Unschooling is full-time self-directed learning at the K-12 level. If you’re unhappy in school and you want start living and learning on your own terms, unschooling is your ticket out.
There’s a ton of information out there about unschooling. Instead of attempting to catalog all of it, I’m sharing my favorite resources that explain unschooling powerfully and succinctly—especially those aimed directly at young adults.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook: how to quit school and get a real life and education by Grace Llewellyn is responsible for more young people choosing unschooling than perhaps any other single resource. Published in 1991, it’s still a classic.
Class Dismissed is the 2015 documentary about homeschooling and unschooling, and the only major modern documentary about unschooling. Highly recommended.
Conferences are a great way to meet other unschoolers. Sue Patterson maintains a list of upcoming unschooling conferences and teen travel programs.
Alternatives to School: Comprehensive overview of self-directed alternatives to school. Packed with links to other websites, blogs, organizations, and books.
Sandra Dodd: the most well-known proponent of “radical” unschooling
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal?
If you live in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the U.K., then you have the legal right to homeschool. But becoming a homeschooler doesn’t mean you have to do school-at-home. If you prioritize self-directed learning, then you’re effectively an unschooler, and nobody will stop you. Certain U.S. states require periodic standardized testing; others don’t. (Here’s a breakdown of different U.S. state requirements.) As long as you keep up with local legal requirements, then you’re fully entitled to unschool.
Unfortunately, in many countries, homeschooling (and there unschooling) is illegal.
What kind of teenagers unschool?
In this interview with Liam Nilsen, a grown life-long unschooler and someone who also works with self-directed teens, we discuss which teens should unschool and which shouldn’t.
Can I still go to college if I unschool?
Yes; I wrote a whole book about that. (Lots of other resources exist online to answer this question.)
Do I need a high school diploma?
How do I convince my parents?
Do your homework! Research homeschooling and unschooling, read books, get the facts, and make a compelling presentation to your parents. Listen to 15-year-old Caitlyn Sheel talk about her own journey (as a 13-year-old) of convincing her parents:
From Unschooling by Astra Taylor:
We differed from homeschoolers in essential ways. We weren’t replicating school at home. We had no textbooks, class times, deadlines, tests, or curricula. Were we fascinated by primates? By rocks? By baseball cards or balloon animals? If so, it was our duty to investigate. My parents eschewed coercion and counted on our curiosity, which they understood to be a most basic human capacity. This is really what the whole debate over compulsory schooling is about. Do we trust people’s capacity to be curious or not? . . .
Our solitude, to paraphrase Thoreau, was not trespassed upon. What a gift! What kind of respect for intellectual or artistic immersion is signaled by a world in which the sound of a bell means that the work at hand, no matter how compelling or urgent, must be put aside, and something else started? How deeply can anyone enter a subject in fifty minutes unless the material is broken down into component parts too small to communicate any grand purpose? At home our fits of inspiration could stretch to fill up days or months. We set our own standards of excellence, which were often impossible to meet. Yet failure in intellectual and creative pursuits felt honorable as opposed to humiliating. Adults never lorded their possession of right answers over us, or shamed us when we lacked certain skills, or ranked us against one another. It shocks me to this day that we live in a world where this basic courtesy is rare and precious.
Is there a resource that belongs on this page?