In favor of “unschooling” her children, a mother-of-two has been ditching textbooks and taking her children out on regular adventures.
Shanel Bell, 34, advocates for unschooling, a form of homeschooling where children are put in charge of what they learn about.
Mathematics is taught through cooking, history lessons happen in the museum, and the focus is on what interests her kids, Maui, 10, and Maya, 6.
Both the children learn from their home in Bury-St-Edmunds, Suffolk, England, and Shanel says their insatiable curiosity means every day is different.
“It all depends on what they’re interested in, so we try to focus on things they want to learn about,” Shanel said. “It’s about the real-world application of the things you learn, so cooking turns into math lessons because you’re measuring and counting ingredients.”
In this way, Shanel believes that her children can see what they learn is important and thus they can try and grasp 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,” Shanel said. “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, United States, and traveled all over the country before they relocated to the UK.
Shanel says their adventures began with a camping trip in 2016 that they absolutely fell in love with. After this, the family bought an RV and traveled around the United States for a few years.
She has always homeschooled her children and the only year Maui and Maya went to a public school was in the 2019/2020 year in the United States.
“Obviously that ended partway through due to the pandemic, so we figured that was a sign to keep doing what we were doing,” Shanel explained.
The family then moved to the UK, since Shanel’s husband, Nicolas, 34, a medic, had to relocate due to his job.
Since moving, they’ve already made trips to the Peak District, Snowdonia, and up to the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The family also goes camping and travels all around the UK whenever they can, and try to go for hikes on the weekend.
“We’ve always wanted to live here, and we were so lucky that we were able to move here during the pandemic,” Shanel said, referring to the move to the UK. “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.”
As to unschooling her children, Shanel said she is met with different reactions from people.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Epoch Times Staff contributed to this report.