Unschooling: Let me school you on this

A world without knowledge is a dangerous thing. Photo via Christie Merrill.

From my perspective, ‘unschooling’ is the total dismissal and refusal to allow your child to participate in any formal, private or traditional academic setting or school that requires children to conform to a curriculum that s/he may not be interested in while stifling them under rigid, bureaucracy lead, ‘compulsory’ testing. It’s the process in which parents allow over-indulgent children to lead and prepare their own, life based curriculum. So a child determines the fate of when to read or write (if ever) and what they want to learn on any given day.

Wiki’s definition:

“Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game and household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum.”

Basically, you don’t send your kids to school or homeschool them. You simply wing it, possibly setting up situations for them to self-learn if you’re so inclined.


Recently I came across a forum about ‘unschooling’. An anxiety ridden mother was beside herself because her 4 year old daughter loved preschool. Seems like an odd problem to have, given she wore the badge of ‘unschooling’ parent loud and proud. Apparently she put the child in preschool because, in her words ‘…[she was] driving me out of my mind.’

The mother said that the little girl was excessively ‘busy’ and highly social and she couldn’t provide her with the type of socialization she required. She also complained that the youngster was constantly into everything and needed constant stimulation and productivity. She said of days that the preschool was closed, that her daughter was ‘heartbroken’. She spoke of a highly demanding child whom she worried would be a challenge to try and occupy her time.

The mother wanted to know what she should do, since she had zero plans of ever sending her to school again, wanting…no insisting instead, to ‘unschool’ her.

The answers were disturbing to me. Some of the mothers revealed that their children would love to go to school and even ask about it, but claim their children are far too ‘gifted’ to go and because they’re such remarkable, extraordinary geniuses, that their children simply didn’t know what was good for them nor did they understand their superiority to all the other kids in their class. (Insert vomit.) Some suggested that the preschooling loving child should be given more chores and encouraged to go to nursing homes and volunteer. (My subconscious: Why not really teach her a lesson and make her work in a Chinese sweat shop?)

This sounds like a punishment to me. It’s like…hey kid, let me show you what happens to little girls who like school.

It’s creepy. And weird.

While some of the moms were reasonably suggesting that she perhaps, continue sending her youngster to school. After all, child-lead learning is truly about what the child wants to do, right?

Well…uh…apparently not. This is how the original chick responded:

“i don’t want to put her in school because i hate them and think they are bad for children. even the ones who love school. yup,  that’s me. radical to the bone. i believe public school’s job is to care for children so parents can work for the man and spend their money for the man. and  it teaches them to continue this cycle. it produces workers for the system.”

Apparently she doesn’t believe in proper capitalization either.

This reminded me of a former co-worker’s sister who unschooled her children. I asked my co-worker not to talk about it anymore. It was too disturbing to hear of the abusive nature of this particular parent’s unschooling methods. She said that the 11 year old boy, who had never been to school a day in his life, would constantly complain that he ‘didn’t know anything’. He would plead with his parents that he longed to learn something and beg them to allow him to go to school, but his parents thought along the same lines as the above poster — school was evil and that it was all part of a larger government conspiracy to keep people dumb or something. She told me the boy suffered from severe depression and anxiety and she even found him to  be suicidal.

It’s cruel.

I mean, if you want your child to live so far out of the mainstream and so far outside our culture, why not just send them to prison and have them raised by other ‘unschooled’, non-mainstream social incompetents? What’s the diff? They’d get schooled pretty quick without a formal education. Win/win.