Day 12 of Homeschooling in the Middle East. Whether taking a six month ‘exploration period’ is educational neglect, however well intentioned, or the path to the oft touted unschooling miracle; self-directed learning with passion? YOU VOTE! – “Personalised Education results in learners whose outcomes are expressed in their character, personality, in the quality of life they lead, in the development and sustainability of our families, communities, and planet and in peaceful co-existence and conflict resolution. Performance indicators are measured as much in terms of their physical and mental health, in peaceful existence, freedom from crime, usefulness of contributions and work, levels of active citizenship etc as they are in the existing limitations of the assessment scores and paper accreditations”.

I agree with the above philosophy and ‘Personalised Education Now’ looks like a very interesting organization. And I do think workbooks aren’t going to achieve the kind of learner described above, the kind of learners we hope our children will be, but I’m finding it hard to ‘unschool’ myself! Why? I feel I’m stymied at this juncture in our home education adventure. I am finding it hard to commit to the approach I think I want to use – unschooling. I really want to follow unschooling but I’m not sure enough about it yet, in part because I’m afraid it won’t work for a kid who recently used to be at school, which is the case with Edward. I can see it working well if the child has grown up with it, never knowing any other way of learning, or if they’ve been taught in an eclectic way and then the learning has become more and more relaxed over a long period of time, for unschooling to happen organically. But will my very recently schooled 7 year old boy get his natural love of learning back?

I have read of people trying to let their kids do whatever they want to do, in the hope that eventually the kids will want to read fascinating books, do projects etc but months and months go past and nothing changes. Does it ever change? How will Edward learn anything if, given the choice, he’d play with Lego and action figures all day (let alone watch entertainment DVDs) and never pick up a book or anything else? Do recently schooled kids left alone really, really suddenly want to do Maths, learn about Ancient Egypt, want to write stories on the computer?? How does a previously schooled kid turn into a model unschooled kid – passionate about learning all sorts of things every day??! I don’t care so much WHAT he learns, but that he is learning something valuable – OK, ‘valuable’ is very subjective, but ‘just’ playing every day, reading Tintin books or watching Tintin movies does scare me. I don’t care if he doesn’t do Maths for a while, if instead he’d be mad into e.g. dinosaurs and want to read everything going about dinosaurs or mad into doing science experiments or build models of the solar system or something. Or even want to know about the countries Tintin visits.  I do believe the main thing is to teach/mentor HOW to learn as much as WHAT to learn. This is apparently a fundamental aspect of unschooling.

To clarify, I am keen on the unschooling philosophy but not what people are calling ‘radical unschooling’ which allows the kids to decide everything from what time to go to bed to what to eat. But even with ‘moderate’ unschooling, as it’s sometimes termed, I am afraid of neglecting Edward’s education (again, what that is, is admittedly subjective) or, if I’m honest, even just appearing to neglect him.  But on the other hand, if I follow an eclectic approach, doing e.g. Maths through worksheets, I worry that he will never re-ignite his natural love of learning (if this is indeed what really happens with unschooling) so we’ll end up forever doing some kind of ‘school at home’ whilst waiting endlessly for this magical unschooling miracle to happen. I don’t mind starting out with an eclectic approach, which I’m kind of doing, but it seems haphazard and I’m afraid it defeats the object. So, I’m afraid on both fronts; I’m afraid if I don’t leave him totally alone for a few months he’ll never get his natural love of learning back and will never self-direct his learning by finding his own passions to follow. On the other hand, I’m afraid that if I do leave him totally alone to play and find his own way that he never will! Of course I can choose a path and wait and see what happens, but how long to pursue a path before I know it isn’t working? How many months will be ‘wasted’?

I’m very confused and of course since I’m totally surrounded by schoolers the only advice they are giving is – keep a schedule, follow a curriculum i.e. do school at home, which isn’t what I want. I know this is the safest route, but I have at least always had enough courage not to do the safest thing just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t have pulled Edward out of school mid-term if I just wanted to follow the least criticized way to educate one’s child! Edward’s school was a ‘highly rated’ private school at that, very hard to get a place in (although to clarify, if you want your child educated in English rather than Arabic, you have to send your child to some sort of private school in Bahrain).

