Guide to Unschooling for Beginners
By Leo Babauta; used by permission
There’s nothing I get asked about more as a parent than unschooling, and nothing I recommend more to other parents.
It’s an educational philosophy that provides for more freedom than any other learning method, and prepares kids for an uncertain and rapidly changing future better than anything else I know. My wife and I unschool four of our kids, and have been for several years.
And yet, as powerful as I believe unschooling to be, I’ve never written about it, because the truth is, I certainly don’t have all the answers. No one does.
The beauty of unschooling is in the search for the answers. If anyone had all the answers, there would be no search. And so what I’d love to teach unschooling parents and kids is that the search is the joy of it all.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: what is unschooling? Why should you do it? How do you do it? What should you read? We’ll talk about all that today.
What is Unschooling?
First, it’s a form of homeschooling. But there’s no easy answer to that except in comparison to regular schooling. There’s no one way to do unschooling, and people who do it often do it for many different reasons in many different ways.
However, this is how I describe it — in contrast to school:
- While school has classes with subjects, unschooling doesn’t.
- While school has goals set by teachers and the school system, the unschooler (the kid) set his or her own goals.
- While in school, knowledge is handed down from the teacher to the student, in unschooling the student is empowered to learn for himself.
- While school has specific books or sets of learning materials, unschoolers can learn from anything — books they find, things on the Internet, siblings or parents, the outdoors, museums, people working in interesting fields, anything.
- While school is structured, unschooling is like jazz. It’s done on the fly, changing as the student changes.
- While students in school learn to follow instructions, unschoolers learn to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
- While students in school are asked to learn at pace arbitrarily set by administrators, unschoolers learn at their own pace.
- While in school, learning happens in the classroom at certain times, in unschooling learning happens all the time, and there is no division between learning and life.
Let me emphasize that for a minute: in unschooling, life itself is learning. There is no “doing school” … you are learning all the time.
Unschoolers learn just like you or I learn as adults: based on what interests them, figuring out how to learn it on their own, changing as they change, using whatever resources and learning materials they find, driven by curiosity and practical application rather than because someone says it’s important.
This is how I learn as a self-employed writer, as an entrepreneur, as a parent. It’s how our children will learn when they’re adults. Why not have them learn like that now?
Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog (according to TIME magazine) with 260,000 subscribers, mnmlist.com, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done.
Babauta is a former journalist of 18 years, a husband, father of six children, and in 2010 moved from Guam to San Francisco, where he leads a simple life.