What is Unschooling?

life without school

My son doesn’t go to school.  This won’t surprise anyone, as he’s not yet two.  

But when would  it surprise you?

When I don’t send him to preschool?  To kindergarten?  First grade?

What if he never spends a day in school?



What is Unschooling?

There are countless alternatives to conventional school, ranging from forest kindergartens to classical homeschooling.  But some families are opting out of school altogether.

Also called life learning, self-directed learning, or worldschooling, unschooling is simply life without school.

Parents facilitate their children’s education in a million different ways, but they don’t try to control it.  Children are free to pursue their own interests.

Unschoolers know that learning happens everywhere.

Learning a language is a massive endeavor, but babies learn their native language without formal instruction.  Free from the confines of school, children can learn anything with equal ease and joy.  Children teach themselves to read and write, to add and subtract and multiply, just they learned to speak.

But is it legal?

Homeschooling is legal throughout the United States, but the level of regulation varies.

In California, it’s easy to live without school.  Parents register their homes as private schools, which allows their children to learn without government oversight.  Other states require record keeping and/or standardized testing.

Homeschooling is still illegal in many countries, including Germany and Turkey.


Unschooling Blogs

We have forgotten the original purposes of the factory-like institutions that most of us grew up in; we speak of our familiar school experience almost as though it were an integral part of nature itself, a natural and essential part of human childhood, rather than the vast and extremely recent experiment in social engineering that it actually is.

Carol Black knows “the revolution will not take place in a classroom”.  Her essays on the wildness of children are powerful and poetic.  You can also listen to her lectures here.

Sara of Happiness is Here writes about unschooling and respectful parenting.  Her blog chronicles her daughters’ self-directed projects, ranging from petri-dish experiments to stop-motion videos.

Rachel Brown (aka Racheous) also writes about respectful parenting and life without school, including her own process of deschooling.

Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated tells us how “flow” learning brings joy to life with kids.

Lucy AitkenRead lives in a yurt in New Zealand.  Her fiercely independent daughters are enrolled in The School of Awesome.  She writes about parenting for social justice on her blog, Lulastic.

Rachel Wolf of LuSa Organics tells us why you don’t need to be a teacher to homeschool your kids.


Books on Life Without School

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Peter Gray’s Free to Learn is a brilliant argument in favor of self-directed learning.

Ben Hewitt’s sons live as humans always have: running wild through fields and forests, learning meaningful skills as they choose to pursue them.  Home Grown is a love letter to his wife and sons, their community, and the land itself.

After being named New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto quit teaching to pursue radical school reform.  If you’re just beginning to question the school system, Dumbing Us Down  is a great place to start.

John Holt is another teacher turned school reformer turned homeschool advocate.  He popularized the word unschooling.  Learning All The Time is a good overview of his work. 

I’d love to read Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning and Dayna Martin’s Radical Unschooling, but for now I’m limited to blogs and library books.

Did I miss your favorite writer on life without school?  Please share in the comments!

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