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Check out our new unschooling overview for guidance on helping your kids take control of their own learning.

Click on a category below to access links, articles, and materials.

Learning during COVID-19

Suddenly in charge of teaching your kids at home? We can help!

 

As COVID-19 closes schools across the country, many parents now find themselves with a shared challenge: spending structureless days with their kids at home. Below you will find helpful articles and resources.

Helpful Resources:


This Overview offers unschooling essentials and guidance to empower your child to take control of their own learning.

This infographic illustrates what a week in the life of an unschooler could be.

This graphic highlights key tenants of unschooling to empower young people to thrive.

Natural Creativity has compiled a set of resources for parents that can help to guide young people in choosing how to spend their days as independently as possible.


The Opportunity:


“To the millions of parents who didn’t choose to homeschool: This is an Opportunity.” Cassie Werber, Quartz.

Perhaps It’s Time to Consider Unschooling.” Astra Taylor, The Cut.


Stay tuned for more updates.



 

What is “Unschooling”?

What is Unschooling? A Parent’s Guide to Child-Led Home Education Parents.com 

“Unschooling is essentially a curiosity-led approach to learning devoid of testing and predefined curricula. It leaves the exploration and implementation of knowledge to children, instead of relying on the passing of information from adults and books, based on what is believed (by adults) to be necessary learning.”
– Akilah S. Richards,
The Freedom of Unschooling: Raising Liberated Black Children Without The Restrictions of School

“Unschooling is a term first coined by the [educator] John Holt to mean learning and teaching that does not resemble school learning and teaching. I broadly define unschooling as allowing your children as much freedom to explore the world around them in their own ways as you can comfortably bear; I see unschooling in the light of partnership, not in the light of the dominance of a child’s wishes over a parents’ or vice versa.”
– Pat Farenga,
The Foundations of Unschooling

“Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do.”
– Earl Stevens,
What Is Unschooling?
 

What is Learner-Centered Education?

“[Learner-Centered Education] constitutes a shift of perspective that places every learner at its center, structures the system to build appropriate supports around [them], and acknowledges the need to adapt and alter to meet the needs of all children.” 
– Education Reimagined,
It’s a Paradigm Shift. So What?

“[Learner-Centered Education] is a teaching approach that puts the students at the center of learning by actively involving them in the learning process and putting the teacher in the facilitative and mentoring role.”
– IGI Global,
What is Learner-Centered Education?

What is Self-Directed Education?

“In modern cultures, self-directed education is pursued by children in families that adopt the homeschooling approach commonly called “unschooling” and by children enrolled in democratic schools [and learning centers], where they are in charge of their own education.”
– Peter Gray, Self-Directed Education—Unschooling and Democratic Schooling - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education

“Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life. [...] Given this definition of education, self-directed education is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education.”
– The Alliance for Self-Directed Education,
What Is Self-Directed Education?

Helpful Videos

        
  • Changing Education Paradigms – World-renowned education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson on the origins of our current school system and changing education paradigms.
  • How We See Self-Directed Education - Akilah S. Richards – Akilah S. Richards and Laura Kriegel from the Alliance for Self-Directed Education explain how unschooling, free/democratic schools, learning centers, co-ops and more relate.
  •     
  • Self-Directed Education: Allowing Children to Learn & Develop Naturally – In contrast to the current norm of imposed schooling - in which children's natural educative drives are overridden to satisfy curriculum mandates - Self-Directed Education works with children's natural drives, allowing them to develop their potential joyfully and easily, in ways no educator could have predicted, and without the struggles and emotional damage that so common in standard schooling.
  •     
  • Trusting Children to Learn – Marley Richards (age 12) helps us see education from a child's perspective.
  •      
  • Democratizing Education - Rachel Roberts – Rachel Roberts on how democratic and self-directed education can fuel social and economic progress.
 

Helpful Books

        
  • You, Your Child, and School - Sir Ken Robinson – This book offers clear principles and practical advice on how to support your child through the K-12 education system, or outside it if you choose to homeschool or unschool.
  •     
  • Unschooled - Kerry McDonald  – In a compelling narrative that introduces historical and contemporary research on self-directed education, Unschooled also spotlights how a diverse group of individuals and organizations are evolving an old schooling model of education.
  •     
  • Free To Learn - Peter Gray – A leading expert in childhood development makes the case for why self-directed learning - "unschooling" - is the best way to get kids to learn.
  •     
  • Deschooling Society - Ivan Illich – Classic influential work on schooling as practiced in modern economies, its effects on society, and how we can move beyond it, this book provides a deeper-rooted “why” behind the need for freeing our children and ourselves through self-directed education.
 

