Episode 161: Why "Unschooling" Could Be The Right Educational Style For Your Child


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By Dr. Nicole Beurkens. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

My guest this week is Iris Chen, she's an author, unschooling mom, deconstructing tiger parent, and founder of theuntigering movement. As an advocate for peaceful parenting and educational freedom for children, her mission is to inspire generational and cultural transformation, especially among Asian communities. She spent 16 years living overseas in China, the land of the tiger parent, but now resides in her native California with her husband and two sons.

In this episode, Iris and I discuss meeting the educational needs of all kids, including kids with special needs, in-non traditional ways. Specifically, with an educational model called unschooling, which is gaining in popularity in recent years. It’s important to raise awareness about different educational styles so that parents and children don’t feel stuck in their current school system and blindly follow whatever they are told. Thankfully there are many different educational styles that fit kids’ personalities, interests, and challenges better. Learn more about here.

Episode Highlights

What is a Tiger parent?

  • Equates to very strict Chinese parenting (but can also be a term for any strict parents)
  • A lot of rules, very authoritarian, high expectations, particularly in the area of academics

What is untigering?

  • Moving away from very authoritarian, controlling, coercive parenting, but also redefining ideas about the value of formal education and academics and the push to succeed and achieve in those ways

Being a controlling parent is not healthy for your kids

  • Parents of kids with special needs, whether that is neurodevelopmental issues, mental health issues, learning challenges, whatever it might be, experience an extra set of fears and concerns, and there can be even more of a drive to control or to make kids conform to a certain way of doing things, out of love and a desire for them to fit in, to have a successful future
  • It is important in those situations for parents to step back and recognize what our fears are around this
  • How do I support the child I have, who this child actually is, which includes all of their amazing strengths and qualities, as well as their challenges? Not trying to make this child fit into a box

Opting out of conventional thinking

  • There is this collective reimagining going on right now that is so important to the future of education
  • Education most certainly does NOT need to be done in four walls, sitting down all day long
  • The educational model we choose for our kids, comprises a lot of their childhood daytime life, we should choose based on all our options not just the one everyone else does
  • We need to ask, "Is this serving me?" Because an education is supposed to serve the child, it is supposed to empower the child and give them the skills
  • If it's not serving the child, why are we still doing it? So are we serving the system? Or is the system there to serve us? If we're just saying yes to whatever they're asking us to do, we're not questioning it, it's not an intentional choice
  • One of the most compelling arguments in support of parents looking at different options educationally, is the research on educational outcomes in the current school system
    • A large percentage of kids are not coming out of the current school system with great success
    • We’re also seeing a generation of kids now in young adulthood with more serious mental health issues than ever before
  • When we think about parenting kids who are autistic, kids who have ADHD, kids with mental health issues, behavioral challenges. All the more need to look at what is going to constitute success, health, well being, an engaged quality of life for them in adulthood?
    • It may not at all be the picture that we have in our mind of traditionally what's done, and that need to broaden that understanding

What is unschooling?

  • Living, loving and learning with our children outside the construct of compulsory schooling
  • Child-led, no homework, no curriculum, no particular subjects, no strict schedule
  • Unschooling really opens up a lot of options for reducing kids' anxiety about school or about learning, and by using their strengths and using their interests, it allows a much better entry point into helping them grow in their skills, in their knowledge, because we're approaching it in a way that doesn't automatically heighten their anxiety and create a lot of distress for them

How do children become educated with unschooling?

  • They are intrinsically-motivated, they do have the skills they need and the drive that they need in order to pursue their individual interests
  • There is a lot of parenting support. Exploring outside, reading at the library, going to museums, these are ways children can build knowledge
  • By giving kids time and room to play and lead activities it's actually supporting their own developmental pace too, which again, is really important for neurodivergent kids, for kids with different kinds of processing systems in their brain, to be able to operate at a pace that supports their own development, as opposed to constantly being pushed

Life provides opportunities for learning

  • People learn because we are made to learn
  • We don't need school in order to do that
  • There's so much learning that needs to happen outside the mind, outside the intellect, where the school environment doesn't really allow for that
    • We need to learn how to listen to our bodies, how to rest and engage with nature, how to meet our our needs to survive in the world, like cook and do laundry and pay your taxes and all those things
  • For kids who have more significant neurodevelopmental, behavioral, anxiety kinds of issues, traditional classrooms often are not the best place for them to be doing the kinds of learning and development and growth

Follow Iris Chen

  • Website
  • Instagram - @Untigering
  • FB - @Untigering
  • Twitter - @Untigering

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