What is Unschooling?


Unschooling is based on the belief that children learn best when they are internally motivated. Unlike homeschooling which is essentially doing school (following a curriculum) at home, unschooling allows children to explore their interests and learn without the restrictions of a curriculum. 

Teacher and author John Holt — one of the founders of the modern homeschooling movement — coined the word “unschooling” in 1977 to mean “learning that does not look like school learning, and learning that does not have to take place at home.” He believed, “there is no difference between living and learning…it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate.”

Pam Sorooshian explains unschooling like this: 
“Unschoolers simply do not think there are times for learning and times for not learning. They don’t divide life into school time or lesson time versus play time or recreation time. There is no such thing as ‘extracurricular’ to an unschooler – all of life, every minute of every day, counts as learning time, and there is no separate time set aside for ‘education.'”

There are many other names for unschooling including “natural learning,” “life learning,” “experience-based learning,” “delight-driven learning,” and “independent learning,” and there are a ton of resources available online to learn more about it. Here are just a few: 

Over the past couple years we started our own unschooling journey, which I plan to write a lot about in the future – including how we began on this path. However, I first wanted to provide a little bit of a background information to explain some of the ideas behind unschooling. 

I welcome your questions. I absolutely won’t have all of the answers, but I enjoy a challenge and the opportunity to think about why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Don’t miss a single CDG post, subscribe to my blog.

12 thoughts on “What is Unschooling?”

  1. I’m so glad you’re back in blogland! I’ve missed you.

    My oldest is turning 5 in July, so while I’ve been loftily talking about educating him at home for years, I’m currently wrestling with the decision of where and how to school him. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your schooling choices.

  2. How do you deal with state laws and unschooling. The idea is very appealing to me (oldest is only 2 1/2 so we have a bit to figure it out) but I know there is stuff in our state (Iowa) about having to turn in hours, spend so much time engaged at the home base, and have “check-ins” from a state appointed teacher. How do you get around regulations like this?

  3. I am intrigued by unschooling and will be interested to read about your experiences. We have embarked on our own homeschool journey, but are taking a very different path (a classical approach), and I am so enjoying the freedom and togetherness it has provided for our family.

  4. Ludicrously excellent article. You should consider writing full-time.
    Short question however, how do you fight against spammy comments?
    My website is flooded every minute and my wordpress plugin is not doing
    a great job of sorting the good from the bad. Any suggestions?

Leave a Reply to Crunchy Domestic Goddess Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *