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Unschooling: Laws & How to Start

Unschooling: Laws & How to Start
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By now, you’ve probably heard the term “unschooling” more than once. So, what does unschooling mean? Families interested in taking their child’s learning into their own hands often hear about a type of education called “unschooling.” On this page, we will look at this specific style of homeschooling, including the legality of the approach. For those families who want to explore unschooling for themselves we will also talk about how to begin, how unschooling and homeschool curriculum fit together, and how Time4Learning can be the ideal complement to an unschooling methodology.

What Is Unschooling?

Unschooling is a style of home education that allows the student’s interests and curiosities to drive the path of learning. Rather than using a defined curriculum, unschoolers trust children to gain knowledge organically.

Contrary to how it sounds, unschooling is an active learning process and not the passive, unstructured method that its terminology would suggest. Unschoolers are homeschoolers who are focused more on the experimental process of learning and becoming educated, than with “doing school.” The focus of unschooling is on the choices made by the individual child, dictated by interests, learning style, and personality type.

John Holt, one of the leaders of the unschooling philosophy said,

Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.

Unschooling is different from deschooling, which refers to the period of time when a student (and family) adjusts after leaving a traditional school setting. Instead, it involves nurturing a child’s natural curiosity, without placing artificial time constraints on them such as the introduction of certain subjects at certain ages, or without structuring their day in the same way a classroom setting might.

How To Start Unschooling

When you are ready to move from exploring unschooling to actually embracing the approach, you can begin by:

  1. Studying your state’s homeschool laws to see how unschooling fits in with your state regulations
  2. Researching what unschooling looks like for many different families in order to help define your own approach
  3. Talking with your children/teens about unschooling and what your goals are for their education
  4. Decide if you will integrate any formal curricula into your unschooling approach
  5. Enjoy the freedom of letting your child take the lead in his/her education!

Unschooling is a form of homeschooling, and homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. And while there are no official “unschooling laws,” the laws that regulate how you homeschool in each state can affect the way you approach—or at least report—your homeschooling progress.

For parents homeschooling in New York and Pennsylvania, detailed recordkeeping that shows what each child is learning is required. Your homeschool portfolio should include lots of samples of projects your homeschooler has worked on, and pictures of them actively participating in their educational pursuits. Keep detailed logs of homeschool trips you take, volunteer projects you embark on, books you read, and activities you participate in. Many times, you’ll notice connections between different unschooling paths you’ve taken and can tie those together into a more formal description of a specific subject or theme.

For those who choose to homeschool under certain options available to them in their home state, such as Florida umbrella schools or church schools in Alabama, you will want to research which ones are willing to work with unschoolers. Many times, these schools can even offer advice for unschooling families on state reporting and recordkeeping.

Parents homeschooling in Ohio, Michigan, and other states have set requirements for subjects that must be taught within their homeschool. Even though unschoolers don’t necessarily group what they are learning into traditional subjects, the likelihood is that as you follow your child’s natural curiosities, you will touch on most or all of them. Volunteering at an animal shelter, for instance, offers opportunities to learn about anything from canine biology to U.S. government and civics. Watching the Clash of the Titans together certainly counts as history, and building Lego structures integrates many aspects of math. If you are looking for it, subject-centered learning is “hiding” in almost every area of your unschooling pursuits.

Unschooling and Homeschool Curriculum

Families with an unschooling approach vary greatly with the amount of structured curriculum they use. Some families are vigorously opposed to curriculum in any form, preferring to let their child learn primarily from their natural interactions with the world around them. Other families use formal curriculum for specific subjects that they want to make sure their children have a grasp on, while allowing learning to come more organically in other subjects. Some students actually crave a certain amount of structure—particularly if they are coming from a traditional school background. These students may ask to use curriculum while they are making the transition to unschooling.

How to Use Time4Learning with an Unschooling Approach

Time4Learning can be used by unschoolers as a supplemental program to other experiences, such as regular library use, literature, theater or dance groups, museums, sports, and field trips. Some of the benefits that unschooling families who use Time4Learning as part of their unschooling resources include:

  • Time4Learning appeals to a wide range of learning styles. Our online learning materials are especially well-suited to children who are visual or kinesthetic learners. These children can take advantage of Time4Learning’s interactive, multimedia materials, and by shifting from books to computer-based lessons, or discussions to paper-and-pencil exercises, children benefit from different teaching methods and are more likely to stay engaged.
  • Children like using the computer to learn. It’s a convenient, interactive homeschool resource that provides a welcome change from textbook-based lessons, and helps children learn the computer skills so necessary in this day and age.
  • Unschooling families sometimes want a structured curriculum for one or more subjects. Parents who appreciate a sequential approach to arithmetic, for instance, like that Time4Learning offers ordered lessons and tracks students progress in each lesson with interactive activities, optional worksheets, and assessments.
  • Parents like that it tracks progress and helps children advance by clearly presenting and reinforcing each lesson. This helps with portfolio recordkeeping.
  • Time4Learning’s self-paced, modularized lesson plans allow you to move forward and back through the materials whenever you want. You can skip lessons that teach concepts your child has already mastered, and repeat those he or she has not. The choice is yours. With Time4Learning you are always in control.
  • Time4Learning is proven effective with homeschoolers , has a low monthly price, is easy-to-use , and provides a money-back guarantee so you can make sure that it works for your children!
  • Unschoolers love the fact that they can choose which lessons to study based on their child’s individual interests

Additional Resources on Homeschooling Styles

Want to know even more about the different approaches to homeschooling? The following pages can help:

PreK - 5th

  • Monthly, per student

6th - 12th

  • Monthly, per student

30% off each additional student

Discount applied to the student(s) of equal or lesser value.

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