what you need to know about unschooling

Unschooling, or as some call it, child-directed learning, interest-led homeschooling, or self-directed learning…what other phrase describes the notion of letting go and just letting the kids learn?

And by the way, that’s the reason to talk about unschooling. Unschooling helps us let go of the control in our child’s education, and juts let them learn already.

Unschooling: Let them learn on their own terms: to learn what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and why they want to learn it.

There’s this notion out there, that if you set up a system, organize it, with a lot of people to officiate it, and administer a grade and a class, a lecture, a lesson plan and an exam, then children will learn (and will have received an education.)

Yes, kids will still learn stuff. In spite of our rigid expectations and approaches, children learn. It’s what they do.

Interested teachers increase the chance of someone wanting to learn. Of getting kids interested. Of engaging. But the motivation to learn is on the kids. They don’t receive an education, they engage an education (if they’re invested).

Kids want to learn. Unless they’ve been seriously neglected or abused, children will grow and learn.

Kids aren’t necessarily eager to learn what you want them to learn, when you want them to learn, in the way you want them to learn though.

So occupy their time in meaningful ways, or let them occupy themselves.

Give them lots of space to be quiet, to pursue new interests, and discover themselves past boredom. Let them discover their interests in solitude.

Allow for a balance between prescribed and exploratory time.

Give them opportunities to be exposed to new concepts, new places, new ideas.

Give them meaningful work that contributes to the well-being of their family and community through housework, childcare, farm work, volunteer work, whatever interests them.

Then let them play. No learning plans hidden behind their play, just easy, entertaining play.

Consider what you want them to learn.

You’re their parent, so you get to determine what you want them to learn too. You don’t have to assume that because the neighbor kids are learning about plate tectonics that your kids must be learning that too. But it might be a prompt.

A federal election might compel a discussion on the major political parties. What are the reasons one might vote for different party platforms? This, and other current affairs, often grace our dinner table since my husband passionately engages politics, history, and economics.

Me, I like reading. I move through quite a few books for a mama of four. So I read with my kids. “I Am Malala”, “To Set A Watchman” and “Thimbleful Summer” were our recent readalouds. I get to share my passion through books.

This is your chance to share your passions with your kiddos.

Observe and listen to who your children are.

What are they about? Listen to them. They are developing, coming into their own, but you can take cues from their lives, even as young children.

Do they like earning money? Encourage them to start a lemonade stand. As they get older, they might want to market their baking capabilities. Another might do yardwork for neighbours, or childcare for their mom’s friend.

Is your child crafty?

  • A Pinterest board might give them ideas.
  • Learn to knit?
  • Tie dye t-shirts?
  • Create their own decorative bed cushions?

Observe and listen to who your children are and you will help them learn more about themselves.

Don’t educate out of fear.

There will always be gaps. Imperfect educations. My favourite term for this is a ‘lopsided education’. Yup, that.

We’ve all had those gaps. Whether we’re homeschooled or conventionally schooled.

When someone suggests, “I don’t know if you should homeschool, because you might miss something,” they’re probably right. Your kids might not learn something.

After twelve years of academics, are you hoping your kiddo can outwit Google or God?


Then don’t educate in fear.

Enjoy the process.

Yes, educating your children is a big responsibility. (Especially daunting when you know people are looking over your shoulder or questioning you directly.)

But your kids were put on this earth for a special purpose.

They are growing up right before your eyes, growing independent and capable, and eventually growing right out of your home. You had these little kids for a reason, so enjoy them while you have them.

And though you discovered parenting was a lot of work (yup, you were right there), you didn’t have them so you could check another box off the list, another makework project, like homeschooling them.

Don’t make home education an unreachable makework project. They already want to learn, they were hardwired for it. So have fun with it.

There! That’s UNSCHOOLING in a nutshell. Not so daunting after all.

Are you a new home learning family and don’t know where to start? Are you looking for encouragement and guidance?

I’m available for personalized online coaching. Let me know if you’re interested in the comment section.

To get you started, here are 19 Tips for new home learning families.

You can take the How to Homeschool 101 Mini-Course here.

Get more encouragement in the book: Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: nurturing the nurturer