Unschooling 101

Hello!  So, looks like you just found this blog for the first time.  Maybe you were searching specifically for information on unschooling, or maybe you stumbled upon this site by chance.  Either way, I want to welcome you!  And also to ask you to kindly read this page before commenting.  If you're an unschooler yourself, or an unschooling parent, you may want to just skim this page, as I'm mostly just going to cover Unschooling 101 type stuff, but otherwise I'd ask that you please read the entire page.

Though I do write the occasional post aimed at an audience unfamiliar with unschooling, life learning, or home learning, for the most I'm writing to an audience who already have at least a basic understanding of unschooling.  For this reason, a lot of basics are not addressed, or are glossed over, in many posts, which may make things difficult for people just learning about this way of learning and living.  Because of that, I want to give you a bit of an unschooling 101 before you go any further!

So, what is unschooling, anyway?

I feel like several different explanations, all equally accurate, just from different angles, are in order:

Version #1: Unschooling (usually considered a type of homeschooling) is student directed learning, which means the child or teen learns whatever they want, whenever they want. Learning is entirely interest driven, not dictated or directed by an external curriculum, by teachers, or by parents. For an unschooler, life is their classroom.

Version #2: Unschooling requires a paradigm shift, one in which you must stop looking at the world as a series of occurrences/resources/experiences etc. that can be learned from, and a series that can’t.  The world doesn’t divide neatly into different subjects, and you can’t tell right from the outset what a seemingly unimportant question, interest, or TV show obsession will lead to.  I learn from: wandering, wondering, listening, reading, watching, discussing, running, writing, daydreaming, searching, researching, meditating, hibernating, playing, creating, growing, doing, helping, and everything else that comprises the day to day happenings of my life.

Version #3: Unschooling, at its heart, is nothing more complicated or simple than the realization that life and learning are not two separate things.  And when you realize that living and learning are inseparable, it all starts to truly make sense.

What?? You can't be serious. You're ruining your life!

I most certainly can be serious, and I'm most certainly not ruining my life. As a 20-something year old unschooler, I'm now generally considered "grown", and I'm not only doing fine, but am also incredibly grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to grow and learn in freedom!

See also: Unschooling Isn't More Risky, It's Just Less Conventional, 6 Reasons I'm Glad I Grew Up Unschooling, and Unschooling Isn't New. Really, It Isn't.

What about socialization? 

Non-schoolers of all types get this question ALL THE TIME. We get tired of it pretty quickly, because school-free learners do not spend all their days isolated and alone. We, you know, go out and do stuff, talk to people, hang out, work with others... In a far more authentic way then we could do in a school. The whole idea of going to school to avoid being "socially awkward" makes my skin crawl. Besides, where did anyone get the idea that school is a place for socialization, or that the "socialization" received there was a good thing?

See also: The Ultimate Unschooling Socialization Post and The Socialization Question Hits Adulthood: Unschooled Identity and Fitting In

What about college?

If an unschooler wants to go to college, they do not have trouble doing so! I know a large number of grown unschoolers who are either going to or went to college. However, unschoolers also realize that college is simply one choice among many, so not the be all and end all of life, education, or anything else. There are other ways of doing things.

See also: What About College? and Unschooling For Adults

What about structure? 

Unschooling isn't about a lack of structure. What it is about is choice. The freedom for the learner, the unschooler, to choose more or less structure as they desire.  So while unschoolers aren't big on externally imposed structure, freely chosen structure is an entirely different thing.

See also: No Classes, No Teachers, No Books? The Reality of Structure in Unschooling

But if you're not made to do things you don't want to, how will you ever learn to do things you don't like?

Everyone comes across instances where to attain a goal they want to achieve, to do something they do want to do, they must first do something that they do not particularly want to do.  This happens all the time for unschoolers.  By unschooling, we're simply removing a lot of the unnecessary obstacles and pointless exercises found in schooling, and giving the individual the power to choose which unpleasant things they feel are worthwhile to do, and which ones they feel are not.

See also: Emotional Health and the Power of Choice, or Why Kids Should be Able to Avoid Things and I Don't Believe in Laziness

But you need to experience adversity/bullying/frustration so that you can learn to deal with it!

Believe me, the world presents plenty of shit to deal with all on it's own: no parental piling of shit on required.

