Discussion- What is Unschooling

What is Unschooling?

I know there are different “types” of unschooling. Maybe the question should really be, what isn’t unschooling?

Answer #1- byB-
A child learns best about the world through first-hand experience

Answer #2 – by C-
Hmmm. “A child learns best about the world through first-hand experience.”

What if their first-hand experience takes place in a crumbling rat-infested lead-painted house with a dysfunctional family and drug dealers and prostitutes on every corner? Wouldn’t a formal school building with educated adults and enforceable rules look better?

Answer #4 – by N-
If that is their first hand real life experience- that is what they are learning,whether they go to school in a institution or not. Unless of course, you mean to remove all children from dysfunctional families and inner cities from their homes and lock them up in state run boarding schools. I believe that is not legal anymore.
“Enforceable rules” is not what unschooling is about. “Enforceable rules” is about controlling children and crowd management,and for creating good little drones.
In unschooling, we do not control others, we model self control and self discipline, and the children learn from that experience and example.
School is an institution created to turn out good factory workers. We do not have many factories left in the US. We also do not have many people who are educated by public schools that can think. Unschoolinig is meant to turn out thinkers and problem solvers. These children are the future world leaders,artists, and inventors. They learn to think instead of memorize and regurgitate. The model of institutional learning has failed our society miserably.

Answer #5 – by J-
What if my child wants to learn something I can’t do? I very much see the merit and value of individual learning experiences, but collectivist learning styles also have their merit. Teaching teamwork and cooperation on a large scale, such as intermural sports, also allows for a sense of community and engages parents to encourage their children in a healthy, competitive experience. There were times that I did learn something in school. And, not being able to give my child that experience or not being able to encourage my child when they recognize their own fallibility without my being the one who showed it to them in the first place might take away from some aspect of bonding with my child. In other words, I enjoy being able to encourage my child to learn from their mistakes without being the one to tell them that they made a mistake in the first place. . . it seem hypocritical.

The point I’m trying to make, without taking away from the ‘unschooling’ learning style is that not all children learn from curiosity and in fact some children learn from interactions with other children, who they see in a different environment than at home or other locations where ‘unschooling’ occurs. Their behavior is often modeled from other children.

Answer #6 – by Z-
You seem to have missed some key concepts of unschooling… Unschooled children are not cooped up in their house all day. They are not kept away from other children. Most unschoolers participate in group activities, and spend TONS of time outside of the home, socializing with people of all ages and learning to interact with the world on their own terms, instead of being cooped up in age segregated classrooms with rigid structure and no chance to learn about the real world by LIVING in it!! If your child wants to learn about something you don’t know about, which is sure to happen, you can help your child find books, websites, or people knowledgeable in that subject. I know that as an 18 year old longtime unschooler, I regularly tell my mom about the fascinating stuff I read, see, and do. I learn, my mom learns, my father learns, my sister learns, and we all share our individual learning with each other. It’s not natural or possible for one person to know everything! Each individual follows their own path, and it’s an unschooling parents job to assist and support their children, not to teach them.


Answer #7 – by L-
unschooling is EVERYWHERE and everything that’s worth doing by choice. We love it.

Answer #8 – by J-
I’m not sure what key concepts I’ve missed that you’ve referred to in your post. I did not mean to imply that unschooled children are secluded from the outside world, as I’m sure they are not. My meaning was that of separation from their parents while interacting with other children. I admire your interaction with your parents and sharing the learning experience. My point was that a collectivist learning style also has its merits, value, and worth to the extent that learning does occur and sometimes at a very high level. Just a thought.

Answer #9 by Z-
You seemed to very strongly imply in your first message that you thought unschoolers did not spend much time with others…

Hmm, I still say what makes you think that every activity, or even most of the activities, the child does are with their parents presence? Do you really think that I don’t spend time hanging out with friends without my mommy hovering in the background? I’ve participated in many. many activities that my parents were not present for, throughout my lifetime. And as a general rule, the hanging out with my friends DOES NOT include my parents. :-P

Life isn’t an “either or” thing. Unschoolers don’t spend *all* of their time away from their family, anymore than they spend *all* of their time with their family! The best of both worlds: being both close to your family, and very independent, is what you’ll see among many unschoolers.

Answer #10 – by C-
So unschooling must be for middle and upper class families with lots of imagination and resources. Don’t see many of these here in Flint, Michigan. The only time my students see the inside of a concert hall, museum or art studio is when I take them on a stereotypical regimented tax-payer provided school bus on a grant from a dead auto pioneer.

