Different people describe unschooling as different things.  We probably won’t all agree on a definite answer. Some are more militant about definitions than others.

I’m personally a bit relaxed about it all.

When people seek a short answer - I call it child led learning.  We follow the child’s interest and needs.

When people seek a long answer, I offer them a (virtual) cuppa and go on a bit about what I believe it means.  I’m not one that likes to over analyse stuff.  I like to think hard about things, but explain them simply.

So for me, unschooling is:

  • an approach to learning
  • often referred to as a ‘home education’ approach (but increasingly I find adults need unschooling just as much as the kids so it’s really not just about ‘home educating the kids’)
  • it is person centered/led, or often referred to as natural learning or free range learning.
  • where the child is concerned, it is about following their personal interests and needs.  Where the parent helps guide them to where they want to be.
  • it doesn’t mean children get to decide everything they do, though every person’s approach is different.
  • there is no curriculum - life dictates what unschoolers do.
  • people refer to different ‘levels’ of unschooling.  Some people refer to ‘radical unschooling’, which is about taking the person centred approach to all aspects of life.  I personally don’t differentiate.

So how do people practically unschool?

  • everyone does it differently
  • we all have different interests
  • we all have different needs
  • we all have cultural differences
  • we all have different rules and philosophies to live by
  • we all make a living in a different way
  • we all have different financial incomes
  • we all figure out how to make it all work and fit together (this is often the trick part)
  • there is no set curriculum or activities that unschoolers have to do
  • the parents are expected to be ‘responsible’ and educate themselves on how to do the best for their child
  • the parent is expected to partner with the child and lead them in the right direction, give them insight and opportunities that the child is not necessarily aware of
  • initially it can be filled with doubts, detoxing yourself from the ‘system’ is not always easy
  • kids can react in different ways to the new found freedom and responsibility
  • parents can be stuck with old ways of doing things, it takes time to let go and relax
  • it takes time
  • it takes patience
  • it takes understanding and listening
  • it takes being human and respect each others needs
  • it takes even more patience
  • it takes love that no school can ever give
  • it takes doing stuff together, sometimes
  • it takes letting go of your child
  • it takes giving them freedom, trust and respect
  • it takes courage to go against the norm and see through the tough times
  • it takes time to see the results.

Generally, unschoolers care little for curriculums, tests and qualifications.  Though this really depends on where they aim to be in their future.  Many unschoolers do go on to university.  The important thing to bear in mind is that society makes us think there is only one path to university and a career.  Unschoolers have proven this wrong.

There are many paths, you don’ t need to endure 12 years of schooling to qualify for a university or a ‘proper job’. And to add to it, many unschoolers aim to live a life with more freedom, often this means proper jobs are not of interest to them.

When you do see the results of unschooling, they are amazing. Truly amazing. Priceless and difficult to explain unless you’ve been through it.