Why I’m Not an Unschooler

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Why I’m Not an Unschooler

There is a lot of talk these days about unschooling, what it is and what it’s not. There is so much good in unschooling that I don’t want to throw it out, but I am not a complete unschooler.

First off, here are some things I love and highly recommend about it:

It’s relaxed.

It focuses on the whole child.

It allows interest driven learning.

Here are some things I don’t like about it:

It depends on your child’s drive.

Ok, so a little more about this. Some children will probably wake up one morning and randomly ask to do math or copy-work or learn something really hard that they have no interest in, but mine most likely won’t. So, should I be okay with him not learning anything he’s not interested in or allowing him to choose his entire day’s activities? Let’s be honest here, my son is bright, but reading and writing have been a struggle for him. If I don’t gently push him, he will not improve so if I don’t then I am responsible for his lack of growth. To me, it’s similar to this article I read the other day about babies not having tummy time. See, most babies don’t really enjoy it, but it’s extremely beneficial for their development. As parents we have to be willing to put up with their aggravation sometimes for their betterment. As the Bible says, no correction at the time seems fun (I’m paraphrasing here).

It depends on your child’s character.

Let’s face it Moms and Dads, our children have a strong sinful tendency, and laziness goes right along with that. It’s our job as parents to guide, direct, lead them, not the other way around. That doesn’t mean we don’t take their interests and gifts into our planning. Not at ALL! But it does mean we can’t depend on them to completely direct their own education and training. Because quite bluntly, just like us, our kids will often choose the easy way. That’s not a good foundation for life. I mean, how easy is it to raise a family? 

So, since I’m not a sold out unschooler, what exactly do I do in my homeschool?

  1. I do plan based on my children’s strengths.
  2. I do wait until they are physically and mentally ready to learn. How I do that is present it to them and judge whether they “get” it or not. If not, I wait and re-present it later. It shouldn’t be a terrible struggle. If it is, they probably aren’t ready!
  3. I do try to stretch them gently. The key word is gently here! It’s okay if they aren’t comfortable with an activity right at first. Give them some time to get used to it and be okay with some failure. Failure is only truly failure if it’s not learned from.
  4. Don’t allow self-pity. This is a big one! When my son misses a math problem, he usually freaks out because he is a perfectionist, sometimes. He will then moan that he is terrible at math. I don’t give into that at all! In fact, I’m rather bluntly unsympathetic. I tell him everyone misses problems at some point, and he will again. I don’t let him quit simply because he gets discouraged. By the same token, I do give a break when he is having real trouble so his mental state doesn’t get blocked!
  5. I have a routine. It’s not a strict schedule, but I do have a basic routine and that helps my son know what to expect. He knows he reads a certain amount of pages out of his current book each day; does two lessons in math, character building, history, science; and rotates art and any other subjects we are working on.
  6. We do try to focus on “Lifeschooling.” What that means for us used to involve our kids in all aspects of life. They grocery shop, they garden, they mechanic, chop wood, wash laundry, cook, and vacuum. My children know that they are expected to play with the baby while I’m working and to help keep her out of mischief. No, they aren’t “raising” their younger siblings, but I am preparing them for future children!  Who of us wouldn’t have loved to know a little more about being a mom when we were suddenly thrust into this role?
  7. I do allow lots of free time and outside time! I encourage them to explore, adventure, and create!  I don’t put more value on academic learning than hands on learning, but I do believe there is a balance to be had.

So, all in all, I do believe unschooling has a lot to offer, but I think as parents we have to be very careful to not turn the reins over when God has clearly told us we are to train, nurture, admonish, and direct our children, not to allow our children to train themselves!


Jenny is a wife to her amazing husband of 17 years and stay-at-home momma to 4 kids. She blogs at where she is learning that blessings aren’t always convenient.


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2 Comments to “ Why I’m Not an Unschooler”

  1. Sharon says :Reply

    I needed to read this today. I am always trying to find a happy medium with our to schooling. Like you, I find merit in unschooling but can’t embrace it fully. It was good to read an article saying it IS okay not to unschool. I feel bombarded with articles saying you should or else you’re just recreating school which is bad. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thirza says :Reply

    I also needed to read this today, especially your last sentence: “…as parents we have to be very careful to not turn the reins over when God has clearly told us we are to train, nurture, admonish, and direct our children, not to allow our children to train themselves.” I have been guilty of this the past four months. My kids have been pretty unmotivated and I’ve let them face the consequences themselves, but that’s not good parenting. I am the one that has the job to train them and I can’t expect that they can train themselves. Thanks for that! I completely agree with your thoughts on unschooling/homeschooling!

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).