Alan Moses provided this answer on the Home Education Mailing
As I understand the way the Growing Without Schooling crowd uses
the terms, unschooling refers more to the process of removing your
child from school and overcoming the negative effects of the
compulsory education process; homeschooling is the more general
term referring to home-based learning. I'd love to come up with a
better term than homeschooling, due to the implication that the
child is spending all their time at home (see my comments on
"socialization"); but it's the best I've seen so far.
Heather Millen added:
The process explained [above] could actually be considered
"de-schooling" rather than unschooling. Unschooling is child-led
learning in a home environment rather than duplicating school and
its curriculums at home. Most unschoolers don't follow lesson
plans, or even have "school learning" time structured into their
day. Subjects are covered when the child's interest dictates not
when the "educational experts" say its time for every child to know
David Mankins added:
Unschooling, for this unschooler, is based in the beliefs that
are incredible learning machines, as shown by their ability to
learn language and to function in society with little or no
are insatiably curious about the adult world,
and are driven to learn by these features, and sometimes
children learn *despite* our attempts to teach them!
Unschoolers also believe, or at least this unschooler believes,
that *imposing* an agenda on a child is more counter-productive
than helpful, because it doesn't take the child seriously.
I think a lot of this can be justified by reflecting on one's
own learning experiences. Nobody makes me learn new things, I just
do because learning is fun, or because I want to know about this
subject for my own purposes (even if those purposes are as prosaic
as justifying my paycheck). The same is true for children.
I think it is also motivated by a certain kind of respect for
the rights of children. *I* don't want to be told what or when to
study, what right have I to tell another what to do and when?
Unschooling requires a lot of faith in your child, that they
will learn the things that are important for them to know despite
not being "forced" to, that their seemingly patternless play is
experimentation that will pay off in insight, and that they will
stick to a subject through the "hard parts". Again, reflecting on
one's own experience can help solidify this faith, as can
reflecting on the behavior of one's own children.
[The answer above is based on a homeschooling FAQ originally
edited in 1994 by Dave Mankins for the Home Education Mailing
To me, "unschooling" simply means when a parent says they are
homeschooling, but does not take the time, nor make the effort to
do it correctly, and hinders their child's education.
That is not true!
I was homeschooled my whole life, and never fell behind. Infact,
I knew alot more then all the kids in public school. I was
unschooled, which doesn't mean I never did a work sheet, it just
means that I didn't just do work sheets. Unschooling is alot more
hands-on, instead of learning how yeast raises in a book, you would
do an experement with yeast, and watch it raise. People always act
like homeschooled kids are these weird animals that know one knows
anything about, but their just like everyone else. People like you
think that a child belongs in school, where they are all tought to
be perfect at every subject. Which is why almost every child hates
school. People are forcing them to be like everybody else. Every
child learns differently, one kid may be great at math but horrible
at history, another kid may be perfect at spelling, but hate
science. It just depends on the kid. All the kids in school are all
in a class with a bunch of other kids their age, with all different
questions and all different problems, and only one teacher to
answer them all. The child then doesn't get enough one on one time
with the teacher, then making the subject harder to learn. I
remember when I was little having total conversations with adults,
who were about three times as old as me. I liked talking to adults
more the I liked talking to kids, and I was one. The adults had
more interesting things to talk about then the kids did, plus the
kids never understood what I was talking about anyway.
Lots of times when a parent unschools their child it is for a
reason, not because they don't feel like doing anything. If they
wanted to do that, they would just put them in school. Where the
teacher raises your child for you.