Our Unschooling Perspective

Homeschooling has as many methodologies as there are people doing it!

Some people purchase a curriculum and “do school” at home. On the other side of the continuum is “unschooling”, which reverses the top-down program of traditional school so that the program is driven by the interests and passions of the learner. Many homeschoolers use some structure, while choosing their own materials and allowing time for free discovery.

West River Academy fully supports you and the homeschooling style you choose.

We applaud you for honoring your children and their reason for being on Earth by including them in the discussion.

What is “Unschooling”?

Holt - learning is activity“Unschooling” is a word that was coined by John Holt, who was a pioneer in school reform in the US. He was a Yale University graduate and spent time as a teacher. He started wondering why toddlers and pre-school children had so much fun exercising their curiosity and loved learning and then, as 10-year-olds, acted up in class and appeared bored with learning. He came to realize that when the element of coercion is added to the learning model, it turns off love of learning and students just try to get by with the least effort. John Holt’s solution to this was to do the opposite of what is done in school. Instead of being required to participate, let it be voluntary. Instead of changing subjects every hour, let the child continue learning in an area of interest as long as his interest continues. Let him stop when he loses interest. Let his interests lead his learning. Isn’t that how adults learn things?

Unschooling has come to mean interest-based learning, child-led learning and relaxed homeschooling, among other terms. Think of it as putting the child in the driver’s seat of the car. The parent is in the passenger’s seat, making sure the car is not driven off a cliff, being the navigator with map in hand, letting the driver know what appears to be up ahead, etc. The child is then free to take the interstate or go off on a scenic byway, explore different places along the way or get to the destination as fast as he can. It’s letting the child drive the car while the parent offers guidance and assures safety.

Unschooling is usually eased into, as there is a lot of programming that both parents and children have received while being in the system. West River Academy will support you as you move comfortably into a learning style that is right for your family.

To learn more about unschooling, please visit these websites:

  1. John Holt’s Growing Without Schooling at http://www.johnholtgws.com
  2. The Christian Science Monitor’s Feature Article on February 14, 2016: “Free-range education: Why the unschooling movement is growing” at http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2016/0214/Free-range-education-Why-the-unschooling-movement-is-growing
  3. Homeschooling Why and How at http://www.homeschoolingwhyandhow.com


“Children should not be stifled; they should, in fact, participate in their education. Evan was never a child who could be structured in a school setting. I spent from kindergarten through the beginning of eighth grade trying to get him to conform to the codes and the ridiculous rules of traditional schools. I am very thankful for West River and to a very good friend of mine for pointing me to WRA and Peggy.

His dad is a school teacher and so is his aunt. He has a core of people around him who support him in his endeavors. Once a month, Evan and I go out to breakfast and WE BOTH plan his curriculum for the month. Evan is progressing and excelling because it is about Evan and his education this time around. It isn’t about mandated testing that the state requires for their placement in the overall status of the state (and not the student). It isn’t about times tests or stressful surrounding.

Thank you Peggy and WRA, Evan and I are quite pleased.”
~Jill, Palmyra, NJ USA


“One important aspect of this year is the drastic difference between my middle-school/learning experience and that of other teens I know. I have been able to grow academically, socially, and emotionally, without the level of teenage angst of my friends. I think it is because I am in control of my learning, my day, and my life. Being in control helps me understand who I am and what I want in my life.”
~Ben, Fort Collins, CO USA