HomeWRA NewsWhat Does Unschooling Look Like?

“Ultimately, unschooling “looks like” young people pursuing their own dreams with assistance from those who love and support them!”

Author John Holt coined the term “unschooling” in the 1970s when he started to advocate removing children from school and educating them in a manner that would be the opposite of school: no compulsion, no prescribed curriculum, no bells to start and stop learning. Through the years, other terms have been used, such as interest-based learning, child-led learning and relaxed homeschooling.

West River Academy Director Peggy Webb stresses to people who call her that unschooling is a way of honoring children and their reason for being on Planet Earth right now. Allowing the child to continue his or her curiosity-driven interests results in learning that is valuable and practical to the student. The ultimate benefactors of a student that is engaged in activities he or she is passionate about is us; the world benefits from what this person will contribute to our global community.

As Peggy likes to say, “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 or she can. It’s letting the child drive the car while the parent offers guidance and assures safety.”

“What if I’m practicing unschooling and my child wants to go to public school?” is a question often asked. Peggy responds, “If your child chooses to attend school, then he or she is still in the driver’s seat, making that decision. Unschooling, then, takes on the form of going to school. The child knows that at any time he or she can decide to stop going to school; he has chosen to have this learning experience. It’s really no different than the child’s deciding to take ballet lessons. I gave my daughter, Rachel, the freedom to choose how she wanted to learn and she chose a variety of experiences during her childhood, including a part-time charter school, boarding school and full-time public high school. To me, it was all unschooling because she was in charge and I assisted.” 

Ultimately, unschooling “looks like” young people pursuing their own dreams with assistance from those who love and support them!

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