Learn how to start unschooling for homeschool, a homeschool approach that allows freedom in in education and promotes child-led learning based on children’s interests with this nontraditional learning path.
How To Start Unschooling
If you’re just exploring the topic of unschooling or planning on a transition to unschooling from homeschooling, it can be intimidating because it seems like somewhat of an abstract concept.
I mean, what is unschooling homeschooling?
And, is there such a thing as an unschooling curriculum?
What are the disadvantages of unschooling?
And, more importantly, is unschooled legal?
Let’s start at the beginning…
What is the unschooling method?
Unschooling is style that falls under the umbrella of homeschooling. With unschool, a child is allowed to lead in their learning without necessarily following a specific homeschool curriculum. Children are allowed to follow their own interests and curiosities during unschool homeschooling.
For example, maybe your child is obsessed with rainbows. In unschooling, they would follow their interest and learn more about rainbows — checking out books from the library, watching documentaries on rainbows, doing some STEM experiments on reflection and refraction to make their own rainbows, bake a rainbow layered cake, create rainbow art and so much more.
A parents job in unschooling is to assist your child in what they need (resources, classes, etc.) to follow their interests.
There’s no one how to do unschooling way because every child is different!
New to homeschool? Start here: How To Home School Starting Now
How do I start unschooling?
- Check your state homeschool laws (or country’s homeschooling laws).
- Research and read unschooling books.
- Understand the differences in unschooling vs homeschooling.
- Deschool and let go of what you know about traditional school methods.
- Talk to your child about their interests.
- Provide books, games, and supplies that engage your child.
- Allow your child to lead in what they want to learn.
- Support your child in a mentor or facilitator role instead of a teacher role.
- HAVE FUN and remember that children learn naturally!
How can I legally unschool?
Homeschooling is legal in every state in America. Since unschooling is seen as a form of homeschooling, you can legally unschool in any state. However, homeschool requirements and laws vary by state. So, be sure to check your state laws.
How do I register for unschooling?
Unschool registration will depend on your state laws for homeschooling. In some areas, homeschoolers are required to register with the state, so follow the state’s guideline’s for homeschool registration and requirements. (You don’t need to call it “unschooling.”) Then, you can fit your state’s requirements into an unschooling schedule.
You may also find this helpful:
Here’s what contributor Anita Byler said about transitioning to unschooling:
Transitioning From Homeschooling to Unschooling: One Mom’s Personal Experience
When we started homeschooling, from a place of shame and insecurity I chose a homeschool curriculum popular among my public school friends.
I compared myself to others and was determined to keep my children moving at the same pace as their friends in public school.
But with a stubborn, independent first grader and a fourth grader with some dyslexic characteristics, I soon fell flat on my face.
Homeschooling is hard and failure was hard to admit.
And, it was even harder to relax enough to pick myself back up!
I knew what we were doing wasn’t working for any of us, but I was so scared to admit what that meant.
What it meant was that I had failed with scheduled homeschooling, and my family and friends would find out.
It also meant that I would have to figure out what next for us.
And, I’d have to learn to look at my children and education in a whole new light.
Letting Children Lead
I soon learned that children are wonderful teachers… if we take time to listen to them.
I started listening to my first grader and noticed she was so hungry and eager with questions and very determined to move at her own pace.
It was then that I swallowed my pride and refused to make her read.
When we did pick reading back up, we started in an area where she was very comfortable and chose books that were fun and easy.
Just the other day she told me “reading is kind of fun.”
My fourth grader, wounded and stunted from past school experiences, found no joy in books and seemed to have lost a lot of childish curiosity and creativity.
That’s when we changed homeschool up and really started to understand how to unschool.
We started taking things very slow.
We focused on learning the things she was interested in learning.
We turned new concepts into conversations and hands-on experiences and returned to some of the very basics of phonemic awareness.
I learned I was happy to “miss” a whole year of school with her, if her independence and love for learning would return.
And it did!
This year I’ve loved watching her independently pursue learning, scheduling her own work, and losing herself in a book.
YES, unschooling really works.
We became an unschooling family.
Also check out this related topic:
Flexibility of Unschooling
And, let’s not forget about the flexibility of being unschoolers.
Recently, we had a sick day.
Days like that are when the flexibility of unschooling is a benefit.
On that day, we finger painted.
We figured out how to make foaming soap with a recipe I found online.
We measured and calculated.
Later my little one (who hates spelling) made a detailed, written treasure hunt for her sister — all on her own!
Last Spring, at the ending of our school year, I wrote this poem.
It stands most for what I learned that year:
We’ve cleared off the table, put the books all away. We’re off to the real school of childhood play.
Under the table surrounded by chairs we’ll argue of whether we’re wolves or we’re bears.
Down by the creek on warm sunny days we’ll dive in the ocean to swim with the rays.
We’ll bandage a dolphin attacked by a shark. We’ll map out the country like Lewis and Clark.
Out under the trees my sister and me, lying in silence, will wait for the si. (Irish fairies)
Deep in the covers on dark stormy nights, my old viking ship will be in a plight.
Out in the puddles after the rain I’ll pole my gondola on a Venice lane.
While counting the birds and watching the sky I’ll dream of the day when I learn to fly.
We’ve loved all our books, and yes, we’ve had fun.
But now that it’s summer my learning’s begun.
Hand your children the knowledge and let them run with it!
Don’t constrain children to grade level, book lessons, or expectations.
How do Unschoolers Turn Out?
You may have come here looking for unschooling horror stories or unschooling failures or information to arm you with why unschooling doesn’t work.
If that’s the case, you’re probably disappointed because that hasn’t been our experience with unschooling.
There are so many opinions out there about unschooling homeschooling.
And, honestly, I haven’t even begun to wrap my head around everything unschooling means.
I just know what happens in our home when I relax enough to let my children learn the way they learn best… and for us, that was unschooling!
Contributor Anita Byler writes at Little Moments Great Joy, covering the life of a mom navigating the enormous world of homeschooling. You can also follow her on Instagram.