What is Unschooling?

Authored by R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen in Education
Published on 09-21-2009

Unschooling goes by many different names such as “experience-based learning”, “natural learning” and “independent learning”. Ultimately unschooling is a form of homeschooling. Parents are responsible for their children and their children will not attend a traditional learning institution. However, with unschooling, children will not be taught through the use of textbooks, tests, workbooks or quizzes, but through their own life experiences.

In its most extreme form, unschooling is never making a child learn anything but what they choose to learn. For example, if a child chooses to spend his or her time reading fiction and watching television then this is how they will learn. Whatever they learn from these activities is all they are required to know with unschooling. If they never learn literature, mathematics or science it is said to be just fine. Children are supposed to pursue their interests and learn about those instead of being forced to learn specific subjects that they may not be interested in. Children are supposed to be allowed to express themselves and devote their learning time learning only what they desire to learn.

A major part of unschooling is allowing children to learn through doing real things. For example, learning to use a computer by simply doing it and not by reading a book or being taught to use it by a teacher. Supporters of unschooling feel that children who live in a supportive and trusting environment that are doing “real-life things” will be productive members of society with valuable knowledge and healthy mental development. Those who support unschooling feel that children naturally learn things such as how to read, write, count, perform basic mathematical functions (add, subtract, multiply and divide), think, discover the past (history) and think and wonder without the use of a school curriculum.

Those who support unschooling feel that not forcing a child to learn will make them more excited to learn. They feel that children who are not forced to follow a curriculum will learn faster then children following a strict learning curriculum. They feel that the lack of schedule in unschooling leads children to learn more because they have more desire to learn all throughout the day instead of just six to eight hours a day like they would in a traditional school.

Unschooling is built on the premise that children pursue knowledge by pursuing life. Adults need to trust in the inevitability that this natural process will provide their children with all the education that they need to be successful in life. However, this form of schooling does allow the leeway for parents to offer assistance when their children need it.

Those who support unschooling state that it is a legal form of education. It is said to be accepted by state departments of education. However, the children who are educated through unschooling will still need to take and make satisfactory marks on state required testing through all twelve years of school. It is unclear whether or not children who learn through unschooling ever receive a high school diploma or transcripts so this could make it difficult for those who wish to pursue a college education.


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