Sunday, March 21, 2010


i keep meaning to read john holt, but i never quite get around to it. basically, to me unschooling means that i don't teach unless i'm approached. it's child-triggered rather than teacher triggered. for example, she only reads when she wants, what she wants. (at my end, i leave age appropriate books lying around). science and history are taught when the student asks about it. math comes up (i'm actually shocked at how much math gets done just by her asking for it. obviously telling time and counting money are practical. but even regrouping and carrying and multiplication). she gets parsha when she asks for it.

i'm not 100% unschooling because i offer sometimes. chana currently does not want to learn division, even though i'm pretty sure she'll enjoy it and like the concept. i ask her periodically if she would like to learn it. i may casually introduce it if i'm sitting next to her and she's playing with a bunch of objects and she seems receptive. usually once a day i ask her if she wants to do any work. (i think a purist unschooler wouldn't ask).

i'm planning not to teach the boys to read at all. either they'll figure it out themselves or they'll ask me to teach them.

most of chana's day is spent pursuing her own interests. she often writes on microsoft word or other games, and she asks me to spell words. and we go over spelling and grammar that way.

the question is if or how unschooling can be applied to limudei kodesh. would chumash, specifically text skills, naturally come up? would hebrew reading be something that the child would ask to learn?

unschooling is a scary proposition because what if the child decides never to learn? can we have faith that a human being naturally gravitates towards knowledge, and if you make an educational environment and are receptive to learning moments and make yourself available for questions and for helping in research and providing the materials, that the child will entertain himself with pursuing areas that interest him?

or will the little savages just watch tv and play video games all day? and not learn a thing?

or will they do that a lot, but also learn a lot?

but will they learn chumash?


  1. The question about tv and games is what is vexing me. Who is to say they won't choose permanent vacation and wind up neanderthals?

  2. I read one book by John Holt, although it wasn't specifically about childhood education he wove plenty of his educational ideas into it. He seemed a little too wary of the phenomenon of teaching. The book is called "Never Too Late" and is about how he learned to play the cello as an adult.

  3. Just to add my own experiences growing up unschooled. All of the people I know who were unschooled ended up learning how to read, for example in my family one of us learned to read at 4 and another learned to read at 10 however when he decided to learn to read it took him under a week to learn, and he was reading above grade level within a few months. Math is also learned because it is practical, not every kid will learn advanced algebra, but how many school kids still remember algebra a few years after high school?
    I have yet to meet a homeschooler who spends all their time on TV and Games. Some kids might do that for a week or two now and then, and when switching from school to homeschool that is sometimes a problem, but even then after a few weeks it wears off. kids get bored and try to find more interesting things to do.
    One of my friends used to spend a huge amount of time playing computer games(probably more time than was healthy), but he also learned computer programming and he received a BA in physics (and maybe also math) when he was 20 (he stopped homeschooling at 17 to go to college).
    Even with many fewer hours spent on a subject, the attention and interest makes the time much more efficient.
    additionally the parents' values rub off on the kids, which means if the parent values studying the children will probably also value it.
    There is a lot of research out there about unschooling. One website which seems to have some interesting references is

  4. one other website with links to relevant research is

  5. i do not limit chana's tv or gaming at all. although she spends a lot of time doing it, she also spends a lot of time doing other things. and her education is coming along fine.

    r' mann once gave me some good advice, when i was asking about limiting tv time. he said just take a look at her other activities. if i see that she is eating properly, doing her responsibilities, playing with other children and having conversations with people, and doing art and sports and other activities, etc, etc, then i don't have to worry about how much time she's spending in front of the tv.

    yaakov is right. the learning is extremely efficient and a child left to her own devices has a LOT of hours to pursue things.

  6. she likes math just as i like math. i think, as other people said, that its practical and also for me its kinda fun, it may be fun for her also. i was thinking about hebrew studies. at first i was think no not at all but then, if i had the choice i may have done it anways. maybe not as much though. it was part of my history and i think eventually i would have wanted to do it and by then we may have been able to do chumash with mefarshim at the same time. idk what should be done and if it would actually work if it didnt but it might