When the thousands of kids head back to the hallways and classrooms of their local schools, there will be a few hundred who will not but will still be getting a valuable and needed education.
The Un/Homeschool Club of Barrie and Surrounding Areas is a club of approximately 800 families in the Simcoe County area who have chosen to not only educate their children at home, but with different techniques than that of the traditional system. Wendy Hart is the creator of the club which has a Facebook group of the same name and says she started the club about six years ago in hopes of reaching other parents like her and her husband who felt their daughter would learn best through being taught at home.
“There are many reasons as to why we wanted to teach our daughter here at home and also many that most parents have for doing so,” said Hart. “One thing for us is we believe in a hands-on education that allows our child to not only learn but express herself while doing so. It is vital for families to know there is an alternative to the system we have now that many are either losing faith in or are seeing a better way from.”
Unschooling is also different than home schooling in that those who home school often buy the curriculum they will follow online and use that to teach. Unschooling doesn’t use a set curriculum but does use all the same tools in order to prepare children for adulthood.
“Most people do often get the two confused but that’s why we like to help educate the families as well about what is out there,” said Hart. “Unschooling is more of the child directing how they want to learn and as parents we need to observe that and use their naturally inquisitive nature to hone their abilities; children are a lot smarter than most adults give them credit for.”
An example that Hart gave in the usage of the unschooling technique is in the love her daughter has for animals and how that can be beneficial in the attempt to help with math.
“Hope loves horses and we have some, so she enjoys being near them,” said Hart. “How much they eat, how many there are can be used when discussing math with her. We will also take her shopping and have her help with that to learn budgeting and such. Kids will often push back and not learn about a subject when they become uninterested being in a four-walled classroom, but if you can allow them to find their passion within the subject it is amazing how they will fall in love with learning.”
Teaching kids at home is legal in Canada despite what many may think and merely requires a letter of intent to do so to your local school board. Children are not hindered in their pursuit of post-secondary education because of it either with major universities looking at them due to the creativity they have been allowed to work with.
“One way to think about it is how popular the pursuit of entrepreneurship is nowadays,” said Hart. “The ability to start up a business using your creativity, knowledge and self-confidence; that is the essence of what we are doing and major universities in Canada and the US are noticing that.”
One of the things most unschooling parents hear by those who don’t understand the concept is that children need to learn to socialize and that the traditional school system is best for that. Hart disagrees as her local club organizes meet-ups for parents to get the kids all together for not just play time but fun learning and interaction. Field trips to Hewitt’s Farm, Avalon Orchard and LARPing at Sunnidale Park are just some of the events that gather families for social time. This coming September 5 there is a gathering at Barrie’s Centennial Beach called the Not Back To School Beach Meet-Up. Those who are in the Un/Homeschool Club will be there for the second year and Hart encourages those who want to know more to come down and ask.
“This is a fun way for us to meet and get the kids together but also a great time for anyone who may have questions about what we do and how to join,” said Hart. “If the weather isn’t cooperating we will meet the next day but for now it is a go and we’re all very excited.”
For more information on this alternative schooling process, check out Hart’s Facebook page to connect and/or go here for any other questions you may have.