John Holt playfully coined the term, “unschooling,” based on a 7-Up slogan. He didn’t create unschooling, so much as rediscover it. Children learned without school long before school existed. They learned in the way adults learn: By watching experienced people do things, by asking questions, by trying to figure things out, etc.
Unschooling, the word, entered the education scene in the 70s when John Holt made it up to describe learning without school. Unschooling, the word, which has competition (i.e., whole life learning), may be a fad, but the concept has roots much deeper than those of schooling.
Only One Hundred Fifty Years of Schooling: Which one is the fad?
Depending on the time frame, conventional schooling may look more like a fad than unschooling. Schools with classrooms, teachers, students, lectures, assignments, tests, and grades have existed for only about 150 years. Learning without school has existed throughout human history. It’s not a new concept. It’s just getting some press lately, which attempts to make it look like the newest crazy educational scandal.
One hundred fifty years of schooling and people haven’t stopped complaining about the failing school system. Children continue to detest schoolwork. Teachers continue to detest classroom management. Passionate teachers exist, but school systems create obstacles between the people who feel called to help children learn and the children who have a multitude of specific interests, if only someone would pay attention.
The North American education system comes directly from the Prussian system. For the benefit of government, Prussia’s compulsory education system aimed to instill in future generations duty, discipline, respect for authority, and the ability to follow orders, based on the perception of children as blank slates.
No School, Not No Education
The “unschooling” lifestyle that the media has presented does not necessarily represent the true experience of children who learn without school. To observers who have no personal experience, unschooling may look “wild and crazy” or it may sound “Uptopian and unrealistic.” However, unschoolers describe their lifestyle based on real experience. In an interview with a radical unschooling whole life learner, an unschooling child dispels some common stereotypes and fearful myths of practical unschooling with her take on what it’s all about.
As more people feel drawn to the unschooling lifestyle, as evidenced by the growing coverage of unschooling, the growing experience base of parents and growing up unschoolers will balance out the fears and myths and allow unschooling to take its place among the diversity of acceptable educational and lifestyle choices.