'Unschooling' lets kids determine classroom, curriculum

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- A new teaching method called unschooling has some parents and educators scratching their heads.

The method lets children choose their own classrooms, what they want to learn, and when. There is no curriculum, no homework and no tests.

"You might go to the science museum, you might go to the library, you might go to a park and play," said Lua Wells, who unschooled her kids 20 years ago. "Everything happens in an unschooled day. There isn't for the most part any structure to it."

Wells taught in private school and at the college level. She said at the time she was didn't agree with the way schools operated.

"In my classroom, I would have a handful of kids who wanted to learn French and then I would have the rest of them there because you have to learn a language," Wells said. "I always wished those kids who were bored in my French class could spend that time doing something that was interesting to them, useful to them. But, that's not how schools work."

Wells says unschooling allows the child to learn based on their interests alone.

"If you have a kid who is interested in math, they're going to go after math and find ways to feed that interest. And you as the parent help them do that," said Wells. "You find games that involve math, other kids who like math."

Wells says when practicing the method of unschooling instruction time is not forced but, rather sought by the child.{}

"When you notice your kid is interested in something -- like the stars in the sky -- then you might get some books from the library and leave them hanging around in your living room," Wells said. "So if your kids wants to pick them up and look at them, they can."

Fran Welch is the dean of the{}School of Education, Health and Human performance. Welch says she had never heard of unschooling before being contacted by ABC News 4.

After her own research Welch found, "it sounds a bit like the Montessori approach but from a home school perspective."

While unschooling was successful for Wells and her now grown children, Welch says it may not be the answer for every child.{}

"I think it depends upon the child," Welch said. "The maturity level of the child, what exposure there is within the family to concepts and ideas, and what is available to that child within the learning environment."

Wells' children both earned college degrees. One child earned a Master's degree.{} Wells says her kids were able to succeed because they learned to learn on their own.{}

"If you're just memorizing something for a test, which is a lot of what school spends it time on and you're going to forget that stuff by next month probably, what was the whole point?," said Wells.{}

In South Carolina, unschoolers fall under the same stipulation as homeschoolers. The parent has to have a GED, be overseen by a homeschooling association and submit semi-annual progress reports.{}

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