It's glorious, and at times frightening. It requires a relatively thick skin to stand up to critics (and, so called, authorities).
I unschool my son (now 13... would be 7th grade). He went to a few preschools and half of Kindergarten. I had no plans to take him out of school, but he had a major surgery (head/neck), so I pulled him out for the end of Kinder. I found it extremely enjoyable to NOT do the morning rush required to get a kid to school, so I figured I'd try homeschooling 1st grade. I could always put him back in after that.
At first, I did what most homeschoolers do... I replicated "school" at home. It was basically just a change of venue, and a 1 to 1 teacher-student ratio upgrade. I followed The Well-Trained Mind classical curriculum to the letter. I bought all the recommended texts and workbooks. I created a school-like schedule, and we stuck to it... complete with homework in the afternoons.
By around 3rd grade, I realized what we all intuitively know... kids only REALLY learn (and retain, and get excited about) what interests them. Most of what I was teaching him was, predictably, retained for the duration of the course, then promptly forgotten. I also realized the schooling methods hadn't changed significantly in 150 years... they weren't really designed for a world with internet, Google, youtube, etc. It suddenly seemed fairly random to force feed a set of facts to every child with no regard for who EACH child is, and what each child is interested in. Around that time I discovered unschooling.
As unschoolers, we live as though school (K-12) doesn't even exist. When my son shows an interest in any particular thing, I find ways to help him explore his interests in a way that will be productive and fulfilling for him in the long run. For instance, like most boys his age, he loves video games. He's always been the passive thinker sort (not a ton of energy, not super athletic, not super social, great with pattern recognition/ problem solving/ reading/ creativity). I honestly believe a career in gaming/ computer programming would suit his interests and abilities well. So, I spend my time directing him to resources and ideas that will help him prepare for that sort of career, even the possibility of attending a university to get a computer science type degree (if that interests him).
I don't teach him math or grammar, yet he scores in the highest percentiles on the required standardized tests for his grade. I can't really explain this, except to say... learning HAPPENS all the time. We come into this world programmed to learn. When something is interesting to us, we learn EVERYTHING about it. I guess in real life, all the "subjects" taught individually in school just run together into a common purpose. The only thing I do require of him is that he's always reading something (grade level or above)... but he loves to read, so I don't have to force him.
He LOVES being unschooled. It works perfectly for him. I have a toddler daughter now who is completely active and social. I honestly don't know if homeschooling will be an ideal choice for her. If we go that route, I'll have to go out of my way to find outlets for her needs (gymnastics, dance class, clubs, camps, etc.) The beauty of unschooling is that it honors EACH child as an individual. I make it my job to be the best resource and guide I can be to prepare each of my children in a way that suits them.
More questions on Quora:
- Parenting: What do children need to know in order to be street proof?
- Unschooling: What is it like to be "unschooled"?
- Education: Homeschoolers, why do you homeschool your children?