It’s called unschooling. It’s a lot like homeschooling except that parents give their children the freedom to learn and develope at their own pace and according to their own unique interests in an unstructured environment.

People’s Magazine interviewed a few families who practice this unorthodox method of education. Apparently there are about 100,000 families in the states now that unschool. Basically, they let their children choose an area of interest, whether that be fixing computers, playing an instrument, drawing, etc and though they may have them do more typical school work as well, most of the school day is decided by the children.

The belief is that by this method of free learning, children will master specific areas of interest more effectively and have a richer, broader perspective then they would get in the confinement of the traditional classroom.

Who knows, one girl they interviewed is now attending Harvard after being educated in the unschooled method. It’s sounds as though she was extremely self-motivated though which not every student would be.

At first, second and third glance;), unschooling sounds like every child’s dream. Though I think it sounds valuable to broaden a child’s horizons and give them the opportunity to freely nurture their unique gifts and interests, unschooling seems to offer far too much freedom and a total lack of structure.

What do you think?!

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9 Responses to Unschooling

  1. daniel says:

    Having been a child once, I would agree with you. Not a good idea. I was homeschooled (basically unstructured structure), and my mom had a hard enough time getting me to be self-motivated. Most of the time she had to make out specific schedules for me. Like you implied, I think “unschooling” would only work for the most motivated of people.

  2. Mom R. says:

    Interesting article! I allowed a little of that along with our more structured “homeschool”. Definitely my most motivated – your husband, Rick :) took it upon himself to study all the chemical aspects of setting up an aquarium, and did so pretty much on his own, with a little help from his dad – but mostly on his own. And look where it took him!! There is much more to maintaining an aquarium with ph levels, etc., etc, stuff I don’t even know (or care) about. I could never have “taught” him any of that. But I always felt like because he had the interest and the time (because he wasn’t in a structured school all day), he was able to really develop his love. Other than a few classes in community school, that’s basically how he learned his art and painting too (besides the God-given talent). He was also given an old computer to do with as he wanted (as far as hardware upgrades) and he and Nathan learned a lot just by trial and error. So the part I like about the unschooling is letting a child learn through what they enjoy and giving them time and tools to pursue it. But I also think they need to be introduced to stuff they may not like as well, and need some structure and discipline for their time with the basics like reading, writing, math, science, history. But Rick learned a whole lot more about chemistry and biology and cause and effect through the aquarium than he would have reading it out of a textbook.

  3. Dad R says:

    You are correct homeschool does require a level of self motivation to be sucessful. Just like people are different, they find different things motivating. Not all children flourish in homeschool. You can always spot the sucessful homeschool kid though. They are the 14 year old in the middle of a group of adults speaking intelligently. Your normal government school kid would rather cut off his arm than speak to an adultStructure. Lets talk about this. Structure can be a good thing. However, it can also lead to things like Riddlin (I have no idea if this is spelled correctly ). Rather than find a way to deal with kids with more energy or are frankly bored to tears by the currently dumbed down school day, we drug them up so they do not upset our “structure”. Structure taken too far also leads to the inability to think for ourselves. This is very apparant in todays government schools. This allows us to push ideas like evolution without being challenged. If we messed up our structure with evil things like critical thinking, then we would have to defend the undefendable.However, there are things in life we do not like but still have to do or learn. Structure teaches us to deal with these things.

  4. bchallies says:

    I have to agree that a combination-type situation sounds wonderful. “Unschooling” on its own is just post-modernism. Imagine”Un-Christianity. You get to decide who God is and what his way of dealing with human beings is. (uh-oh; sounds uncomfortably like so many modern churches)…On the other hand, “unschooling” hours following more structured ones give kids wonderful time for experimenting, dreaming etc.

