Parent Voice 3

Jessica – Unschooling Mum and Educationalist

Educationalist, Jessica* currently home educates her four-year old and has chosen to follow the ‘unschooling’ approach.

Jessica has worked in education for nearly 20 years in a number of capacities. She has been a teacher in colleges and universities, been involved in teacher training and the design of learning materials, and she has worked on policy and curriculum development within government-funded education projects. Speaking about the current system, she says:

“It is outmoded, and places too much emphasis on a narrow, academic skill-set, at the expense of emotional literacy and creativity”.

What does a typical day of ‘unschooling’ look like for your family?

It’s child-led with a focus on free play, self-direction and no pre-defined, imposed curriculum. I provide access to stimulating materials, events and places, and follow interests that emerge from that.

No day is the same but for the rhythm of meals and bedtimes, sometimes routines emerge and fade within this. For example, at the moment, my four year old is excited to start the day with a ‘Bob Book’ (“Beginning Readers”).

Have your children ever been to school?

No. We wanted to try a couple of terms in nursery and we did so, overcoming hurdles experienced, before losing interest.

Why did you decide to home educate?

Because my daughter’s birth date is right on the cusp of the school year so we started out looking at other options, rather than sending her to school aged just four.

In your opinion what are the main challenges of our current school system?

Way too much focus on coercion and compliance.

And ‘crowd control’. Too much time is spent managing behaviour, using techniques better suited to dog training than human development.

What are state schools doing well?

There are many pockets of excellent teaching and learning with diverse opportunities and access to resources.

What changes would you need to see before you considered school as an option?

Ideally, I’d like to see a proliferation of agile learning centres, democratic schools and at the very least, changes to behaviour management systems, moving away from reward and punishment.

Focus would also need to move away from age-segregation and
coercive learning.

Are there any misconceptions about home education that you would like to challenge?

Socialisation. What I have noticed with my daughter (who also happens to be a bit of an introvert), is that she makes massive leaps in social learning through the social opportunities we have (which unlike school does not involve seeing lots of other children every day). This includes adults and children of varying ages only a few times a week or month and we have time and space to do lots of emotions coaching.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Be aware that schooling is not compulsory. Education is and it can take many forms. The most valuable parts of education often happen outside of, and in between any curriculum.

It’s easy to agonise over educational choices for our children but remember that they are hard-wired to learn and the more we trust them to do so, the easier it is.

*Name changed to protect privacy.