Interview with Jan Hunt on the future of unschooling

I’ve been reading The Natural Child Project for quite some time now. I’ve linked to many of its posts already and, most of all, I have learned so much there.

From a year ago, when unschooling was a new cool word for me till now, I have changed so much may view on education and natural parenting and much of this is thanks to some of Jan Hunt’s words.

Jan is the director of The Natural Child Project, and she is an attachment parenting/unschooling counselor among other projects that she´s involved with.

When I sent her an interview request, just a bit over a week ago, I didn’t count on it happening so fast, I´m really excited to share her answers here.

As an unschooling advocate, what do you expect that can happen when more people join this way of life? Can it reach or is it reaching a global scale?

Jan: Homeschooling and unschooling are already growing faster than public schooling. If the current trend continues, there will be more homeschooling children than those in school by the year 2050 (see http://alturl.com/6iov2 ).

At that point, when the majority of children are learning in these ways, I expect the numbers to start increasing at an even faster rate. The more homeschooled and unschooled children there are, the more peaceful and joyful our society should be.

What are the most frequent fears of the parents starting to unschool their children? What do people usually ask you?

Jan: Parents have been convinced by their own public schooling experiences to believe that learning has to take place in a certain place, at certain hours, in certain ways, under stressful conditions, and be taught by an “expert”. They believe that only some things are “educational” and that there is a one-size-fits-all schedule of learning that every child should follow.

Fortunately, these fears subside with experience, and the parent soon realizes that the opposite is true: children learn best when, where and how they choose, on their own timetable, and with much more joy and enthusiasm that any child in any school.

In all these years that you’ve been working on sharing unschooling around, what changes have you seen?

Jan: Homeschooling and unschooling are becoming far better known and accepted by the general public, and parents are quicker to take a child out of a stressful situation in school. I’m also hearing from more parents who have learned about these options early enough to start unschooling from the beginning.

Can one regret choosing the unschooling path? Have you seen this happen before?

Jan: Never. The only regret I’ve seen has been in families who are homeschooling with a curriculum, because it has so many of the same problems as school. For homeschooling grants visit this post.

When unschooled children or teenagers decide to join school, what usually happens? What is the process like legally and what does the child usually go though in more personal terms?

Jan: These days, there are no legal obstacles, but few unschooled children make this choice. Most of those who do, decide quickly that it isn’t for them. Those who continue do very well academically.

When your son Jason was a young child, how did you find time to work? When he wasn’t with you, who took care of him?

Jan: What I recommend for unschooling moms who are feeling overwhelmed is a mother’s helper – that’s what saved my sanity! I had a wonderful helper who was only 11 when she first started, but her age didn’t matter since I was always home. Since Jason was only 3 when she started, it was the three of us playing together at first.

But I soon had lots of free time for showers, napping, cleaning, writing etc. She was homeschooling, so she was always available on call, and was my helper for 4 years until we moved. The only mistake I made was feeling guilty because I thought I “should” be able to be a supermom! After reading the Continuum Concept I realized that for most of human existence, moms living in close-knit tribes had lots of helpers.

When looking for a helper, be sure to ask if her family has any plans to move from the area. Changing caregivers can be very hard for children – it can damage their trust in others (that’s the biggest problem with daycare).

Another option would be trading time with another mom – going to her house and spending time with all the children, giving her free time, and then she could do the same for you. Of course it would be important to find someone who shared your parenting beliefs.

What simple advice can you give to the families starting to unschool their children?

Jan: Trust in your children’s natural love of learning. Relax and cherish the time you’ll have together!

Thank you Jan, I loved your answers!

You can find Jan´s posts and other awesome people writing about Unschooling, Attachment Parenting, Gentle Guidance and much more at The Natural Child Project. Jan is available for telephone counseling worldwide.

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