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by Mary Ann Kelley

I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions
in which they can learn.
~ Albert Einstein

TheHomeSchoolMom: UnschoolingThe range of homeschoolers claiming the unschool label vary from “radical unschoolers” who disdain any form of curricula or textbooks to those who prefer child-led learning but might also be called eclectic. All homeschooling was originally called unschooling by John Holt, one of the pioneers of the movement. Gradually the term has come to mean those who use no formal curricula but make liberal use of the learning opportunities that present themselves in daily life. Without outside intervention in the form of forced teaching, learning naturally happens. Unschoolers attempt to provide the best environment to allow that natural learning to take place. It is often called child-led learning.

Reviews of Books About Unschooling

Insight into unschool life:

Waiting For Unschooling To Work

Remarkably, the best homeschooling advice I received came when my first child was a baby. My friend Barb, an experienced homeschooling mom who loaned me stacks of Home Education Magazine and Growing Without Schooling, told me that to homeschool I only had to "provide a rich environment, involve children in everyday living, and help find answers to their questions." That sounded very simple, and ... Read More...

Unschooling Flowers in the Spring

Well, a lot of people predicted it and now it’s happened. My daughter’s unschooling has led her to a dead-end job at low pay. Yup, she’s a hired hand on a farm. She didn’t tell me that she was taking the job. I found out about it when I came across a list of her chores that she’d written out. In addition to feeding the pigs, chickens, horses and cows, she has to haul water, milk the cows and even chop wood! And for all this, she only gets room and board! Read More...

Unschooling – Education Outside the Box

To understand unschooling, you really have to look back at the history of education and homeschooling. The standard used to be for children to be taught in the home. However, by the mid ’70s, homeschooling was nearly extinct. Over 99% of school-aged children in the United States were attending institutional classroom schools. By that point, people seemed to have forgotten that children had ever been successfully educated without going to school. Slowly, though, an increasing number of parents began to recognize that they were in a battle for their children’s hearts, minds, and time. They saw the control that the ... Read More...

Letting Go of Teaching

“I always thought the idea of teaching was highly overrated. I was more interested that my kids learned.” ~Lee Binz Stop Teaching and Start Learning – Do you sometimes long for an “escape from teaching?” I sure did, especially as my kids got a little older. The good news is that your days playing the “teacher” role will someday come to an end. Instead your role will evolve to that of a “learning facilitator.” Read More...

Transcripts and Delight-Directed Learning

Some people just aren’t textbook people! What do you do if your homeschooler learns by living, instead of studying textbooks? What if your child soaks up knowledge like a sponge, without being directed in any way? Can you still create a serious-looking high school transcript? Read More...

Spiders Are Our Teachers

We appreciate spiders in our family. A large orb weaver lives just outside the front door. Every night when we take the dogs out before going to bed we pause to appreciate the intricate web she’s rewoven. It has a lot to teach us about strength, symmetry, impermanence and beauty. Read More...

Dropping Out Was a Great Idea

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions raised about how innovations in technology will change education as we know it – Can machines replace teachers? Do internet resources provide everything needed to develop professional skills? What happens if you replace school with online learning? I’ve spent my life trying to find out, and the answers I have are both promising and a little horrifying. Read More...

The Homeschool Year

The Homeschool Calendar: New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers frequently wonder about whether the “homeschool year” follows or needs to follow the traditional calendar used by most public and private schools in the United States. Long-term homeschoolers frequently find their answer to that question changes as their children get older. Casual observers of homeschooling might think “of course” homeschooling has to follow a school calendar in order to be legitimate and sufficient. Read More...

Guide to Unschooling for Beginners

There’s nothing I get asked about more as a parent than unschooling, and nothing I recommend more to other parents. Read More...

Instead of Curriculum: Living Math

Why do some homeschoolers choose not to use one of the many complete math curricula available today? And what do they do instead? To many homeschooling parents, math feels like the one thing that must be taught and learned in a systematic way even for very young children. Even many people who are otherwise attracted to or influenced by a version of interest-based learning or unschooling often say– “except for math.” Read More...

Can Creativity Be Taught?

For thirty years I have been asking these questions, and more: What is the best method for teaching art? Should art only be taught in art classes? Should art classes be discipline-based, process-based, or choice-based? Do certain ages and stages of aesthetic development correspond particularly well with one form of self-expression or another? I have embraced the search for these answers since I first knew that I wanted to be an artist and work with others at making art. While I was a homeschooling parent using Oak Meadow to teach three of my five children, I searched for the best ... Read More...

