What Is Unschooling?
How Do Children Learn?

If you're wondering what is unschooling, you'll find real life answers from homeschooling families and evidence that unschooling works.

They will show you that for their children it's turned out to be the best way to learn and the happiest solution for all of them.

As you'll see, many homeschooling families move towards unschooling as time goes on.

And many of us use a mix of unschooling and other methods.

Here you can work out what suits you and your family best.

what is unschooling

Let's start by looking at the evidence. You'll be surprised at the amount of research that proves unschooling is a very sucessful method of teaching your child.

Does Unschooling Work?

Evidence for unschooling

These are just five of the fifteen reasons evidence suggests that unschooling has many positive benefits.

There's a fabulous article from MuddySmiles which gives all the unschooling research to prove that it works.

The conclusion is clear: interest based learning allows children the freedom to learn all sorts of things way beyond a standard curriculum.

Dr Alan Thomas confirms this.

Dr Alan Thomas home education research

You can hear Dr Thomas' talk in full in our page showing the effectiveness of homeschooling.

"Excellent! How I wish this man could've spoken at a recent Parliamentary Inquiry here in Sydney, Australia. We homeschoolers are under so much pressure to teach the curriculum set by the Board of Studies." ~ Nerine

This is what Lorinda says:

"I really enjoyed hearing Dr Thomas talk about informal learning. Although at times it is an internal struggle for me (I was once a teacher!), and once adamant that I would never be an 'unschooler', I'm eating humble pie.

It is a calmer, saner and far more fun way to learn." ~ Lorinda

Which doesn't get away from the fact that you may still be wanting to know the answer to exactly what we're talking about.

Just what is unschooling?

what is unschooling?

If you want a good definition to tell you what is unschooling, check out Wikipedia:-

"Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity...Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves."

What Do Unschoolers Do?

"I'm still confused. What about all the stuff the world says they're supposed to learn like math and science? I don't mean that in a bad way I am genuinely interested I just can't process it."

~ Annette, homeschool-activities Facebook fan

Following your child's interests is obviously an essential part of what is unschooling, because you will be going where they want to go rather than following a set curriculum.

Obviously that raises the biggest unschooling fear of all:


So I asked 2,000 members of my Courageous Homeschooling Facebook support group to come up with their best projects and ideas to cover every subject from Math to Science up to about the age of 13.

Homeschooling ideas for all subjects with fun learning activities
Amazon review

If you're worried you'll have to buy lots of expensive curricula and never be able to give your child the education they deserve, this book proves that by teaching your child at home you actually have far more opportunities for them to learn. And it's not about money.

The basis of education is interest, and with the projects in this book you can encourage your child to pick topics and activities which they enjoy. 

Whether you unschool, have a relaxed schedule or like everything planned up to the minute you can add in these fun homeschooling ideas to cover the parts of the curriculum you are struggling with.

Homeschooling ideas and activities
Brainstorm Ideas homeschooling

N.B. Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls is also available as The Homeschooling Ideas Brainstorm book. The book is identical except for the cover; please choose which cover you like best.

Please note that the book links on this page are affiliate links so if you buy I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.





What Is Unschooling In Practice?

Let's see what unschooling looks like in reality:

"When you let your child lead the teaching they find their interest and find out what they have to know.

We do very little seat work.....maybe 5 hours or so a week. The rest is project based, play and hands on. To make it easier when people ask me what curriculum I use I say all of it and the world.....LOL. 

I printed out the 3rd grade State math test for my daughter and asked her when she had time to look it over. One day while I napped she took it on her own and got 82 percent. So we must be doing something right.

She improved her score, on her own." ~ Melissa

"My kids have learned much more since they have been home than when they were at school, we have no formal curriculum at all they just learn what they want to learn.

It works out great and they are much more in tune to things than their friends are." ~ Julie

"Unschooling = The world is your classroom! The best way I sum it all up is this: No walls, no limits, no definite structured routine. Interest led......" ~ Homeschooling East Orlando LearningAboutLife

"Make stuff! Glitter gel, green flames, cakes. Go shopping for the ingredients. So long as you're having fun/doing something interesting, they will learn." ~ Audrey

"My children are still small (4 &1) but they've gotten this far without formal teaching. I've read Alan Thomas and many others and this will be our approach. Obviously they'll be educational resources at hand. I've just starting sending off for free educational resources and we scour car boots but ultimately my children will learn what they want when its relevant to them." ~ Gemmima

Battles With The Kids

There's another advantage to unschooling.

Fewer battles with the kids over 'school work.'

There's no doubt that following a set curriculum can put both parent and child on opposite sides. 

By unschooling and following your child's interests, you are far more likely to avoid the biggest reason homeschooling fails.

John Holt quotes

John Holt is often seen as the father of unschooling.

You'll see lots of quotes from him on here because I think what he says knocks a gaping hole through much of the accepted educational wisdom.

Homeschooling Methods

"Unschooling going well :)

  • This morning we did Geography by looking at google maps and discussing the relative sizes of countries as well as comparing our new home in the countryside to our old home in the city.
  • We did math discussing the relative ages of our two dogs and what pi meant.
  • Bible study about being thankful for what God created for us, which led to a discussion about evolution.
  • He played on his guitar while we got ready for our local craft club.
  • We worked out the weight of our joint for tea and how to work out how much it cost and how long to cook it for.

What have I learned:
I think I've finally seen what is unschooling in action. It's a matter of perception, when you stand back you can see how much he is learning.

If you're stuck in the middle of it all worrying about it you can't see the wood for the trees."

~ Rachel

"My kids have done very little "formal work" and my oldest at age 16 is now taking community college classes. He has an A+ and a B+. This is the first time ever that has ever had grades or formal classes. He has always been unschooled. ...

I have no interest in my children "progressing at the same rate as public school children". I want my children to be allowed to progress at their own rate which often means asynchronous learning. In other words, they may score way above grade level in English and below grade level in math. And I am OK with that." ~ Gina

"I have a 10 year old and a 7 year old....my oldest went to public school for preschool and Kindergarten....my youngest never. We do reading, writing and math daily but encourage them to find creative outlets for most everything and you can turn even the most mundane normal-like everyday chore into a learning experience. It just takes time and creativity and care." ~ Anjie

Here's a list to help clarify what is unschooling:

traditional schooling versus unschooling

This helpful guide will show you inexpensive and unusual ideas so you can cover all subjects knowing your child will benefit in all sorts of ways far beyond a standard curriculum.

Following your child's interests is the foundation to the answer what is unschooling, and when you do you'll be amazed how much they learn!

homeschooling ideas book

N.B. Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls is also available as The Homeschooling Ideas Brainstorm book. The book is identical except for the cover; please choose which cover you like best.

Please note that the book links on this page are affiliate links so if you buy I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.





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