Answer #11 – by J
Please keep in mind that you are a young adult. I was referring to children (K-12), who need the supervision of their parents, teachers, and friends. . . no aggression was intended. Also, I would think that those who’ve been unschooled would recognize the merit, worth, and value of some collectivist learning styles. . . unschooling is after all a group effort. Just a thought

OOH- I wish I had responded that unschooling is individual, oops

Answer #12- by Z-
It’s impossible to live in the world and not learn, no matter how much or little money you have. I know plenty of lower income and single parent families who unschool. My family is lower middle class, with reasonably tight money restrictions. Public libraries, wilderness, living on a farm, living near public transportation, participating in the community, having access to a computer with internet… If you have any of these things, or many others, you will learn. Most of my learning has been from reading, researching online, and having marvelous conversations with everyone around me. None of those things are expensive. In fact, I know of many families who found they were spending less money homeschooling than they did when their children were in school!

The only division in terms of wealth is whether both parents need to work or not, and that is a real issue with younger kids. Once kids reach their teens, however, even that becomes a non-issue.

And it rather surprises me how many negative comments there are on here… Isn’t this group a place for unschoolers and those interested in unschooling to connect, share experiences and knowledge about unschooling, and learn from each other? If you’re here to pronounce judgment and criticize something you know little about and do not wish learn more, I, personally, do not think you belong here.

Answer #13 – by Z-
@J: I’m having a bit of trouble understanding what you’re getting at, since you seem to be contradicting yourself… You criticize unschooling for NOT being a “group effort”, then say that unschooling IS a group effort… But I’m glad that you didn’t mean to come across aggressively, and I hope that I don’t seem to be, either! That’s certainly not my intention.

So as you stated, unschooling IS a group effort. I was part of a homeschooling co-op when I was younger, for instance, and I’m a strong supporter of varying unschooling centers, democratic schools, and similar models. Those are great! When I say unschooling and talk about unschooling, what I mean is student directed learning. As long as the path is chosen by the student, I think it’s good!

Oh, and I can’t help pointing out that ALL teens, not just young adults, are pretty good without “supervision”… Support from those around them (parents, mentors, friends, etc.), definitely. “Supervision”, not so much…

Answer $14 – by L-
We’re VERY low income (Family of 8 $25k this year) – we choose to grow our own food and work as little as possible from home in order to pursue our own artistic and recreational passions, as well as those of our children.

So the idea that it’s just for people with money, or just for CERTAIN kinds of people is wrong.

A group educational experience isn’t bad, but forcing children to participate really isn’t going to teach them much. Sure, they might learn the ‘lesson at hand” but they end up learning underlying lessons that aren’t productive in the long run. (I’m not capable of teaching myself, I am too stupid to follow my own dreams, my wants and needs don’t matter, I am only as valuable as my test scores)

Nothing is out of reach. Ever.

Unschooling means not forcing a child to follow someone else’s educational agenda. There’s no “list of things everyone needs to know” There’s nothing in life that you can’t learn if you just wonder. A child whose curiosity isn’t squashed by forced compulsory schooling will be curious about so very many things.

Children are living NOW- they don’t need to “prepare for life” because they’re already living it.

The idea that schools hold some secret knowledge that only THEY know how to impart is absurd. Humans are capable of learning so much more than that. My kids are unschooled and our state requires annual testing. Each year they test off the charts- way beyond their “grade level”

Forcing education makes people dumber.

Toddlers teach themselves. It’s not a skill humans naturally forget, schools have to TEACH kids that they’re stupid in order to make ignorant adults that shop and consume the way corporate America needs them to, in order for our economy to survive.

We just opt out. Life’s what you make it.

For the record- my kids are in scouts, 4h, sports, dance, drama, singing and they also participate in field trips, host several social activities at our house and attend other outside social events. So we’re not secluded, in case you wondered. We’re resourceful.

Answer #15 – by C-
Actually, L, I agree with many things in your post, but not your conception of poverty. It’s not about money. From your writing, I would guess you have a formal education of your own, probably more than 50 books in the house and apparently, a connection to the internet. Perhaps you trade services to secure “sports, dance, drama and singing” for your children as well. You may own land on which you can raise food. Truly poor people don’t have these resources to draw upon. The despised institution of school might actually help their children. That’s all I’m saying.

Answer #16 – by L-
Some of your assumptions are correct- i dropped out of college when I realized that being a teacher was NOT what I wanted to do with my life.

We have thousands of books in the house (never pay full price, rarely pay at all)

After our house was foreclosed upon last year, we moved to the country (room to garden) and can no longer access the wireless connection that we used in the home we owned, so we pay about $60/month for Internet access.