Homeschooling for Safety

This morning, my jaw dropped when I heard radio host Dennis Miller repeatedly tell a caller who was upset about the horrendous school shootings in Connecticut that he should consider pulling his young daughter out of school and homeschooling her. Miller was clearly serious. I’m not used to hearing homeschooling being recommended by people like Dennis Miller, but in the wake of the awful event at Sandy Hook, I can see where shaken parents all over the country are looking at their children and thinking, “How can I protect them?” when dropping them off at school each day no longer ... Read More...

Get Ready for Spring with Field Guides

A library of field guides is an important resource for homeschooling families, and with spring just around the corner, it’s a great time to make sure you have what you need on hand to help with identification of birds, trees, insects, spiders, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, and wildflowers. Our field guides have always been among the most accessible books in our house. Rather than shelving them with other books, I usually keep them stacked — with their spines showing their titles — right on top of a low book shelf or table near the back door. Read More...

Talking About Books By Talking About Movies

Elementary age homeschooled kids are often eager book group participants. They’ll describe plot and action and favorite characters, and they are enthusiastic about their recommendations. However, parents sometimes struggle to move their kids to more literary discussion about books as they grow into middle school and early high school years. One useful idea to smooth this transition is to pair a book with its movie adaptation. I’ve found that kids frequently find films to be more accessible, and creating a scenario where kids will naturally compare the book and the movie is an easy way to create deeper discussion points. Additionally, ... Read More...

Instead of Curriculum

Everyone has a comment on the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I talk to people about homeschooling, they frequently mention the availability of “so much curriculum these days,” as if that is the single most important factor in being able to homeschool. Non-homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and new homeschoolers seem surprised that many homeschoolers use learning materials that are not, strictly speaking, part of a homeschool curriculum. There are many reasons why people use other learning resources instead of curriculum. Read More...

How To Raise Vocabulary Geeks

When I tried to throw our dictionary out my oldest threw a fit. This is a very old dictionary. It was owned by my Great Aunt Mildred. The book is huge, with indents along the side for each letter of the alphabet. It’s also not in good shape. Threads are hanging out of a nearly wrecked spine and the pages are yellowing. Until recently it sat on our living room trunk, ready to answer all inquiries. As my kids got older and Google got ever closer to our fingertips, I figured we didn’t need it. According to my son, I am wrong. ... Read More...

Free To Learn Is A Transformative Book

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray isn’t just a book, it’s a powerful agent of transformation. I’d like to put a copy in the hands of every parent, teacher, and policy maker. Gray, a research professor in the field of psychology, is an expert on the evolution of play. I discovered his work when he started writing a blog for Psychology Today where he explores topics I had just finished researching for my book. He writes entirely logical, children-are-human posts illustrated with marvelous examples from Democratic ... Read More...

Contextual Learning: Homeschooling Through Fashion

This year in my role as a homeschool evaluator, I met a number of tweens and teens who are interested in fashion. As we went through their portfolio of work and talked about their year, I was fascinated with the ways they had woven their interest in fashion with their academic studies. Two of the teens I met with had taken their interest in current fashion into the past — studying the typical dress and accessorizing of women and men in earlier periods of history. They also took their fashion interest international — studying the current typical dress of modern-day ... Read More...

Interest-Based Groups For Learning & Fun

In my family, interest-based groups have been an important part of homeschooling life. We formed a number of these groups over the years. Some, like a history club made up of eager parents and not-so-eager young children, barely lasted long enough for a few meetings. Others have lasted ten years. The most successful has been our boy’s science club. It was started by five families with nine boys between the ages of seven and eleven. When we began it was highly structured. We met regularly at each other’s homes. Parents took turns planning a project or experiment, got the materials, ... Read More...

The Alphabet Walk: Learning ABCs with Rocks and Trees

Winter is a wonderful time to take Alphabet Walks with your children. In my part of the U.S., this means bundling up for the cold weather, but hunting for the ABCs in nature may be just the thing to get you and the kids moving on darker winter days. The main object of an Alphabet Walk is to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. Perhaps crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky, or a cat curved on your deck forms a perfect C. A front door wreath on your neighbor’s house is an O. ... Read More...

The Homeschool Parent-Teacher Conference

My first t-shirt as a homeschooling parent proclaimed, “Don’t bother me. I’m having a parent-teacher conference.” This expressed well my initial thoughts about the roles of mother and teacher while homeschooling. I could see my “teacher self” talking to my “mother self,” echoing the familiar adult roles in education that involves public school… Past my first few months of homeschooling more than a decade and a half ago, I have not separated a “teacher self” from my “mom self.” At the same time, I found it was important for me to set boundaries of time and space that made my family function ... Read More...

9 Benefits of Hosting an International Exchange Student

Hosting an international exchange student can be a great experience for homeschooling families. We hosted a student from Ecuador, and while the commitment can seem daunting, having Isaac José with us for a school year enriched our lives. What are some of the benefits of hosting an international student? Read More...

