What is unschooling?
Homeschoolers adopted the label, unschooling, from John Holt who founded Growing Without Schooling (GWS) America’s first home education newsletter in 1977. Unschoolers encourage the learner to determine what to learn and how to learn. Unschoolers help their learner learn to love learning for its own sake. A typical “unschool” day may include a visit to the library, a nature walk, working in the garden, taking care of pets, cooking, doing spelling exercises and math worksheets, reading, writing, and working on an art project. No more than 90 minutes may be spent on formal school work.
Unschoolers believe that the inefficient “factory model” school stifles their natural learning children. Unschooling adapts to different learning styles and different growing rates. Unschooling parents support, guide, inform and advise their learner. The unschool environment frees the learner from the fear and the anxiety that often burdens learners in traditional schools.
Critics of unschooling and homeschooling cite the neglect of socialization, the danger of isolation and attachment parenting. Critics question the qualifications of the unschooling parents. Critics question whether the unschooled child will proceed to develop for a happy and successful adult life. Unschooled and homeschooled children may experience the lack of standardization, the lack of measurement of progress and the lack of respect for authority.
Dale Stephens, an unschooled learner from grade six, founded a UnCollege movement, received a Thiel Foundation grant and wrote the book, Hacking Your Education. Stephens started The UnCollege Gap Year Program where students “Voyage” for ten weeks living and volunteering in one of five countries, “Launch” for ten weeks attending workshops, networking, and building a portfolio in San Francisco, and “Intern” for twelve weeks to work pursuing a project and to launch the project.
John Holt’s first book, How Children Fail published in 1964, sounded an alarm for the modern school system and helped launch the educational reform movement of the mid 60's. John Taylor Gatto, after 30 years of teaching, published the underground classic, Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling in 1992 and continued the revolution. Gatto asserts that the compulsory schools confuse students with an collection of courses and information, that schools teach students to accept their class affiliation, that self-confidence requires constant recognition by teachers and that they are always supervised. These lessons make students emotionally and intellectually dependent and indifferent.Today two million homeschool students represent 4 percent of the 50 million K-12 students.
Collier, Lorna. "Unshackled and Unschooled: Free-Range Learning Movement Grows." Mind/Shift. May 2, 2014. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/05/02/unshackled-and-unschooled-free-range-learning-movement-grows/.
Gray, Peter. “Self-Directed Education-Unschooling and Democratic Schooling.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias. April 2017. http://education.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.001.0001/acrefore-9780190264093-e-80?platform=hootsuite
Holt, John, GWS (Growing Without Schooling). “Homeschool and Unschooling Resources” includes “Common Questions and Answers about Homeschooling” from Chapter 3 of Teach Your Own (17 questions). http://www.johnholtgws.com/frequently-asked-questions-abo/