You pause and breath deeply, straining to keep your voice calm despite your growing agitation. “Sweetie, if you just focus, you’d have this done in five minutes, then you could go play.”
Your child stares at you with that same blank expression on their face. They start to scribble out an answer for the next problem. The answer is wrong. You know they know this. Did they forget? You search their face, their cheeky face. Something glints in the eyes. They are answering wrong on purpose! But why? Why are they making a five minute assignment last over two hours? Why are they drawing it out and driving you crazy?
Just this morning you saw this same sweet child pour over a book about a sea voyage. They even pulled out a map to check the locations mentioned in the story, to see if they were real places. They spoke of wanting to go there and observe the wildlife as they doodled pictures of ocean creatures in their journal.
How could this be the same child?
Answer: You’re raising a stealth learner.
Stealth learners are easy enough to spot.
They are the children who love learning, who seek out knowledge, who are seemingly unquenchable in their thirst for truth. And yet. They hate being taught.
They hate workbooks and craft projects and any sort of assignment that comes with step-by-step instructions of how to complete it.
Stealth learners are children who thrive when supported in their own educational goals.
They might write an elaborate story if given a notebook and pen, but not if told what they should write about.
They might study every last detail of a bird making a nest near their window, but not if you tell them to do so.
So what do you do with a stealth learner?
How can you teach a child who doesn’t want to be taught?
For those of us raising stealth learners, unschooling is everything we could ever hope for. No more arguing over what they should be doing verses what they want to do. No more fighting with them about what we think they should be studying. Once we embrace the unschooling philosophy and allow our children the freedom that comes with it- the freedom to make their own educational goals as well as the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to study- we often find ourselves marveling in the wealth of knowledge and growth they undertake. In fact, in my many conversations with veteran unschoolers, I often hear their only regret was waiting so long to start.
But can they truly learn everything they need to know through unschooling?
I believe so.
With support. With gentle guidance. With unwavering encouragement from those who love them most.
I will even go a step further and say that since we switched to unschooling, my stealth learner as surpassed my expectations for his educational goals for the next year- in less than three months.
Plus he is happier, our relationship is stronger, and I feel less stress day to day.
If you think the unschooling method might be up your alley, here are some great places to start:
Racheous on Radical Unschooling
Schooling a Monkey on Where the Unschool Method Works for Us
and Camp Creek Blog on Project Based Homeschooling (not the same as unschooling, but both are child-led and therefore have similar results)