Unschoolers - 2018

In 2018 I spent a week photographing a "unschooling" family in Wiarton, ON. 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 usually make due to a lack of faith in the school system. Schools are often run as one-size-fits-all, failing the many kids who don't thrive when asked to memorize facts and sit still.⁣ Home education offers an alternative. There are two main types: homeschooling, which is somewhat structured and may involve textbooks and assignments; and unschooling, which is unstructured and not comparable to school. 

While all home education tends to encourage children to nurture their passions, unschooling is based on the well-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 also believe that childhood is a sacred time meant to be enjoyed.

Organically cultivating a love for learning has 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 more importantly, kids like Judah, Neve and Wilder will grow up with memories of these days of being free to play and let their imagination run wild. They are given permission to be children.

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