Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | April 14, 2013

Unschooling 101

As OFF KLTR homeschooling research continues, I’m now focusing on unschooling.  What is unschooling you ask?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!!  Please, read on…

I.  CLIFFS NOTES:  What is Unschooling?

Alison McKee, the author of Homeschooling our Children, Unschooling Ourselves, in her article entitled FAQs about Unschooling High School and College, explains that “Unschooling is a term that the late John Holt coined in the late ’70’s to describe learning that is based on a child’s interests and needs.  Unschooling does not begin with a parent’s notion of what is important to learn and then turn the choices of how to learn the content over to a child.  Rather, it begins with the child’s natural curiosity and expands from there.  Unschooling is not “instruction free” learning.  If a child wants to learn to read, an unschooling parent may offer instruction by providing help with decoding, reading to the child, and giving the child ample opportunity to encounter words.  If the child in uninterested in these supports, the parent backs off until the child asks for help.  The most important thing about the unschooling process is that the child is in charge of the learning, not the adult.  Unschoolers often do no traditional school work, yet they do learn traditional subject matter.  They learn it as a natural extension of exploring their own personal interests.”


1.  The Well-Adjusted Child:  The Social Benefits of Homeschooling is just sooo good.  After reading it, I was ready to sign us up with the Arlington School system as a homeschooling family for the 2013-14 school year!  The author, “points to research showing that homeschooled children have stronger self-concepts than children attending conventional schools. Focusing on how homeschoolers address misperceptions, she explores concepts of socialization, the importance of friendships with other  children, strong relationships with parents, and how homeschoolers eventually integrate into the ‘real world’. Great encouragement for parents who are homeschooling and those who are considering it.”- Booklist.

2. Kingdom of children : culture and controversy in the homeschooling movement / Mitchell L. Stevens.   This book is excellent as it is gives a history of homeschooling and the two major factions within the homeschooling movement:  the large, well-organized group of families who homeschool for religious purposes and the smaller, not-so-organized secular group of homeschoolers (unschoolers fall into this second group).


3.  Homeschooling our children, unschooling ourselves / by Alison McKee.   I really liked this book.  It is a bit dated, but the mom writes so honestly about her family’s experience with homeschooling.  She is writing somewhat in retrospect.  But, her voice gave me confidence.

4.  The unschooling handbook : how to use the whole world as your child’s classroom / by Mary Griffith.  This is another very readable book about unschooling.  More up-to-date.  And very useful information about/how-to’s/resources for unschooling.

5. Free Range Learning:  How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laure Grace Weldon.  This is a super-long, super-packed book.  I still haven’t finished it, yet.  But it’s an excellent resource.

6.  John Holt.  He is the father of unschooling, so I suppose that you should really read at least one of his books.  I read Teach Your Own, The John Holt Book of Homeschooling  His books are very heavily steeped in theory.  So, IMHO, one book should suffice.  But I do think that you need to read at least one of his books if you really want to be unschooling literate.  Ha!  kind of an oxymoron…


7.  Teenage Liberation Handbook:  How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education / Grace LLewellyn.  As the title implies, it is a book about unschooling for teens.

8.  Unschooling rules : 55 ways to unlearn what we know about schools and rediscover education / Clark Aldrich.  This is a quick read.  Better for older (junior high, high school children and their parents).


Unschooling Conference in Wakefield, MA – August 22 to 25  “Come to the Northeast Unschooling Conference, an annual gathering for unschooling families (and those interested in unschooling) to enjoy a community for learning and fun and to meet others for whom Life is a Joyful Adventure.  Hear amazing speakers, experience great entertainment, and enjoy all the wonderful unschooling kids, teens, and adults.”


  1. Thanks, Tracy! I will revisit these recommendations (at least 2 are already in my library). I’m starting to feel like this could be us in a year or two.

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