Pam Sorooshian: Principles of Unschooling

I read a lot of essays and articles by Pam Sorooshian when I first started to unschool. I found her to be a great inspiration and she influenced me a great deal.

Principles of Unschooling:

Learning happens all the time. The brain never stops working and it is not possible to divide time up into "learning periods" versus "non-learning periods." Everything that goes on around a person, everything they hear, see, touch, smell, and taste, results in learning of some kind.

Learning does not require coercion. In fact, learning cannot really be forced against someone's will. Coercion feels bad and creates resistance.

Learning feels good. It is satisfying and intrinsically rewarding. Irrelevant rewards can have unintended side effects that do not support learning.

Learning stops when a person is confused. All learning must build on what is already known.

Learning becomes difficult when a person is convinced that learning is difficult. Unfortunately, most teaching methods assume learning is difficult and that lesson is the one that is really "taught" to the students.

Learning must be meaningful. When a person doesn't see the point, when they don't know how the information relates or is useful in "the real world," then the learning is superficial and temporary - not "real" learning.

Learning is often incidental. This means that we learn while engaged in activities that we enjoy for their own sakes and the learning happens as a sort of "side benefit."

Learning is often a social activity, not something that happens in isolation from others. We learn from other people who have the skills and knowledge we're interested in and who let us learn from them in a variety of ways.

We don't have to be tested to find out what we've learned. The learning will be demonstrated as we use new skills and talk knowledgeably about a topic,

Feelings and intellect are not in opposition and not even separate things. All learning involves the emotions, as well as the intellect.

Learning requires a sense of safety. Fear blocks learning. Shame and embarrassment, stress and anxiety - these block learning.

Pam runs a yahoo group called
No More Spanking that I recommend if you're looking for new ways to parent. Not only limited to spanking, here is the groups description:

The point of view of this list is that punishment may control a specific behavior but that it interferes with the long-term goal of promoting self-control and that alternative nonpunitive ways of relating to children are preferred. Punishment includes hitting, spanking, swatting, shaming, ridiculing, threatening, using harsh or cruel words, penalizing, holding back rewards, or other methods that assert adult power or vent adult frustration. We are seeking alternative approaches that provide guidance to our children that will encourage self-control, thinking before acting, learning to take responsibility for their own behavior, and especially that will promote a lifelong warm, close, and open relationship between parent and child.


Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

I really like this post!

Thank you!

Jeremy Hobbs said...

Since I grown older and a bit wiser, it amazes me how ridiculous our educational system is. Some students are just not going to excel in certain subjects, yet we force feed it to them anyhow, ruining their confidence (and GPA). Why not find what they're good at early, advance them in that/those subject(s), and just make sure they understand the 'basics' of the other areas?

Why does an auto mechanic need to know trig? Or a botanist need to know how to write a short story?

coolest asian in the universe said...

Unschooling is a brand new idea for me. Thank you.

Rachel R. said...

Thanks for this post. I am a veteran unschooler, but whoa, how the typical educational style of the world can creep into our lives...it is almost insidious.
Especially when you spend time around homeschoolers who school-at-home.

I'm going to print this out and stick it where I can read it everyday. Thanks again.


Joanne said...

Your welcome Rachel. I totally understand what you mean about school creeping in. My kids have friends that go to school and when they talk about tests and grades, I find myself thinking "Oh yeah, right-I forgot about that". lol

Sandy Feet said...

I am so grateful to all the places I can go on the web and get renewed inspiration for unschooling. This is a great post of Pam's quotes. Your site helps me too.

Joanne said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Pam is great and she's helped so many people really understand unschooling. Even after years of unschooling, I still love reading this stuff.