Disadvantages of Unschooling: Why it Might Not Work for You

Unschooling doesn’t work for everyone because the scheduling freedom it affords can be too tempting for some families to push their educational efforts to the side, but executed correctly, the disadvantages of unschooling can be avoided, making it a great method of in-home education for those that can meet the demands.

It’s not a simple solution for success though, and I definitely do not want to portray it as such. Successful unschooling requires a lot more effort than comparable forms of homeschooling and can come with high education costs to find the best resources for your child or children that cover their interests while still providing quality education in all the fundamental areas.

Let’s look at some of the disadvantages of unschooling, and how to avoid them if you are currently unschooling, or maybe considering this method of homeschooling for your family.

A child and their mother contemplating the next steps of homeschooling

Hey there, my name is Jerromy and I am all about that homeschooling life!

I was homeschooled on a farm and I do my best to apply the same values I was brought up with as I teach my own children at home to this very day.

My main goal is to help other homeschooling parents make educated decisions about their kids’ schooling by providing resources and information to help them avoid the mistakes I have made on my journey homeschooling my kids.

If you are new to homeschooling, check out my article on how to get started the easy way.

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Unschooling is a lifestyle, not just a lesson plan.

When you first hear the word “Unschooling” your mind might naturally go to a place where kids sit around all day and haphazardly approach education at their own leisure. I can honestly say that these were my thoughts when unschooling first became a topic in my household, and it can definitely become that if left unchecked. 

In reality, it is so much more than that. Yes, my kids might sleep until noon most days, but they are able to learn and work when they are most effective which means they are more likely to be 100% focused on the material or the project they are working on and they can retain more information as they move through the steps.

Even the lessons they do each day are based on their level of motivation and what they are interested in learning more about. This means that they are actively seeking out information about topics that interest them, and they learn very quickly this way because there is less of a  “bore factor” as we call it. 

How does an unschooling lifestyle cause problems?

Where the real hassle for the parent-teachers comes with dissecting and displaying the information in different ways to teach lessons that may or may not have any direct correlation to the subjects or topics they are interested in and currently focused on.

You need to be aware of what your kids are interested in, and more specifically, how they learn in order to craft their learning environment to be constructive to their education. This will allow you to build the lesson plan around the individual child rather than forcing them to change who they are in order to meet the standards of public school, and even more traditional forms of homeschooling.

This can also mean creating a more organized work area for one kid while letting one work from a tablet on the couch; whatever they prefer of course!

Example of a lesson we created on the fly for our preschooler:

My two-year-old daughter wanted to learn more about her favorite farm animal, chickens, we had her identify different traits for the various breeds of chicken there are, based on things like distinguishing colors and sizes. Then we took her out into our chicken yard to see if any of our chickens look like the ones she saw in the video we looked up on YouTube, and to our surprise, she was able to quickly answer our questions regarding the different breeds we had; she knew a white leghorn was definitely not a rhode island red for instance. 

Of course, the colors in the name have a lot to do with her being able to apply multiple-choice to determine the types of chickens we have, but this same type of experience-based learning is how we go about educating on a regular basis with all of our children. 

What projects can you implement for an unschooling lesson?

Gardening, for instance, can be a great ongoing science project that begins with researching crop growth cycles all the way to harvesting and preparing a meal with the crops they have grown, complete with hand-written reports, and the designing of information tables or even infographics and videos. 

You can literally take a normal homestead chore and teach kids 5 or more critical lessons that can help them prepare for a variety of career paths; data analyst, agriculture scientist, graphic designer, content creator, etc. Education opportunities are everywhere, and applying knowledge to every instance is the base element in successful unschooling.

Hard Facts: Can your family afford to unschool?

There are many different approaches to creating an unschooling curriculum, but in most cases, there will be several different resources implemented in order to meet the educational goals you and your children set together. I want to set the record straight because the idea that unschooling is “less-schooling” can lead parents to jump in and not anticipate the actual overhead that can come with this form of in-home education.

