Have you ever heard of "unschooling"? Basically explained, unschooling is the process of raising children in a home school-like environment, but allowing them to be more deeply involved in the development of what they learn. There isn't a set curriculum; rather, what they want to learn decides what more time is spent on learning.
The debate about whether unschooling hurts or helps is a long one that likely won't end anytime soon. I haven't passed judgement on the system yet myself, mostly because I don't have the experience needed to do so. I have, however, become intrigued by the results of a recent study on those who grew up in an unschooling environment.
Peter Gray is a Boston College research professor with a lot of experience with age-mixed, self-directed education methods. He has studied them for a long time, and become interested in families who adopted these approaches to raising their own children. These so-called “unschoolers” are estimated to represent about 10 percent of the more than two million homeschooled children. With little information available, he decided to conduct more research on how these children turned out.
He gathered 75 responses from adults ranging in age from 18 to 49; almost all of them had had at least three years of unschooling experience. While they all differed in the exact method of their unschooling, there is still a lot to be said.
It seems that unschooling might be the way to go: almost all said they benefited from having had the time and freedom to discover and pursue their personal interests, giving them a head start on figuring out their career preferences. 70% also said “the experience enabled them to develop as highly self-motivated, self-directed individuals,” Gray notes on his blog.
More benefits included: having a broader range of learning opportunities; a richer, age-mixed social life; and a relatively seamless transition to adult life.
“In many ways I started as an adult, responsible for my own thinking and doing,” said one woman who responded to Gray’s survey. You can find the full details of his findings in the articles, but it seems to me that unschooling allows for individuals to begin the process of "finding themselves" a bit earlier, which is something I have to support (considering I'm still doing it so many years later!)