What We Mean When We Talk About Unschooling

Dale J. Stephens | LinkedIn | December 9, 2014

When I was eleven years old, I told my parents I would not attend school the following year. They laughed – what 5th grader does want to get up and go to school in the morning? The difference between my story and that of the majority of my peers is that I had a plan and was serious about it; I dropped out.

I knew I wanted to try a different approach to learning called unschooling (the self-directed version of homeschooling), but what I didn’t know was how many times throughout my life I would have to explain my actions and what exactly unschooling meant. If I had a dime for each, well, my roadmap to retirement would be a whole lot shorter.

“Unschooling” is one of those words that many people assume has a self-explanatory definition – un plus school equals the opposite of school. Most people also assume that it is harmful or creates a roadblock for learning. Both of those assumptions are of course untrue, and if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that unschooling isn’t about doing away with school at all. It’s about supporting self-directed learning and lifelong learning in general...