The History and Expansion of Unschooling

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The term “unschooling” was coined by the late John Holt, one of the godfathers of the home-schooling movement, who wrote a stack of books about alternative ways of educating children. Mr. Holt first used the word in 1977 and equated it with home schooling.

This term clicked with many home-schooling parents that disliked the organized textbook method with organized subjects said Patrick Farenga, the president of Holt Associates. Mr. Farenga took command over the company,  a home schooling publishing and advocacy organization, when Mr. Holt died in 1985.

In an interview, Mr. Farenga stated: “Unschooling should not mean ‘schooling without a plan’, it’s self-directed learning. I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to explore the world as you can comfortably bear.”

It has been observed throughout the last decade that the rise in unschooling parallels with the grow dissatisfaction with the country’s school system focusing on standardized tests. The immersion of unschooling also reflects the American dream more so than anything else. The rise in unschooling shows an increase in substitute education methods, such as the Montessori method or the popular Reggio Emilia theory, both of which are based on the idea of children as “whole, curious beings whose education should be guided by their own natural interests and inclinations.” Although these methods are more psychologically based and have more structure to them, it is tailored by and for the child.

Unschooling is a movement and is a topic of discussion in schools systems.


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