  5. Grace says:

    I would have loved the unschooling method=)MOm wouldn’t have been able to use the wooden spoon because maybe my style of learning is through day dreaming=)

  6. Susanna Rose says:

    It’s great to see some real discussion and thought in all these comments…special thanks to the parents for sharing your insights and wisdom! Mom Rose, I’m glad to here Rick was your most motivated!:) Since my lack of self-motivation always put a glitch in my mom’s attempts to homeschool me, our kids will have a hope of succeeding at homeschooling with Rick’s genes!!!! Grace-I feel the same way!;)

  7. Tara says:

    Susanna,This is Jana’s older sister, Tara. I read your post about unschooling and decided to put in my two cents! I am homeschooling my kids now and I try to combine lots of different styles since they are so different, from me and each other! Sometimes we sit around the table, sometimes we sit on the couch, but wherever we are, I try not to let the books we use rule the day. The other day, they were each reading on their own and then they wanted to write stories and then they played with play-dough. I realized that they were “doing school” even if it wasn’t exactly what I had planned for the day. I realize the benefits of unschooling on a day like that! I hope we can meet in person sometime soon!

  8. Susanna Rose says:

    Tara, Couldn’t sleep so at 2:20 in the morning decided to check my blog!:) Thanks so much for your comment…I think that combining elements definitely sounds benefitial and encouraging your children to write stories and be creative will be unending in its benefits I’m sure. They would never get the opportunity in a school setting to nurture that side of them, at least by middle school. Would love to meet you too! I’m excited about homeschooling when Micah and our future other children(Lord willing!) are old enough and it would be good to have some women to go to for advice, encouragement, etc!!

  9. Rick says:

    This comment also posted as an article: click here to readMom Challies comment brings up a good point. I think what should be said is “unschooling” requires oversight. A child interested in learning about smoking pot… probably needs some oversight! No but seriously, to use the “unChristianity” example it shouldn’t look like someone deciding for themselves what God is like. A better comparison would be that one person might be motivated through studying Christian History and that should be encouraged. Another perhaps through catechisms, and that should be encouraged. And another perhaps through hanging out with godly people. All the while, they need oversight to make sure they are on the right path and to also interject what that are missing. “You’ve learned a lot about God’s grace, have you thought about the effects of sin?” The point here, in my mind, is also to think about the ultimate goal. In Christianity, our goal is to see people mature, not to see them follow our own methods. I think that’s what gets lost in school. The goal is to teach skills for life and surviving, but in government school the goal is that you score well on a standardized test, or that you fall in line with where the rules say you should be at a certain age. If a child is inclined to writing, that’s probably something they will use throughout life to succeed. They will enjoy life more, and they will do much better if their natural gifts are developed to the fullest rather than suppressing the natural gift of writing to be average so that the unnatural gift of math can also be pulled up to average. “Average” doesn’t get you anywhere. If I interview for a position as an engineer and say “well, my engineering skills are ok, but look I’ve also got ok skills at cooking”… Another aspect Susanna and I were discussing is the means to success. Traditional schooling puts you on a path that values education and degrees as the highest goal. You can do well with that, but a lot of it is a game to get a good sounding degree from a respected college so that you can go work for someone and be paid for that degree. Its really a lot like new high society. And it is the way a majority of the world works so it is wise to set your child up for success in that. The downside is a lot of people don’t really have common sense when they finish, they don’t have any practical experience, and many of them flounder in school for years and years because all they know is school, they don’t know how to translate into the real worldThe alternative view of home-schooling seeks to address those pitfalls. Common sense and practical knowledge become the thing of value. If you can equip your child to understand the real world, to know how to deal with people and to know their own strengths and how to apply them, then your child can be successful even without a degree. The case study here for the extreme in “unschooling” is my friend Jeremy. His only structured schooling – a little math, and assigned reading in biographies. But he was encouraged to develop his computer interest at a young age. He was taught business sense in every aspect. At 13 he was apprenticing with a small business owner. At 14, when everyone else was reading from their textbook about economics, Jeremy’s assignment was to right a real business plan. And thus at 15, he already owned his own business. He never went to college, technically as a home-schooler he doesn’t even have a high-school diploma. But he makes far more than I do and he does what he loves. We shared a love for travel and took several road trips as teenagers. I am now happy to be at a job that allows me to take 2 weeks off at a time. But Jeremy owns his own business and regularly takes 2 months off to travel. So who looks like the fool now, Jeremy’s parents or the parents of Billy Jo who went to school, and is now in his 10th year of college because he doesn’t really know what his one passion is and thus he has switched majors 12 times?

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