Homeschooling Method Deep Dive: What is Unschooling?

In this article, I am going to be digging deep into the topic of Unschooling and reveal what it is at the core, in an attempt to share information as well as remove some of the stigma surrounding this method of homeschooling.

I will cover what Unschooling is perceived as by the general public vs what it actually is and how a normal day of unschooling goes for my family. 

I was homeschooled in a traditional manner as a child, set curriculum kinda situation, and I have used several methods with my own children so far in an attempt to provide the best educational experience possible while still allowing my kids to hang on to their childhoods. 

Unschooling is what has worked best for us so far, and that may be because my kids have experimented with so many ways to homeschool that they know what works and doesn’t work for them and they prefer to be in charge of staying on top of their learning. Sounds strange I am sure, but I will get into why it works and why it isn’t less than or greater than any other style 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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What is Unschooling? 

Unschooling is a homeschooling philosophy that encourages children to take control of their own learning, with as little outside influence as possible. It’s been a wonderful experience for my children, and I’m convinced that unschooling is the best way for many homeschoolers to meet their learning goals and avoid the high level of stress your children can sometimes endure from a more rigorous homeschooling discipline.

When you are a parent concerned about your children and their level of education, it is best to inform yourself about all the available options to make the best decision to uncover what will not work.

Unschooling won’t be a good fit for everyone, but knowing what doesn’t work is a great step in the direction of what WILL work for you and your family.

While it may cause some mental distress searching through materials to learn about them all, there is still a benefit to be gained from having so many great homeschooling options available. This allows us as parents to explore the myriad of educational tools and resources out there to make the best possible decisions concerning our children’s well-being.

How Unschooling is Perceived 

I have found that a lot of people have a picture in their heads of what Unschooling is, and it couldn’t be further from the truth in my opinion. 

The common theory is that kids are left to do whatever they want with no direction, even if that means doing nothing all day long. All the while parents are either doing nothing or doing whatever they can just to avoid the responsibilities of having children, and while that may be the case in some situations, I am here to say that is called neglect and is in no way categorized under unschooling from where I stand.

It’s Quite the Opposite Really

In fact, unschooling can be a great way to encourage your kids to become who they want to be by letting them have the bigger say in what they are spending their time doing.

While my kids do stay up til the wee hours and sleep in late most days, they are in no way allowed to simply avoid doing school; it’s just that what we consider “school” is much different than the mainstream idea.

They thrive in this environment of choosing what, when, and where they do school. Giving them the freedom to discover their own way through school has granted us as parents the freedom of time to work for ourselves from home. The kids are learning more and more about what they love, and are picking up everything they need along the way that might not directly relate to their interests!

What Unschooling is in Reality

The truth is that as Unschoolers, we are committed to connecting with our children on a personal level in order to begin uncovering their interests early on in life; which isn’t always an easy task but perhaps the most necessary to be successful with unschooling. 

We are literally with them every day all day long, so we know what their likes and dislikes are so we can help them understand things like how gaming can lead to a very lucrative career if the right skills are developed. 

Once they realize the potential in something like that, they can’t wait to jump in and start forging their own specific skill sets to bring their own value into the world as they reach adulthood and even sooner if they are driven by success.

While basic knowledge like reading and math is very important, it is impossible to get a stubborn kid to learn those things effectively without some sort of incentive, and I dont mean gold star stickers. 

Setting Milestones for your Unschooler

Setting “milestones” is an effective way to get them to understand that once they learn one thing, they can move on to the next educational endeavor to help them level up the skills needed to be the best at what they want to do in life

When a kid wants to learn to code their own video games, for instance, they will of course need to learn how to read and perform basic mathematic equations. Once they learn to read well enough to follow instructions, they will be able to start learning more about programming and how to make things work the way they want them to. Each skill builds upon the one above it and the one below it to create the exact information intake they need to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. 

In short, Unschooling can be an amazing tool for those who desire a more proactive, collaborative, and empowering form of education for their kids and can handle the stress of researching the right resources and studying them yourself until your eyes bleed in order to help guide their kids down the right paths and channels to become who THEY want to be in life. 

How Does Unschooling Relate to Adults?

In theory, this is no different than when an adult wants to make a career change into a completely new field. Some skills will translate, sure, but there will be a period of self-reliance and determination to learn the new skill set required to perform well within their newly chosen profession; you would probably never learn those things well if you were “forced” to learn them for no apparent reason.