Homeschooling at Night: How Nightschooling Can Work for You

Everybody knows that your kids should be up early hitting the books, right? Homeschooling goes better if Mom is organized and has lessons prepared for first thing in the morning. Homeschooling works well when kids focus on academics when they’re fresh, and they get to play when they’ve completed their school work. Homeschooling at any other time of day is risking disaster. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. However, sometimes homeschooling at night makes more sense than the conventional wisdom. That can even include “nightschooling” – focusing all or part of your homeschooling efforts during the evening hours. Read More...

Instead of Curriculum:

During my busy season helping families meet Virginia’s annual evidence of progress requirement for homeschoolers, I enjoy seeing all the resources parents use to help their children learn. This year, one of the resources a child was most excited about was At, children can choose to complete challenges for different “Skills,” earning both virtual and real embroidered patches (purchasing the patches is optional and is the only cost involved in the program), and developing a portfolio of videos and photos showing when challenges are accomplished. Read More...

Deschooling vs. Unschooling: What’s the Difference?

New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers sometimes wonder about the word “deschooling” vs. “unschooling”. The prefixes “de” and “un” often mean such similar things. We “de-humidify” and we “un-tie” our shoes — both acts of reversing the meaning of the root word. And in that sense, the words are related. Both deschooling and unschooling require thinking about the inverse of schooling. But within the world of homeschooling, the two words deschooling and unschooling have meanings that are, most often, distinct from one another. Read More...

Thinking Outside the Textbook

I’m a member of several homeschooling groups and email loops, and the most common questions are all related to, “It’s a battle to get my child to do her work. I thought homeschooling would be better for my child, but it’s all tears and yelling. For both of us. I may have to put her back in school.” The specifics vary, but many parents new to homeschooling are trying to recreate a public school environment in their home and finding that it doesn’t work. It’s not their fault. Most of us went to public school; it’s what we know. We’re taught ... Read More...

Suggested Reading From Other Sites:


Leo Babauta’s insightful blog covering many aspects of unschooling

Unschooling : How Good Morning America Got It All Wrong

I know I’m naive to expect the mainstream media to cover a subject like “radical unschooling”as anything other than a freak show, but the recent hatchet job that George Stephanopoulos and Good Morning America did on the topic was so hopelessly biased that it’d make Rupert Murdoch blush. Unschooling is a type of homeschooling that promotes organic, self-directed learning without the structure of traditional education. My family has unschooled our kids for over a decade…

One family’s unschooling journey

How the Love family views unschooling, including a typical unschooling day in their home

If you are required to submit a curriculum description

From Sandra Dodd’s unschooling site, here is a sample submission for an unschooler that was required to submit a curriculum (written and generously offered as a model for other homeschoolers by Carol Narigon).

Endless Summer

This article from 2005 is just as relevant today as it was then. “Since 1960, when A.S. Neill published ‘Summerhill,’ a chronicle of life at his “free-learning” British boarding school, and American educational reformer John Holt coined the phrase “un-schooling” in his books of the late 1970s, the philosophy has emerged as the rebellious twin of the home-schooling movement. While paired in many people’s minds, the two have distinct agendas and ideologies…”

Education of the Founding Fathers of the USA

From Raising Explorers: “I read Obama’s speech to the schoolchildren — and this line caught my immediate attention. ‘It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation.’ I thought, ‘Really? The founding fathers sit where our schoolchildren sit today? I highly doubt it.’ So, I researched some biographies of the men, considered to be the founders of the United States. I thought I’d share my information — gathered mostly from government resources, such as library of congress and such.”

Education as a Rat Race

Thoughts from Stephanie of Throwing Marshmallows regarding an article in the Baltimore Sun about unschooling

Unschooling with Sandra Dodd

Sandra Dodd is one of the strongest voices in favor of unschooling. Her writings and talks have instpired many parents to consider unschooling as a natural choice. Her website is full of thought-provoking resources.

Interest-led Learning

You may have heard of interest-led learning or unschooling and be curious about what it looks like in practice. Yarns from the Heart is a blog by an unschooler whose son is on a full ride scholarship to the University of Chicago (interestingly enough, doing a work-study in a 4th grade classroom). Get a peak into the daily life of an unschooler and find out what life without curriculum is like.

Where parents and children have learned to trust themselves and each other!


This page with information about unschooling is a collection of thoughts and letters written by unschoolers and reprinted on If you are curious about unschooling, this is a great place to gain some insight. The link to the FAQ page is broken but the article links are all very informative.

Encouraging Delight-Directed Learning

How can you encourage a passion in your children without making it into a school subject?

