How Can We Help Children Pursue Knowledge Rather than Force Knowledge on Them?

"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child." George Bernard Shaw

What are you doing now that fosters the pursuit of knowledge rather than forcing knowledge on your child? Your child was born a learning machine. Have school or schoolish ways at home knocked the natural curiosity and desire out of your children to learn independently thus leaving them educationally demotivated? Can your children get back that curious passionate innate desire to learn about the world around them? At NatureGlo’s eScience Unschool, we sure think so!

Since 1997, I’ve seen what mandatory education does to children. I realized that shoving children through a one-size fits all curriculum not only burns the students out, but also the educator and learning becomes an all around drudgery. While seeking educational alternatives, I discovered that the unschool approach is much more organic and over time and distance, allows the child absolute freedom in pursuing their interests through living their lives.

When children are given the liberty to explore their world at their pace, amazing things can happen. They can experience sweet freedom as they pursue their exact interests. The parents and other adults in their lives become resources along with the tools the parents acquire for the child. Child chosen self-directed learning tools can include books, games, toys, computer software, and experiences such as interacting with people in your local community. These experiences can include organized sports, nature hikes, rockhounding, and skateboarding, just to name a few. It’s fueled by the child’s specific desires experiencing life. Remember, life itself is learning and loaded with truly rich educational experiences.

Traditional school curriculum is designed assuming that children absolutely must be pursued by knowledge, otherwise, they’ll never pursue learning independently. It’s not at all a mystery when children are given the opportunity to not have to do schoolwork, that they’ll naturally choose to not do it. In fact, many children already show signs of schoolwork drudgery both verbally and with varying adverse working paces from rushing through it to get it done and out of the way to slogging through it slower than a snail.  Since schoolish ways including lectures, workbooks and textbooks or online curriculum are considered true learning by our culture, it’s easy for both teachers and homeschool parents to conclude that children prefer to not do schoolwork and therefore choose to not learn anything on their own. This is such an absolute fallacy! Children absolutely can and do learn through life very well on their own in the most fascinating and creative ways if you pay close attention to them during their free play times. If you’re not giving your child enough free time and space to experience free play, you really need to do so as free play is the child’s language of learning. Look for and watch them as they mimic adults and learn to use socialization tools they’ll carry with them throughout life.

Schooling has become a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever the adults decide what is best for them. Homeschooling does offer more flexibility for parents to follow children’s learning passions. The eclectic type homeschoolers might have their children pick and choose what curriculum or learning experiences they want, but much of the time, the parents are still just testing various mandatory curriculum out on their child. Not surprisingly, the parents and children experience poor results and bucking from the child to do their schoolwork.

Why not allow your child to take on the full responsibility of their education and trust the process that they will get what they need for their own lives. There are unschoolers successfully unschooling in all 50 states in the US. The parents all find ways to make it work. Unfortunately, fear is a heavy thing among homeschool parents. They continually fear that they’ll fail their children, rather than trust the amazing process of growth and maturity children go through while pursuing their own interests over the span of years. If you’re going to truly unschool, you have to prepare yourself for the long haul and not just throw your hands up in the air and give up after month #2 when you see your child do nothing else but gaming all day.

Unschooling is very much like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we watch the garden, it’s very hard to determine if/when the plants are growing. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood stories from the old Frog and Toad book series called The Garden. One day Toad admired his friend, Frog’s garden and decided to grow his own. The story goes on to humorously show us the silliness of toad as he watched his garden day and night trying to help them grow. He tried to coax the plants in the garden to grow by first commanding them to grow. His friend frog, told him to simply leave them alone as the sun shined on them and rain fell on them - he advised Toad to simply leave them alone to their process. 

