Every day, more and more parents are looking into alternative methods of education outside of the traditional classroom.
The American school system is notorious for strict, structured lessons and focuses on grades and test results. Two popular alternatives to the traditional education system involve homeschooling and unschooling.
But what’s the difference?
Homeschooling Vs Unschooling
Before diving into the differences between homeschooling and unschooling, it’s important to note that both of these terms actually refer to a form of homeschooling.
However, homeschooling usually relates to a structured school day at home with traditional approaches and materials used.
On the other hand, unschooling often describes a style of teaching that focuses on children exploring the world around them for themselves while daily life lessons and nuggets of information are thrown in.
Homeschool can be seen as an umbrella term for all lessons taught at home as well as a structured home-based learning method.
Both homeschooling and unschooling are legal in the United States.
Nevertheless, if you decide to go down this route, you’ll be expected to keep detailed logbooks of your lessons and will be subject to competency testing in order to adhere to individual state laws.
The strictest state in terms of homeschooling laws is believed to be New York, as the government will require constant records and logbooks of all homeschool lessons and activities.
Other states aren’t always this strict. For example, Alaska has relatively relaxed homeschooling regulations and you won’t need to worry so much about continuously letting the state know what your children are working on.
Most of the other states fall somewhere in between these two, usually requiring a copy of your syllabus and attendance records.
Furthermore, your children will also probably be required to pass at least one key skills assessment during their time at homeschool.
In the simplest terms, homeschooling is the act of taking your child out of the public or private school system and choosing to provide them with an education at home instead.
Rather than your child having to work according to a syllabus that has been chosen by a teacher and subject to their grading, parents or caregivers will do this instead.
Some homeschooling parents choose to hire tutors to help their children and keep the lessons on track, but this isn’t always necessary, and it can get pretty expensive.
Most lessons take place online or via printable worksheets and materials, much like regular school.
A child can be taught at home while still following the traditional school curriculum. This is often called correspondence teaching.
It involves staying in contact with teachers at a local school and collecting learning materials and worksheets from them that your child can then complete at home.
With this type of education, your child’s work will still be graded by an authority at a local school. This isn’t homeschooling, but rather home-learning.
Unschooling is totally different from homeschooling. When unschooling your child, you let them learn separately from the regular school structure entirely.
This means no sit-down classrooms, no workbooks, and no graded work. That is unless your child specifically asks for these things.
The unschooling approach involves allowing your child to explore their natural instincts and learn alongside an adult mentor who does everything they can to teach the child about their interests and the world.
To get the most out of teaching at home, many unschooling mentors opt for a sort of hybrid system where they incorporate both unschooling and homeschooling techniques.
This is to make sure that children are learning about all subjects rather than just the ones they’re naturally drawn to. But unschooling is based on the premise that children should learn through nature rather than being told what to do and following a strict curriculum.
During unschooling, mentors give children the freedom to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it. Still, even when unschooling, all lessons taught should be followed up with discussions and further learning experiences so that the mentor can observe how well the child is progressing and grasping the subjects.
College: Homeschooling Vs Unschooling
One of the key worries that parents express when considering both homeschooling and unschooling is the concept of further education.
Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to worry about this, as both homeschooled and unschooled children are able to attend colleges and other further education institutions.
A popular misbelief is that children that are homeschooled or unschooled won’t be able to get into a college or university, but this simply isn’t the case.
While higher education institutions will take a look at each student’s grades throughout their time at school, most focus on specific entrance examinations instead, as well as other things such as letters of recommendation, SAT results, and extracurricular activities.
Luckily, they don’t just look at extracurriculars that are school-based. In fact, they will take into account any traveling your child has done, any part-time work, volunteering experience, and community service.
While it’s undeniably easier for your child to attend college if they’ve had a correspondence-style home education, it is not mandatory.
Some prestigious universities have assigned special officers to process applications from homeschooled and unschooled students, so they’re pretty used to it and it’s not considered uncommon.
Whatever method of schooling you decide on, there will need to be consistent records of their activities and they will need to achieve high scores on their ACT or SAT results.
If a child lacks good SAT scores and a strong record of extracurricular activities, they may be refused entry by a top college or university. Nevertheless, this isn’t necessarily the end of the road for them in terms of higher education. Instead, it may be wise to take a look at community colleges, as they have a less strict application process.
If your child gets into a community college, they can get their degree and then have the option of transferring to a better college to finish their education. Either way, college is definitely not off the cards for a homeschooled or unschooled student.
While homeschool diplomas are a totally valid qualification, your child may still want some sort of formal equivalent. They can get this by sitting either a GED or HiSet test, but of course, test results will be taken into consideration when applying for college and universities.
Taking these tests is a great way for your child to prove themselves and will serve as a testament to your homeschooling or unschooling skills.
The Workforce: Homeschooling Vs Unschooling
All parents and guardians worry about their child’s future job potential, and it’s completely normal to feel this way.
However, you shouldn’t put extra stress on yourself by worrying about whether your child’s homeschooling or unschooling education will affect their future job opportunities. It is unlikely that it will have a huge impact on it, if at all.
While some particularly difficult employers may use their education as a reason not to hire them, this is very uncommon. In reality, all forms of homeschooling equip children with unique knowledge and life skills that will impress potential employers.
If you’re still not convinced, it may comfort you to know that 77-88% of homeschooled children ended up bagging a career in a field that they showed interest in when they were young. If anything, homeschooling and unschooling can give your child the confidence they need to pursue a career in something that truly interests them, as they’ve been taught to listen to their own desires.
This particular survey showed that none of the children questioned had trouble finding a job and often found a career that aligned with their interests and goals.
In fact, most of the students surveyed managed to get a degree at the college of their choice and walked away with great grades.
To put it in a nutshell, there is no evidence that suggests that homeschooling or unschooling a student will lead to them struggling more than traditional school students as they grow up.
Rather, there’s a huge array of studies that indicate that homeschooled students have stronger communication skills and more rewarding social interactions.
Moreover, adults that were taught at home typically perform well in higher education as well as their workplace.
It is totally normal to worry about these things, but as long as you find a way to provide your child with a balanced education and they get the socialization that they need, it is not absolutely necessary for them to attend a regular school or follow the traditional system.
In fact, combined success and strong social skills have been proven to be less likely to be seen among private and public school students when compared to their homeschooled and unschooled counterparts.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, it may help to know that some very famous people and notable names were taught at home, including the likes of Elon Musk, Agatha Christie, Billie Eilish, CS Lewis, and the Jonas Brothers.