Does Unschooling Work?

“The very nature of unschooling means that it is perfect for anyone. How can this be? Because unschooling is about whatever that person needs and wants. It is not a curriculum which is unbending and created without a thought to the individual interests of the child. It is literally doing what is best for you. It is meeting everyone’s needs, following what makes you happy, creating a life that is perfect for you.”
– Sara,
Unschooling Works for Every Child

“As unschooling gains in popularity, I just hope that more and more parents (and more and more teenagers looking to leave school) can find the support networks needed to feel confident enough to make the choices that really feel best to them, instead of basing their decisions on fear of choosing a lifestyle that's just less conventional.”
– Idzie Desmarais,
Unschooling Isn't More Risky, It's Just Less Conventional

“It's possible to take the unschooling route and then go on to a highly satisfying adult life.”
– Luba Vangelova,
How Do Unschoolers Turn Out?

“Because this pedagogical revolution remains on the fringe, scientific studies have been sparse. Naysayers point to this disparagingly, which may have curtailed the rise of unschooling. Yet the tides are turning. A compelling body of research is now emerging; one that supports it, revealing positive and sometimes surprising results. So let’s dive in and examine the evidence behind unschooling.” 
– Arthur G.,
The Evidence Behind Unschooling  

For Educators

“Are you a teacher who loves working with young people, but hates teaching in ‘the system’? Joel Hammon talks about his decision to quit his job as a high school teacher and how creating Self-Directed Education centers can improve the lives of teachers and their students.”
– Joel Hammond, Teacher Liberation TEDx Talk

“[Real Educational Reform] requires that we abandon the idea that adults are in charge of children's learning. It requires, in other words, that we throw out the basic premise that underlies our system of schooling.”
– Peter Gray,
Is Real Educational Reform Possible? If So, How?

 

If adults aren’t in charge, how do children learn?

“Talk to gifted scientists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs. You will find they learned like a Yanomami child learns, through keen observation, experimentation, immersion, freedom, participation, through real play and real work, through the kind of free activity where the distinction between work and play disappears. Talk to a really good auto mechanic, carpenter, farmer, fiddle player, web designer, film editor, songwriter, photographer, chef, and you will find they learned the same way.”
– Carol Black,
A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World Has Forgotten About Children and Learning

“Learning is like breathing. It is a natural, human activity: it is part of being alive. A person who is active, curious, who explores the world using all his or her senses, who meets life with energy and enthusiasm—as all babies do—is learning. Our ability to learn, like our ability to breathe, does not need to be improved or tampered with. It is utter nonsense, not to mention deeply insulting, to say that people need to be taught how to learn or how to think. We are born knowing how to do these things. All that is needed is an interesting, accessible, intelligible world, and a chance to play a meaningful part in it.” 
– Aaron Falbel,
Learning? Yes, of course. Education? No, thanks.

“It seems to me that the human urge to play is what has gotten us where we are today.  Now that statement can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but what I mean when I say it now, is the progress that allows us to sit here in well-lit, well-warmed comfort; that allows me to use a computer to ease my work; that allows us to fly around so that we can vacation in various places or so that we can have people who come from far away talk about some ideas we are interested in! These progressions have all originated from human beings pushing the envelope, playing with new ideas.”
– Mimsy Sadofsky,
Why Does a Sudbury School Work?

Why Self-Directed Education?

It’s more than just an educational approach. It is a radical, liberatory way of life.

“When we say we’re raising free people, we’ve decided that respect and love, not fear and control, will be how we raise and regard the youngest members of our homes and our society. [...] When we’re raising free people, we want to start, or continue, [...] deepening our understanding of the ways that various forms of oppression intersect and are perpetuated through our adult and non-adult relationships - and then, we want to start, or we want to continue, disrupting our connections to those oppressive ways, and replacing them with mindful, peaceful, consistent, freedom-centered relationships.”
– Akilah S. Richards,
Fare of the Free Child Ep. 74: What Does Raising Free People Mean?“Because of changes in the economy, Self-Directed Education is even more valuable today than in the past. We no longer need many people to do the kinds of tasks that our schools are designed to teach. We don’t need people who can memorize and regurgitate lots of information; we have Google for that. We don’t need many people to do routine, tedious tasks; we have robots for that. What we do need, and will continue to need, are people who think critically and creatively, innovate, ask and answer questions that nobody else has thought of, and bring moral values and a passionate sense of purpose into the workplace. These are precisely the kinds of skills that are continuously honed in Self-Directed Education.”
– The Alliance for Self-Directed Education,
Why Choose Self-Directed Education?