For example, I went from working in construction to wanting a job in tech, so I chose web development which requires knowledge of three basic coding languages; HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I had to learn HTML in order to learn CSS, and CSS to learn JavaScript. One skill builds upon the other. However, I would have never sought the knowledge out on my own if the Web Development career field didn’t spark my interest.

That’s the approach my family takes in regards to homeschooling.

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Example of a Normal Homeschooling Day

We generally wake up around 9:00 am and get breakfast, coffee, and other morning rituals out of the way. Sometimes it is much earlier or later, depending on the sleeping patterns of ALL of us, which is never ever synced up in any way.

As a matter of fact, I have gotten some of my best work done running on fumes, and I have seen the same sort of passion-driven work from my kids as well when they are beyond the bounds of needing sleep.

Deciding What to Do for the Day

If the kids aren’t feeling 100% up to working on school, they can go play outside or spend time on their skill-specific activities. Remember this is all subjective to the individual, meaning one of them might be ready to knock school out for the day where the rest just want to hang out or work on a project of their own creation.

For those that do want to do school, we let them choose between the curricula or materials we have selected as a family, generally Time4Learning or one of their various workbooks. If they want to do math all day or study science for a few hours, we let them choose nearly every aspect of what they are learning. Our only requirement is that they work on SOMETHING educational, and for a set minimum amount of time unless they meet a desirable level of productivity.

Anyone that doesn’t feel up to it at the moment either has to wait to play video games until they have met our standards for the day. In the meantime they must do something productive like work in the garden for a few hours, or engage with their afore mentions skill-based learning activities like learning how to design games, learning about music, or working on an art project to practice their abilities and flex their brains.

What We Do as Unschooling Parents

When the kids are all settled in and working on their “assignments”, we grab our laptops and get to work usually writing blog posts like this one, or pumping out freelance work for our clients as they come and go. 

We don’t set our own hours because the kids are really in control of the flow of the day, but somehow we manage to get at least 8 hours of work in a day between helping kids with their stuff and managing the day-to-day responsibilities of having a family; chores and stuff… gross. 

Once the kids have completed their required amount of school or projects for the day, they are free to do whatever they want as far as playing Xbox, going outside, or working on their other learning activities as long as temperaments remain on the positive side.  

What is Unschooling at The End Of the Day?

Some days are more stressful than others, because even though they have the freedom to do what they want and when they want to do it, occasionally they still refuse to do ANYTHING we ask of them. This results in the loss of one of their favorite things for a day or two until they can get caught up on schoolwork and show that they are willing to compromise and spend time on their education.

We really dont have a limit on screen times or even set bedtimes, both of which correlate 100% with their attitudes. Positive attitudes generally dont get told no about anything within moral and legal bounds, but those that tempt fate and choose to be disrespectful to others or cause problems for no reason are usually convinced to go eat, shower, and sleep rather promptly. 

It is an all-day learning process for us all, and I honestly can not express the magnitude at which I value all the extra moments I get to spend with my kids teaching and learning as we go through life.

Remember This:

The most important lesson we learned through unschooling is that we are all here to learn and that the world is full of things we want to learn.

That doesn’t always mean subjects in a school’s curriculum. The world around us is full of educational activities and interesting things to do, and we definitely don’t need to be given deadlines or an assignment to learn it.

 Unschooling isn’t just a different way to homeschool, it’s a different way to think about how your whole family interacts with the world. It is a way to provide a more natural and personalized approach to education and it often starts with a child who has a variety of interests that their parents can help to cultivate.

The parent-child bond is strengthened through this form of education as the child feels safe in trusting their parents and is provided with the freedom to learn about the world in a way that is comfortable for them. As such, unschooling is a great option for parents who want to avoid school-like rigors and instead allow their children to learn at their own pace in a comfortable and caring environment catered to them specifically.

By working with children’s strengths, instead of against them, unschooling allows children to spend less time learning what they’re bad at and more time learning what they’re good at.

Signing Off

I hope that this article has conveyed the message of unschooling and helped you mentally dissect this radical form of homeschooling! 

If something seemed off, or if you need more information please be sure to comment below or email me directly and we can share ideas.

Dont forget to share it with friends and family members who may need a little information to make a decision about homeschooling!

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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