What Is The Role Of “Unschooling” In Homeschooling?

Unschooling is a method of learning and does not refer to the content being learnt. Unschooling refers to a process of ‘self-learning’. This is considered the process of knowing your own interests, your openness to learning about these interests, and pursuing them under your own steam. With unschooling, you create your own agenda and follow it up to learn the things that you think are integral to your interests.

Unschooling is considered a subset of Homeschooling. The ‘unschoolers’ vary from the ‘homeschoolers’ by the fact that they create and manage their own learning. With regards to the history and the origin of the idea of unschooling, John Holt almost certainly coined the term. He is considered the father of unschooling. He believed that modern concepts of a grading system, fixed curriculum, and the competition that is generated as a result is counterproductive to the learning process by a child. He believed that natural methods of learning by experience and from curiosity were more effective in helping the child develop a critical thought process. Activities like game play, household responsibilities and social interactions were the key areas that were identified to provide new life experiences conducive to the child’s ‘natural’ education, all the time guided by a responsible adult.

The main concept behind the unschooling philosophy of homeschooling is that children are natural learners. Children are known to learn things by their own innate curiosity, and need the freedom to explore their own areas of interest. If this is stifled, the child may lose the ability to nurture their own curiosity, and their performance in established grading systems may be poor. The idea of unschooling in this context believes modern education is inefficient because it requires every child to learn a specific subject matter in a particular manner, at a particular pace, and at a particular time regardless of that individual’s present or future needs, interests, goals, or any pre-existing knowledge the child might have about the topic.

Another philosophy that is behind unschooling is that not all children learn the same way. The modern day concept of fixed methods of teaching with a “one-size-fits-all” attitude may not be effective to some children and in some cases may even be harmful. Some children may not find a subject or topic interesting until they find a hook for their own curiosity in the subject. If they are forced to study on regardless, they may get bored and eventually fail. Each child also has a different learning style. Some learn better by reading books while others learn better by listening to a lecture. A teacher is ideally supposed to individually cater to the best learning method of each student. This is best achieved by the ideologies of unschooling.

Parents play an important role in unschooling. Parents are, of course, more experienced within the world than their children, and hence have a better access to resources and learning materials. These resources not only mean books and study materials, but also include stories about their experiences, places of interest, activities that are useful, and other things based on their experience.

With the development of modern methods of homeschooling and unschooling, there are several organizations and gatherings that help unschooling children socialize. There are centers directed for the benefit of unschoolers as well as gatherings like “Not back to school camp” which is an annual gathering of over 100 children aged between 13 and 18.


Melissa Murdoch has a passion for life span development and education, and believes wholeheartedly that a healthy society begins at home. For further information on how to get started in homeschooling, please visit YourHomeschoolCommunity.com.

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2 Responses to “What Is The Role Of “Unschooling” In Homeschooling?”

  1. Melanie Antonacci Melanie Antonacci says:

    Some states do not require tests, that’s how.

  2. Courtney Courtney says:

    I’m what you’d basically call an eclectic homeschooler. I hate putting any name to it at all, but I’d say I lean more toward that style. However, I’ve looked into the unschooling “thing” and I find it to be a valid style. I don’t use it AS much, but I do incorporate a lot of independent learning in our home. It works. It really does. The only reason I don’t go full blown so to speak is that how is it that kids are supposed to be ready for the standardized testing in our state when it comes time for them to test. I completely agree with Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore on a child’s individual learning maturity level. However, the state wants my child up and readin’ by the time 3rd grade rolls around come h*ll or high water. That doesn’t give me very much room for allowing much independent learning. I have a child now that I’m having to start teaching to read because the state will require it come 3rd grade or roughly age nine years. Thank God that my oldest is so advanced for her age. She’ll test next year. I just wanna know how is it that people are able to incorporate this style of learning and still make out on the tests.

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