“I have always understood the promise of unschooling and democratic education as a modest one: freed from the busywork of school, children are given the precious opportunity to enjoy their lives. They can spend their days playing, pursuing interests and developing hobbies which could provide an endless source of enjoyment for the rest of their lives. They will have a strong sense of who they are, what’s important to them, and what makes them happy. The lucky ones might even find a way to make money doing something they enjoy. If not, then hopefully they could at least find a tolerable way to support themselves while still having enough free time to focus on the things that bring joy and meaning into their lives. To unschool means not only to question schooling as a means but to question education as a goal. Many parents opt out of the school system with the idea that it is broken and that education can be carried out more effectively outside the school system. But the writings of Ivan Illich, John Holt and others offer encouragement to go a step further, pointing out that beyond even schooling, it is the very impulse to want to improve education, which is the more pernicious problem. For it is education, i.e ‘something that some people do to others for their own good,’ which ultimately undermines children’s dignity and flourishing.”
– Ben Draper,
 Is Self-Directed Education Producing Model Workers For An Innovation-Based Economy?

“In my travels around the world, I have found that on every issue, in every domain, education (read: factory schooling) is seen as a panacea, as a source of hope, as a symbol of great human upliftment. Whatever the problem, more education is ultimately posited as the answer. [...] My experiences in these various avatars, however, have led me to suspect that rather than being a grand solution for all of humanity, McEducation for All and the thinking and values that it represents might be at the core of the problem.”
– Manish Jain,
McEducation for All: Whose Agenda Does Global Education Really Serve?

Visit a Self-Directed Education community and observe the practice. You can find the most up-to-date list of communities on the ASDE resource directory map</a>.

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education offers resources and support systems for starting and hosting
local SDE groups.

 

Want more information?

Contact the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, check out the Alternative Education Resource Organization, explore Education Reimagined, and read youth testimonials from Open Connections.

For Young People

Congratulations and thank you for your interest in unschooling! We believe that everyone is born to learn - and that following your interests and passions is the very best way to do so. Even coming to this page is a big deal. Here you will find helpful articles and pathways to learn more and connect with other people, like yourself, who want to reimagine a better path.

 

Unschooling Can Be For You!


“Aside from family, school is the institution that dominates most kids’ lives. It is where most everybody under the age of 18 is compelled to go almost every day, all day, for 12 years or more. School is where we meet most of our friends, get many of our ideas about the world, figure out what kind of person we are, get told what we’re good and not good at. It’s amazing how much of our lives school constructs, even if you don’t go: ways of being that get drilled into our heads every day of our childhood are patterns that can stay with you for life. So it is really critical to find ways to think clearly and honestly about school and our relationships with and to it. For most of us, school is somewhere between miserable and just something we put up with. Aside from a lucky few, school is something to be endured. Oftentimes school appears to be so all-consuming and so inevitable that it becomes hard to imagine any other reality. But it doesn’t have to be like that! There are lots of other ways to think about this: don’t resign yourself to 12 years of killing time, being bored, frustrated, scared, unfulfilled, or depressed. There are plenty of kids doing things differently and you can too, no matter how old you are or where you are living!”
Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook For Youth, p.27, edited by Matt Hern & The Purple Thistle Centre

 

How can you do things differently?


 

Words of Empowerment


Maybe you feel uncomfortable at the idea of directing your own education. Maybe you imagine that without someone telling you what to do all the time, you’d sit around and do nothing. Keep in mind, this has more to do with other people than yourself: “Our low expectations of teenagers create a vicious circle. We think teenagers are lazy, unmotivated, and incapable of directing their own lives, so we restrict their freedom and micromanage them. This process leads teenagers to believe that they are, in fact, lazy, unmotivated, and in need of micromanagement.”
– Kerry McDonald, How Our Culture Disempowers Teens

“Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.”
– Carol Black,
A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World Has Forgotten About Children and Learning

If you want to understand how most unschooling schools uphold your rights as a young person, watch this video made by the students of one such school, What if?.

  • If you are wondering how unschoolers turn out, how these people could possibly lead successful, fulfilling lives, with college as an option, check out these amazing profiles of grown unschoolers in their own words.

  • If you are feeling nervous or second-guessing yourself about leaving conventional school, you may be inspired by Gettingschooled.org, or an essay by John Taylor Gatto called The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher.


