Creative Child

School is Out … Forever?

by Erin J. Bernard


Parents take a backseat, but they still matter, and unschoolers rely on relationships with family friends and community members for guidance as they pursue their passions and interests. Unschooling is legal in all 50 states, as it falls under the umbrella of the homeschooling tradition.

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Is it effective?

Although the tradition has been popular in the United States since the 1960s, there remains little conclusive research on the long-term effects of unschooling. However, a survey given to a group of fully-grown unschoolers published in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning sheds some light on the anecdotal long-term effects of the method. Most unschooled respondents recalled the experience positively, citing independence and a high-degree of self-motivation as the major benefits of the approach. Respondents also reported having little difficulty transitioning into traditional college and then adulthood. Socially, however, unschoolers sometimes struggled to relate to others their own age, whom they viewed as immature and unfocused.

Could my family really do it?

The unschooling approach is best suited to families who are naturally flexible and have a high tolerance for variance in routine, as variety is inherent to the approach. Child-directed schedules of play, meals and learning are unlikely to track well with a traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday routine. And be prepared for a flood of criticism from those around you: in the unschooling survey, dealing with social judgment and the disapproval of others was cited by unschoolers as a major downside to their unusual upbringings.

Thinking about homeschooling your children? Positive Parenting author, Rebecca Eanes shares parenting tips for families who are considering home school as an option. 

Sources: -

Why Unschool? -

The Free Child Project -

Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning

Erin J. Bernard is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer from Portland, Oregon. Before becoming a writer, Erin worked as a nanny and an ESL classroom teacher. She taught English at a Montessori school in Mexico and then ran an after-school language program in South Korea. Erin is the editor of the parenting guide, “Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician’s Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block,” written by Irwin H. Berkowitz, MD.

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