See also: The Ignorant Commenters Strikes Again: "But You Have to Learn to Get Along with People You Don't Like!" and Experiences Aren't Universal: Why Personalized Education is Important

You unschoolers will never be able to function in the Real World™!

This is a strange thing for people to think, in my opinion, considering that school is an artificial environment where children and teenagers are segregated from the outside world in same age classrooms for hours every day; where their lives are ruled by bells; where teachers hold all authority; and where, if an individual decides not to attend, a truant officer can go to their house and force them to do so. This does not sound like the "real world."  Unschoolers, on the other hand, spend their lives actually IN the real world, exploring and learning from it.

See also: Grown Unschoolers and When You Unschool, You Don't "Unparticipate:" Community Engaement and the Value of Different Ideas

But kids won't learn unless you make them. 

The only reason anyone dislikes learning is because it was made into a chore: something forced and unpleasant. As unschoolers, we realize that learning is as innate as breathing. And if learning is never made into something that isn't fun, then it continues to be something joyful throughout life.

See also: Occupy Education conference talk and  Unschooling Doesn't Mean There's No Hard Work

What about when kids want to learn something their parents don't know? 

Parents are not even close to the only resource available for an unschooler.  Unschoolers can get the information they need from: the internet; the library; homeschool co-op classes; college classes; people in their community/mentors; cultural and community centers; groups and clubs; tutors...  There are many, many ways to learn every single thing they teach in school plus a million other things, while outside of the compulsory school system.

See also: Learning Advice from a Learning Life and Unschooling: Are We Teaching Ourselves?

Won't unschoolers have gaps in their education?

Everyone has gaps in their education.

See also: Unschooling isn't a Program, and Not Everyone Learns the Same Things

Well, it obviously works for you, but you're motivated, so you're the exception.  Most people need to be forced to learn!

Now, as much as this could be considered flattering to me in an individual sense ("you're really smart so it worked for you!"), this idea drives me absolutely crazy.  Because here's the thing: unschooling does not work for motivated people.  Unschooling creates people who are motivated!  The act of placing the power over learning and life into the individual's hands is both empowering and motivating.  What this motivation people see in unschoolers really is, is simply a joy in learning and discovery that is found far more rarely among those who are schooled.

Still want to find out more about unschooling? 

That's great!!  I have a page with my unschooling writing, which has everything I've written specifically and mainly focusing on unschooling, both on this blog and on other sites.  You can also browse the unschooling tag on this blog, to see every post I've written that mentions unschooling or is vaguely related to unschooling, as well as all posts specifically focusing on that topic, plus guest posts on this blog written by others which are about unschooling.

Some things to consider before commenting

I love comments, love the chance they give me to get to know my readers, to hear their experiences and opinions.  However, I do require that those who choose to comment do so out of a genuine desire to connect, communicate, and/or learn.  If you think unschooling is horrible, have no desire to learn more about it with an open mind, and just want to rant about how bad you think it is, then honestly, this is not the place for you.  Your words are not welcome.  This does not mean that you can only comment if you support unschooling 100%: what it does mean is that you have to be willing/open to learning more, and to want to do so in a respectful manner.

I don't like deleting comments, and do so very rarely, but there are some things that will get your comment deleted:
  • Hateful comments of any sort: this includes any comments of the negative "ism" and "bics" (racist, classist, homophobic) variety, as well as any other comments that feel like they're hateful, or attacking either myself or other commenters.
  • Because of the nature of this blog, I find it important to state clearly that child-hate and adultism will not be tolerated.  Children are people too, and deserve to be treated with the same respect that every other person, regardless of age, size, ability, or anything else, deserves to be treated with.  I recognize that children are an oppressed class, and strive to both not perpetuate that oppression, and actively work against it.  Thus I will not allow this blog to be a platform for words and views that perpetuate the oppression of children.
Phew, I'm glad to get all that depressing stuff over with!  You can learn more about me here, and find out about all my various projects, unschooling and not, here.  You can also contact me via email if you wish, at idziedesmarais@gmail.com.  In closing:

Welcome to the blog!  Thanks for reading, for your presence here, and for your respectful words, if you choose to share them!  I hope you enjoy your wanderings on this blog, that you find useful information, and that you decide to stick around.