What Is Unschooling?

Unschooling is an educational approach that gives children the freedom to learn. The term is a topic of debate, as opponents believe that children cannot learn in this setting.

However, unschooling has many advantages and can set children up for success. But what is unschooling?

What Is Unschooling?

If you’re considering unschooling your child or are interested in what it involves, you’re in the right place!

We’ll cover what unschooling is in this article, as well as if it’s legal to do in your state. You’ll also find out a few ways of unschooling your child below.

What Is Unschooling?

Lots of people don’t understand the term ‘unschooling’, which causes arguments with those who favor the method. In the past, the term ‘unschool’ meant not enrolling your child in education.

Since then, the term has evolved to describe a particular homeschooling approach. This method doesn’t involve textbooks, scheduled lessons, or other features seen in regular school. 

Unschooling is also known by other phrases, including child-led learning, autodidactic, or delight-directed learning, but these expressions are a point of debate.

Some believe unschooling and child-led learning are the same things, but others see them as different methods entirely. 

Lots of individuals disagree with calling unschooling ‘child-led’, as the method requires a responsible, interactive, and empathetic parent to be successful.

This parent needs to give their unschooled child resources, important guidance, and life experience. However, this learning style is very different as it does revolve around a child more compared to standard education taught by a school teacher. 

While most unschoolers see their approach as thinking outside of a textbook, these different expressions are important.

If you’re considering unschooling your child, research some of the different definitions of unschooling. The term generates a surprising amount of discussion and disagreement.  

Unschooling Isn’t Deschooling

The words are similar, but they mean entirely different things. Deschooling is a transition period between school and homeschool. This period is important so that previously schooled children can adjust to a new homeschooled environment. 

School rules and regulations aren’t followed at home, so some children may find a less rigid setting difficult at first, so they need this time to settle.

Even parents can make use of deschooling, as they will also need to settle into these new conditions along with their children. 

Unschooling isn’t deschooling, but it is a particular approach to homeschooling. Some households may decide to unschool their child after the deschooling period. Through unschooling, their child will learn through their natural curiosity while the parents supervise. 

Instead of using curriculum, tests, worksheets, and textbooks, they will use other methods that are seen outside of school.

Some of these include reading, writing, experiments, projects, and creating. Parents will also give their children experiences like library visits, building materials, museum trips, and other resources.

Why Should I Choose Unschooling?

School prepares children for life and jobs in the future, a period that’s over a decade away. If you think back to the last decade, we weren’t prepared for things like recessions, smartphones, and the ever-changing job market.

Similarly, we can’t be sure what our children’s future will look like. Instead of getting our kids ready for jobs in the next decade, we’re preparing them for jobs in the present market.

School teaches children subjects and skills that may not be important a few years from now. 

Unschooling is much different from standardized education. It involves children naturally learning and teaching themselves.

This process prepares them for the future. Instead of relying on textbooks, unschooled children are ready to solve problems by themselves.

We can’t guarantee that our future will deem certain subjects and skills as important. Instead of relying on teachers to impart knowledge in the next decade, unschooled children are better prepared to learn future knowledge on their own. 

There are loads of reasons why you may want to unschool, but here are a few of the most popular ones. 

Entrepreneurs Learn This Way

School tells children to make good employees by following instructions and never going out of line. Entrepreneurs make their own decisions and control what they need to know.

This approach makes them better prepared for uncertainty in the future. Rather than being a robot, unschooled children follow an entrepreneur’s learning method.

It’s A Natural Learning Process

School may seem traditional, but it’s a modern approach to learning. For most of our history, humans have learned by unschooling. These include notable scientists and creators, like Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, and Mozart. 

It’s Less Rigid

School may be ideal for those who like rules and having decisions made for them. If you want more freedom, want to control your own life, and want to solve problems through different methods, unschooling will benefit you more. 

Parents Learn With Their Children

Traditional school takes parents out of the learning process and puts the responsibility in the teachers’ hands.

Unschooling lets parents learn alongside their kids. Unschooling gives them a better idea of what learning method suits their child best. 

