A recent MindShift article about how “unschoolers” turn out has sparked a lot of debate among readers. Unschooling is a category of homeschooling in which kids have the freedom to direct their learning based on their interests, not by any set curriculum. In a recent Outside Magazine article Ben Hewitt explains in detail what unschooling looks like for his two children, why he chose it and what has convinced him that he and his wife made the right choice for their sons. He writes:

“This is what I want for my sons: freedom. Not just physical freedom, but intellectual and emotional freedom from the formulaic learning that prevails in our schools. I want for them the freedom to immerse themselves in the fields and forest that surround our home, to wander aimlessly or with purpose. I want for them the freedom to develop at whatever pace is etched into their DNA, not the pace dictated by an institution looking to meet the benchmarks that will in part determine its funding. I want them to be free to love learning for its own sake, the way that all children love learning for its own sake when it is not forced on them or attached to reward. I want them to remain free of social pressures to look, act, or think any way but that which feels most natural to them.”

We Don’t Need No Education

In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark.

A Parent’s Message: School Is Choking the Creativity Out of Kids 23 February,2016MindShift

  • James Wren

    Stay scared, stay separate. Independent thoughts lead to chaos! Thinking is boring and it’s not worth the energy! What a great article. I run an organisation called The School of Creative Thinking. Not an actual school, but a series of workshops for kids to draw and design with autonomy and time to do it. Here’s my 10 cents worth on the state of education. I do think that un-schooling works well, but there are also some democratic schools out there like Sudbury Schools and Summerhill that are trying to do things differently and have been doing so for years.

    • My children are unschooled but I am also a big believer in democratic schools such as Sudbury and Summerhill. I think giving children control of their own learning, along with love and support to pursue it, is the future. No cogersion is necessary. This idea turned me into something of an educational activist. I now help out with this website – where you can read about democratic schools for instance :-): http://www.alternativestoschool.com/articles/democratic-schools/

  • I’m so glad to see how much interest that terrific Ben Hewitt article has sparked! There are so many families living rich unschooling lives in rural, urban, and suburban areas, using the resources and environment around them for inspiration and direction.

    I understand that unschooling seems “extreme” to many people just discovering it, but whenever I see that type of reaction I feel a brief moment of confusion, just because unschooling seems so normal to me. It seems so normal because that’s how I grew up. It didn’t seem like something “extreme,” it just felt like living life, playing with my sister, taking turns reading aloud as a family, going to various classes and clubs that caught my interest over the years, making regular trips to the library, endlessly discussing the media and television we were exposed to, and just generally interacting with the world around me in an engaged way. Learning often comes pretty easily when you approach life with curiosity and supportive adult figures in your life.

    So before people react with knee-jerk horror, I encourage you to just do a bit of Googling, see what current life learning families have to say, and see what grown unschoolers think of their education. On my blog I’ve collected a bunch of interviews, research, and information for and about grown unschoolers, which might be a good place to start: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.ca/p/grown-unschoolers.html

    If you’re interested in just finding out more about the basics of what unschooling is and isn’t, I also have an FAQ, complete with lots of links to learn more: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.ca/p/new-to-this-blog-new-to-unschooling.html

    I hope those links prove helpful, and that more people can recognize that unschooling isn’t some weird untested new fad, but a valid educational philosophy, one that’s been around for quite a while, and has a lot of important insights about how children learn best, and how awesome personalized education can be!

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  • bugsmudbooksandsticks

    There are options for freedom in a school setting. It is a matter of finding the schools that believe that the current education system is not the best option for their child. Often these schools are small and tuition driven. We need to put this type of Progressive Education in the forefront. We need to find the positives in this messy educational time. Find the schools that foster creativity, confidence and independence while still providing high quality academics. They are out there.

  • Sandy Girl

    How delightful for them. Let’s have all children out of school and replace the responsibility of instruction back on the parents where it belongs.

  • Randall McCarroll

    The public school system was set up in the 1800s to provide the industrial complex with workers that had enough education to be a good worker and that’s it we’ve all heard the mantra get good grades so you can get a good job (Just Over Broke)
    now bill gates says we need common core because the new industriel complex needs a different educated worker
    there’s a scene in rocket boys the principal says a couple get out to play foot ball the rest work in the mines that about sums it up

  • Noah Tonk

    So, none of them will be ready for college, then? And don’t forget that the original catalyst for the current skills-focused curriculum was parents who were upset that schools were not graduating kids who were actually educated in anything. Now we come fill circle. What about working families who cannot afford to do this? Seems like a system only for children of privilege.

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