A dear friend did advise me not to over intellectualize this home education thing.  But do I risk a six month ‘exploration period’ or not. This ‘exploration period’ was something beautifully articulated by this advocate at – “After you have done your research and decided to homeschool but before you purchase supplies and begin formal homeschooling, set aside six months as an exploration period. This exploration period will allow you and your children to get to know each other better, which is especially important if your children have been in school, and will give your children a chance to get to know themselves better. Financially, this exploration period will save you from spending money on materials you might not really need or use. Instead, you’ll use this time to collect educational catalogues and circle the items you think you might want. But don’t buy anything yet! After a few months of spending time with your children, you’ll have a better idea what their interests are and how they learn best”

Vote here by adding a comment. Yes, I should do a six month exploration period or no I shouldn’t. All views valid and will be taken on board, provided they are expressed respectfully please!!

Please always feel free to post comments on any of the days you read, however old they are. Your views are valuable and it’s always good to have debate. If you’re busy but enjoyed that day’s blog, please do press the ‘Like’ button at the end of the post. It would be much appreciated as it helps encourage more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! Any comments about Maths teaching is especially appreciated and suggestions about resources warmly welcome!


About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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9 Responses to Day 12 of Homeschooling in the Middle East. Whether taking a six month ‘exploration period’ is educational neglect, however well intentioned, or the path to the oft touted unschooling miracle; self-directed learning with passion? YOU VOTE!

  1. Jade says:

    Yes! I don’t see why not Penny. Think of it this way, in Canada kids have three months off school every year, with a two+ month gap in the summer. Since you pullled E. out mid-term, why not consider this his “summer” break and take the time (two-four-six months) to get acquainted with the philosophy that you want to follow at home with your kids. I suspect that as a home educator you will continue a learning environment 365 days a year, so a wee break in the long term is not going to hurt anything. Also, the best way to teach the learning you want to inspire is to model that learning yourself. Talk about the books you are reading with E. (at his level/age appropriate of course), READ in front of him often, ask him why he thinks something is working the way it is (cooking, cleaning, gardening, playing lego) etc. Sure this is direction, but as with parenting, children need some direction. This doesn’t mean you are dictating how or what they think, but are giving a solid example for E. to use as a basis for his own thoughts and exploration. As an aside, I don’t think the radical opinion of doing things one way or the other to an extreme are ever the best route to follow. Find what works best for your family and go with that. If this is something you believe that is best for E. and P. only you can know that as their parent! As with all things in life, there is no right or wrong answer, but perhaps a better and best way for each family and child.

  2. Veronika says:

    You might also figure out what works best for your kids and yourself while teaching them.maybe it won’t be just one concept that agrees with you like jade already mentioned .once you are done with your research just go for it and try not only one method but use all that appealed to you out of any method….I guess once you get started with the kids you will then see what works …and eventually it will be an everlasting process of expanding your teaching methods.
    Personally I do think kids need a certain structure within which they can explore otherwise they might get lost . As for developing passion for certain subjects or learning itself I guess they are too little right now to take direction .it would therefor be up to us to make sure they get all the basis which allows them to discover and pursue their passions one day . I might myself not always have wanted to go to my ballets classes when I was little but thanks to my parents I did and when I was a teenager dancing became my passion and I would not have had the opportunity to train professionally had I not received a proper basis in my childhood.
    I rethink you need to give passion a chance to develope and a chance to then be pursued…and passion is tricky , it might not br there now they are little but might come up one day and then one would wish the doors to be open .i can’t therefore really agree with the unschooling method as it waits for the kid to show passion in order to get involved . What if by then it’s too late to open that door..why not involve the child anyway and give him opportunity to become passionate an most of all the capacity to then pursue.
    It sounds a bit unfair to me to give a child at such young age the huge responsibility of figuring out what they are or will be passionate about and let them direct their learning accordingly.why not feed them first and let them decide once they have grown strong enough to do so.and homeschooling ,although parent directed gives anyway so much space to follow , respect an deepen kids particular interests. Kids best flourish in freedom within structure but taking away all structure like unschooling seems to me does, is giving them a huge amount of responsibility they can t assume or understand . Kids are allowed to stay kids when they are guided and freedom might be much more explored,recognized and beneficial to them within given structures.

