Mum 'unschools' her kids, letting them learn through adventures instead

A mum has been ‘unschooling’ her kids, by taking them out on adventures and avoiding textbooks.

Shanel Bell, 34, advocates for the unconventional style of learning, which sees children put in charge of what they learn about.

Maths is taught through cooking, history lessons happen in the museum, and the focus is on what interests her kids, Maui, 10, and Maya, six, rather than a curriculum.

The children learn from their home in Bury-St-Edmunds, Suffolk, and Shanel says their curiosity means each day is different.

She said: ‘It all depends on what they’re interested in, so we try to focus on things they want to learn about.

‘It’s about the real-world application of the things you learn, so cooking turns into a maths lesson because you’re measuring and counting ingredients.

‘They can see how what they’re learning is important, and we try and get out to learn as much as possible.

‘We’d only get a textbook out if, say, there was an animal they wanted to learn about, we’d find it in a textbook.

‘But we’d also have a trip to the zoo to see it in person, or we went owl handling in York where they could learn more about owls.’

The family used to live in Colorado, US, then travelled and relocated to the UK due to Shanel’s husband, Nicolas, who is a medic and needed to move.

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A camping trip inspired their lifestyle.

Shanel said: ‘We’ve always homeschooled them, the only year they were in public school in the US was the 2019/2020 year.

‘Obviously that ended part-way through due to the pandemic, so we figured that was a sign to keep doing what we were doing.

‘We went on a camping trip in 2016, and we absolutely fell in love with it.

‘It was after that we bought an RV and travelled the US for a few years before moving to the UK.

‘Now, we go out camping and travel all around the UK whenever we can, and we go for hikes every weekend.’

Since moving, they’ve made trips to the Peak District, Snowdonia, and up to the Isles of Skye, Scotland.

She said: ‘We’ve always wanted to live here, and we were so lucky that we were able to move here during the pandemic.

‘It’s so frustrating though, because we’d love to travel around Europe, but we can’t at the moment.

‘It feels so close but so far away.’

Shanel gets mixed reactions from people about unschooling.

She said: ‘Some people are fearful of learning that doesn’t take place behind a desk, but they don’t understand that the world is their classroom.

‘People share their concerns, and we know they mean well, and I understand it is unconventional but it works for us.

‘Overall, it’s helping them understand the world and become better global citizens.’

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