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Kathy Ceceri

Is There a Difference Between Homeschooling and Unschooling?

By December 13, 2012

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Boy digging hole Not long after I wrote a post about the resurgence of the venerable Home Education Magazine, I received a mass email from newly-appointed editor Barb Lundgren announcing the magazine's new focus on unschooling.

Of all the many variations of homeschooling, unschooling is perhaps the most difficult for non-homeschoolers to understand. How can kids learn if you don't teach them?

The fact is, since the 1970s when educator John Holt first coined the term, generations of unschoolers have shown that it is possible to become an educated, productive member of society by studying only the things you need and want to know.

While some parents look upon unschooling as just another method to try when it suits the situation, a movement known as "Radical Unschooling" has started to draw a sharp line between unschooling and other forms of homeschooling. They believe that only families that give children complete control to make their own decisions about everything from what to study to whether to get dressed in the morning can truly call themselves unschoolers.

Whether Home Education Magazine's shift to serving only unschoolers -- however that term is defined -- will benefit or hurt the magazine in its revival remains to be seen.

What do you think? Are you an unschooler, or have you thought about it? Do you think it's helpful to consider homeschooling and unschooling two distinct ways of educating kids within the family, or do you think there is a continuum that includes both?

Image: Kathy Ceceri

Comments

December 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm
(1) Rich says:

I read your definition of “Radical Unschooling,” and I would encourage you to check it out with some of the proponents to see if it actually jibes with their experience.

I have heard Sandra Dodd speak at HSC, and I don’t really think she would agree that unschooling means “no limits.” For example, I don’t know any Radical Unschoolers who would say “Ride in the car without a seatbelt? OK, it’s your funeral….” They would more likely say “Sorry, I won’t operate a car unless all passengers are buckled up.”

What they *wouldn’t* say is “You are a child, and on those grounds I order you to put on a seatbelt.”

December 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm
(2) Kathy Ceceri says:

Thanks for your input, Rich. I did run that post by a lot of people, but your example of the nuances involved is helpful.

December 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm
(3) viola woolcott says:

Nice article. Hope more people will home school/home educate in the future.

December 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm
(4) Ruthy says:

I started subscribing to HEM long before we became unschoolers. In fact, the magazine gave me courage to try unschooling, which works very well for our family. I’m a bit concerned that I might not have ever started getting HEM if it had been identified as an ‘unschooling’ magazine.

December 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm
(5) Kelli says:

This is helpful news! I used to read HEM many years ago, but too much of it was homeschooling-based, and as an unschooling family, seemed non-applicable. I look forward to checking out the changes. Thanks!

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