The costs depend heavily on what your children are interested in, and how they learn. Many resources are free, and we utilize as many of those as possible to help alleviate the costs of unschooling but having a lot of kids that have varying interests means we have to seek out many different resources, curricula, and educational platforms in order to provide everything our children need to learn their own way. 

How much it costs is directly related to your kids’ individual interests.

My most expensive student is 9 years old and is heavily engaged in game design, and in order to learn the necessary skills properly, he needs expert help. As such, I pay for monthly subscriptions to three different game design programs and a coding course which costs as much as the three software combined. 

The average monthly costs to help him learn the advanced practical applications of math, reading, creativity, and critical thinking runs me about $150. Keep in mind that these skills will follow him into adulthood and he will have a very strong experience and network within the industry if he chooses to pursue game design as a career, potentially setting him up to be an authority at a very early age.

 The only things we really need to supplement are science and social studies to cover all the educational bases, but that is easily accomplished with one platform, TIME4LEARNING, which is actually the “main curriculum” we use for all of our children as a basis for their education and costs $25 for a single child and $15 for every additional student.

My other children still haven’t broken away from the main curriculum just yet, but they are definitely starting to show where their interests lie, so I am able to do a little figuring now to be prepared for the day they ask to learn more advanced information about their soon to be hobbies.

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How to avoid paying costly fees for an unschooling curriculum

You can see how the bill for unschooling can quickly add up, especially if you have multiple children you intend to unschool which can be a major hiccup for some families who may be looking for a cheaper route to teach their kids at home.

My advice is to turn to free resources like Khan Academy and a cheaper curriculum like Time4Learning until you can justify paying the higher costs for extra-curricular activities like coding for instance. Even then, there are plenty of free resources to help with specific interests, but everyone wants to make a buck, so expect most of the free stuff to be intro courses that can become redundant after a while.

You really need to ask yourself how the investment into their education will pay off for them in the future though, as any parent should want their children to be prepared for the high competition that exists in the job market today, and that is sure to become even more oversaturated in the near future. 

Can you handle the chaos of Unschooling?

This lifestyle can get very hectic very quickly, simply because there is often a lack of structure and schedule; parents will need to be ready for anything their kids can throw at them, figuratively and metaphorically. 

Having your parents as teachers can be a great thing, but with that comes a level of comfortability which leads to some kids forgetting they are supposed to be spending time learning and beginning to feel overly “independent”; this isn’t always a bad thing, but it can definitely lead to headaches and frustration very quickly. 

This is the biggest challenge for most families I have talked to that didn’t find success with this method of homeschooling.

Unschooling isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time, trust me, but if handled properly it can be a truly innovative way to address harder-to-approach topics like emotional responsibility, impulse control, and how to treat others. 


Final thoughts on why unschooling might not be a good fit.

Unschooling requires a lot of self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-direction. Without these essential characteristics, it will be difficult to maintain this form of homeschooling as it can tend to be a little chaotic and more free-form than other styles of homeschooling which opens the door to procrastination and the overall absence of quality education.

This can actually cause children to miss out on great opportunities as adults, simply because they may fall into a loop of counter-productivity at an early age.

If you have a child who has a lower sense of responsibility, needs to make friends and be social, or isn’t so good at following directions on their own, then unschooling may not be the best choice.

However, if your child is adventurous, curious, intrepid, loves to learn, doesn’t care about being popular, and is incredibly resilient to challenges, then unschooling may be the best thing for them!

The main thing to remember is to learn to relax and let the kids follow suit. While hard work and determination are important traits to have, knowing when to give your brain and body time to rest can lead to more motivated and efficient individuals as they grow and enter the workforce or start their own businesses.

Sharing is Caring!

Make sure to share this post with friends and family that may be dealing with similar issues related to Unschooling or homeschooling in general, and feel free to comment on this article directly for shared experiences and advice!

For now, I bid you farewell, but know that I am here to help you on your path to home education, and I encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or just want to chit-chat about homeschooling stuff; Just comment on one of my posts, and I will respond ASAP! 

Have a great day!

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