Trying to explain unschooling to someone with no experience with it, is much like trying to explain the color green to a blind person. There are too many shades, tints, and variations which combined make it next to impossible to describe the color extensively. It is much less complicated to debunk the myths and legends about the philosophy and explain what it is not rather than describe what it is.
Unschooling does not fit neat and tidy in a box. From deschooling to radical unschooling, the differences and uniqueness of each families routine varies dramatically. Unlike public school, or even homeschooling, one cannot explain the approach in a way that fits all families. Some unschooling families use some curriculum while allowing their children free discovery in other areas. Some families take their unschooling to incorporate their entire lifestyle.
Unschoolers are not against learning. Many people translate unschooling to anti-learning. In all reality, this translation is the exact opposite. Unschoolers choose not to conform to the societal norms when it comes to education, but that does not imply that they are against learning in all form. Learning, to an unschooler, does not happen at set times within a set of boundaries. Instead, they instill life-learning in their children, and allow them to explore the world around them. Through explorations and discoveries, unschooled children often learn much more than their traditional school counterparts. A seven year old may not be forced to learn to read, yet will be able to calculate at the same level as a 13 year old. Another seven year old may wish to avoid numbers altogether but will be reading novels and writing short stories and lesson plans for younger siblings.
An unschool home is not overrun by irreverent and irresponsible children. The recent trend of radical unschooling has sparked a lot of contention in the education realm. Radical unschoolers take the philosophy and apply it to their parenting and life styles. Children are given choices and allowed to make their own decisions on everything from what to eat for breakfast to how they dress and what they study. This gives outsiders the impression that the parents have lost control, or given it to the children. Again, this is a myth not reality. Instead, the child is allowed to experience life’s consequences and rewards in a natural way, and the unschooled children tend to develop social and life skills at a much more efficient rate than their schooled peers.
Unschoolers are not ill prepared for the structure of real life. Because there is usually no set time for school, assignments to complete, tests to take, or deadlines to meet, many people believe that unschoolers are not preparing their children for the demands of adult life. They say how will your child keep a job and what is going to happen when they get to college. Quite often, unschooled children have extra-curricular activities they are involved in. They must practice for dance class and get there on time. They will need to work on an art project or take care of their animal for the 4H fair. Just because the parents aren’t forcing the child to do specific things at given times doesn’t mean the child isn’t learning about responsibility and deadlines. They just aren’t learning them in the conventional manner.
Unschooling, in general, takes out-of-the-box thinking to the max. What ever you may think you know about unschooling, erase it from your mind because you are probably wrong. Whatever you think you may know about learning and education, challenge it with new information and contradictory claims. Whatever you may think you know about the world around you, look for thing that prove you wrong. Look for connections and relationships in everything you do throughout the day. Stop thinking in terms of school time, subject matter, grades and tests, and limitations imposed by regulations. These are the goals of most unschoolers.