Learning Doesn’t Stop

At school, learning only takes place in a classroom or during homework. Children learn that learning is boring and is something that they are forced to do. Unschoolers know that learning takes place all day long.

Even if you’re not going through a textbook, you can still learn from going hiking, games, fixing broken appliances, and cooking food. You can even learn from watching TV!

Learning opportunities are everywhere and it’s important to have a variety of these. Instead of stopping once they join the workforce, unschooling means that children keep learning well into their adulthood. 

Is Unschooling Illegal?

Is Unschooling Illegal

No, unschooling is not illegal, as unschooling is recognized as a homeschooling approach. All 50 states find homeschooling legal.

There aren’t any laws regarding unschooling, but the homeschooling laws in your state will make a difference in the way you homeschool your child. 

For instance, homeschooling parents in Pennsylvania and New York will need to keep detailed records that note down what their child learns.

This document may need pictures of them taking part in projects and educational trips, samples of particular projects, or records of media and books read. 

Other states, like Michigan and Ohio, require parents to teach certain subjects to their homeschooled children. You may not need to do this in the traditional sense, as it’s likely that you’ll cover these subjects naturally.

For instance, watching World War Two documentaries counts as history. Building detailed structures involves mathematics and physics.

Always look up the homeschooling laws in your state to make sure that your unschooling approach doesn’t break these.  

Unschooling Methods

If you’re considering unschooling your child, you may wonder how to do this yourself. In truth, there’s no one approach to unschooling.

Every child is different, so they’ll all need different environments to support their learning. Artistic children may need more paint supplies and trips to art museums. Scientific kids will need experiments and nature walks.

Thinking of one method takes the freedom out of learning. Finding out more about your child is one of the amazing things about unschooling. 

If you’re stuck for ideas on how to begin unschooling, here are a few ideas to help. 


If your child asks a question, find out the answer! You can look it up online or find the answer in a book. You may even find the answer to some questions outside, at a library, or a museum. 


There are endless kinds of games to play, like board games, mental games, and quizzes. Through games, children learn that fun and learning aren’t separate things, setting them up better for the future. 

Through People

If your child wants to work in film, you may know someone who works on a film set. If your child wants to be a chef, you may know someone who owns a restaurant.

These don’t have to be direct connections either. You can still connect your budding chef with your family friend who has a talent for cooking. Connections are valuable tools, but they can help your children learn too. 


Give your children lots of different stimuli. Watch different shows, explore your local park, read old books left on the shelf, and explore subjects online.

Exposing your child to different things will unlock new interests as they find out what they do and don’t like. 


You won’t see the changes immediately, but they will gradually occur over time. Don’t be angry if your child doesn’t want to read or write.

Let them play games, create music, or read magazines. Your child can learn on their own, they just need to be interested in something. 

Unschool Doesn’t Involve Irresponsibility

Unschooling involves letting your child learn for themselves, but that doesn’t mean unschooling parents are irresponsible. People who are against unschooling may believe that unschooling parents are negligent, but that simply isn’t true. 

Here are some other misconceptions about unschooling. Unschooling does not involve:

  • Absolute freedom
  • Anything goes’ mentality
  • Not teaching children important things
  • Unparenting
  • Lack of supervision
  • Medical and mental health neglect
  • Not doing anything
  • Poor homeschooling
  • No schedule or routine

Some unschoolers may not use a routine as part of their approach. Like other homeschoolers, they don’t need to stick to school hours, but this doesn’t mean they avoid schedules.

For instance, an unschooled child may need to factor art projects, playing soccer, time with their friends, and family dinners into their schedule. Their parents may need a calendar or planner to organize their busy lives. 

Unschooled parents aren’t negligent, they need to be engaged to make sure that their child is learning effectively. 

In Summary

So, in short, what is unschooling? Unschooling is a homeschooling approach that’s very different from traditional education, but it can prepare your child better for the future.

As long as they have a variety of stimuli, you can trust that they will learn well by themselves. 

While unschooling is legal, you should always look up your state’s homeschooling laws before you start.

Remember, unschooling doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be supervising what your child learns. You should be engaged and prepared to learn more about your child in the process. 

Joyce Bailey
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