While homeschooling has its share of critics, unschooling - perhaps the most controversial approach to homeschooling - is a completely foreign idea to most. Vincent J. Schodolski writes about the growth of the unschooling approach among homeschoolers.

The Browns are part of an approach to education that is called "unschooling" and allows children to pursue what interests them, rather than trying to make them interested in things that interest others.

The concept holds that learning is best done when a child's interests are engaged, and for a family with the talents and the resources to allow this to happen, great success is possible.


Most trace the origins of unschooling to an approach devised by educator John Holt in the 1970s. He believed that children could be natural learners, instead of requiring formal schooling.

"A core distinction between these two approaches, it would seem, comes down to beliefs about human nature, or at least the nature of the child and their learning," said Robert Kunzman, an assistant professor at Indiana University. "Do they learn best following their own interests, or by being carefully led upon a preordained path?"

Parents involved with unschooling argue that modern resources such as the Internet make exploration easy.

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I am sure some kids and/or

I am sure some kids and/or parents have the appropriate personalities and behavioral habits to make that sort of thing work, but I also suspect that, for some, unschooling would basically mean idleness, television, "hanging" with friends and crime.

I know it's a marginal nitpick, but I don't like the word "homeschooling" either. The practice needs a better, more appropriate term to describe itself.

The idea is that you are teaching the kids at home. Fine. But that's the opposite of schooling. The term 'homeschooling' presumes that schooling is the norm, the baseline, the standard, and then tries to replicate that in something other than a "school" environment. It adopts the connotations and assumptions of very thing it is trying to avoid.

Instead, being taught at home is the norm, the baseline, the standard. It is schooling that is artificial. (Having state-run schools with thousands of students, funded and controlled by bureaucrats is even more artificial.)

I don't know ... call it "home tutoring"? "Home learning"? (That sounds clunky.)

If I hadn't had math forced

If I hadn't had math forced upon me as a young kid, I wouldn't have been able to do all the independent learning I've done since then.

Then you're a dumbass. I had

Then you're a dumbass. I had to be forced *not* to learn as a kid, including math and computer programming. When I lost interest in the crap they were trying to force feed me in school and started to get bad grades, my mom's boyfriend got the bright idea of taking away my books and my computer because that's what I did instead of my homework. My dad's bright idea was to force me to work in the yard to "show me" how I was going to be doing manual labor when I grew up if I didn't improve my grades. Well, my grades never improved. I graduated dead center of my high school class because fortunately enough of the classes were not homework-heavy enough to cause me to flunk them. And what do I do today? I write software for one of the best software companies on the planet.

"Home learning" sounds good

"Home learning" sounds good to me, George. Accurate, too.

Based on past experience, I

Based on past experience, I seriously doubt digamma is a "dumbass"; quite the opposite.

That's quite an interesting

That's quite an interesting story Sean; I think you'd be interested in reading this piece from Greenspun:


Jonathan, I was being

Jonathan, I was being facetious :)

I think if I were to be

I think if I were to be homeschooling kids, I couldn't see clear to doing true "unschooling". I think it has some benefits, but I'd want to raise kids with a little more structure. Most likely, I'd have 60-70% of the curriculum set, and have the kids to outside projects/etc on things that interest them. It wouldn't matter if that was dinosaurs, or computers, or (as I was interested in as a child) airplanes. The structured curriculum would serve two purposes: a base curriculum of what the kid "should" know, and to pique their interest in possible subjects for their in outside projects.

I wrote a lil' something

I wrote a lil' something about this at my blog over at myspace (a bit of a laugh I know). Here it is:

"Books not Bombs" isn't the half of it

A pretty interesting write-up on the UN-schooling movement appears in the Jewish World Review (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0306/unschooling.php3).

This goes beyond homeschooling - an alternative educational system that is even rarer than private schools and thought to be about as radical as it gets. UN-schooling does one even better (or worse depending on your perspective) by not only withdrawing children from state, or state approved, schools, but by refraining from imposing on them any kind of curriculum whatsoever. The idea is that they will teach themselves through sheer self-interest. No getting up at 6am, no standardized tests, and no deadlines. The supposed advantage is that, unlike state schools which force students to conform to a teaching regiment, un-schooling allows kids to find what interests THEM and run with it. State schools instill a disdain for knowledge by imposing it, rather than allowing respect for it to come from within.

For the parents and kids interviewed it has been largely a success, but needless to say no concrete results have come in given its rarity and relatively new style of "non-teaching".

I can imagine the kinds of households for which this is an option: relatively wealthy and fairly liberal families that share a common interest in knowledge for its own sake. And if not wealthy, then fairly eccentric. Two married professors with children are exactly the kind of group I'm thinking of. The kind of parents that play Mozart to their children while still in the womb. The kind of parents that forgo a television set, and instead build their own computers and network them throughout the house. In this kind of home, especially in a neighborhood with like-minded folks, what exactly would kids do with their time other than build things, read things, solve brain-teaser games on the computer, and exercise?

In the end, the kids who do well under this non-system are the same ones that do well in state schools - those with parents that have an interest in learning themselves. Unlike your typical conservative parent who has a kid that gets A's because that's just what he or she is "supposed to do", and realizes that it leads to future success, these parents value a more open-ended, less goal oriented learning process. And unlike a conservative homeschooler who feels that state schools don't teach reading, writing and math very well (assuming he or she could care less about "liberal indoctrination"), these parents take it further and ask: "Should they necessarily be learning reading, writing and math on others' terms to begin with?".

But I think the un-schooling types are actually "planning" for learning more than they may think, by cutting off options for shitting away one's time playing video games, watching loads of television, or hanging out at the mall (cliches, I know). Now, I'm not CERTAIN that these un-schooling parents don't have the same amenities that most other homes have, but to the extent that they are a subset of the homeschooling movement at large, it's safe to say they are probably a bit more unorthodox than your average state schooler's abode, reducing the ability to engage in anti-intellectual activities.

HEAD OVER TO http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=48209047&blogID=97903500&MyToken=da64a2ea-b50d-464a-b114-8b42f6ae6d9a FOR COMMENTS, MOSTLY FROM MY EX.

I prefer "home education" In

I prefer "home education"

In our local group, some of the unschoolers do end up sitting around, watching the tube, wasting time, and generally don't pursue education. The trick, as far as I can see it, is to set up a proper environment for the kids to explore themselves. This will probably mean limiting access to the satellite TV, playstation, and various other media. In the place of those forms of media you have good books, interesting activities, and plenty of external activities.

We use a loosely constructed curriculum based on a self-education paradigm. We don't actively teach the kids, but we do act as guides. They utilize their textbooks for math to figure out the lesson for themselves and then read a lot of books. The curriculum comes with a selection of books that provide considerable depth in terms of learning history and language. They also choose books they enjoy (Harry Potter, etc) to mix it up a little. This opens up a lot of free time for them to explore their personal interests, while ensuring they get at least the core basic skills.

http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com - worth a read to anybody interested in home education as an alternative to government school. Among the books that come on the disks for this curriculum are Rothbard's What Has Government Done to Our Money and Smith's Wealth of Nations. That was icing on the already well baked caked.

Holt is certainly worth reading, as well as John Taylor Gatto.