Is this “unschooling”?
It might be, but I think Symbiotic/Self Directed Learning is more a way of holding space for learning than a prescribed way of homeschooling. It lends itself well to the the unschooling spectrum but may not fit some peoples idea of unschooling. It is great for the eclectic homeschooler and it works well with early childhood and adults.
Let’s deconstruct it a bit.
Symbiotic : adj. – denoting a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups
It is reciprocity and learning alongside each other. Not all homeschooling families hold this as their goal or even realize the potential and the beauty it can hold. I am so passionate about it because life is busy and full! It can be really challenging to meet the needs of all the members in a family and my family is large! We all need sustenance, nurturance, to feel of use, to have passions, to have meaning, to pursue interests… but what usually happens? As parents, our own personal needs often go unmet. Symbiotic learning has a way of “stacking functions”. It creates opportunities to meet the many needs of many people at the same time. It is not only a time saver, but a connection builder. It is creating a habits of presence and turning towards each other and reflecting on challenges, wondering, sharing and celebrating together.
This can be applied to ANYTHING AND ANY CURRICULUM. Even if you are teaching your child to read. If you hold the space, (take the perspective,) created by symbiotic learning you will be enriched as well. In literacy it might take the form of reflections as you explore their comprehension, for example. When you reflect together on what you have read it opens a beautiful window into your child’s soul and vice versa. They want to know you too. They want to hear if you have had that experience, how you feel or would respond to something. It is modeling curiosity, support, listening, empathy, collaborating, critical thinking and values. It is mindfulness, parenting and learning all at once.
In symbiotic learning, as in the Reggio approach, we begin by providing what we call a provocation. This might be the curriculum you have purchased, a field trip, a video, book, a collection of things on a table or just about anything that may spark curiosity. From there we learn to explore, looking at it from an educational or personally expanding perspective and finally, we try to find a way of expressing it. It involves the whole being and the myriad of ways to be engaged.
Symbiotic learning enriches the family’s experience of learning and living.
Self-directed learning –
Just like “unschooling”, people will and can define and apply self-directed learning in so many ways. For me, it is ultimately about engagement and investment. Similar to the idea of “child lead” learning in early childhood development, it allows the child to bring forth their own interests and then either through their own direction and intrinsic motivation or with adult support and facilitation they take that interest as far as they can and across as many learning domains or subjects as possible.
For me, it is not a hands off approach! It is a curious, observational and supportive one.