The Pros and Cons of Unschooling

May 7, 2013

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At Home

Most parents love to see their children engaged in intellectual activities that interest them, whether it’s reading a historical novel, creating a web page, learning about the physics of space travel, or something else entirely. But some parents take this to a whole new level by forgoing traditional schooling and instead letting their children choose what they learn. This approach is often referred to as “unschooling.”

What is unschooling?
Unschooling is similar to home schooling in that children learn at home but, rather than being taught by their parents, they essentially teach themselves. There are no subjects, no set curriculum, and children set their own learning goals, which they pursue of their own accord. Like homeschooling, there just as many ways for families to “unschool” as there are reasons why they do it.

What are the pros?
In a blog post entitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling,” a father offers several reasons why he’s a big advocate for unschooling. These include:

  • Children are empowered to learn for themselves, rather than having knowledge handed down to them. This prepares them for any future career.
  • Children learn to make decisions for themselves and develop an entrepreneurial spirit, rather than simply following instructions.
  • There is no division between learning and life. Children are encouraged to learn from anything, rather than having set learning materials, like textbooks, or a set schedule.
  • Because unschoolers choose what to learn, they perceive learning itself as enjoyable.

What are the cons?
An unschooling mother lays out the potential disadvantages of unschooling in a Yahoo! article. These include:

  • You and your children will likely be questioned, even grilled, on your unschooling approach, and people will try to measure your children’s knowledge based on public school peers’ knowledge.
  • Having no testing or grading system can make it difficult to understand how or how much a child is learning.
  • Resources are not always readily available, especially when children want to learn something on the fly.
  • Without a support system, feelings of isolation can occur in both unschooled children, who may have difficulty finding friends, and parents, who might benefit from discussing their philosophies and questions about unschooling with other parents.

Are you familiar with unschooling? What are your thoughts on the advantages vs. disadvantages?

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All Comments (8)

Patty May 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm

In the real world there are instructions, set schedules, and organization. Rather, set them up for when they get older. They need someone to show them things, guide them along, and given great wisdom to carry it down from generations to come. And then there is MATH. 🙂 (A homeschool mom)

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Cat January 22, 2015 at 1:46 pm

True, but think when they grow up, their parents aren’t going to be around to hold their hand and say, “Now this is your schedule”. No, we (me being in 7th grade) need to learn to do our own paperwork. This something Chaide also wrote, ‘”School = Work for the Teachers
Homeschool = Work for the Parents
Unschool = Work for the Student”‘ I rather do my own work than have my mother do it for me… If she does everything for me I’ll have to move into her house when I’m 40 because I couldn’t do anything for Myself!!! Parents Say Yes! To Unschooling!

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Jewels June 6, 2013 at 6:25 am

There are plenty of situations in “the real world” where a child will learn schedules and organization. You cannot force genuine learning; you can force memorization and compliance. Education can be an enjoyable, natural process, and of the only “cons” are that people will heckle you about your family’s choice to homeschool/unschool, that’s actually pretty great. As long as you surround your child with learning opportunities, unschooling can work very well. Seeing your child complete an asinine workbook might give you satisfaction, but not everyone is content with such mediocrity.

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Nita July 22, 2013 at 5:20 am

One major con is that life changes and situations change. If your child ever ends up in formal education again, they will falter grately. In addition, training to do things that sometimes you don’t want to do or that isn’t fun is realistic. I’ve learned many things that I didn’t want to learn, that I had to memorize but it didn’t kill me, it helped. Many career training calls for memorization. In a perfect scenario your kid is driven to do this, not everyone is wired that way. Some people need a nudge and push, some direction.

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Anonymous December 30, 2013 at 10:20 pm

In my personal opinion, the unschooling model in itself is great! but I also believe that it is being grossly misinterpreted among groups of unschoolers. I have seen people who are using it as a base for their whole parenting style and allowing children to run amok. This to me is very counterproductive to the child’s development and poses some harm to them socially.
I agree with Jewels, that a child must be surrounded with developmental and educational opportunities to stimulate the child’s desire to learn and reach their full potential. However, not all children have that immediately around them and I feel that is where unschooling may have a detrimental impact on those particular children. I think it comes down to common sense and the parents ability to realistically assess their capacity to provide a broad learning environment for their children.
Unfortunately a friend of mine unschools and pushes it down my throat every opportunity but both her children spend a lot of time playing computer games and that is the extent of their learning tools and aids.
They also have social/behavioral problems. I believe it won’t work for every child and the ability to recognize that early is paramount.

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Nadine Zaleski February 27, 2017 at 9:23 am

This, to me, is a very wise assessment….

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natasha February 19, 2014 at 3:29 am

hey yall, Im a unschooled girl and my life so far was great. I unschooled up till 8th grade, and then I got into my states top private school. I now am in the highest honor class and is most likely going to be prom queen. Some unschooled people have a life guys.

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Chaide August 26, 2014 at 6:29 am

School = Work for the Teachers
Homeschool = Work for the Parents
Unschool = Work for the Student

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