Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Unschooling": Good term, or bad?

Many, many unschoolers have expressed their dislike of the word "unschooling". They say it's too negative, or that it's still using school to define their learning journey. Many unschoolers also say that they prefer to describe unschooling in a positive way to people, explaining what they do instead of what they don't do. However, I've found that if you explain unschooling only in the positive, the average person will simply assume that you do all those things in addition to regular "schooling", not instead of. I find it much more useful to first take away the preconceptions about learning, to say, for example, that I direct my own education, which means I don't go to school, I don't use a curriculum, I don't take tests or get given grades, and my mom (or dad) doesn't teach me. Then to go on and explain what you actually do! I learn from life, from books and the internet, from fascinating conversations with fascinating people, from following my passions, from thinking deeply about the world around me, researching, reading, discussing... Which brings me back to why I happily use the word unschooling. Labels are really only to inform other people about how you live, what you think, how you feel. UNschooling says that you're NOT schooling. To me, that's a very good first step in explaining exactly what you are doing!



  1. I used to dislike the term unschooling, and really avoided using it, even though that is what we are doing. I didn't like the negative "un", and I didn't like any word with "school" in it! I've come round to it in the last couple of months, and now I really like the term, mainly for the reasons you state here. Unschooling is NOT schooling, and putting it like that makes a handy demarcation between schooling and education - they are not the same thing at all.

    Thanks for this simple, clear post - you've helped to clarify my thoughts on the matter. :)

  2. couldn't have really put it better myself. I 'like' "unschooling" just fine, because we are NOT schooling around this house, we are living.

  3. I like the term unschooling, because I talk to people who almost exclusively see education in terms of school.

    If I was surrounded by murderers, I would call my lifestyle "unmurdering", but since I'm not, it would sound a bit weird.

  4. Thanks for the comments!! :-) I really appreciate feedback.

  5. I'm answering many questions these days about just what it is we are "doing" with the kids. Your post helps me frame it nicely. Thanks!

  6. great article, idzie - and love the comments, too. we unschool because we love life so much, that "schooling" would just get in the way of our learning and loving what we're doing!