Monday, January 25, 2010

The Term "Homeschooling" Sucks

I don't like the term homeschooling.  I really don't.  And it's always kind of bothered me that that's the default term used here in North America.  What we, and many others, have done bears VERY little resemblance to "schooling" of any sort!  So I figured I'd do a brief list of all the terms I've heard of, both for home education in general and more specifically for unschooling, that in my opinion are WAY better than "homeschooling".

Home based education, home education, independent learning, home learning, self-directed learning, life learning, organic learning, natural learning, autodidactism, worldschooling, child-led learning, student-led learning, delight driven learning.

And I'm SURE I'm missing some (probably many!) other terms.

Now, I've recently gotten into a few discussions about terminology, and about whether or not it was good or bad to have a "unifying" label for the self-directed learning style that's commonly known as unschooling.  And I do think that unschooling is a great unifying word for this philosophy of learning, and since it's becoming better known, being the term most commonly used in articles and on TV shows, I think it's become VERY useful, especially in recent times.  I also think it's great to pick whatever term *you* feel is best for you.  I just think it's nice to have a back-up word that's increasingly well known!

Oh, and feel free to let me know what terms I missed...  I'm always happy to hear new ones!


P.S. Can you tell I'm feeling better by the fact I'm actually posting?  I just hope I continue to feel better! *Knocks on wood* But, I am still sick, so if anything sounds off in this post, I'm blaming the cold I currently still have. :-P

P.P.S. I know I've been accused of nitpicking, and arguing about semantics when I talk about words I use, words I like and dislike, and all that.  But the fact remains, I find this subject both interesting and *personally* important, so I can't help but nitpick and complain about terms on occasion!

P.P.P.S. (Last one, I promise!) I added a "Share" button at the bottom of each post.  Opinions are welcome: is it useful or annoying?


  1. I'm happy to have the word homeschooling exist.

    I'm also happy to not have done that.

    Unschooling it is for me.

  2. Woo hoo! I don't like "home schooling" either. We don't do pseudo school here at home which the term seems to suggest. I often use "home learning" when talking to other people for the sake of ease but consider what we do to be simply "living". Living through learning, I suppose.

    There are a lot of terms that are overused and generalised. I also value clarity in terms and descriptions. To some it's nitpicking, to others it's finding clarity.

    Hope you feel better soon... Marshmallow (root and leaf), nettle, licorice root tea would probably do you a world of good.

  3. I agree! We don't do school either, that is why UNschooling explains what we don't do. Many folks take issue because they wonder what we DO do.
    I personally call it living, but since everyone lives that isn't a good term.
    We live and learn without school :)

  4. I don't like "homeschooling" and I don't like "unschooling" either to be honest. I deal with both of those terms and use them in my blog because those are the search terms that people use in Google and I want people to be able to find me, but "life learning" "natural learning" "organic learning" make SO much more sense to me! It's about learning, not about schooling.

  5. Hi Idzie,
    It's really nice to read what you have said here. The term "Homeschooling" is completely inappropriate in reference to those who choose Unschooling, sometimes referred to as Natural Learning. Sometimes an Unschooler may choose to go to a school, if only briefly, so I chose to use the term "Learning Freely" for the website I operate. It seems to cover all of the other terms.

  6. Even though my blog title is "Homeschool Highschool", that's not really what we do, either! :)
    My mom and I were just talking about all this yesterday - it's all homeEDUCATION. We've decided that we unschool, or practice student-led education.

    Unfortunetly, it's too late to change my website title. =(

  7. I hate all terms that include the word 'school' as that is what we are trying to move away from, school has absolutely nothing to do with the learning process. Here in the uk some of us use the term 'autonomous education' referring to what I think you mean by 'unschooling', i.e. learning that is led by the learner with assistance and input from others as requested.
    thanks form sharing your thoughts on this, it **is** important what we call ourselves.
    much love

  8. Personally in my opinion, identifying oneself by a label is limiting within itself. But since we live in a world where labels and cliche labels being the most used, I consider myself unhomeschooled. I've been taught at home with the freedom of choices. Choices in what I learn,read about and explore. No limitations to say the least. I agree with your post in some ways but I do feel that labels in general are limiting.

  9. I'm a bit of a "newbie" and I just have a question. If you all tell people you are "home learning" or "doing" "child-led learning," don't you get the same puzzled looks and weird questions? What is your response?

    I just pulled my youngest son out of 4th grade this past October. I am somewhere between home schooling and unschooling... still trying to find what works best. I love your blog. I have learned SOOO much from it! Thanks! :-)

  10. @Aria: I'm very glad not to have not done "homeschooling" as well! Unschooling is definitely for us, too. :-)

    @Exactly, I've always felt that the term homeschooling really conveys a school-at-home, and even before we became true unschoolers, that's definitely NOT what we were doing! I love that way of looking at it, because it's so true: all unschooling is, is living. By living life, you learn everything you ever need and want to know!

    Thanks for the getting-rid-of-cold suggestions! :-) Luckily, I just stayed well hydrated, ate healthy food, and the cold was gone in three days. Woo hoo!

