Saturday, September 5, 2009


The homeschooling movement in the US seems to be growing as more schools offer online teaching. There seems to be a long tradition of not trusting state run institutions and in many states parents can opt to keep their children at home. In Europe this phenomenon has not made much of an impact since the whole concept of keeping children out of school is illegal in many countries, including here in Sweden.

However I was not aware of a an extreme variation on homeschooling called unschooling until I came across an article about it in the Baltimore Sun, From home schooling to unschooling. Homeschooling is still based on a curriculum decided by a school with most teaching and learning being on-line. Unschooling, on the other hand, opts out of even that connection with the education system. Here it's the parents who are completely responsible for their children's education. Parents take their children on outdoor excursions, involve the kids in all aspects of housework and gardening and generally encoursge the kids to learn what they want at their own pace.

To succeed with unschooling parents have to be highly capable in child psychology, pedagogy and management and most importantly should not have regular employment that takes them away from their kids for long. It sounds very idyllic in the article and reminds me of the education principles within varoius hippy communities in the late sixties. The children, however, will be seriously deprived of learning how to interact with others and will probably not be exposed to opinions and information that their parents do not agree with. The potential for indoctrination is very high and I would guess that one main reason for choosing unschooling is that the parents consider the school system in some way dangerous and do not want their children to be exposed to the "wrong" ideology.

As ever, there are elements of this style of education that are appealing; encouraging curiosity, breaking out of the restraints of the classroom, integrating learning and living. However when looking at the typical daily routine of unschooling as desrcibed at the end of the article I would say it closely resembles a pretty normal Saturday or Sunday routine for many regular families. The key to an all-round education is the combination of learning in different environments (school, home, outdoors) with a wide variety of people (family, friends, class, self study) and with a variety of activities (discussion, reading, instruction, work, experimentation). Cutting off any of these components is deprivation and the unschooling principle seems to me to be lacking in several key learning activities.

Please read the comments on this for more links and discussion .....


  1. Wow. This post was riddled with misinformation.

    First, not just "many" but in all 50 states parents are legally allowed to homeschool. And most people homeschool based off something other than "distrust" for state run institutions. I would wager for most it's based off doing what they feel is best for their kids.

    Next, homeschooling is not based on a curriculum decided by the school, nor is it mostly online. Homeschooling parents choose their own curriculum. In most states, the school district has little authority over homeschoolers, although in some states testing or reviews are required. Therefore, unschoolers aren't taking such a big leap by "opting out of that connection". (Not to mention how little that connection really offers in way of education in the first place.)

    To succeed with unschooling, parents simply need to be good parents, taking the time to facilitate and interact with their kids, answer questions and provide new and interesting opportunities within an already rich environment. This is the basic concept behind raising a child from birth to age 5 or 6 and in that time we watch them grow and learn exponentially without worry. Only schools have convinced us that their natural ability to learn will diminish if children are not "well-educted" (and anyone who has seen the by-product of public education can argue the "well-" part).

    Unschooling children are hardly deprived of interaction. In fact, because they aren't age-segregated or traped in a desk most of the day, their interactions are more meaningful and include people of all ages and backgrounds. They also learn that all people are equal, regardless of age. The socialization in schools only resemble one thing in the "real world" - prisons. Where else are you told when to pee or who to communicate with or shuffled around in lines and watched over with such distrust?

    "Indoctrinazation" is a laughable conclusion. It's hardly worth replying to, especially since the same thing can be said about any family or school, for that matter. And just ask my 10 year old about his political views or hear us debate our seperate stances and you'll know "indoctrinization" is a ludicrous idea when speaking of children who are taught to take responsibility for their own thoughts and not take their marching orders from a teacher (or a parent teaching).

    I would suggest some further reading, instead of basing your opinions off one article. Anything written by John Holt, including "How Children Fail" and "How Children Learn" are good to get you started. These articles may help give a new spin on it as well:,2933,432383,00.html

    And I'll be the first to admit that an incredulous response when approached with the idea of unschooling is common. I know, although I was intrigued, I was dubious at first as well. But unschooling is hardly new (look into Summerhill school in the UK or Sudbury schools in the US) and the proof is in the pudding.


    Unschooling "grad" and unschooling mom

  2. Thanks Tara for your justified comments and I freely admit that I haven't researched the subject in detail. Blogs do tend to be fairly spontaneous expressions of opinion and mine is no exception. But through dialogue you can learn to revise your initial opinions.

    The whole concept of children being schooled at home is extremely hard to understand here in Europe and I'm sure my scepticism is shared by many.

    Schools should encourage students to critical thinking and should be as free as possible from political or religious control. In addition it's not easy to opt for home schooling here since both parents are at work all day (even harder for single parents).

    In many cases I'm sure unschooling works and can be much more educational than the some parts of the school system (as you and the news article point out) but I still see the danger of parents with strong ideologies using this method to cut off their children from opposing viewpoints. Maybe I put too much emphasis on that fear in my post.

    I would like to see a school system that breaks out of the clessroom paradigm and really makes use of different learning environments. The whole home schooling movement can offer the school system over here food for thought and hopefully inspiration even if I see risks in taking children out of the system altogether.

    I will read more ....