Unschooling vs Homeschooling: Lifestyle over Limitations

a comparison of unschooling vs homeschooling; on the left is a child outside enjoying nature and on the right is a child hard at work on their laptop

Choosing to teach kids at home is a great option for many families, but it’s important to be aware of the attributes that define the many different homeschooling methods you can implement into your family’s learning schedule; the primary focus in this article is the difference between unschooling and traditional homeschooling.

My goal is to help you understand the often controversial topic of Unschooling vs Homeschooling so you can make a more educated decision moving forward, or simply shed some light for those who are new to the in-home education scene. There are stark differences between the two, and understanding the roles of homeschooling methods will help you communicate your personal stance more effectively and find better informational resources to help you in your pursuit for improved education at home.

If you are new to all of this, check out these articles to help get up to speed quickly!

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 vs Homeschooling: What is best for your family?

Finding the best way to educate your children at home isn’t an easy task, but you are on the right path as long as you apply due diligence by making sure to educate yourself as much as possible so you can provide the perfect learning experience for your students.

Whatever homeschooling method(s) you choose will be the right fit for your family, I am sure of it! Keep in mind that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to in-home education; trust me on that.

Feel free to reach out if you have any comments or questions, or just want to run ideas by someone who has been at this awhile, feel free to reach out to me ANYTIME! Either comment on one of my articles, or reach out to me on social media and I will get back to you ASAP!

Also, I encourage you to share this article with anyone who needs a little advice or maybe some encouragement to make a decision on their next steps with homeschooling or unschooling!

What is Traditional Homeschooling?

A homeschooler hard at work on their laptop

This style of homeschooling is based around the standards that you might find in a public or private school setting; set lesson plans, designated books and materials, and a curriculum that covers a broad array of topics. 

This is the easiest and therefore most common example of homeschooling, in my opinion. 

Generally speaking, you mimic what others have had success with and implement a solid structure for how, when, and where kids learn. Your days and lessons are pre-planned either by you or for you depending on the curriculum you choose which is what makes it the most reasonable choice for most homeschool families.

Kids do the same things at the same time each day, and complete milestones as they work toward their goal which is to complete the years lessons and move on to the next grade level.

Parents simply follow the lesson plan and act as the primary instructor for all subjects and grade levels.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Homeschooling:

PROS:

  • Provides structure.
  • Proven track record.
  • Accessible to everyone.
  • Easy to implement.

CONS:

  • Time consuming.
  • Exhaustive for kids and parents.
  • Can quickly become boring or dull.
  • Less time to focus on things outside of school.
  • Limited scheduling for breaks or vacation.

What exactly is Unschooling all about?

An unschooler outside enjoying learning in nature

Unschooling is a more radical approach to home education in the fact that the children choose their “curriculum” and “lesson plan” based on their individual attributes and interests. It can come in many forms and variants, and parent-teachers usually act as a mentor rather than full-on teachers. 

I use curriculum and lesson plan loosely because in most cases there is a mixed bag of materials that are used to tailor the experience to exactly what the individual children need in order to succeed in school and beyond.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds, believe me, but once you get your children in the right mindset, this can be a dream come true for both parent-teachers and students! Kids can engage with the learning materials at a pre-discussed rate and learn exactly what they need to know in order for them to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

In my opinion, unschooling functions more like life as an adult does; we learn what we need and then we go complete the necessary task. While this may not be everyone’s opinion, that is exactly the atmosphere I try to provide for my children through unschooling.

Pros and Cons of Unschooling:

PROS

  • Children choose the material / Parents set the pace.
  • Fits ANY lifestyle
  • Can be adjusted daily if necessary.
  • Can be specialized to help kids pursue their own goals in life early on.
  • Allows for more time having fun together!

CONS:

  • Lack of social interaction.
  • Requires a higher level of motivation from parent-teachers and students.
  • Cost may be higher, depending on curricula and materials needed to help kids reach goals.
  • Can take a little getting used to, for parents as well as students.
  • Lacks structure that some may want for their children

Main Differences Between Traditional Homeschooling and Unschooling

Providing a quality education for your children is the most important factor in both homeschooling and unschooling, which is a common misconception about homeschooling in general, but even homeschoolers are reserved about unschooling most of the time. We are too quick to compare our kids to other children and expect them to be at the same level as everyone else, but sometimes kids need to learn the way that is effective for THEM.

