valuable resources regardless of the age or reading level. Some of our favorite resources for books include library cards to three different library systems, which provide free access to over a million books. Fifty percent off days at the local Goodwill are great sources for books and magazines for reading, research and cutting up for collages, not to mention household items to be taken apart and studied, sometimes even repaired. One of our favorite finds from Goodwill is a 14 volume Bible Encyclopedia Set for which we paid $3.50.

Back to School shopping for my unschooling children goes beyond the standard textbooks, paper and pencils. My children's list of supplies includes: Geoscope/field microscope, magnifying lens/glass, pocket notebook, sketch book, blank journals, graph paper, rulers, protractors, compass, bug house, butterfly nets, garden gloves, plastic disposable gloves, seed catalogs and garden tools, Gospel, Jazz, Classical, Opera, and Foreign language Folk Music CDs, scissors, glue, paint and pastels, batteries, crochet hooks, knitting needles, family memberships to the Science and Art Museum, and tickets to the ballet and opera.

Unschooling Resources

Anything and everything can be a resource for unschooling--remember that real living leads to real learning. To further explore unschooling and to expand your definition of learning and education, check out the following books:

S. Courtney Walton lives and learns in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children. An advocate of Unschooling, Courtney is the founder of a national network for African-American Unschoolers, serves as the Unschooling Advisor for the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance and writes frequently about her family's unschooling adventures in her column Real Living...Real Learning with S. Courtney Walton for The Good News Herald in St. Louis, Missouri.

2003 S. Courtney Walton, All Rights Reserved.

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