Unschooling is...

This page was created because one day I wrote something about clarity and what unschooling is, and the next day, elsewhere, Joyce began with "It helped me think more clearly..." and then described unschooling. They needed to stay together, those two quotes! I hope to add others, to help clarify for readers who will find this page in the future.


Joyce Fetteroll:
It helped me think more clearly about unschooling when I realized unschooling isn’t something kids do. Unschooling is something parents do. Unschooling is *parents* creating a learning environment for kids to explore their interests in.

Unschooled kids aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. They’re merely doing what comes naturally. They’re doing what all animals with lengthy childhoods do. They learn by doing what interests them in an environment that gives them opportunities to explore.

Unschooling is parents doing something extraordinary. It’s deliberately creating an environment where kids are supported in pursuing their interests.

What sets unschooling apart from other homeschooling approaches isn’t children making choices. It’s parents creating an environment that supports exploring interests. It’s creating an environment that allows children to make choices based on interest.

Unschooling is *parents* creating the environment that allows children to choose. One choice might be to go to school. But children aren’t unschooling in school. They aren’t unschooling in a class. They aren’t unschooling when they do a workbook. They’re learning.

If the children are learning that they *need* experts to teach them, then they’re picking up ideas that will make the parent creating an unschooling environment more difficult.

If the children are learning that taking a class has strengths and weaknesses which makes learning from someone a tool to put into their learning toolbox, that will make it easier for parents to create an unschooling environment.

Children learn.

Parents unschool.


Sandra Dodd:
My interest is unschooling, and keeping some clarity and light around that topic...

If people live their unschooling in the normal, present world, thoughtfully, solidly, they should be okay.

There is a danger when someone's own understanding and practice of unschooling is shaky, and she wants the approval of others more than the solid joyful everyday life of her family. I've seen a few of those.

Another problem comes when someone's reasons for unschooling are not about learning and family relationships, but about being way cool and out there, and cutting edge, and anti-this'n'that. But that sets the stage for lots of problems in insecure people, when they want to glom onto something that's wild and new and shocking.


The Essence of Unschooling: Heidi R's realization about a typical day


I think ideas are easier to wrangle with if we can nail them down, get at the essence of them, put them into a box. Trying to get at the essence of unschooling is like trying to get at the essence of life.

For us, unschooling *is* life. Our lives are a balance of needs and desires, hopes and fears, love and tears, peace and upheaval — you name it, and it's there. Learning is a part of all of it, not separate from it.

—Laura Derrick, and there's more of that -here-.

I discovered over time that the essence of unschooling in my family looked like us—a curiosity to discover together new learning and relating experiences that created family harmony and promoted enthusiastic shared education.

—Julie Sweeney, here


We have a compost pile, and it's kind of amazing how it seems at first that the food and leaves and sticks and banana peels and dog poop will never do anything but sit there looking like garbage, but when I stop watching it, it turns to solid black, rich dirt! I can't find any parts of the elements of which it's made. It's kind of like that with my kids. It took me a few years to quit watching them and trust that it would compost.

It did.

—Sandra Dodd, Substance

Clarity What is Unschooling? Why unschool?

Definitions of Unschooling