I’m letting my kids decide what they wish to pursue. I’m not coercing or forcing them to learn anything. So what’s to become of them long term if they haven’t had years and years of maths? How am I not panicking that they’ll become unhappy and unsucessful if they don’t learn about oxbow lakes, square roots, and past participles? I am! Of course I’m panicking!
When the kids have spent the day in their pyjamas playing Minecraft, my schooled mind wants to dismiss what an incredible learning experience they’re having as worthless, because they’re not sitting at a desk and writing. And then spiral into a panic about where they will go and what they will do when they’re older, to get qualified and experienced, ready for the adult world.
I guess qualifications are at the forefront of mine and most parents’ minds as the gateway to interesting and fulfilling careers. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case, as more companies remove a degree as a prerequisite, and there is a continuing debate as to the value of academic qualifications. Its also a fact that any parents, unschooling or not, have to accept their adult child’s choices in life, including if they reject the exams system and take a different path. Its also worth pointing out that qualifications can be taken at any time in my kids’ lives. Throughout their lives. In fact, rushing to take everything by the age of 21 is probably pretty unwise. People now often have several careers in their lives, and there is only one chance to have a degree financed by a low cost loan. It would make more sense to use this later in life, when we have more clarity about what we want to do. As an unschooling mum, however, its my role to provide my kids with options, information, and suggestions. So I need the possibilities for unschooled kids laid out. Then my logical mind can reassure my school-taught mind! NB. A lot of this post also applies to all home educated children, not just unschoolers.
GCSEs and A Levels
Subjects are studied repetitively for years at primary school and secondary school, whether children like them or not. Subject matter that can be learned with no prior knowledge, by a motivated unschooled child at age 14, 15, 16. There is often a period of a few years, around, say, 9 to 14, where it seems unschooled kids don’t know what school kids know. But because they choose themselves what to research, and what interests to follow and skills to master, and because they can choose at what age, and how long to take to study, they are likely to, in the end, have a deep understanding and mastery of the subjects they do choose. And instead of being burned out, have a positive learning ethic for life.
Unschooling kids can learn at their own pace, instead of, as they do in secondary school, moving subject and room every hour. Does anybody find it easy to focus and learn knowing a loud bell is going to ring in 60, 30, 10 minutes, telling us to move on to our next room/group of people/subject? And rather than five subjects a day at school, and eight to ten GCSEs in total, unschooled kids have the option of starting younger and spreading exams out over several years. They also need not be put off a subject they may otherwise enjoy, by teachers they either dislike, or who’s teaching style they cant connect with, or by other disruptive students.
GCSEs can be taken:
At home via online course/textbooks and past papers/join a home ed subject group/with a tutor/join a free ‘mooc’ (massive online open course), and then take the GCSEs at a local exam centre.
At college at age 16, either on their own or alongside another courses, such as GNVQS and BTECS.
Or they can work their way up to degree level missing out GCSEs and A Levels. Start the BTEC qualifications of their choice at college at either level 1 or 2, depending on their ability, and work up. Or take 60 points’ worth of Open University courses, or take an Access to Higher Education course at 19+.
As an alternative to formal qualifications, unschooled kids may take other online and college courses. They may undertake an apprenticeship or work experience, or take a coding bootcamp, or do volunteering. This link contains a lot of articles about the value of work experience, apprenticeships, and short specific courses over higher education.
Despite what I research and believe about unschooling, the school way of learning can’t help but be hardwired into my mind. So I do have a mild panic every so often. I have to say, though, after a year of doing this, it’s happening less and less. I’m still pretty new to unschooling, so no doubt I’ll change my mind about lots of things as time goes on, just like we all do. But I’ll add to this post as I discover more. And it’ll be good to have it to refer to it when I have my crises of confidence!