  3. inhistiming says:

    I say go for it! He is just 7, so if for some reason you change your mind, it will be easy to get him on a ‘schedule’ later. I struggle with this too….having been ‘schooled’ all my life, it is tough to envision unschooling, but I am learning. Like you, I think it is easy to do this with my two little ones, who are only 17 months and 3 years old, but the older three….ages 8.5, 12, and 14, I am having a hard time figuring out how to transition out of what we have been doing (which has included some unschooling) to completely unschooling. We think they ‘should’ be doing certain things, and it is tough when they don’t do what we think learning looks like! However, both of my oldest kids have been going thorough a writing curriculum called Learn to Write the Novel Way, in their “free time” as they called it, because it was so intriguing to them that by the end of the curriculum they will have written a novel. My 12 year old daughter spent several hours reading it and writing yesterday, on a Saturday! They both carry notebooks around with them (their idea) so they can write down names of songs, video game ideas (my son), sketch scenes (my daughter) so they aren’t forgotten before returning home. Finding their passions and letting them follow them, that is just part of what unshooling is. Just remember it is a process, and all of us who have been to school have to go through it. Spend some time de-schooling, try to let go of preconceived notions about what learning is….Legos provide lots of education, as do video games and televeision! But I’ve had to learn this over 6 years of homeschooling, and as you can see by what I’ve written here and on my blog, I am STILL learning new things!

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and I wish you a wonderful journey of exploration! Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about anything or just want to bounce ideas off of someone who is a homeschooler! 😉

  4. inhistiming says:

    Oh, and this does NOT mean we don’t play a part in what the children do. It is HELPING them find their passions, finding games, activities, classes, whatever…..providing access, helping them know it’s available, but letting them choose if they want to do it, and not being upset if they choose not to….You can decide how much structure you want. It does not have to be ‘radical’ unschooling….to whatever degree you want to do it, then do it that way!

    • Thank you SO much for both of your very supportive comments. It is relief to find out that even after 6 years of homeschooling you’re finding it a journey of discovery, although scary too! What you said about your kids writing their novels; this would make me feel very comfortable that they’re learning something. I did Star Wars ‘Mad Libs’ with my son for the first time ever today and definitely feel this is a learning activity too – although it would never be something he’d do at school. But action figures are a greyer area!

      We are the sort of family who are always talking and thinking but when I do my more ‘unschooling’ days, they look like weekend or holiday days! This feels like cheating/neglect! When I’ve read about unschooling it does seem like an unschooling day is not much more stressful than a holiday, with an organized activity perhaps thrown in eg a gymnastics or music class. I feel like homeschooling should feel harder than this – which is does when I sit down with him to do worksheets or something.

      From what I can see, unschooling when the kids are young seems to involve a lot of play and that’s what feels like educational neglect, although the books say it isn’t – even if you are encouraging/introducing them to stuff you hope they might find interesting. It’s only when they’re teenagers that kids appear to decide to really learn things that would enable them to pass exams – if they wanted to for the challenge or because they decide they need to in order to get into a particular college course or something. When they’re teenagers it seems they then might WANT to learn maths or science or history in a way that involves more hours with books or writing essays or something. Is this right? Is unschooling just deferring what looks like traditional learning until the kids are older? And before that just providing a rich educational environment and hoping they’ll learn something through that? I’d love your thoughts! Best wishes!

  5. Pingback: Day 19 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – How much forcing do kids need, for their own benefit, if any? Will they ultimately thrive (‘Tiger Mother’ stuff?) or die inside? | homeschoolingmiddleeast

  6. inhistiming says:

    I think the general consensus is that homeschooling uses the world as the classroom, as opposed to doing ‘school at home’. It CAN look like that if that is what the child likes and wants to do, that is the key….doing things in a way the child finds interesting, because then he will retain the information be cause he likes it and is interested. I think you’re right in a sense, because high school students are getting closer to being out on their own, so often will learn things the ‘traditional’ way in order to create transcripts for college, etc. I really don’t think you need to worry about all that too much right now since your children are only 3 and 7, though I definitely understand the thought process! I am still learning this too, remember? 😉 I would suggest looking for web sites that discuss homeschooling, possibly joining some yahoo groups, and just reading. Then, take what you like and apply it, and get rid of the rest. There is ‘no right way’ to homeschool, and I would say that applies to unschooling as well. Others may try to tell you there is, but remember that is just their opinion. It is a process, and I have heard and read (and actually experienced) that it can be a life-long, ever-changing one.

    • I’ve just re-read your comment and thank you so much for making it. I found your words of wisdom very comforting and yes, I’m certainly trying to read all I can and slowly coming across more blogs. I had a great page open today and my daughter closed it and I can’t remember what it’s called. Typical! I should write/save everything asap in case of 3 year old interference!! Thank you again and if you have any words of advice about Maths, as per today’s post’s plea, please do let me know! Thanks again for reading homeschoolingmiddleeast

  7. inhistiming says:

    I meant to say “find some web sites that discuss “unschooling”.

What do you think? Please do let me know. I would love to hear your opinion!

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