It's Called Unschooling

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Published Aug 8, 2022, 9:02 AM

It's Called Unschooling

I don’t like labels. I feel that as learners outside of the institution of school we don’t have to rush putting ourselves into a new box or label. 

Or that our learning life (unschooling life) is how we choose to define it. 

But as a friend recently shared with me (as we had a very interesting conversation about unschooling, control, trust and partnership), that having parameters around a word (or label) can be helpful. 

And I think that when it comes to unschooling, the waters are becoming muddied. 

What Is Unschooling

Let’s start with the definition of Unschooling. 

John Holt originally coined the termed unschooling. Here’s an excerpt from The Foundations of Unschooling, a Keynote given by Pat Farenga and found on the John Holt GWS website:

“Holt never felt the word “homeschooling” was adequate to describe the learning he was talking about—learning that didn’t need to take place at home nor look like school learning. John knew that many children want to be out in the world, to be in the community and learn the lay of the neighborhood because, like most healthy humans, they are social beings—it is in our nature to be social, curious, and to learn. So John used the word “unschooling” to describe this type of learning—after already trying out the word “deschooling,” coined by John’s friend Ivan Illich, and found to be too harsh by the public. Unschooling didn’t fare any better and John himself, by 1981, was using the word homeschooling interchangeably with unschooling.”

Here are two different explanations or definitions that I think describe it best:

“Before I talk about what I think unschool­ing is, I must talk about what it isn't. Unschooling isn't a recipe, and therefore it can't be explained in recipe terms. It is impossible to give unschooling directions for people to follow so that it can be tried for a week or so to see if it works. Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do. Earl Stevens (The Natural Child Project)

“Unschooling is when the learner chooses the how, what, where, when and why of their learning”. Judy Arnall

Unschooling Isn't..

Unschooling isn’t another method we can now use to get our kids to meet our hidden expectations under the false pretence of freedom. Unschooling is not another way to do school work or get that school work completed. 

Unschooling isn’t a method. But Unschooling can include a class or be school-like, as long as that is what the learner chooses. Sure unschooling can have academic goals, if that is what the learner choosesBut the ultimate goal of unschooling is trust. And trust takes time. And a whole lotta deschooling! 

That Deschooling Work

So parents, please do the work. That Deschooling work! This work is important because if you want a change, if your kids want a change, need a change, then you will need to do something different. But first, before we begin to do something different, we need to start thinking differently. We need to shift our perspective.So ask the questions:
What does learning really mean to me? What is school? Education? What were my experiences? When did I truly get to learn for learning's sake? How did my educational experiences shape me today? My learning? Were these goals mine? Were they my parents goals? Obligations? 

If I let my children choose the how, what, where, when, why of their learning, how will I feel? What if they only choose video games? Why is hours outside or reading a book or writing a story more important to me than hours on a video game (or substitute something else that pushes that uncomfortable button)? 

You really can’t skip the Deschooling process. Well I guess you can, but why start on this journey to go halfway? And even if you choose not to unschool or even homeschool, or to go from unschooling to Classical homeschooling (I know families that have done that too) - you will NOT be a failure or wrong. 

But what you will be is clear on is your reasons WHY. (I always come back to getting clear on your WHY)


Looking for more support in your homeschool and unschooling journey? I’ve got you! Check out my Patreon Community where I offer monthly Live Q&A on all your homeschool, unschool and self directed learning questions. For the summer of 2022- this live support is open to ALL Patron levels. You also have access to my downloads, special videos, insights and interviews with my family!

Honey! I’m Homeschooling Club on Clubhouse App offer free weekly discussion groups and support.

Follow me on Instagram

Check out my episodes with Judy Arnall~ Unschooling and STEM and Pat Farenga~ On Homeschooling and Education


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