Unschooling Vs. Homeschooling

Now that the fall back-to-school season has officially arrived, parents are feeling the need to find the right ways to educate their kids while ensuring their safety. Even if schools reopen, sending kids back might not be the best solution as it puts them at risk even with proper safety measures in place. A lot of families are considering options to educate their kids at home, which is where the unschooling vs. homeschooling question comes in.

To better understand the differences between unschooling vs. homeschooling, let’s take a closer look at each method separately.

What is Unschooling?

The simplest explanation for unschooling is as a free-form learning model centered on the student. That means lesson plans and activities largely depend on what the student wants to learn rather than following a set curriculum.

As learning takes place at home, it is also a form of homeschooling. However, unschooling stands apart from other forms of home education in that there’s no teacher or curriculum to direct the student’s learning. Rather, parents who unschool their kids will act as facilitators and provide resources based on what the student wants to learn.

Unschooling was pioneered by educator John Holt, who coined the term in the 1970s. Although the method may occasionally involve systematic teaching on certain courses, it sets aside conventional grading systems and standard curricula.

What is Homeschooling?

Simply put, homeschooling refers to a form of education in which learning takes place at home rather than at an institutionalized school. Also known as home education, it involves parents or tutors teaching the students or acting as facilitators to their learning.

There are several homeschooling approaches that parents can choose from depending on their needs, viewpoints, values, and convenience. Unschooling, for instance, is a form of homeschooling that takes a rather unconventional approach to education where students direct the learning instead of following a strict curriculum.

You also have other options like relaxed homeschooling, Montessori homeschooling, remote learning, remote homeschool pods, and so on. Otherwise, you can also opt for classic or traditional homeschooling, which uses traditional tools, grading systems, and testing methods. Additionally, parents can either be the teachers themselves or even hire homeschool tutors to facilitate learning.

Some even pool resources with other parents and join remote homeschool pods led by a tutor or team of tutors, who can zero in on subjects and material and provide structure. “Pods” involve small groups of students learning together remotely from their individual homes under the guidance of a teacher or a tutor. It’s one of the best options since it provides structured learning and peer socialization without comprising safety or costing a fortune.

So there’s a lot of flexibility with homeschooling as parents get to choose an approach that fits their needs and preferences. However, students who have been exposed to traditional educational institutions will need to go through a deschooling process to adapt to homeschooling.

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between deschooling vs. unschooling even though the prefixes may have similar meanings. Deschooling is the process of transitioning to homeschool from institutionalized classrooms, whereas unschooling is a form of homeschooling. In deschooling, parents will try to get their kids acquainted to the homeschool life and eventually move on to any of the homeschooling methods.

Unschooling vs. Homeschooling: What’s the Difference?

Now on to the main part – a detailed breakdown of unschooling vs. homeschooling to help you understand the differences between the two. We’ll mainly use the classic or traditional homeschooling method in our comparison since that’s what typically comes to mind when we hear the term “homeschooling.”

  • Traditional homeschooling follows a homeschool curriculum in accordance with state and national standards. The educator assigns homework, plans lessons, and grades assignments just like in an institutionalized school.
  • With unschooling, however, there’s no standard unschooling curriculum to follow as the student decides what they want to learn. So they engage in activities that align with their interests and passions rather than pre-assigned lessons on traditional subjects.
  • The classic homeschooling approach makes use of traditional learning tools and education resources such as textbooks and tests. On the other hand, the unschooling resources and tools may vary largely depending on what the learner chooses. For that reason, some parents who unschool may not even have to use textbooks at all.
  • In a classic homeschooling scenario, parents are often the teachers. However, that doesn’t mean only parents can be the teachers. Contrary to this popular homeschooling misconception, you can even opt for homeschool tutoring where you work with tutors who specialize in homeschooling or in specific subjects.

With unschooling, parents don’t play the role of conventional teachers. Instead, they act as facilitators who provide their kids with the resources and tools they need to learn what they want to learn. For example, they might provide a child who wants to learn more about planes with aviation books and plane assembly kits.

Why Unschool?: Key Benefits of the Method

Many of the benefits of unschooling only exist when education is delivered outside of a an institution like a public school.

  • It respects a child’s individuality and allows them to academically explore their interests – whether it’s gardening, baking, crafting, dance, Native American culture, or even math. In other words, their education aligns with their passions.
  • It allows flexibility and adaptability based on the needs and preferences of students as well as parents.
  • It offers a multi-dimensional learning experience so that kids can learn from interactions and live encounters with their environment.
  • It supports individual creative expression and could be perfect for artistically-inclined children.

Unschooling Drawbacks to Consider

The lack of structure in unschooling might not provide an ideal learning environment for some kids.

  • It leaves room for knowledge gaps due to the unsystematic learning approach that focuses on the learner’s interests.
  • Unschooled kids might lack some core competencies that could be useful at some point in their lives.
  • Directing the learning based on a child’s interest also leaves room for redundancy, especially if the learner only shows interest in a couple of things.
  • It may not be suitable for all parents as they may lack the time to properly facilitate their kids’ learning.
  • With the approach being unconventional and not widely-known, there may be a dearth of unschooling resources and unschooling curriculum to guide parents experimenting with the method.

Why Homeschool?: Key Benefits of the Method

Homeschooling, in general, provides a safe alternative to conventional school, which might be a great option if you still want your kids to learn in a school-like approach but don’t want to risk their safety.

  • It usually follows a curriculum along with tools that align with state and federal learning standards. These formal standards could translate well into college applications and admission essays.
  • There’s an abundance of online education resources and guidelines that can teach you how to homeschool along with other important things like homeschool time management. So parents experimenting with the approach will have no trouble getting some help.
  • You also have the option to get homeschool tutoring in case you want to leave the teaching at the hands of a trained tutor or you need someone who specializes in a specific subject.

Homeschooling Drawbacks to Consider

Sometimes, a homeschool learning structure can be a bit rigid so it’s likely to be inhibiting for some kids.

  • It can be time-consuming as it follows a standard homeshool curriculum that parents/homeschool tutors will need to finish during a specific timeframe. So there’s no room for exploration or lagging.
  • Although there are inexpensive options to homeschooling, the traditional method relies on preplanned courses and standard curricula that parents will have to buy in packages. The costs can add up as you’ll have to buy textbooks along with other materials like teacher’s guides and answer keys.

Should I Unschool?

Now the biggest question is whether or not you should unschool your kids. The answer largely depends on your child’s learning style as well as what kind of learning experience you want them to get. So while some children may thrive in an unschooling environment, others might suffer from the lack of structure.

Consider unschooling if:

  • You feel that schools teach information that doesn’t serve real purpose in a real-world setting.
  • Your outlook towards traditional schooling results in a feeling that classrooms mainly teach kids obedience and conformity.
  • You want your kids to explore their creativity and interests without the inhibitions of traditional classroom teaching.
  • You want to your kids to use their natural curiosity to learn how to engage with the world around them.
  • Your kid is already showing a tendency to create learning projects based on the topics that intrigue them. For instance, they might take an interest in understanding how planes work or they might try to memorize dinosaur names.

What’s the Right Option?

The answer really depends on your personal needs and preferences, as well as your child’s learning style. If you feel that your kids could do well with more structure, you could opt for a traditional homeschooling approach. If you want to give your kids the freedom to explore their curiosity and creativity, unschooling might be an excellent option. Otherwise, you could balance the two by taking a relaxed homeschooling approach instead.

To further understand your options before you make a decision, make sure you check out The Wyzant Blog Homeschool Resource Hub for expert opinions and advice.

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