Toad, however, lost patience in the process and forgot about Frog’s advice. Toad took matters into his own hands to help force the seeds to grow. He serenaded them in the rain, read to them and recited poetry and ended up shouting at them out of frustration to grow. He became very tired, worn out and, stressed himself out trying to motivate the seeds to grow. He was ignorant of the fact that plants, like children, have a natural process of growth. In the end, after Toad had given up trying to get the seeds to grow, he fell asleep next to his garden. He was awoken by Frog to visible seedlings growing in his garden. He declared to frog, that it was very hard work. 

You bet it was hard work! It was way harder than it needed to be, right? How many of you feel stressed out and burned out trying to get your kids through a schoolish process of learning? Patience and trusting in the natural childhood learning process is wanting very much with unschooling. Watching children simply live their lives doesn’t always look like important learning to us adults. We tend to freak out way too easily if the child is doing things that don’t look like learning to us, such as choosing to sit on the coach to watch TV all day. How many parents fear that very scenario?

Most children simply do not like and enjoy textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and the physically painful periods of prolonged sitting. Sitting is the least pleasant of positions health wise for the human body. We’re meant to be standing, walking, running and being as physically active as possible. Our modern digital age has changed that and humans are now sitting for longer and longer periods of time.  Even with polite and cooperative children, if you ask them whether they would like to add more schoolwork time to their daily schedule, what do you think they’d say? Most children will opt-out. 

Unschooling isn’t a method but rather a way of looking at children and at life, including knowing that life itself is learning. It’s based on trust that the parents and children will work in cooperation with each other to find the paths that work best for them. This is all done without depending on schoolish ways including using mandatory curriculum, (unless the child chooses to use it), educational institution, and supposed experts.

The foundation of unschooling is grounded in children doing real things while just living their lives. Children do this not because they hope it will be good for them, but because living life is fascinating. There is a creative energy from just living life freely without the bounds of school that you simply cannot buy and experience from a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, doing real things brings about healthy mental development, invaluable knowledge along with the freedom of time to just be and ponder life, which is very challenging to include in society’s learning recipe. It’s actually natural for children to choose activities that will include reading, writing, playing with numbers and learning about society including learning about the past. They’ll think, wonder and do all of those things that society unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them through schooling.

Are you worried about state reporting or transcripts? When most unschoolers fill out the paperwork required for homeschooling in their state, they briefly describe, in the space provided, what they are currently doing, and the general intent of what they plan to do for the coming year. They don't include long lists of books or describe any of the step-by-step skills associated with a curriculum.

For example, under English/Language Arts, they might mention that our child’s favorite "subject" is the English language. They might add a few words about their family library. They mention that their child reads a lot and uses the computer for whatever writing they happen to do. They may also conclude with something similar to this, "Since he/she already does so well on their own, we have decided not to introduce language skills as a subject to be studied. It seems to make more sense for us to leave him/her to their own continuing success."

Why not give your homeschool family the opportunity to embrace unschooling within a supportive online community. You and your child will meet new friends, children will decide what learning opportunities they want to express and experience together, and build a community together. At NeSU, we’re building a community of like-minded unschooled families that are sick and tired of schoolish ways and are ready to experience the liberty that unschooling provides with the amazing support of other parents, children and myself as your facilitator/mentor.

If you and your child are sick and tired of of the daily schoolwork slog and feel you’re a match or already unschooling, join our waitlist and find out exactly when our virtual doors open.

Hear about when my registration opens again for NatureGlo's eScience MathArt and natural sciences course bundle for kids 10 - 18 by opting into my free unit study template below.


Gloria Brooks

Hi, I'm Gloria Brooks! I'm into education reform! Since 2011, I've had the privilege of teaching/facilitating thousands of faith-based and secular homeschool and unschool families around the globe. I hold a BA in K - 12 education, certificates from the Wilderness Awareness school, and over 20 years of eclectic teaching and child self-directed learning experiences in private schools, and homeschool online courses with NatureGlo's eScience. NatureGlo's eScience is a one-stop nature-based eLearning center for kids ages 10 - 18  helping them fall in love with the natural world while covering their other academics.