We use a cell phone instead of a land line (and it’s $24/mo cheaper) We use skype online for our “land line” ($3/month) and also for our television (no cable, satellite)

We own no land. We’re resourceful, that’s all. people give us excess vegetables from their garden, with joy, just because we ask. People are generous, sharing is a good thing. We don’t trade services for the kids activities, the kids participate in fundraisers and we pay out of pocket.

You’d be surprised how much food you can grow in one yard, check this out

We have one car, no car payments.

A good life is not expensive. It’s not out of reach. Schools teach kids that in order to have a good life they must work hard and stay in school. It’s a lie. A lie that cripples society and turns out a bunch of dummies that can’t depend upon themselves because they’re taught to be tools, cogs.

We have more money in savings now, at the end of a $25k year than we did when we owned our own business and made $80k and we’re a lot happier, too.

Perhaps school has a place in society. Every business needs employees. Or does it?

I don’t think school helps as much as it harms, it’s an institution designed to create a workforce. We choose not to play that game.

Either way, forcing children to go to school against their will is simply wrong. It doesn’t lead to smarter kids and in the long run, no one is really better off. Children, rich or poor, deserve to decide how to spend their time, without being labeled drop-outs or truants. Forcing school is wrong.

Answer #17 – by J-
@Z: what I was trying to make as a point of further thought was that unschooling has some benefits as does a collectivest learning style in a classroom setting. While I’m sure unschooling teens can be a less commanding task with their abilities and developed sense of self, toddlers, preschool, kindergarden, and elementary/junior high school children aren’t as able (physically and mentally) to be as self controlled. Those children develop a sense of self during those ages. . . and it just might be in a positive classroom environment rather than in an unschooled one. For example, I don’t think a task could be given to a group of elementary students and completed without some form of guidance, leadership, or constant direction. That form of collectivist learning has been a dominant and successful form in Eastern cultures for quite some time, while unschooling is a rather new form of education not yet widely recognized. I hope I’ve made my point that unschooling can be a successful experience as well as classroom learning. I think it depends in the students’ own learning style. As you’ve stated. Just a thought.

Answer #18 – by L-
J- we’re not against collective learning experiences, we just don’t think it should be forced.

forcing another human being to do something is NEVER a good idea and the “success” of forced schooling in Eastern cultures is certainly debatable.

The idea that unschooling is new is also debatable. Even in Ancient Greece, students were able to CHOOSE whether or not they attended. Throughout history, compulsory (forced) schooling is less than 150 years old and is, in my opinion, most certainly “not working.”

I think you lack the basic understanding that simply giving kids an arbitrary task isn’t beneficial. Kids are capable of keeping themselves busy simply by following their own interests and doing what they want to do. learning is a side affect, not a goal.

Also- your assumption that younger children “can’t be as self controlled” is more accurately a statement that “younger children are less likely to act in ways that are culturally accepted if no one is controlling them”

Controlling children is not a goal of unschooling. Children do not need to be controlled. Children need to be loved, listened to, included in everyday life and allowed to explore the world on their own terms.

In REAL LIFE, a group of “elementary students” would most certainly be able to engage in a task. Kids who are free often build forts, clubhouses, go on adventures and explore as groups all the time. Would it be prudent really for an adult to stand around telling them how to build their treehouse, whose job it is to cut the wood, and stay there with them until it’s finished, or do they learn more from experiencing and working through the logistics on their own?

I think it’s presumptuous to think you can define things like “success” and “goals” for another person.

Classroom learning- when it is forced upon a child- is destined to fail, period.

Humans are meant to be free and children are perfectly capable of knowing what they want and a great deal of harm is done to humanity when an entire generation of children are taught that
1- their preferences don’t matter
2- no one cares what they want
3- they’re not capable of making good decisions
4- they must trust others with their well-being
5- knowledge comes from outside
6- they must set aside their own interests and dreams
7- the things they’re interested in are bad for them
8- they don’t know how to think

furthermore, the spirited children who are forced to undergo compulsory schooling and have a hard time sitting still (totally unnatural activity for humans) and being quiet (humans are communicative by nature) in order to have arbitrary information shoveled into their heads end up being “disciplined” drugged and punished. For being human.

No human should be forced to undergo compulsory education. Period. It has absolutely no value in a modern society, except to imprison children.

I see you trying perhaps to be diplomatic here and say that both things have value but you’re failing to see the whole point- unschooling is about NOT FORCING. You keep skipping that point in your defense, thinking that it’s about the classroom. It’s not, it’s about the forcing. Please understand that.

In the spirit of organizing thoughts, I just wanted to make a note of this conversation. There’s a lot here, both from Z, the unschooled young adult, C and J the teachers and L, the Unschooling mom. What do you think?

Be Sociable, Share!

One thought on “Discussion- What is Unschooling

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Discussion- What is Unschooling -- Topsy.com