How Can Teachers Unschool?

Alright, I need your help. Yesterday, I wrote about talking to teachers and getting our unschooling principles into the ideals and minds of institutionalized educators.  At one point I mentioned that we can offer suggestions to teachers about how to use unschooling principles in their classroom (you may not want to call it “unschooling,” though. Maybe child-directed would be less of a buzz word.) Well, now I want to think of some of these methods. In fact, I even had this crazy brainstorm about compiling a book of unschooling-inspired ideas for teachers and administrators to implement in their classrooms. But, that’s putting the cart before the horse.

So, I have a couple of ideas, but I’m sure you have tons more. I’ll share mine if you share yours. Here are ways I think teachers can use unschooling in their classes today.

Principles, not Rules

At the beginning of the year, all teachers give their rules of the classroom. I remember mine vividly. 1. Don’t interrupt. 2. The teacher dismisses you, not the bell. 3. Wait to be called on, etc. Instead of laying down 15 rules of the classroom, the teacher should strive to instill principles. For example, respect each other. That might mean not interrupting, raising your hand, calling the teacher “Mr. So and so,” not calling names, etc.  Another important principle might be “Better yourself.”

Offer Choices

As often as possible, offer choices. These should be as wide open as they can be. Yes, school is divided into arbitrary subject areas and you’re *supposed* to teach your subject area. But, find the cross overs. If you teach math and you have students who prefer playing basketball, encourage them to bring that love into the math class. Ideally, you could just let them go play basketball, but given that you are in a school, maybe you can try to loosely tie math into basketball.

Another idea is to allow the class to vote. Following the democratic school philosophy, you would have one vote which would be the same as everyone else. The choice made by the class would be binding, you could not override it. The voting MUST mean something; it cannot be simply for show. Otherwise, the students will not trust you. If you have the guts, open it up to complete freedom. If the students are voting on what to do with their class time that day, do not offer them 5 choices.  Leave it up to them to nominate the choices. It’s risky and you may not like what the outcome is for that day, but you will build a trusting relationship between you and the students.

Forget Homework

Homework is tedious. Its main accomplishment is to take what could have been an enjoyable day at school and turn it into hours of frustration. Whatever you achieved with your students that day will be undone when they sit down to work on your assignment. If they can’t have freedom within school, at least give them their freedom after school. Many teachers believe that they must assign homework to be a good teacher. I know that I felt that pressure when I taught. But, really, if you do nothing else in the vein of unschooling, this one thing will make a huge difference in allowing your students to pursue their passions.

I know there are numerous other ways teachers can bring the spirit of unschooling into the classroom, and I may share some of my thoughts on those over the coming posts. But, if you have any ideas, please post them. Hey, maybe someday we’ll compile all of our ideas into a book and send it out to the teachers who REALLY want to make a difference.

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2 Comments on "How Can Teachers Unschool?"

  1. Fanny Harville
    02/12/2009 at 12:27 pm Permalink

    I agree that teachers can learn a lot from unschooling principles. I wrote a post last spring about how my experiences as an unschool mom of a young child has influenced my pedagogy as a professor in my freshmen writing courses:


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by News Tips 4 Mamas, Cassi Clausen. Cassi Clausen said: Teachers and unschooling…

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