Want more information? Contact the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, check out the Alternative Education Resource Organization, explore Education Reimagined, and read youth testimonials from Open Connections.

For Parents

What is Unschooling? A Parent’s Guide to Child-Led Home Education Parents.com 

How will my child learn?

“Your child is a learner. They were born that way! You witnessed it from ages 0-5 when they learned everything they needed to know. From how to smile and roll over, to how to walk and talk. You couldn’t stop their learning if you tried. It didn’t need to be controlled or coerced back then, and it doesn’t need to be now either. Your child has an amazing ability to learn everything they need to know for their life, if only you would give them the freedom to follow their curiosity.”
– Sara,
If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

“Talk to gifted scientists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs. You will find they learned like a Yanomami child learns, through keen observation, experimentation, immersion, freedom, participation, through real play and real work, through the kind of free activity where the distinction between work and play disappears. Talk to a really good auto mechanic, carpenter, farmer, fiddle player, web designer, film editor, songwriter, photographer, chef, and you will find they learned the same way.”
– Carol Black,
A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World Has Forgotten About Children and Learning

“Learning is like breathing. It is a natural, human activity: it is part of being alive. A person who is active, curious, who explores the world using all his or her senses, who meets life with energy and enthusiasm—as all babies do—is learning. Our ability to learn, like our ability to breathe, does not need to be improved or tampered with. It is utter nonsense, not to mention deeply insulting, to say that people need to be taught how to learn or how to think. We are born knowing how to do these things. All that is needed is an interesting, accessible, intelligible world, and a chance to play a meaningful part in it.” 
– Aaron Falbel,
Learning? Yes, of course. Education? No, thanks.

“It seems to me that the human urge to play is what has gotten us where we are today. Now that statement can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but what I mean when I say it now, is the progress that allows us to sit here in well-lit, well-warmed comfort; that allows me to use a computer to ease my work; that allows us to fly around so that we can vacation in various places or so that we can have people who come from far away talk about some ideas we are interested in! These progressions have all originated from human beings pushing the envelope, playing with new ideas.”
– Mimsy Sadofsky,
Why Does a Sudbury School Work?

 

Why Self-Directed Education?

It’s more than just an educational approach. It is a radical, liberatory way of life.

“When we say we’re raising free people, we’ve decided that respect and love, not fear and control, will be how we raise and regard the youngest members of our homes and our society. [...] When we’re raising free people, we want to start, or continue, [...] deepening our understanding of the ways that various forms of oppression intersect and are perpetuated through our adult and non-adult relationships - and then, we want to start, or we want to continue, disrupting our connections to those oppressive ways, and replacing them with mindful, peaceful, consistent, freedom-centered relationships.”
– Akilah S. Richards,
Fare of the Free Child Ep. 74: What Does Raising Free People Mean?

“Because of changes in the economy, Self-Directed Education is even more valuable today than in the past. We no longer need many people to do the kinds of tasks that our schools are designed to teach. We don’t need people who can memorize and regurgitate lots of information; we have Google for that. We don’t need many people to do routine, tedious tasks; we have robots for that. What we do need, and will continue to need, are people who think critically and creatively, innovate, ask and answer questions that nobody else has thought of, and bring moral values and a passionate sense of purpose into the workplace. These are precisely the kinds of skills that are continuously honed in Self-Directed Education.”
– The Alliance for Self-Directed Education,
Why Choose Self-Directed Education?

“I have always understood the promise of unschooling and democratic education as a modest one: freed from the busywork of school, children are given the precious opportunity to enjoy their lives...To unschool means not only to question schooling as a means but to question education as a goal. Many parents opt out of the school system with the idea that it is broken and that education can be carried out more effectively outside the school system. But the writings of Ivan Illich, John Holt and others offer encouragement to go a step further, pointing out that beyond even schooling, it is the very impulse to want to improve education, which is the more pernicious problem.”
– Ben Draper, Is Self-Directed Education Producing Model Workers For An Innovation-Based Economy?

 

All this sounds great, but what if…?

Check out Self-Directed Education facilitator & parent Jenni Mahnaz’s exploration of the “what-ifs” surrounding Self-Directed Education: "What if..."

 

 

Finding an option for your child

Find Self-Directed communities on the ASDE resource directory map.

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education also offers resources and support systems for starting and hosting local SDE groups.

 

 

Want more information?

Contact the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, check out the Alternative Education Resource Organization, explore Education Reimagined, and read youth testimonials from Open Connections.