What is Unschooling?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Published 2021-07-16

The pandemic forced a lot of people to homeschool their kids. Whether it is by choice or circumstance, parents are now more aware that there are other ways to educate their kids aside from the classroom setting.

If homeschooling is already a novel concept for you, we can take it a step further. Have you heard of unschooling?

Before you get turned off the prefix, unschooling does not mean that you will not educate your child. Instead, it is a mindset of how the child will be educated. Also known as child-led learning or interest-based learning, “unschooling” was first coined by an educator named John Holt.

He believed that the traditional method of learning stifles the way children learn naturally. Think of how a baby explores the world – there is a natural curiosity. It would be unthinkable for parents to make the baby sit still. A baby needs to crawl, look around, and yes, even put things in his or her mouth.

Holt thought that children have the same natural curiosity and that school stifled it. He thought that the traditional models of school and their attempts to control what and how the kids learn got in the way of the natural learning process. Instead, he proposed that schools should be a source of learning, much like a library and not the regimented source of education.

How unschooling is practiced

The question of “what is unschooling” has different answers. Unschooling has different types depending on the family. You have some families who are called “relaxed homeschoolers” who follow the interest of their children but still maintain some subjects that are taught in more structured ways. On the other hand, “radical homeschoolers” adhere to the idea that children should follow their interests more intently. Kids are allowed to self-direct their learning. In this case, the parents trust that their children will learn the skills they need from everyday life and their own pursuits.

No matter how unschooling is practiced, there is one concept that is important to all homeschoolers. It is called “strewing,” or making sure that interesting learning materials are available for the child to access. Creating an environment for learning helps facilitate the desire of children to learn.

What are the advantages of unschooling?

Parents who practice unschooling say that it has many advantages. One of these is that children retain information better. Since they are interested in what they are learning, they tend to use what they learn. Instead of simply listing off facts they read from a book, children tend to put what they learned into practice. This allows them to keep that knowledge for longer periods.

Another advantage of unschooling is that it makes maximizes the natural talents of the child. Unlike traditional educations where children are expected to learn the same things, unschooling gives children the freedom to focus on what they want. For example, a musically inclined child can spend more time practicing an instrument rather than being forced to sit through a science class experiment. It gives more chances for the child to nurture whatever gifts he or she has.

Finally, families who practice unschooling say that their children are more motivated. Since they are not force-fed information, they can follow their own interests. If they are already interested, then learning has won half the battle. Parents can simply facilitate or provide resources while children do all the work.

What is unschooling all about may have different answers, but the bottom line is this: it is all about getting the child to learn in an enthusiastic, natural way. It is not about leaving them unsupervised or uneducated. Ultimately, it is a method that parents choose to ensure that their children develop a love of learning.