I am a 16 year old girl and I have been unschooling for the past 7 years of my life. There are three main questions people ask me about unschooling. They want to know if I have friends, if I have missed opportunities, and whether I can go to university. I think itís time to share my personal field knowledge on these areas.
Unschooling is a philosophy of learning, where children donít learn from a set curriculum. Instead they are encouraged to learn about subjects that interest them at their own pace.
For many people, socialisation is a major concern when children do not attend school. For me personally, I had friends that I enjoyed playing with at school but when I left (age 10) I realised I was actually content just being around my family more than other children. I enjoyed having people to play with but I noticed that having a lot of children to play with wasn't necessary until I became a teenager.
The biological purpose of adolescence is to separate from family and find other companions, I couldnít be happier with the wide range of friends I have now. As a teenager, I have the capacity to make friendships on my own terms, and to be around people whom I enjoy spending time with.
I have friends who go to school, friends who are homeschooled / unschooled and friends whom I meet with weekly at my local youth group, and I still look forward to time with my family. The great thing about technology is that I even have friends I stay in contact with from other countries. I have also made many new friendships from a recent boating trip which I will discuss a bit later. I am not suffering from a lack of socialisation outside of school. In fact I consider myself to be a very social person!
People are concerned that their children will miss opportunities if they aren't in school, and the easiest way to dispel that myth is to discuss the opportunities that I have. There have been plenty! I have the choice to do what I am interested in, and have discovered more interests than I know what to do with! I have taken cake decorating classes, been a wildlife park volunteer, I attend university lectures on a wide range of subjects from human rights to environmentalism, I attend a gymnastics class specifically run for homeschooled families, the local youth group, I partake in sailing, painting and photography too.
Me caring for a white lion cub when I volunteered at the wildlife park
I was recently selected to go on the 2014 Youth Leadership Challenge where refugees and local youth come together to gain friendship and experience as a sailing crew. I had to raise $1,500 for a refugee to come along as a condition of entry. We spent 9 days traveling on a sailing boat, climbing up masts and taking in everything about life at sea. The sailing trip was so incredible that I have now decided to participate as a volunteer crew member in day sails, on the same boat. I met so many amazing people, and truly believe that this was a life changing opportunity - even though I don't go to school.
Since returning from the trip I was asked to give a speech about it to the Hobart Rotary club luncheon, at the Grand Chancellor Hotel as well. And I will be doing some office work, for the boat, in a volunteer capacity, in the coming months.
In the last few months, I have begun exploring the possibility of university. As most people are, I was curious how an unschooler could gain entrance to a university without proof of graduation. So I decided to contact the university where my prospective course (Animal Science) is offered. Upon contacting them I was informed that they have many homeschoolers in attendance. To gain entry I will be required to submit a "statement of interest". The email I received from the university read:
ďA person who has not successfully completed senior secondary, tertiary or TAFE/VET study, but has other relevant work/study experience and background has the opportunity to complete a personal competency statement and demonstrate how that experience meets the University's General Entry RequirementsĒ
To ensure that I meet the Universities study requirements, I am planning to take two Summer classes on chemistry and mathematics. These are offered at no cost, by the university. Until then, I am unschooling these subjects to better prepare myself.
Having spent 6 years at school and being 7 years into Unschooling, I feel there are pros and cons for both ways of learning but I have definitely preferred unschooling. I liked school, but I adore being an unschooler and I feel ready and eager to embark upon this new stage of my life.