Eyes fascinate me. The endless variety of colors and patterns that they exhibit, the way some seem to shift color from day to day, the uniqueness of each one no matter how similar their owners might be in other respects. I spent some time a couple of weeks ago taking pictures of the eyes in our family and was struck, as always, at the variety among us. Even the three of us who have blue eyes each have a different shade of color and blend of patterns.
Children are of course just as unique as their eyes. Each sees the world in their own particular way, and if given the freedom will explore and interact in that world in their own surprising and unique fashions. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be similarities, of course. For a rather small example, all of my children love video games, but their preferences in games vary widely. Some prefer games with strong elements of problem solving, others like collaborative games that they can play together, and still other prefer big games that involve exploration, planning, and resource management. In the same way the books that resonate with each child are often considerably different, just as the music they love is different or the ways in which they like to exercise and explore outdoors.
Maybe all this is common sense – after all, we all know that every person is unique – but that makes it all the more surprising to me how some people object to the idea of Unschooling. They seem suddenly to forget that each child is indeed perfectly unique, and therein lies the most important reason to not put them all into the same structured learning environment or curriculum. If every person is truly unique, why would we expect them all to learn in even close to the same ways? It doesn’t seem possible to me that one structured system of learning could ever genuinely meet the unique needs and passions of every child. Or perhaps of any child.
In a nutshell that’s really the fundamental reason we’re Unschoolers. Sure, using a full curriculum or putting our kids in school might appear to work for some kids, and sometimes it might be easier. Maybe if we took that path they’d learn some things and maybe they’d be happy, but I simply don’t see any way it could genuinely allow them to pursue all the things that are most important to them. That feeling is supported every day when I watch my kids pursue the things they find fascinating.
When I watch I see my kids spendings hours every week drawing, building elaborate vehicles or buildings out of LEGO bricks, quickly mastering a new math concept, diving into a chess game to prepare for an upcoming tournament, challenging themselves to go on long jogs or bike rides, playing complex board and card games, watching documentaries about nature or science, working together to overcome a challenge in a video game, reading stacks of books, and all sorts of other things.
Few of these things would fit into a standard expectation of “school” and yet that’s precisely why I love the path we’ve chosen. School can’t reflect how my children see the world, but their individual choices as Unschoolers certainly do. They’re just as unique as their eyes.