What is Unschooling?


Even people who have been homeschooling for a while might not understand all of the various schools of thought in the homeschool community. If you have been curious to learn more about the concept of unschooling, hopefully this post will answer some of your questions.

What is unschooling? Find out in the homeschool methods series at The Homeschool Post.

What is Unschooling?

Based on the teachings of John Holt, unschooling has its origins in the idea that children do not learn best by being dictated to. Instead, they are able to thrive when they are in control of the direction and depth of their education. Holt believed that when you allow children to learn at their own pace, absorb information in their own unique way, and pursue topics which they find the most interesting, their educational experience is more enjoyable and more profound. Holt worked in the 60’s to spark a change in the public education system – encouraging his colleagues to allow their students to take the reins of their education. However, Holt was (unsurprisingly) unsuccessful in sparking a widespread revolution in schools. That is when he started encouraging other disillusioned parents to begin unschooling their children.

The basic premise behind unschooling is that the only role a parent or educator should play is to provide the child with experiences and materials and then allow them to do with it what they will. If they ask you a question, you should either answer it or give them what they need to find the answer on their own. However, you should not force them to do anything.

It is believed that by allowing children the freedom to pursue only that which interests them, you are enabling them to develop an educational experience that is rich and meaningful. Moreover, you are giving them the opportunity to truly learn and retain information rather than simply memorizing it until they no longer need it. When they are allowed to pursue what piques their interests, they are more likely to dig deeper and truly explore. Our role, as educators, is simply to facilitate and observe, providing our children with more and more opportunities and materials as we observe what they are interested in.

The structure of unschooling is very free. It is devoid of set curricula or schedules, relying instead on the flexibility that the child needs to be able to explore at will.

What Are the Benefits?

One major benefit of the unschooling method is how flexible it is (and needs to be). It also gives you the opportunity to see what it is that your child is truly interested in as they explore a variety of topics. As you learn more about your child’s interests, you can provide them with opportunities to explore it. You may find that they are interested in things that you would have never thought to include in your curriculum.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Although flexibility may be an advantage to some, it can also be the biggest disadvantage for others. If you prefer a method that is reliant upon schedules or curricula, the unschooling method likely is not the best choice for you and your family. The fact that it is extremely self-paced and child-led is another aspect of this method that not everyone will find appealing or effective.

Now that you know a bit more about the unschooling method of homeschooling, do you think that it might be a good fit for you and your children? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.



If you are interested in learning more about the other methods of homeschooling, check out the entire Homeschool Methods series here:

A Closer Look at Homeschool Methods. The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Methods at hsbapost.com


Sara (288 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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