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What is Unschooling?

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I have found that John Holts explaination of unschooling is to the point, simple to understand, and sums it up nicely. Below is a passage copied from the website

GROUP MEMBERS: Please feel free to answer this question below in the replies, tell us what unschooling is to you and your family....for each of us will vary in our answers, beliefs, and lifestyles.

What Is Unschooling?

This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term "unschooling" has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn't use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an "on demand" basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work. So, for instance, a young child's interest in hot rods can lead him to a study of how the engine works (science), how and when the car was built (history and business), who built and designed the car (biography), etc. Certainly these interests can lead to reading texts, taking courses, or doing projects, but the important difference is that these activities were chosen and engaged in freely by the learner. They were not dictated to the learner through curricular mandate to be done at a specific time and place, though parents with a more hands-on approach to unschooling certainly can influence and guide their children's choices.

 Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not "natural" processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn't unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.

 Unschooling is not unparenting; freedom to learn is not license to do whatever you want. People find different ways and means to get comfortable with John Holt's ideas about children and learning and no one style of unschooling or parenting defines unschooling,

by on Aug. 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM
Replies (11-13):
by on Mar. 9, 2014 at 7:08 PM
2 moms liked this

 I went into my first grader's class to teach a lesson on Chinese New Year.  I went on to say that learning is all around you and that it doesn't only take place in the classroom.  Oh boy did I get a look from the teacher!

Quoting LindaClement:

That's certainly how I grew up!

Quoting mamavalor:

This is great!  Unschooling is exactly what I have been doing with my kids before they went off to public school.  In fact, we still unschool at home because to us learning is all around you. 


by Member on Apr. 20, 2014 at 9:30 AM

For us, it is much like our life in general.  We have always danced to our own tune.  We do use some curriculum, but only if dd chooses it and only for what she chooses to use it and when she chooses to use it.  Our motto is Learn to Live and Live to Learn.  Our school name is The Alexander School of Positive And Unlimited Learning (P.A.U.L.). 

by Member on Apr. 21, 2014 at 7:20 AM

I agree with the initial post's definition of unschooling.  I believe that if a child chooses to use any curriculum, then it is still unschooling.  I want to offer to my teen all avenues of learning that I possibly can afford to offer her.  She has chosen to use a particular curriculum for some of her classes.  She uses a workbook style with these as she has learned that this is what works best for her.  She is an audio learner, but now prefers to read out loud to herself rather than to listen to someone else read it.  She stops when and where she chooses and picks it back up when she chooses at a point where she chooses.  She nearly always takes off on her own to learn more than the workbooks cover.  She also has many interests that aren't covered in workbooks and looks this information up in books, online, and yes even in fanfiction.  So, for us, this is unschooling.  We do a lot of field trips, talk to each other alot, share experiences, offer suggestions to each other if requested, and always support each other.  I am their to guide her when she asks for guidance and yes, when I feel she needs guidance; including boundaries.  I definitely believe that first and foremost I am to parent her until adulthood.  She does have a lot of freedoms that many of her schooling friends do not, mostly because we are so close and I have, imho, a better understanding of her maturity level.

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