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How “Un-Schooling” Works & How It Differs From Home-schooling

By Yolanda Spivey

Few people know what “un-schooling” really means.  It’s actually the opposite of school.  While most schools and home-schoolers follow a strict guideline and curriculum for lesson plans that are guided by textbooks, un-schooling doesn’t offer this type of instruction.  It’s actually sort of a “free-style” way of learning.

Instead of being forced to learn certain lessons that are often regimented, un-schoolers learn according to what interests them.  Children usually get their learning experience from the internet, museums, farms, library books, movies or professionals.

Although there are no statistics kept, un-schooling proponents estimate that 20 percent of home-schoolers are in fact un-schooled.   In some states, un-schoolers meet the same education regulations as home-schoolers.  Students must be registered with a school district and must abide by certain criteria that is set up by their states.  Most importantly, they must pass a standardized test and be evaluated by their state every other year to ensure that they are learning.

If a child scores too low on a test, or it is determined that they are not performing up to par, according to their states guidelines, the state can then require the child to enroll in public school.

Un-schooling is not the right choice for everyone.  The Chicago Tribune points out that “Parents who want to try it must have a knack for providing the right kind of stimulation and environment that inspires their kids to want to learn.”

Jessica Coulson, a former school teacher has been un-schooling her children for the past six years.  She believes children are “curious, inherent learners.”

She, along with un-schooling experts, have seen their share of un-schooling success stories with many un-schoolers going on to eventually attend prestigious colleges and universities such as Harvard, Amherst and Brown University.

There are , however, some who are totally against un-schooling.  For instance, former teacher James Dugan sees potential problems with both home-schooling and un-schooling.  He told the Chicago Tribune, “I would question the validity of un-schooling.  I wonder why they would do this to their child.”

Whether a parent chooses to un-school their child or not, they must have the discipline and dedication to ensure that their child is learning and excelling.

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3 thoughts on “How “Un-Schooling” Works & How It Differs From Home-schooling

  1. cj

    I home school three of my grand-childrens in the early years of their education,, my oldest grand-daughter (17) is in her first year at Penn State” straighy “A” student. My oldest grand-son (her brother) is in paramedic school. After graduating from Senior High School > he had a (4) year Scholarship to Penn State, he only attended (1) year. He did not want to continue. He told his parents he wanted to be a Fireman/Paramedic for now and later on he would like to become a Doctor. He is (21). I just wish them all well. I know and believe that if a child is making the grade in publice School. Parents need to look into Private School or Home-Schooling. Your child may Thank you, later;. In more ways than one.

  2. cj

    In the above comment regarding home schooling) Sorry, I missed a word (not) if a child is not making the grade. There is always something else.

  3. Zep

    The distinction between unschooling & homeschooling is critical; thank you for sharing. Unschooling does not replace teacher led learning with parent led learning, as is often the case for homeschooling. True unschooling is completely led by the child’s interests, i.e. a child learns to read when hem begins asking about signs, cereal boxes, etc. To Dugan, I ask, I wonder why anyone would subject their child to a system of schooling wherein we pretend we know what kids will need to know in the future? It is estimated that at least 65% of our children’s first jobs will be doing things which today don’t exist, so why do systems pretend to know what the important content is?


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