The Case for Unschooling

-Considerations moving forward after the PCC Judicial Review-

On November 16th the outcome of Christina Goodred v Portsmouth City Council and the Secretary of State for Education was published.

The reaction from the Home Educating Community was largely a combination of shock, disbelief, and fear. It has unearthed many questions about the long term objectives and plans that the Government have for overseeing Home Education in the UK and the involvement and responsibilities of the Local Authorities in conjunction with that of parents/carers. If you want to read more about the outcomes of the PCC Review and, its possible implications, you can read Fiona Nicholson’s measured thoughts at edyourself and a detailed walk-through with comments from a Home Ed perspective at here.

Having sat with my initial reaction for a while and spent time connecting with other unschoolers and discussing the case, I still remain unsure about what the implications will be for the immediate future. I do, however, know for, sure a few things.

Firstly, unschooling is a valid and accepted form of education in the UK, under law. Second, however you decide to interact with your Local Authority (LA) will be based on your own capacity, and the actions of your particular LA. Thirdly, that working on collaboration with the unschooling community, pooling our ideas and resources, will gives us all encouragement and support.

Unschooling as an evidence based method of educating children

In the 16th Episode of Unschooling Conversations I chat with Jyoti Imex who has spent years in academia studying Self Directed Education. We discuss together some of the research evidence that supports Self Directed Learning, as well as the lived experience and philosophical discussions around human rights and education.

Summerhill After Summerhill Is a book that details the lives of several students, now adults, who attended Summerhill. You can also look forward to several podcast episodes in the new year (2022) with grown unschoolers. Their lived experience of an unschooled life and view on their education and influence on their adult lives should be part of a growing base of evidence for the case for unschooling.

Ivan Illich Deschooling Society

Sugata Mitra The hole in the wall (YouTube) This research documents the interaction of a group of children, living in extremely poor conditions, as they explore the computer that appears in a wall near their home. It is a fascinating look at how children play with, collaborate, and learn without any adult guidance, and what they are able to achieve, driven purely by their innate curiosity.

Peter Gray Free to Learn (book.) Peter Gray’s on-going evidence based research and observations of children as they learn in self -directed learning environments, including unschooling families, serves the community well.

Gina Riley Unschooling: Exploring learning beyond the classroom (Academic book) Gina Riley has worked in the field of alternative education for over 15 years. Unschooling her own son whilst diligently pulling together research to support her life choices. She undertook research with Peter Gray published in 2015 documenting the experiences of 75 unschooled adults.

Suitable-Education website hosts a comprehensive list of research based evidence that supports  unschooling.

As well as being a valid and accepted philosophical form of education in the UK, unschooling is an evidence based approach to education. Those of us who unschool do so knowing that our children are receiving a suitable education.

Responding to Our Local Authorities

Jyoti Imex has spent years in self directed community environments. Beginning with her introduction to alternative education via the work at Summerhill where children live under its philosophy of freedom from adult coercion and community self-governance, to observing practices in educational communities such as Sudbury Settings and Agile Learning Centres.

In Unschooling Conversations: The Case for Unschooling, we discuss the possibility of collecting evidence of learning as our children live their lives. What form this might take, how this might work, and the impact that observation and record keeping has on the learning environment and our young people.

In many places in the Western world, unschoolers are required to provide evidence and samples of learning. In those situations, keeping a diary of activities, discussions, achievements, trips, and group events, is one way that a portfolio can be created, for each child, in a low impact format. Or keeping a photo album of similar events. It is not something that I would do or encourage unnecessarily. It is not something that I would be seen to be campaigning for, but we can gleen insight from places where it is already standard practice as part of the bigger picture of being able to continue unschooling.

We also acknowledge that this might not be possible for everyone. That adults may find this difficult, and our young people may find it intrusive. What suits one family, may not suit another. Which is why connecting with the unschooling community and pooling our ideas will benefit us all.

Collaborating with Fellow Unschoolers

I can’t help but feel that our ongoing strength lies in our collaboration, the sharing and pooling of ideas. Discussing with each other, sharing information, and skills, in a space where we can evaluate and explore ideas together.

I find it no surprise that this is the case. Peter Gray outlines collaboration as one of the key tenets of play in children. When we allow this to unfold naturally and don’t force competition and comparison, as schools do, then it makes sense that we have the capacity to work together for collective success. Drawing on each other’s personal contributions, considering varying points of view, evaluating potential paths forward as a community, for the community.

It has become increasingly apparent to me, during the 1:1 work that I do with unschooling families, that on-going support, and success, is partially due to the connection that individual families have to the community. If you need a place to start, to listen to ideas from an unschooling perspective, share and read about other’s success stories, then you can join us on Facebook at Live.Play.Learn.

Not operating from a place of fear, to the ever present sound of Government oversight, but responding from a place of strength, is the place that I would like to proceed from. Grounding ourselves in the research evidence that is available, choosing wisely how we interact with our LA, and connecting with the unschooling community, seems to me, for now, a good way forward.

With that in mind:

  • Head over to my page on Research Evidence and Resources as a starting place to equip you with knowledge on Educational Pedagogies.
  • Contemplate how you will engage with your LA. Put some pre thought into your response before they approach you. You can find report templates, law and guidelines here.
  • Reach out to your local Home Educating Community for in person contact and connect on-line via social media platforms.

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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