    @Stephanie: Yeah, I've also heard many unschoolers say they don't like the "negative" connotations in UNschooling. Personally, I think that saying what you *don't* do can be useful as well, and I proudly use the term unschooling. But only because this way of living isn't the norm... As you, and many others, have pointed out, we're just living life! :-)

    @Bethany: I'm happy with the term unschooling personally, but I understand why many people aren't. Why I chose to use the term unschooling way back when I started writing more about it was pretty much the same reason as you: it's Google-able! And increasingly well known in general. I like a lot of the other terms just as much (life learning, organic learning, etc.), but since they're not as well known, unschooling seems the best choice. :-)

    @Kent: Thank you, I'm glad you liked reading it! I agree, homeschooling brings to mind something SO very different from how an unschooler lives.

    I like that... Learning Freely is a very good site name!

    @homeschoolhighschool: Yeah, home education definitely seems better than homeschooling to me! And ah well, more people will probably find your blog with "homeschool" in the name than unschool, so that's probably a plus!

    @martine frampton: Same here! I don't like using any terms with "school" in them in a positive way (I don't mind unschooling, since there's an "un" first! ;-)), because I don't, and never have done, "schooling"! Ooh, I knew I'd miss something good! I've heard of the term autonomous education before, and I like it, it just escaped my mind when writing this post... And by the way, that's exactly what I mean when I say "unschooling"! :-)

    Thank YOU for reading and commenting!

    @Nkonyezi: I've had many discussions with many people about labels, and the pros and cons of using them.

    I think I use more labels, stick more terms to myself, than a lot of people I know, but I do so with much thought. It's very, very important to me that people understand me, understand what I believe in and how I live, and I find one of the easiest ways of expressing those things is by having my own set of words that I feel affinity to, words that I like and feel describe me. Yes, labels can definitely be limiting. But I think the personal *choice* of whether and what words you choose to use in reference to yourself is more important than the labels versus no labels argument as a whole... Anyway, just my thoughts on things. Thanks for your comment! :-)

    @Joni: With home learning, well, I haven't used it much myself (I usually just say unschooling and do all of the explaining), but my sister has used it a bit, and it seems to produce very little puzzlement. Home learning is close enough to homeschooling that people seem to realize it's just a different way of saying you learn outside of school! Child-led learning is a whole different story, and I'm sure would need as much explanation as unschooling does!

    When I first started this blog, one of my big goals was to help people understand unschooling, so I'm so very happy to hear that you've learned something from it!! :-D

  11. Homeschooling is often used (especially in religious circles) as a substitute for school at home. There are set lessons, homework, and the kids must sit at the kitchen table to accomplish their school work at home.
    Sometimes there is even a prescribed philosophy on God, life and morality. Hardly what you experienced growing up. Most Homeschoolers I know school their kids like I mentioned above and because I am used to that I don't see any misrepresentation in the term Homeschooling. I think that's why Holt invented Unschooling in the first place.

  12. @theworldismyoyster: In my experience, homeschooling is used by everyone from the fundamentalist Christian school-at-homers, to the extremely eclectic/relaxed home learners who are very close to becoming unschoolers. It's also often used by the Waldorf and Montessori home learning types. So I guess I just wish that the most common word for home based education was a more *inclusive* one!

  13. Hi, I just got sent a link to Emi's video post (loved it BTW) via our local Natural Learning/Unschooling yahoo group ... I'm enjoying looking through your posts.

    I'm also fussy with words, a writer too (though somewhat underachieving, ha ha) and can get stuck at times trying to put my life into words. I have a 4 and 5 year old. We decided almost 2 years ago not to pursue the school path, my 3 yr old son being fully enthusiastic about our choice even then, and still going strong as a young h/s advocate. I'm learning a lot about unschooling, which I have 'felt' for years, but didn't know existed much (I'm also a teacher, in career and in heart). Although not fully practicing unschooling, I've gained much inspiration from reading and our local group. The messy label I've decided on for now is Christian Eclectic Tidal Homeschooling. BUT I realised (reading this post) that's not entirely true, when so much of what I DON'T do with my kids is proof that we're not really Homeschoolers, in the school-at-home sense. Regardless of the label, people don't often 'get it', but they do admire my children, see the evidence, and watch with interest. We're all helping open people's minds, little by little.

    Too much to discuss in comments I guess ... Thanks for your insight into what it's like, from your experience. I look forward to reading more of your blog. I think I can learn from you :)

  14. Creative Education... but Home Education is all inclusive though most of our learning happens at the store, in the car, at the park... I found this blog searching for another term for my un-favorite term of "homeschooling". We are an Alternative School, we don't follow a standard curriculum but school=learning to most people. That is what they understand. A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students (or "pupils") under the supervision of teachers.

    Parents are teachers, doesn't matter if it involves a desk or not. I think the term "un-schooling" has done nothing to help our cause to get bright children out of a lacking system. It causes negative reactions and reinforces old stereo types of neglectful parents and stupid kids... yes, WE know that that isn't true but they don't... how about "creative education" or "exploritory learning" or "discovery education" or even "alternative education"? "un" brings us all down with it. You are not un learning... you are hands on learning. Makes me sad to see the masses turned from the possibilities by simple wording.

  15. You know when I hear word home, I always think about something nice and pleasant, I do not see any problem. If children and parents have good associations it works and it’s OK. Most modern students, thinking about education feel stressed, because of numerous assignments and constant rust. No wonder, they make custom essay paper order more often than they apply to their educators. While at home there are no barriers and many other pros. Anyway, it’s a matter of choice, but I just think about the great amount of jobs people do without leaving home and it’s OK.

  16. Thanks for sharing such a great blog!!! keep sharing such a great blog that would help every hoemschoolers in homeschooling their children in best possible way.