Can a Single Parent Unschool?
These days, many parents find themselves alone, whether by choice or by circumstances. Many of these parents assume that unschooling is not an option for them, but like many other assumptions, this can be self-fulfilling. Happily, unschooling in single parent families is easier now than it has ever been. With commitment, creativity and support, single parent unschooling can be not only possible, but very rewarding.
If a parent considers herself a resource person rather than a teacher, unschooling will be much more feasible. "Unschooling" (interest-led learning) is much easier and more enjoyable for both parent and child than a structured curriculum, and takes far less energy. This is likely to be especially appreciated by a parent who has the full responsibility of her children, whether he or she is a single parent or a parent whose partner travels frequently or works long hours. Without the unnecessary burden of a curriculum, parents are free to respond to their child in a more natural and far less time-consuming way.
Researchers consistently find that an unstructured approach is the most effective anyway - and the most fun for both parent and child. Instead of following a curriculum and hiring a tutor, many such parents instead hire household help. This gives them a break from tiring chores, and allows them more time to enjoy helping their child learn.
A major factor that makes single parent unschooling a viable option today is the increased opportunity of working at home. Many such parents have started home businesses, or have found contract work that can be done at home. Still others have found outside jobs that allow them to bring their children along. Many single unschooling parents receive government assistance for some length of time when their children are younger. While most such parents would be in a better financial position if their children were in school, they feel strongly that unschooling is best for their children, and they find ways to make it work.
For parents with small children, I often recommend a "mother's helper", a young person who can spend time with children while the parent is also in the home; this can allow uninterrupted work time. If a mother's helper is an unschooler, he or she will be available during the day, and is likely to have been raised in a similar environment.
Books and websites on voluntary simplicity and frugal living can also be excellent resources. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs offer many inspiring suggestions on money, housing, work, health, nutrition, and travel.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for single parents is the need for sufficient financial resources, time and energy. Supportive friends or family can offer essential emotional support, help, and encouragement. Unschooling support groups and parent co-ops are an invaluable resource for creative ideas and emotional support.
While unschooling can be challenging and time-consuming for any parent, having a child in school can be even
more so. My mother often asked me if I wouldn't have more time to myself if my son were in school. I told her,
"No, I wouldn't, because I would always be on the phone to the principal about whatever educational issue had
come up that week." In this way, I felt that I had more time than I would have, if school
- and all of the
demands that school puts on families - had been a part of our family life. Knowing that my son was free to learn
in his own way and at his own pace, and watching him do so was a profound delight that made unschooling an easy
choice despite any sacrifice. With sufficient determination, creativity, and support, single parent unschooling
can be an immensely fulfilling experience.
More book recommendations:
- Being There: The Benefits of a Stay-At-Home Parent by Isabelle Fox
- Mompreneurs: A Mother's Practical Step-By-Step Guide to Work-At-Home Success by Ellen H. Parlapiano
- What's a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home? by Linda Burton
Jan Hunt, M.Sc., offers counseling worldwide, with a focus on parenting and unschooling. She is the Director of The Natural Child Project and author of The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart and A Gift for Baby.