Unschooling revisited

Home Education Magazine introduced HEM Takes a Closer Look on February 18, 2007. This ongoing project has focused on specific topics, compiled and presented an easily accessed collection of the best writing and resources Home Education Magazine has made available online. With this issue, Closer Look will revisit and expand on each of the previously shared subjects, adding new articles and resources with each edition.

HEM Takes a Closer Look begins its second year with last year’s premier topic – unschooling.

How do you explain unschooling to others? It is sometimes referred to as child-led learning, natural learning or interest based learning. No matter how you describe it, it is a wonderful opportunity for children and families to live and learn together. Looking at the prefix “un” at Merrium Webster’s Online Dictionary we see it defined as follows:

Middle English, from Old English un-, on-, alteration of and- against — more at ante-

1: do the opposite of : reverse (a specified action) : de- 1a, dis- 1a —in verbs formed from verbs <unbend><undress><unfold>

“Un” schooling is often described as doing the opposite of school. After all compared to having to follow a cookie cutter curriculum that is based on state and national standards, unschooled children are encouraged to follow their passions and often develop their own learning methods and styles.

The articles and resources below offer some unschooling perspectives and reflections from many families who have chosen this option. If you have some favorite unschooling articles or resources, please drop us a note and we’ll add them to this unschooling collection.


Portfolio Assessment – Ana McDonald

For first grade, I took unschooling to new heights. The girls read what they wanted, when they wanted. They listened as I read from What Every First Grader Needs to Know when I wanted. They got all the educational computer games they could stomach, and had free reign with PBS.

Balancing in the Middle Ground – Sandra Dodd

Some parents label unschooling as “child-led learning,” and so they think they’re going from “parent led” life to “child led” life, but the balance point is that the family learns to live together harmoniously.

Harmony makes many things easier. When there is disharmony, everyone is affected. When there is harmony, everyone is affected too. So if it is six of one or half a dozen of the other (right between none and a full dozen), go with harmony instead!

And harmony expresses the same idea that balance does in these social instances. How you live in the moment affects how you live in the hour, and the day, and the lifetime.

Radio Free School Interview Featuring Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko – Mary Nix

The Radio Free School was featured the June 2007 HEM Support Group News in an interview with Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko. Radio Free School is an all volunteer, weekly radio show by for and about un-schoolers/home-learners that has been on the air for almost five years. The show is produced by Randy Kay, Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko and the entire Kay family.

Full-Time Work – Full-Time Homeschooling – Kate Frishman

I try not to lose sight of the goal. When we began our homeschooling adventure, I was the one and only facilitator and educator. We have always been child-led learners, and planning was done whenever the next “Hey, Mom, how does it work?” came up. Usually I would find a website or book to fill the urgent curiosity then put together a unit study of sorts to catch the moment. This became a challenge when I began working twelve hour days. Instead, I taught them how to use a search engine–even my seven-year-old can “Google it” with a little supervision. They find the basics themselves, and I help them “fill in” with interesting activities when I am home. Two of them are now teenagers, and they plan their own studies with minimal supervision.

Apples and Oranges – Rocks and Pears – Schools and Homeschools – Helen Hegener
Homeschooling, in contrast, encourages development of a child’s own individuality and presents a nurturing approach to learning. A child’s innate talents can be fully explored and his personal interests built upon. Homeschooling means taking responsibility, taking care, and taking the time to get learning right.

Dealing With Doubts – Janet Keip

Choosing any unconventional path carries with it periods of uncertainty and doubt. The choice to homeschool is an unconventional choice; the choice to unschool is even more unconventional. Like most unschoolers, we are convicted of the wisdom of our education choice yet there are times when doubts assail us. Sometimes the source of those doubts is from a quarter from which we least anticipate.

Unschool Travel From Oaxaca to L.A. Swimming Pools – Josanna Crawford

Letting go of textbooks, bells, and motivation from without was the first phase of my home schooling. I thought it was the last phase but I know now that unschooling (I define myself as an unschooler) is upward and linear. Unschooling is in fact, my life. The way I choose to breathe and feed my mind. Unschoolers have different reasons for leaving school and diverse paths needing to be mapped once away from school but I’ve noticed unschoolers share an element of direction. Not that unschoolers are going in the same direction but that they are going in the direction of their choice.

Support for Everyone – Diana North

With several years of unschooling and parenting under my belt, a few second-hand issues of Growing Without Schooling magazine and an armful of dog-eared books by John Holt on my bookshelf, I hardly considered myself new to homeschooling. “Teaching my own” in the early 1980s presented some challenges, but for me learning naturally with my children meant plenty of opportunities for joyous discovery. When my oldest children were young, we moved too often to get involved in support groups. So when we finally settled in Florida, I used the GWS directory to locate a homeschool family nearby. Happily, that led to a friendship and my first exposure to a homeschool support group.

A conversation with Michael Fogler – Peter Kowalke

Unschooling Meets the Workforce

As a lifelong unschooler, I’ve grown up with the luxury of studying what interests me. Supposedly I should be able to make a living by following my interests, too. But what if my passion is writing well-researched stories about everyday people, something that isn’t very lucrative? To answer my question, I visited Michael Fogler in his Lexington, Kentucky, home. Michael is a homeschooling father and author of the book, Un-jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook, which asserts that it isn’t necessary to give up an interest in order to make a living without a job. His secret, it seems, is just using common sense.


Asking Questions, Finding Answers:A Parent’s Journey through Homeschooling

Pat Farenga’s Website

Unschooling.com – GWS Issues

Unschooling Blogs

Unschooling Voices

Closer Look: Unschooling Archive

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