Why do people Unschool?

These aren't all from the same place or timeframe, but it's intended to be a little mosaic
of the thoughts and circumstances that have led various families to unschooling. —Sandra Dodd

The "why?" in unschooling can be answered with "To create sustainable learning." Our children have curiosity and joy to last a lifetime. Our lives are peaceful, our pressures are self-inflicted and mostly optional, we're free to visit historical sites when there are no crowds, to leave town during the week, to sleep late or have guests whenever it's convenient for us, without regard to school's schedule. Everything is turned to its best use and highest good insofar as we're able. We appreciate people who can share knowledge, ideas and stories with us. We seek out interesting "scenic routes" in real and figurative ways. Our days are full and our learning is unmeasured and immeasurable.

—Sandra Dodd
from Sustainable Learning

Jihong Larson made this list in 2013:


1. Socialization and social skills. I think it should be one of the top reasons to homeschool. I see with my own eyes how my children develop their social skills by watching how I talk on the phone, interact with people and explain to them what to expect and how to behave under different circumstances. It has been a subtle and slow process until one day I noticed they used the same language I used and mimicked how I conducted myself at special occasions. I would say having an adult modeling in the real world makes a big difference.

2. Sweet and happy children. My husband is often amazed by how sweet, happy and free spirited the children are. I am soaking in their sweetness and happiness everyday. It is such pleasure to be with them.

3. Incredibly close relationship and bonding. This is the biggest gain from my choice of homeschooling. I feel this alone is worth it. They trust me, listen to me and value my guidance because of the relationship. I am their partner and will not let anything get between us. No, not school, not other people's assessment of their self worth by their grades and behavior in school. They are developing their self knowledge through interacting with people and the real world. I value that highly.

4. Learning all the time. Why? Because they are doing what interests them and they are engaged in the activities of their choice. They constantly make choices on how to spend their time. There is no wasted time throughout the day. While I have already expanded my understanding of learning, I am still amazed by when, where and how the school like learning happens: in bed, at the bathroom or in the car not to mention non school like learning: watching TV, playing computer or iPad games, or just silently observing the world around them. Also much diversified learning styles: hands on, observation, classes, self exploration and reflection, auditory or visual learning...

5 Healthy meals. This didn't come to my mind until my Texas road trip. We had to eat at the museum cafeteria a couple of times and I realized how lucky we were to be able to eat homemade food all the time, not to mention we could eat anytime we wanted at home.

6. Enough sleep. Sometimes we go to bed at 6pm (usually because of jet-lag from travel) and sometimes we go to bed at midnight or 1 am. But kids and I always get enough sleep no mater what time we go to bed. They are always well rested and well fed.

7. The flexibility and ability to travel off seasons. Not only it saves so much money and allows us to travel more often and for longer time but also the experience is much better. For example visiting Disneyland or Legoland after school holiday. Or paying $299/person for a 10-day transatlantic cruise to Europe. We would have to pay three times or more to travel the same itinerary during school holiday. Try visiting Disneyland during major holidays I bet it would be very different experience.

8. Low stress or stress free daily life. This produces happy kids and happy mom. 99% of the time we are happy, content and grateful.

9. A great environment for kids to stay bilingual because we have more balanced language exposure.

10. Real life skills such as cooking, cleaning, shopping.

11. The ability to focus on the things we choose. For example right now DS7 and I focus on music and world of tanks. We can do this as long as we feel like and can really go deeper.

12. Confident and independent children. I was told by being with them all the time, by saying yes most of the time, by not setting the boundary (in a traditional sense), by parenting without punishment, I would have clingy and spoiled kids. The reality is quite the opposite: they are very independent and well adjusted.

The simple truth: we just spend lots of time together and have lots of shared experience and memory. That makes big differences. It is 365x24x60x60 shared moments (31,536,000 seconds a year)

Jihong Larson
April 2013

Why we unschooled

The Dodd family "why" begins:

I really loved school. When Kirby was three or four, I was at a La Leche League playgroup and some of the moms were talking about homeschooling. My friend Rhiannon said she would NEVER send her kids to school. I said "but what if they loved school as much as I did?"

Rhiannon said, "What if Kirby hates school as much as I did? What are the odds?"

That's the moment I started considering homeschooling.

and ends here: Why we unschooled, June 17, 2014

Paula P. wrote:

I cannot even begin to express my relief at discovering that there was such a thing as "unschooling"! When my daughter was an infant we practiced "attachment" parenting. As she grew we really enjoyed her. We allowed her to make her own choices (from hair style, to food, to what she wore each day). We have always treated her with lots of respect and have given her lots of freedom. My father was an abused child, so we decided never to spank our child. She really never seems to need much "punishment" - we never "punish" her for mistakes and there is never much direct disobedience (that we do "punish" for). She is such a mature, bright, stubborn, creative child/almost teenager.

When she was little, my husband was the school nurse for Vista (CA) School District's Fifth Grade Camp for eight years. He was shocked by how little these children seemed to know, some could not even tell him where their parents worked or knew the own phone numbers! One of the Naturalists was deeply involved in home schooling and was an outspoken advocate for alternatives to sending his kids to school, but he was not an "unschooler". We listened to him and when we tried to get my daughter into kindergarten a little early (she was ready, she already knew almost everything they would teach in in kindergarten academically), the superintendent of her school district told us that there was a certain cutoff date, her birthday was after that cut off, she would not let her start early and "if we did not like that decision, we could always home school her". Some of the best advice we have ever received. She has never been to public/private school. My husband has always supported that decision. My mother-in-law and the rest of his family will never approve and/or understand it, but they don't have to, this is our child.

We had a lot of trouble at first because Azure is very strong willed and absolutely hates to be "pushed". She was so behind in her reading and spelling at one time that I was beginning to panic. I tried everything that I could think of without much success. Finally I just quit. I decided to leave it up to her and was I shocked to find that within two months she was reading at or above what I considered "grade level"! We then decided to let her lead the way on the other subjects as well and it is working. This way of learning was so unusual to me that I was wondering if we were the only ones home schooling this way, and why was it working so well for our daughter? Thanks to the unschooling lists and Sandra Dodd, now I know that we are not alone and have the answer to my question.

We love unschooling and our child is so busy with living her life that I know she would never have been happy in a school setting, even home schooling was too structured. She volunteers for the Phoenix Zoo, HALO (a cat & dog rescue group), AZ Cats (a Trap/Neuter/Return program for feral cats)- she just received their Junior Volunteer of the Year award, and at the local library - she did their teen volunteer program last summer and is on the teen council. She is a corporal in the Young Marines program and has 17 ribbons (including Life Saving in the 3rd Degree for saving a cat's life at a AZ Cats clinic). One of the ribbons is for Community Service, she has it and three stars which equals 200 hours of community service (impossible to achieve if you are stuck in school all day). She regularly writes articles for the Esprit YM magazine. She loves the internet and esp. Marapets. She loves Japanese Anime, esp. FMA. We also have a lot of pets (a "family zoo") that she helps care for. She does not watch much T.V. but does watch DVDs a lot. At 12, she already has a good idea of what she wants as a career when she is older. I still don't know what I want to do when I "grow up". Her latest adventure is to try to get into Arizona Animal Welfare League's Teen Tracks program (for teens interested in animal related careers). As she would say "UNSCHOOLING ROCKS!!!"

[by Paula, on the unschooling basics list, who didn't sign it, whose e-mail name was "bead"]

Learning to See Differently

Typical Days

Getting It

Balancing in the Middle Ground

Mindful Parenting


Unexpected Benefits of Unschooling