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Unschooled Children On the Increase

Lynnette Thomas

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Zoe Bentley says “Maybe, I’ll earn a degree". The fourteen year old ‘unschooler’ has undertaken some college classes that include astrobiology, algebra, chemistry and geology.

Zoe has been homeschooled by her parents, thus earning the title ‘unschooler’. It is now believed that approximately between 1.5 to 2 million kids are home schooled in America alone, but the data for this statistic is difficult to obtain.

With no fixed course schedule, exams, or curriculum, there is no attempt to mimic traditional classrooms, unless the student requests it.

Zoe had asked for geology lessons at 12. She had to take a placement test when enrolling for a class at Pima Community College. She said “It was surprisingly easy".

While home schooling has been available for many decades, supporters say that there have been increases in the number of parents and children who are choosing to be ‘unschooled’.

A fifth grade teacher, John Holt is widely understood to be the father of the ‘unschooled’. He passed away in 1985 leaving behind a wealth of books including his 1964 work, ‘How Children Fail’. His argument was that mainstream schools are a hindrance to the learning process, through forcing students to study things they have absolutely no interest in, alongside fostering fear. Holt, who was private schooled, called progressive schools soft jails and public schools hard jails.

Homeschooling is not the answer for everyone, say the experts. It depends on the needs of the child and the amount of available time a parent has.

"Unschooling means looking at life as a creative adventure, a cooperative lifestyle that involves the entire family" says Sara McGrath, owner of an unschooling blog site.

"School was really wasting our time. The kids had so many things they wanted to do and places they wanted to go and things they wanted to talk about, but all we could do was mindless homework. It was very frustrating" says Kellie Rolstad, an associate professor of education and applied linguistics, who unschools her 11, 13 and 14 year olds.

"With unschooling you can do things how you want to. " Rolstad's oldest boy is building computers with his friends. He plays ukulele and violin, piano, bass and guitar. Had he continued in school, he says his aim of pursuing music as an occupation wouldn’t feel quite so real.

Countries that are the most prominent in homeschooling, include America, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Germany has totally banned homeschooling, while in some other countries homeschooling is not socially tolerated. Home schooling is all about personal choices, particularly now with the vast amount of material available online.


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