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Is Unschooling Right for You? Learn More About this Methodology

By Leah Witmond

Autonomous Learning, Child Led Learning, Unschooling... Isn't that just a little too radical? Do Unschooled children really learn enough?

In autonomous learning, also known as Unschooling or Child Led Learning, the whole notion of education as we know it, is put aside. This doesn’t mean there is no education at all – nothing could be further from the truth – but rather that education is taken out of its formal setting and integrated into everyday life.

Unschoolers trust that their children’s natural curiosity will make them want to learn if they aren’t forced to learn things they aren’t ready for yet, or that simply don’t interest them.

Characteristics

In the Unschooling method of homeschooling there’s no pre-set curriculum to follow, and there’s no clear distinction between school and free time. There are no school hours and no school holidays. Learning happens all the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

“The world is our classroom” is the adage of the unschooler.

Unschooled children are free to choose what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. The parents don’t act as teachers but rather as coaches or even just facilitators. It is their job to make sure their children grow up in a learning-rich environment with plenty of educational materials and opportunities to spark their curiosity. They have to be there to answer their children’s questions or – even better – help them find the answers for themselves.

Unschoolers think outside the box. They may or may not work with a curriculum, depending on what their children let them know they want or need. They use books, and likely, lots of them, on all kinds of subjects. They also use everyday items like tools, kitchen utensils and whatever else they may find around the house – and may do so imaginatively. After all, whoever said pots and pans should only be used for cooking?

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Because children are allowed to explore their own interests, lack of enthusiasm for learning is seldom a problem
  • Unschooled children are usually highly motivated, resourceful and independent students
  • Learning is not limited to a certain environment and certain materials; the sky is the limit
  • Both parents and children greatly enjoy the freedom that comes with autonomous learning
  • Learning opportunities are not limited by what a certain curriculum has to offer

Disadvantages:

  • Parents can sometimes be anxious as to whether or not their children are learning enough
  • Parents may sometimes be concerned about gaps in their children’s education
  • Depending on the state you live in, regulations may force state-wide testing, even when the child is not used to taking standardized assessments
  • Unschoolers may have to deal with criticism and even downright disapproval more often than more conventional home educators