Yes! The answer if yes!
Let’s get one thing straight first….
‘Un’ schooled, does not mean ‘un’ educated. It does mean though, educated outside of a schooled system and generally, far more self directed than the majority of parents have ever observed.
Which goes some way to explaining where the discomfort lies.
Most of us were schooled. And thus we’ve no experience of learning ‘the basics’, without explicit teaching, mostly by a qualified teacher.
And so possibly, we don’t believe it’s possible.
To be ‘schooled’ really is to ‘be taught’ and ‘unschooling’ is the opposite of that. A good many homeschoolers and home educators around the world, start their alternative education journey, taking the power back into their home AND also not quite being ready for self directed learning - mostly because of this fear and more than a little disbelief that it’s possible.
Cue pre-packaged curriculum, online courses and worksheets. And some kids are happy to participate. Maybe they’ve been in school and a worksheet at the kitchen table with mum, is preferable and so they go along with it.
For a while.
For many families, this wears off when kids tap into their autonomy and mum and dad start to notice a battle, resistance. Because when kids themselves realise that they don’t need forced learning, it actually becomes a whole lot more fun for everyone, to embrace an unschooling life - and it opens the door to ultimate freedom!
OK but can your kids read? Do they understand maths?
And here’s the tricky part - it doesn’t necessarily follow a linear pattern and it looks completely different for each child.
I have two children who learned to read naturally - that is, without explicit teaching and motivated by their own desire to do it. It looked completely different for both of them. I know many other unschooling families who say similar - it comes differently for each child and won’t always be obvious.
Which is distinctly different to how things are in school, where progress is measured and monitored and scope and sequence is formularised.
Age hardly matters but it’s commonly discussed so I’ll share with you that one of my natural readers was 9 and the youngest, 7, when they (and I) realised that they could read. Of course the building blocks were being laid in place for a long time before that. It was far more obvious for my youngest as she involved me more directly in her learning. My 9 year old really did appear, for all intents and purposes, to become a reader overnight. Of course the truth is far less sensational because really, I’d been observing him for some months, navigating Minecraft and Youtube, and had a suspicion that he could recognise more words than he himself would acknowledge.
Why is it, I wonder, that there are plenty of things that we see and understand are learned purely by being in close proximity to those who can already do it? Or that are inherently human and cannot fail to be absorbed? Like rolling over, grasping an object, sitting up, walking….
And how many parents, I wonder, gave their babies and toddler ‘talking lessons’? Or rather, did we just sing to them, talk with them, include them in family life?
Of course the modern trend of enrolling our young children in music classes and kindergym, perhaps adds to the misconception that if we aren’t explicit in our efforts to expose children to concepts, they’ll miss out……I get it. I too, diligently took my 6 month old first child to swimming lessons, baby music classes, playgroup. And it’s not all nonsensical because it’s where community is often built - within the constructs of these classes.
But if we’re not observant, we might just start to believe that our children will learn nothing without formal classes and university educated teachers…..
What I’ve noticed, in my own children, and in others (remember, almost everything I say about children is based on direct observation - not what others say or that I’ve read in books), is that when a child is in charge of their own life and learning, they will naturally learn new skills in a way that makes sense for them. And that child will become ‘unteachable’ because not one other person on earth can really get inside another to determine what drives their experience. This is confronting for a parent who is still carrying the legacy of their own schooling; a parent who believes that another should be in charge; a parent who themselves was disconnected from their essence in childhood.
That a child should be able to learn such a skill vital to our culture, without explicit teaching, and purely by being given access to the tool and those who already use it with mastery, is such an affront to the way that most of us were taught that, well, the full realisation of what might be possible could just pull down the whole damn system!
I can’t tell you how YOUR child will go on to learn how to read, how to calculate basic sums, how to ride a bike, how to tie their shoes…..I can merely assure you of what’s possible when a child is supported to be fully in charge of, and connected to, their own mastery.