Last Updated on August 22, 2021.
What is school? It’s a place for kids to learn and grow. It is what society tells us to do when kids are young – so that they can be successful, well-rounded adults in the future. We’ve been told for years that a good education starts at birth and continues until college or university (or your career). But what if the traditional format doesn’t work? And what about people who do not fit into that mold? What is unschooling?
What is unschooling?
Unschooling was first coined in 1977 by educator John Holt. Unschooling is a homeschool method of learning that doesn’t require any teaching credentials or licensing to practice. The word unschooling itself means the absence of compulsory school attendance. It refers to children who learn through their natural life experiences outside an institutionalized education system.
Unschooling is about freedom and choice; it’s a process of discovery through which kids can find out what they love, what excites them, what motivates them – and then pursue those things with all their energy.
What unschooling is not.
Unschooling is not the same thing as homeschooling. Homeschoolers still use a curriculum. They are expected to cover what is included in the standard school education, while unschoolers may or may not be actively engaged in learning what they want to know.
Unschooling isn’t just what happens when you don’t go to school – it’s what happens all the time.
Unschooling is also not what happens when you behave like a rebel and refuse to go to school. Kids who are unschooled are still learning. They just might not be doing it in a way that’s familiar to public school families.
Is unschooling legal?
The legality of unschooling varies from state to state and country to country, but it is legal in many places. The education system and laws in your local area will determine the legality of unschooling.
What’s the difference between homeschooling and unschooling?
Unschooling and homeschooling are completely different. Homeschooling is a method in which you teach your children what would have been taught at school with a curriculum, and it’s expected that the child complete what’s included in the standard education system. Unschooled kids might or may not be actively engaged in formal learning, depending on their interests.
What do you do in unschooling?
A day in the life of an unschooler is what they make of it. Some kids might wake up at eight and have breakfast, then get on their skateboard to run errands with mom or dad until 11am when they go back home. Others might stay in bed all day, getting out what energy they need from some video games before heading off for a nap around one o’clock.
Unschoolers learn by doing what interests them. There are no pre-set assignments or schedules, and nobody is telling the kids what to do at any given time.
Parents help unschoolers learn through what they’re interested in by opening up opportunities for them to explore what excites and interests them. For example, if your child is interested in trains, you might look into train-related books or apps so that he has the information he needs about what a train does and what it’s like to ride one.
Do unschoolers go to college?
Unschooled kids might or may not decide to go on to college, depending what they want for their future. They may have to take standardized tests or meet other criteria for college admissions that a public school graduate would not have to do.
Is unschooling bad?
Some people think that what an unschooler gains in freedom they lose by failing to learn what a traditional school would provide them with. However, proponents say there is no one-size-fits all approach t learning and, what works for one student might not work for another.
An unschooler can be wildly successful without a high school diploma or college degree. Tim Tebow and Billie Eilish were both unschooled. Education looks different for every person, so it’s safe to say that unschooling is not bad. But it’s definitely not for everyone.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that education can be what you make of it. What works for some people might not work for someone else. And what works for one person at a certain point in their lives may not be what they want or need five years later. Unschooling is a fantastic option to explore if other schooling options are not working for your family.
What You Should Do Next…
Are you ready for more activities to build a rock-solid bond with your kids? Try our Connected Parent Challenge! It’s 15 Days of 15 Minute activities that are sure to improve your connection, diminish bad behavior, and create lasting memories. Plus, I’ll deliver more amazing parenting strategies to your inbox weekly (don’t worry, unsubscribe any time!).
Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.
Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.