Finding an exact definition of unschooling can be difficult as many followers see this as a lifestyle choice rather than a purely educational one.

The unschooling movement can be explained more by what families do not do (attend traditional schools or use formal curriculum, i.e. school-at-home) than what they do. With unschooling the emphasis is on giving children the freedom to make their own choices in learning and have control and direction over what and how they learn. Unschooling is an offshoot or counter-culture movement of the more mainstream homeschooling term and is often credited to philosopher John Holt from the 1960s and 70s.

John Holt wrote that; “children want to learn about the world, are good at it, and can be trusted to do it without much adult coercion or interference.” So, children are allowed the freedom to make decisions about what and how they want to learn. Children are seen as capable of making choices and able to progress in developmentally appropriate ways to their own growth and learning styles.

Some unschoolers do choose to use curriculum or take classes but those are decided on by the child and not mandated by the parent or a school. Parents may use the term “strewing” whereby they place interesting material around the home to jiggle a child’s engagement in learning but they do not mandate it be used. Parents also help children to seek out information or knowledge about topics of interest and help facilitate experiences in the world.

Because research studies do not distinguish between homeschooling and unschooling, it is difficult to know how many families follow this approach but experts in the field suggest 10% of homeschoolers may classify themselves as unschoolers.

Unschooling: A Brief Overview