Going Our Own Way

How Ann Zeise went from school to school at home to unschool with her son.

Unschooling Books:

Christian Unschooling : Growing Your Children in the Freedom of Christ by Teri Brown and Elissa Wahl

From For too many years, the segment of homeschoolers that consider themselves “Christians” and “unschoolers” have been ignored. Many thought one couldn’t be both a Christian and an unschooler. But Teri Brown with Elissa Wahl expose that not only to Christian Unschoolers exist, they are growing in numbers. Through Christian Unschooling: growing your children in the freedom of Christ, the authors support Christian unschoolers everywhere–letting them know they are not alone. For those Christian parents who are facing school-at-home burnout form a strict schedule, they offer another path to learning. Unschooling, child-led learning, free learning, interest based education, child-delighted learning–whatever you choose to call it, this book explains what unschooling is (and isn’t) in easy-to-understand terms while holding your hand as you walk the unschooling pathway. Many essays of unschoolers are included–offering their viewpoints, “typical days”, opinions on lessons and learning, how they are guided by the Lord and much more. Additionally, comprehensive information on starting an unschooling support group is included along with plenty of ideas to inspire you in the subjects of language arts, history, math, science and more. Read more at

Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

From A handbook for Christian home education. A commonsense, disciple-based biblical approach to home schooling using real books and real life. Filled with Scriptures, anecdotes, insights, ideas, methods, lists and charts to make living and learning at home natural and enjoyable. Read more at

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith

From Unschooling, a homeschooling method based on the belief that kids learn best when allowed to pursue their natural curiosities and interests, is practiced by 10 to 15 percent of the estimated 1.5 million homeschoolers in the United States. There is no curriculum or master plan for allowing children to decide when, what, and how they will learn, but veteran homeschooler Mary Griffith comes as close as you can get in this slim manual. Written in a conversational, salon-style manner, The Unschooling Handbook is liberally peppered with anecdotes and practical advice from unschoolers, identified by their first names and home states. The book also includes resources such as one teenager’s sample “transcript,” a typical weekly log of a third-grader’s activities, and helpful lists of magazines, online mailing lists, Web sites, and catalogs… Read more at

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Holt

From The classic work on teaching children at home, updated for today’s new laws, new lifestyles, and a new generation of homeschooling parents. Today more than one and a half million children are being taught at home by their own parents. In this expanded edition of the book that helped launch the whole movement, Pat Farenga has distilled John Holt’s timeless understanding of the ways children come to understand the world and added up-to-the-moment practical advice. Rather than proposing that parents turn their homes into miniature schools, Holt and Farenga demonstrate how ordinary parents can help children grow as social, active learners. Chapters on living with children, “serious play,” children and work, and learning difficulties will be of interest to all parents, whether homeschooling or not, as well as to teachers. This new edition is supplemented with legal advice as well as a guide to cooperating with schools and facing the common objections to homeschooling. Teach Your Own not only has all the vital information necessary to be the definitive reference for parents teaching their own children, it also conveys John Holt’s wise and passionate belief in every child’s ability to learn from the world that has made his wonderful books into enduring classics. Read more at

Instead of Education: Ways to Help People do Things Better by John Holt

From It has become common knowledge that our educational system is in dire straights. Children graduate high school without knowing how to read while students are driven to violence by the brutal social climate of school. In Instead of Education John Holt gives us practical, innovative ideas for changing all that. He suggests creative ways to take advantage of the underused facilities we already have. Reading this brilliant educator revolutionizes our thinking about what schooling is for and what we can do to accomplish its true goals. Read more at

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn

From While many homeschooling authors hem and haw that learning at home isn’t for everyone, this manifesto practically tells kids they’re losers if they do otherwise. With the exception of a forwarding note to parents, this book is written entirely for teenagers, and the first 75 pages explain why school is a waste of time. Grace Llewellyn insists that people learn better when they are self-motivated and not confined by school walls. Instead of homeschooling, which connotes setting up a school at home, Llewellyn prefers “unschooling,” a learning method with no structure or formal curriculum… Read more at

Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee

From A compelling story about one family’s journey into the unknown territory of homeschooling, told with skill by Alison McKee, a gifted teacher with a wide experience in traditional education and a special sensitivity to the individual needs of children. Trusting her own children to “show me the way” was a difficult challenge – but one that gave unexpected and rich rewards. Anyone familiar with the writings of John Holt will be interested to learn how things worked out for a family that decided to test his belief that children are the best directors of their own education. McKee offers the reader insights on how children learn, plenty of illustrations and practical advice about how “unschooling” works, and thoughtful commentary on the state of education today. This book will reassure parents considering homeschooling that nurturing children’s natural desire to learn can empower their children to become enthusiastic life-long learners. Read more at


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