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Unschooling the Middle Grades

Unschooling the Middle Grades

Maybe you’ve been homeschooling for a while, and your child’s curriculum just isn’t working anymore, or worse, your once eager student has started to push back and it’s like pulling teeth to get them to complete a lesson. If your homeschool is in a state of limbo and you’re questioning continuing on with your tween, here’s why unschooling the middle grades may be exactly what you need to reignite the wonder and beauty of homeschooling. 

unschooling the middle grades

Unschooling the Middle Grades: Why This May Be The Best Homeschool Idea Yet

As a homeschooling family, you’ve already opted out of the public school culture, which in the middle grades can be a very tumultuous time for kids. But, just because your child isn’t in public school, doesn’t mean their needs or development changes. “They have this heightened need for autonomy, yet suddenly their lives are so constricted and their every movement is really controlled, psychologist and author Phyllis Fagell said in an interview with The Atlantic. 

As such, and as a homeschooler, you’re in a unique situation. You can provide your child the space and resources they need to take control of their own learning. After all, the most real and authentic learning is self-directed. If your child is engaged fully and authentically, they will learn. It’s as simple as that!

Unschooling Resources for Middle School Students 

So, how do you set up an environment where learning can happen authentically? Provide your child with a variety of resources and talk with them often and regularly. The magic is in the conversation, and you’ll learn so much by simply getting to know your child and their interests.

It’s through these conversations that you’ll be able to find the right resources that will benefit your child most. But, there’s no room for taking a passive approach. Unschooling at the surface level may seem hands-off, but in reality, it truly requires taking an interest in who your child is, so that you can set them up for success.

Middle-Grade Resources for Unschooling 

If you’re still on the fence about unschooling, using The Big Fat Notebooks Series: Everything You Need to Ace Middle School, is a great way to get your feet wet. You can go ahead with unschooling, but still, keep these engaging books in your back pocket. They cover World History, US History, Science, Math, English, and Computer Science. There are comprehension questions at the end and you can pair the chapters with documentaries, hands-on activities, and field trips. This way, you can let your child be free to learn what they want, but you’ll feel better knowing you have a backup in your educational arsenal.

Ready to go all in with Unschooling?

Now, if you’re ready to go all in with your middle schooler and start unschooling, it’s important to realize that unschooling can look any way you want it to. You can still use textbooks and you can still provide worksheets. Unschooling can be whatever you and your child deem it to be. Now, radical unschoolers who don’t believe in textbooks or structured learning, may disagree, but guess what? They’re not paying your bills. You get to decide. Forgo the curriculum, or you can keep it in. You can solely follow your child’s interests and head to the library every other day if you so choose. The choice is yours!

Learning happens every day, everywhere, and in every situation. Unschooling can happen in the kitchen, cooking a meal. Board games can provide a world of learning, in fact, gameschooling is a very common and popular part of many homeschooling families’ repertoires. Gardening, family travel, spending time in the community interacting with others, it all counts, and it’s all relevant. In fact, you could tick all of the boxes – history, science, geography – in a trip to one of our nation’s amazing national parks Keep a journal of your experiences and you may be pleasantly surprised by the types of activities and discussions you and your child are regularly engaging in, that count as learning.

Why Unschooling Works 

One of the benefits of unschooling is that it frees up time. Your child will be able to pursue their individual interests. They won’t be bogged down by busy work and can focus on what they’re truly interested in. A child who is unschooled has the freedom to try new things rather than adhere to a predetermined set of arbitrary lessons. 

What if your child had the ability to hone their skills in their area of expertise or interest? What if, given the freedom to jump from one thing to another, they weed out that which doesn’t interest them, and drill down and discover what does?  This freedom can lead to resiliency and it can create a well-informed, well-rounded individual.

Unschooling works because it allows a student to really get to know themselves. It allows them to recognize how they learn best. Unschooling teaches children how to find answers, independently. As a caregiver, facilitating an environment where your child can explore their interests and try different things, puts them in a unique position; one where they can truly discover who they are, without the outside influence of the classroom or peers. 

Can Unschoolers Go To College? 

So now that you’re partly convinced that unschooling the middle grades is the way to go, and you’ve even somewhat committed to the idea of unschooling through high school, next is the real question. Can unschoolers go to college?

The short answer is yes, unschoolers can go to college! It’s important first though, to recognize that college right after high school, isn’t the end-all and be-all that it used to be. If college is part of the plan, you and your child will need to develop a plan or course of action.

This plan will usually revolve around their interests and goals. You should also have the ability and desire to demonstrate ways in which your child has taken an active role in pursuing their goals. If college is the goal, it will be advantageous to take college-prep courses. If your child has a specific skill in mind, job shadowing or an internship may be the way to go.  But, what if college isn’t in the cards?

Some members of Gen Z are seeing success at very young ages. This is because they are on the cutting edge of technology, and most notably, social media. Of course, not everyone is going to want to run an online business. Unschooling puts all options on the table because your student has had the freedom to explore their interests.

The bottom line, get to know your child. That is the key to a bright and successful future, whether obtained through unschooling or not.

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