The main differences between the two are the setting, requirements, and level of attention from parent-teachers; of course, this is all subjective to you and your family’s needs.

Traditional homeschooling is a standard for education that strives to help kids meet the same academic level as others within the age group or grade level and in all related subjects. However, you can change curricula or edit the materials you want your kids to be learning, and make adjustments to fit their academic level a little better.

 

Unschooling, on the other hand, is more of a lifestyle of learning that incorporates education into every single second of the day through real-life experiences, and materials that are hand-selected to help students become exactly who and what they want to be in life; with a little help from Mom and Dad of course. Their “curriculum” will change on a weekly, or even daily, basis once they achieve their goals for the set time period and are ready to move on to the next phase of learning; whatever that may be. 

What I recommend.

In addition to being a homeschooling Dad of five amazing little learners, I was also raised homeschooled for a majority of my time in school, so I have experience on both sides of the field. 

My parents chose a more traditional method for my siblings and I, simply because they didn’t know there was any different way. It wasn’t a bad time though, and I did learn at a faster pace than other kids my age that was involved in public or private school settings. I re-entered the public school system in 9th grade and I graduated from my hometown, but I truly wish I had stayed involved with homeschooling. My motivation dropped off shortly after my first six weeks in public school and I started focusing on things other than my education. I truly believe that if I would have stayed home, I would have been able to advance my skill set to include what I do for a living now, but I digress.

My family now fits better with an unschooling lifestyle, and it works really well for us I must say.

My oldest is creating and coding his own games, and my youngest will know how to read before she is three. My other children fall exactly where they need to by my standards, and they are ALL well above the standard for their individual grade levels, IN ALL SUBJECTS I might add, and we don’t push any form of curriculum daily; we simply give them more options than they could possibly complete in a single day, and through repetition of content and topics, they pick things up and run with the information. We cover learning goals at the beginning of each month and we all work together to achieve them and help each other reach, and often surpass, the goals they have set for THEMSELVES!

It is truly like being a member of a team that understands that in order to see the best results, we all need to contribute to one another’s growth. It is a remarkable thing, and I encourage every homeschooler out there to do the same. Not only do your children learn their own way, but they also start developing soft skills that are required at ANY job, relatively early in life. All while still having 12+ hours a day to be children!

Final Thoughts on Unschooling vs Traditional Homeschooling.

In summary, homeschooling and unschooling both provide a solid foundation for learning if executed properly. However, the structure and style of each of these models are quite different. The individual child is the most important element in both homeschooling and unschooling and it is essential to respect and nourish the child as their own person, and not just a generic child.

The main difference between homeschooling and unschooling is that in homeschooling, a parent is the teacher and has a goal/curriculum that they are trying to work towards, while in unschooling the child is the teacher and is in charge of their own learning while the parent simply acts as a guide, reference, and mentor to ensure children have access to help and proper learning materials necessary to achieve their own educational goals.

Unschooling does not rule out any particular subject as obligatory or forbidden, though this depends on the family and their beliefs. Parents who choose unschooling are allowing their children to discover their own interests, and to develop at their own pace and according to their own schedule. It is important that the parent has a general idea of what the child needs to learn, and is flexible and responsive to the child’s interests, but the specifics are not rigidly prescribed and there are hardly any wrong answers; kids are free to learn what they want but you must decide if the material is suitable or not.

Those who want to have more control over the direction of their children’s education would definitely prefer a more traditional Homeschooling route. You can add structure to your desired levels, and ensure your children are receiving and understanding the information you feel is necessary to their success now and in the future!

Unschooling and homeschooling are both great ways to educate children, and even if you prefer one over the other, that is perfectly fine! Let the children help you choose what works best for them and you will have made the best choice by default!

Make sure to share this article with that family member that needs a little convincing, or who needs advice on what to expect with homeschooling! You don’t have to make this journey alone, so if you have any comments or questions, feel free to reach out ANYTIME! 

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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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