I watched Ramona learn to swim when she was four. We were at that very campground on a little family adventure and one day Ramona sat on the edge of the pool for hours watching an older girl swim back and forth. After the girl left Ramona asked me to step deeper into the pool. She shooed me away, “Further!” She kept saying it until I was almost in the centre and then she jumped in, flapping her way to me, powered by sheer will. And that was that.

In that one moment I felt the core reason unschooling is different from home school or other types of home education:

trust.

Other parents might have wanted to stay close to her, give her swimming aids, teach her some basic swimming stuff. But because I’d spent the four years of Ramona’s life learning about the principles of unschooling I knew enough to let her take swimming at her own steam, and I knew enough to stay back when she wanted to do this all by her self.

I knew there was an incredible power and agency for a child when they are able to discover something for themselves. Jean Piaget says

“Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly for the rest of his life.”

So, unlike homeschoolers, unschoolers try and create as much opportunity for their children to direct their own learning and activities, to only step in if we are invited.

unschooling vs homeschooling
Here are some of the key ways homeschooling is different to unschooling:

Traditional Homeschoolers do School At Home
Unschoolers believe that school is the source of many wounds and any remnants of school-like thinking should be shaken out

Traditional Homeschoolers continue hierarchical relationships of power (ie teacher and learner, decision maker and follower)
Unschoolers try and subvert this powerarchy, raising children who know they matter, that they are worthy of rights and dignity

Traditional Homeschoolers believe there are learning subjects and non learning subjects
Unschoolers believe humans are born learning and that EVERYTHING is a learning subject

Traditional Homeschoolers live by the idea that there are strict boundaries around work and play
Unschoolers orientate themselves around joy and fulfilment, anything can be work/ play