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Unschooling (also sometimes referred to as "natural learning", "child-led learning", "discovery learning", "autodidactic learning", or "child-directed learning") is the term that means being responsible for your own education. Under unschooling education, parents may act as "facilitators" and may provide a wide range of resources to their children.

Proponents of unschooling have a variety of reasons to support their position. A common belief underlying their reasoning is that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn what is necessary to become an adult. (The belief that curiousity drives people is also shared, in part, by the Hacker Ethic.) Some argue that institutionalizing a child in what they consider a factory model public education|public school, or any form of compulsory schooling, is an inefficient use of a child's time. Proponents contend that such an education is made to be "one size fits all" and is oppressive for forcing a child to learn regardless of his or her interests. Proponents also claim that individualized, child-led learning is more efficient and respectful of a child's time, takes advantage of a child's interests, and allows learning and deeper exploration of subjects than what is possible in formalized education. The subject matter is less important than the child learning 'how' to learn. This ability to learn on one's own makes it more likely that later, when the child is an adult, he or she can return to any subject that they feel wasn't sufficiently covered and learn the material.

Opponents of unschooling also have a variety of reasons to support their position. Adults who are schooled as children more easily accept 8-to-5 jobs in factories and offices, and reinforce "big business as usual". They also tend to be more prolific consumers, thus fueling the national economy. They also tend to accept mass media, thereby promoting social stability. Overall, schooled children and adults are more predictable and manageable.

The term unschooling was coined by John Caldwell Holt. An author of 10 books on education, John Holt founded the unschooling magazine Growing Without Schooling.

A model similar to unschooling, using the child-led learning approach, is sometimes used in schools, such as the Sudbury Valley School. A similar model is also used in higher education as a free school or open learning approach, such as at Bastiat Free University.


Prominent unschooling advocates

See also


  • Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Caldwell Holt and Patrick Farenga (rev. 2003, Perseus Publishing)
  • Live Free Learn Free magazine
  • The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn
  • The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey
  • Growing Without Schooling magazine founded by John Caldwell Holt
  • The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School by Valerie Fitzenreiter
  • School Free by Wendy Priesnitz (rev. 1995, The Alternate Press)
  • Challenging Assumptions in Education by Wendy Priesnitz (2000, The Alternative Press)
  • The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith (1998, Teacher’s College Press)
  • Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto (rev. 2002, New Society Publishers)
  • How Children Learn by John Caldwell Holt (rev. 1995, Perseus Publishing)
  • Learning All the Time by John Caldwell Holt (reprint 1990, Addison Wesley Publishing Company)
  • Instead of Education by John Caldwell Holt (reprint 2004, Sentient Publications)
  • The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith (1998, Prima)
  • Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn (1999, Mariner Books)
  • Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School by Grace Llewellyn (1993, Lowry House)
  • In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong (rev. 2000, Jeremy P. Tarcher)
  • Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind (1987, Knopf)
  • Better Than School: One Family's Declaration of Independence by Nancy Wallace (1983, Larson Publications)
  • Child's Work: Taking Children's Choices Seriously by Nancy Wallace (1990, Holt Associates)
  • And the Children Played by Patricia Joudry (1975, Tundra Books)
  • With Consent: Parenting for All to Win by Jan Fortune-Wood (2002, Education Now Publishing Co-operative)
  • Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery by David Albert (2003, Common Courage Press)
  • Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (1971, Harper & Row)
  • The Next Learning System: and why home-schoolers are trailblazers by Roland Meighan (1997, Educational Heretics Press)
  • A Sense of Self: listening to homeschooled adolescent girls by Susanna Sheffer (1995, Boynton/Cook Publishers)
  • Freedom Not License by A. S. Neill (1966, Hart Publishing)
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (reprint 2000, Continuum International Publishing Group)

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