I am a big advocate of unschooling and feel that it is the natural way that children learn. But, many newbies make unschooling mistakes that sabotage their efforts. And, there are situations in which not unschooling might be a better way to go for your family. After all, no homeschooling style is a good fit for everyone. So, let’s take a look at some reasons why unschooling might not be a good fit.
Why NOT Unschooling Might Be Your Best Choice
Special parenting situation
One of the biggest reasons why not unschooling might be better is your parenting situation. If you and your spouse both hold full-time jobs and plan to tandem homeschool, it might be better to use a curriculum. That way, you have a better handle on what your children are learning. You also provide greater consistency and accountability, since you and your spouse likely have different ways of approaching things. If you are a single parent or share child custody, using a curriculum might be a better option for you as well for the same reasons.
Not unschooling might be better if you have complicated state requirements and reporting
If you live in one of those states where homeschooling is highly regulated, unschooling poses many challenges. For example, there is no curriculum to approve. Another challenge is record keeping. Unschooling requires a different approach that may not be acceptable to your homeschool liaison. Rather than bend over backwards and jump through extra hoops, it may be easier to follow another style that is similar to unschooling, such as Charlotte Mason.
Many people think that homeschooling an only child must be easy. However, parents of an only child often say that it is harder. That’s because it’s all on you. In that situation, it may be easier and better to find other likeminded families in the area and have cooperative classes or activities. This doesn’t mean that you can’t unschool an only. But, unschooling an only might get exhausting. Likewise, it can be challenging to encourage and track the interests and activities of a large family. Inevitably, parents have to choose who is going to get music lessons, or coding classes, or whatever in a given school year. So, some of the children might not get all the resources they need to pursue their passions. However, it does encourage children to problem-solve and get creative with finding ways to reach their goals regardless. It also guards them against self-centeredness. In addition, keeping track of what everyone is doing challenges even the most organized person. But, if you worry about stretched resources in this way, not unschooling might be better.
Lack of access to learning opportunities and resources
If you have very limited resources and you don’t live on a farm, road school, or world school, unschooling might be challenging. For example, if you cannot afford to buy kits, books, games, and other educational items, your internet is spotty, and you have to drive an hour to get to the library, not unschooling might be better. Instead, I would recommend following a free curriculum and downloading public domain and free resources whenever your internet connection allows. I would also recommend planning your library trips carefully. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive, but unschooling does require that you create an enriched learning environment in your home.
NOT unschooling is better if there’s motivation and discipline issues
If there are underlying difficult relationship dynamics, not unschooling would be better. For some children, unschooling can be a healing balm that brings them closer to their families. For others, it opens the door to more defiant behavior or an excuse to not do certain things.
Unschooling can also mask underlying learning challenges. For example, a child may struggle with reading and writing skills. While that’s okay for an eight-year-old, it’s not okay for a fourteen-year-old. There is a fine line between late reader and dyslexic. Another example would be a child who avoids doing anything that requires significant effort on his part. He might say that he lost interest in that topic, but perhaps he has a deeper issue of learned helplessness. Sometimes unschooling makes it hard to discover these issues.
Examine why you want to unschool
Some parents choose unschooling because they think it will be easier and cheaper. After all, homeschooling is hard work and can be very intense. These parents don’t want to buy curriculum, they don’t want to stick to a routine, and they don’t want to oversee their children’s learning. So, they choose unschooling. If that is why you want to unschool, I encourage you to rethink your reasons. Unschooling is not the most hands off method of homeschooling. In fact, it is the most hands-on, parent intensive type of all of them, especially with younger children. (Not so much with teens.) It can be downright exhausting if you want to do it successfully and enjoy all the benefits of unschooling. So, if you are choosing it to avoid the hard work of homeschooling, then not unschooling is really the better choice for you.
Can you think of other reasons why another homeschooling option might be better? Leave your thoughts in the comments!