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What is unschooling? The child-led education model growing in popularity

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WATCH: A child-led education model is growing in popularity, as an alternative homeschooling model during the pandemic.

Unschooling is the idea a child learns based off their own interests, rather than off a set curriculum.

“If you empower your child to learn what they want to learn rather than what the government says they have to learn, they will absorb so much of the learning and education through their own pathways,” explained Unschooling Canada Association president Judy Arnall.

Arnall is a Canadian Certified Family Life Educator (CCFE) and non-punitive parenting and education expert. She’s also the author of Unschooling to University.

Read more: Nearly all Saskatchewan school divisions to require masks without being forced

“In Canada, about 20 per cent of children drop out of high school. Which tell us that maybe the conventional education system of forcing kids to learn about things they’re not interested in might not be working,” Arnall said.

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About 20 per cent of homeschoolers follow the unschooling model, according to the CCFE. Arnall expects that number to increase as parents rethink their coronavirus pandemic education options.

Arnall unschooled all five of her children. One is in university, three are university grads and one is getting their masters.

Saskatoon mom of two and lactation educator, Fred Berry, will unschool her daughters this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For her oldest, age nine, it’ll be a return to the self-directed model.

“It’s important to get out of your big busy adult brain thinking ‘but tests, but grades’ and just sit back and talk with your child and communicate. Trust they’re motivated to learn,” Berry said.

Read more: How to lessen anxiety, ease back-to-school transition for kids and parents during COVID-19

Her oldest wants to return to school eventually, and so Berry follows education goals from the Saskatoon Public School’s curriculum.

She brainstorms and incorporates those ideas and concepts into her kids’ interests and everyday adventures.

“So much of unschooling is invisible. It’s cooking, it’s reading, it’s conversations while you drive in the car.”

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To take the school bus or not