Unschooling in Manhattan

When we’re not living in the middle of almost nowhere or on a travel adventure, our homeschooling family spends a good chunk of time in New York City.  Often I’m asked whether “I make the kids do school work when we’re in New York City.”  That’s a loaded question.

I try to instill the idea that my kids are ultimately responsible for their own education.  I steer the ship, drive the bus, direct the traffic–you get the idea–but filling their brains with knowledge, or even random tidbits they’ve learned from Youtube (they love life hacks clips) and how much they gain from experiences, is up to them.  So, forcing them to do school work doesn’t really happy because when you homeschool pretty much everything your children do, discuss, experience, see or read is learning.

Unschooling in New York City.

Unschooling in New York City.

In New York City, where everything goes or so it seems, my kids’ ‘school work’ is somewhat radical.  When we spend time in NYC, our educational method shifts to unschooling as a primary means for learning.  This doesn’t mean we only think of ourselves as unschoolers when we’re in the Big Apple, but in NYC we ditch workbooks, lapbooks, and things like flashcards for museums, New York Public Libraries and the streets of New York.  Through life experience, my city unschoolers learn through daily city adventures and exploration.

The adventures don’t have to be fancy, expensive or involve tourist traps either.  It’s amazing how much discussion a trip to DuaneReade  alone can generate.  My oldest, eco-conscious homeschooler was shocked to see that Tom’s Deoderant costs $7.99 compared to the price of our home base CVS or Rite Aid (typically $2.99-$3.99).  That pharmacy trip alone prompted discussion about economics, consumerism, and cost of living city vs. country.  It’s also amazing how much learning takes place on the subway or at a tennis class with ‘locals’ (especially for mom).  Or how much discussion seeing a person urinate in plain view on a crowded sidewalk can generate….

New York City fuels my kids’ interest-led education.  It’s the perfect place to unschool. Well, actually, any place is the perfect place, given freedom, encouragement and space to learn. New York City just happens to be a cool place to do it.

Does your educational method or philosophy shift when you travel?


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