3 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Gaps in Your Child’s Education if You Are Homeschooling

3 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Gaps in Your Child’s Education if You Are Homeschooling

A reader asked, “What do you do about gaps in your kids’ educations if you’re unschooling?”

My answer, “Don’t worry about it.”

If you’re already comfortable with a self-directed approach, you’re nodding in agreement.  Nothing new here.  But if you’re not, go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor.

Yes, I am serious.  Don’t worry about it.

Gaps in knowledge and skill are both normal and unavoidable.

Yup, that’s right.  Normal and unavoidable.  

It doesn’t matter whether your child is in a classroom with 25 peers who are supposedly all learning the same material, you’re homeschooling your two children with a boxed curricula, or you’re unschooling.  Every single person out there is going to experience information differently – absorb it and internalize it, memorize it until the test, flatly reject it, master it, struggle with it.  

Additionally, it is impossible to know everything about everything…and an incredible waste of time and energy to even try.

Not everyone even needs the same knowledge and skills.

I’d like to think that this one goes without saying, but…you never know these days.  Think about yourself and your five closest friends. Do you all know exactly the same things?  To the same extent?  Do you all need to use all of the same skills?

Gaps in knowledge and skill can be closed quickly and efficiently with a personally compelling reason to do so.

The list of things I didn’t know about running a successful blog when I started almost a year ago was absolutely staggering.  The gaps in my knowledge and skill were gigantic, especially in comparison with other bloggers who have been doing it a while.

The list of knowledge and skills I don’t know now about running a successful blog is not as long as it was a year ago, but it’s still an impressive size.

Three years ago, no one could’ve convinced me to willingly invest literally hours of my time into closing that gap in knowledge and skill. I didn’t have any need of the knowledge or the skill.  And I didn’t have any desire to acquire them.  Once that changed, I applied myself wholeheartedly to learning what I need to know in order to do what I want to do.

Kids are the same way.  All three of my kids have been late readers.  My son, for example, turned into a decent reader when he was 8. By the time he was 11, he was reading adult non-fiction.  I could’ve spent the years he was 5, 6, and 7 fretting anxiously because he wasn’t reading – and for what?  By the time he was 8, you’d never know that he was a late reader, and by the time he was 11, he was reading better than many of his peers.

All three of my kids have been late readers.  My son, for example, turned into a decent reader when he was 8. By the time he was 11, he was reading adult non-fiction.  I could’ve spent the years he was 5, 6, and 7 fretting anxiously because he wasn’t reading – and for what?  By the time he was 8, you’d never know that he was a late reader, and by the time he was 11, he was reading better than many of his peers.

I tried, when my son was about 12, to encourage him to work on building his computer skills.  It was readily apparent that he wasn’t interested in the slightest in doing that, so I backed off.  At 17, he had a job that required him to work with Excel spreadsheets.  Man, those computer skills I’d tried encouraging him to build five years prior sure would’ve come in handy.  Of course, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to mention it.  And without batting an eye, with the true spirit of an unschooler, Jarrod told me that he was picking it up very quickly in the context of something useful and applicable.

So, yes.  Don’t worry about those gaps.  

Instead, focus your time and energy on helping your kids ask the right questions of the right sources and develop their resourcefulness.  Do that right, and if they actually need to know anything you’ve “missed” along the way, they’ll be able to recognize that and it’ll be a piece of cake for them to pick up the knowledge or the skill.

What About Classes, Teachers, and Curricula?

What About Classes, Teachers, and Curricula?

A reader asks, “What about classes, teachers, and curricula when you’re unschooling?”

I know there are some within the unschooling community who are going to disagree with me on this.  They believe any teaching, any classes, and any curricula is antithetical to unschooling.  This is actually one of the reasons I prefer the term “self-directed homeschooling”.

I don’t see taking classes, having someone teach another something, or using curricula as necessarily incompatible with unschooling.

Can it be?  Absolutely – if the ones doing the learning aren’t the ones choosing to take the class, choosing to have someone else teach them something, or choosing to use curricula.  To me, the presence or absence of the consent of the ones doing the learning is what determines whether or not taking a class, having a teacher, or using curricula would still qualify as unschooling.

If your unschooled child is interested in taking a class, even if that class is at the local public high school, all that means to me is that the child is self-directing his own education and has decided a class would be worthwhile.  

If your unschooled child asks someone else to teach them something, teach it to her, for cryin’ out loud.  Yes, there is a difference between learning and teaching.  Teaching someone something doesn’t necessarily mean they are learning anything.  However, if a child is asking for explicit instruction, I find not providing it (if you’re capable of doing so) extremely disrespectful.

If your unschooled child wants a piece of curricula to help him master something that’s important to him, let him have it.  Let him read it and use it the way he wants to.  Jarrod and I both infinitely prefer to read something when we’re trying to learn something new.  Erica prefers video.  Curricula is one option.  A resource.

As I see it, unschooling is essentially freeing children to learn the same way we do as adults.  

As adults, we recognize a need or a desire to learn something.  Then we go out and locate the resources and materials we want.  

As adults, we can choose to utilize any resource we want.  Maybe a class is the best way.  Maybe direct one-on-one instruction is the best way. Maybe a book is the best way.  Maybe a video is the best way.  Maybe trial and error all on our own is the best way.  The point is that we aren’t beholden to any one method or resource; your child shouldn’t be, either.

We attend class, we study, or we practice until our need or desire has been satisfied.  Then we move onto the next thing.  

So will our kids if we respect the process.  

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