laura proctor

unschoolers - 2018 (shot on 35mm film)

In 2018 I spent a week photographing a "unschooling" family in the small town of Wiarton, Ontario. Jennie and Luke have chosen to unschool their three children, Judah, Neve, and Wilder, letting them learn through play. The children are given the freedom to explore interests that appeal to them, instead of following a curriculum or a schedule. The kids enjoy making art, cooking, dancing, building forts, card games, identifying plants and animals, reading and visiting the library, and playing outside.

Home educating their children is a choice that parents sometimes make due to a lack of faith in the school system. It can offer an alternative to a one-size-fits-all system. There are two main types of home education: homeschooling, which is more structured and may involve textbooks and assignments; and unschooling, which is unstructured and not comparable to formal schooling. 

While all home education tends to encourage children to nurture their passions, unschooling is based on the now-established premise that children learn best through play. Unschooling parents believe that it’s beneficial to the child to let them lead when it comes to learning, and that there should be no schedule for learning or rules for how to learn. The parents generally also believe that childhood is a sacred time meant to be enjoyed.

Organically cultivating a love for learning has its benefits. An 2016 study by the National Home Education Research Institute indicated that home-educated individuals scored 15-30 percentage points higher on standardized academic achievement tests. But perhaps most importantly for their parents, kids like Judah, Neve and Wilder will grow up with memories of being free to play and letting their imaginations run wild.

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