Unschooling: An Alternative Educational Philosophy

Unschooling: An Alternative Educational Philosophy

Published: 28 MAR 2023

Updated: 28 MAR 2023

Unschooling: An Alternative Educational Philosophy

What us Unschooling?

Unschooling is an educational philosophy and practice with a fascinating history. It has grown in popularity, driven by its defenders' enthusiasm for what the self-determined education gives students. At it's core, unschooling suggests and embraces the reality that children can take control of their own learning, charting a course through knowledge on their own terms. To that end, it allows children to pursue material on topics they are genuinely interested in—whether academic or not—at their own pace. The parent’s duty then becomes one of guidance; preparing resources, offering answers when asked, helping brainstorm ideas or questions, and offering support and critiques as needed but only when invited. Those incredulous of unsubscribing philosophies can rest assured – while still allowing creative freedom, facilitating learning empowers a student to think critically and independently and prepares them for success in the real world.

The History of Unschooling

Though John Holt is credited as the one who coined the term "unschooling" in 1977, his impact goes beyond the word alone. He worked to popularize the concept of self-directed learning through books like How Children Fail and Learning All the Time and even founded a magazine titled Growing Without Schooling. His legacy continues today under the leadership of Patrick Ferenga, who carries out work related to Holt's vision through his organization, Holt Associates, and website, HoltGWS.com. And inspired by Holt's efforts, writer and speaker Sandra Dodd took unschooling even further when she created Radical Unschooling -- which encourages an even deeper level of child-led learning in all areas of life not just in terms of education.

The Pros of Unschooling

Kids Enjoy Learning

Unschooling gives children the chance to really delve into subjects that actually grab their interest. The motivation is often much higher when students initially choose their learning paths; by opting for lessons that reflect their own passions, kids become more engaged with the material and thus naturally motivated to keep going. Furthermore, unschoolers can switch topics at any time without feeling confined by grades or other traditional expectations - making the learning experience even more fulfilling. What's more, kids don't just grow up knowing what they're interested in - they have the opportunity to explore and discover a whole new world of interests!

Daily Schedules are Focused and Flexible

Unschooling provides parents with the unique opportunity to be more flexible and responsive when it comes to their child's education. Rather than attempting to adhere to a one-size-fits-all schedule predetermined months in advance, unschooling allows for the student to explore and learn about different subjects as the parents observe and react accordingly. This tailor-made approach encourages kids to become curious life-long learners and provides them with the advantage of focusing on whatever topics spark their interest. Parents can rest assured that their children are receiving meaningful educational experiences and doing so at their own individual pace.

Children Learn Greater Sense of Responsibility

Unschooling is an education practice where children’s natural curiosity drives learning, taking place outside of a traditional classroom. Instead of structured lectures, reading and papers, Unschoolers learn by participating in the world around them. While helping around the house or interacting in their community, unschooled kids gain real-world experience and develop personal responsibility for their own decisions, setting them up with vital skills for life outside the educational realm. Unschoolers also benefit from interactions with people of all ages as they acquire knowledge in unique and experiential ways. This allows them to shape their own version of adulthood; one based on autonomy, accountability and self-expression.

The Cons of Unschooling

May Miss Traditional Educational Milestones

Through the style of unschooling, children don't have to follow a strict curriculum and may instead choose which topics they want to study. This can lead to some gaps in their education if they do not explore certain subjects or leave them unfinished. Yet this is true to some degree with any educational approach; however, with unschooling those gaps might become more pronounced. On the other hand, unschooling teaches children how to motivate and direct themselves, making it much easier for them to close these gaps if necessary. This partly explains why many parents are now choosing various types of alternative education for their children - and why society as a whole is starting to embrace it too.

Involves a High Level of Parental Involvement

Many think that parents who allow their children to pursue interest-based learning without regard for assessments or deadlines are simply allowing their kids to grow up without any structure or guidance. The truth is, unschooling actually requires highly engaged involvement from the parent - they need to be aware of their child's needs and interests, and supply them with specific resources and opportunities to learn when changes arise. This can be beneficial for some families, but it isn't always a perfect fit - especially if a parent enjoys traditional school structure or doesn't have the time or resources necessary to meet their child's unique education needs.

May not be Sufficient for Children who Need Structure

For some children, structure is exactly what they need to stay focused and motivated in the learning or educational environment. This can range from having a certain schedule of classes they attend or the order in which they do their work. The feeling of knowing what will come next and being able to plan accordingly can be incredibly reassuring for those children who don't respond well to pressure. Not having to make all their own choices about what classes to take or when and how to do their work can mean these kids have more attention for getting into the content itself and understanding it thoroughly. A structured environment may even help them minimize distractions and allows them an avenue for academic success.

Happy Unschooling!

The Home Tribe Team