Sunday, May 04, 2008


Over the years I've tried to define unschooling to the curious on various message boards dozens of times. I never do it the same way twice. Here is today's response, copied & pasted.

In essence unschooling is child-directed education. Some unschooling looks nothing at all like traditional education or structured homeschooling. It might look like a string of Saturdays, for years on end. On the other hand, if the child likes daily structure, enjoys using structured resources, or enjoys being "taught" by a parent or mentor, it might not look all that different from parent-led or curriculum-centred homeschooling. What is important is not whether the child uses curriculum or not, but why the child is doing what he's doing. In unschooling the answer is never "because that's what he's expected to do" or "because his parents make him" or "because that's on the ___th grade curriculum program." The reason why is "because he wants to."

Unschooling ends up being very much a way of life for most families. Typically learning becomes indistinguishable from life. Parents and children often learn together, by doing, by following their passions or getting caught up in some worthy pursuit. Subject-area distinctions are of limited use in unschooling. Evaluation of learning is rarely a part of unschooling.

At the centre of unschooling is a basic philosophy of trust -- trust that a child, driven by curiosity and the desire to understand his world and become a competent individual capable of contributing meaningfully to that world, will learn what is necessary. That if a child lives a life meaningfully involved in family and community, with adults and other role models and resources available, competence and interest in all that is necessary (and likely much much more) will come in good time. Also at the centre of unschooling is a belief that children who are not coerced to learn will retain their curiosity and intrinsic motivation at high levels.


  1. Katie5:29 am

    I've been following this blog for quite a while (and wishing i lived somewhere half as beautiful :) I'm considering home education for my daughter for a variety of reasons and I wonder how you would reconcile unschooling with say being admitted to university? (honestly-she's 7, not my goal- hers!) I think she would greatly benefit from directing her own learning after these last few years at school, but I worry about the consequences later on. Apologies if this isn't something you have come across- and please keep writing!

  2. Beautiful! But I do think you have an unique comfort in and ability with unschooling. I admire it immensely, but have never come across anybody who does it as well as you do Miranda... it truly is a way of living for you and your family! I also think living where you do contributes to your ability to relax into the choice... her in California the regulation is always looming.

    Keep explaining it as you do and maybe more families will feel secure and supported enough to move into unschooling. I know you have moved me in that direction, a little bit here and a little bit there :-)

  3. Well said, Miranda. I really like your definition of unschooling!

  4. Oh, yes, very well said! I love your explanation/description!

  5. I can completely climb on board with this definition of unschooling. In my heart, I identify us an an unschooling family, but it is easier for me to use the word "eclectic" when describing us to other homeschoolers because there is such discussion over what unschooling entails. Folks tend to miss that if the children LIKE to be "taught" some things, you're still unschooling because the kids want it done that way. Child-led is the way it goes around here and it's really proven out so far.

  6. Hi! I just came across this wonderful blog. I have a blog, too, and five unschooled children. Someone asked about how unschooling prepares kids for higher education and university. My unschooled 15-year-old daughter will be taking college courses in the fall, and she took a course last year, too. Her "unschooling" has looked more and more like "schooling" as she has become older and identified specific goals. These goals include attending a small, liberal arts university she has her eye on and so she found out the requirements for admission and has set about fulfilling those requirements. When my kids hit 5th grade or so, we begin doing math in a mainstream fashion - after a discussion about future goals, etc. Other than that, their educations come through living and reading and playing and inquiring...anyway, you can put your fears to rest! We know many older kids who were unschooled or definitely began schooling very LATE, who are going gangbusters in college. I enjoyed your blog!


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