It's Time To Rethink Education – Part 2 (Unschooling)

Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

There are several components, but the real shocker is that more of us aren’t embracing the current age of access to mastery of any topic. But that may not be so surprising—most of us were taught to be passive learners, to just “get through” school. It’s easy to be lazy. The rewards of becoming an autodidact, though, include igniting inner fires, making new connections to knowledge atnd skills you already have, advancing in your career, meeting kindred spirits, and cultivating an overall zest for life and its riches.


One good reason to dive head first into self-initiated learning is that much of what you were taught is already obsolete. “Knowledge workers succeed not based on what they know, but rather how they learn,” writes James Marcus Bach in his book, Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar. He dropped out of school when he was 14 and, in the early days of home computing, taught himself enough to become a software tester for Apple. He’s now an independent consultant.


Bach’s philosophy is rebellious yet inclusive: “Intellectual buccaneering is about self-education, but schools are OK, too. I’ve learned in schools, and I’ve learned from people who were trained in schools. I happily plunder knowledge wherever I find it. I don’t seek the destruction of schools. I am out to dismantle something else—the popular belief that schooling is the only route to a great education and that the best students are those who passively accept the education their schools offer.”

– From the Psychology Today article: The Golden Age of Teaching Yourself Anything

While some of you will be familiar with the educational concept of unschooling, it’ll probably be new to most of you. Personally, I never looked into the concept until I became a parent a couple of years ago, and it was my wife who first became fascinated with the idea and bought a bunch of books on the topic. I’m really glad she did.

The book we’re currently reading is by a fascinating individual named Ben Hewitt, titled Home Grown. Back in 2014, Ben wrote an excellent article for Outside Magazine in which he provided a concise description of what unschooling is. It’s quite distinct from home-schooling, which most people are already familiar with.

In the piece, We Don’t Need No Education, he explains:

There’s a name for the kind of education Fin and Rye are getting. It’s called unschooling, though Penny and I have never been fond of the term. But “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so unschooling it is.


It is already obvious that unschooling is radically different from institutionalized classroom learning, but how does it differ from more common homeschooling? Perhaps the best way to explain it is that all unschooling is homeschooling, but not all homeschooling is unschooling. While most homeschooled children follow a structured curriculum, unschoolers like Fin and Rye have almost total autonomy over their days. At ages that would likely see them in seventh and fourth grades, I generously estimate that my boys spend no more than two hours per month sitting and studying the subjects, such as science and math, that are universal to mainstream education. Not two hours per day or even per week. Two hours per month. Comparatively speaking, by now Fin would have spent approximately 5,600 hours in the classroom. Rye, nearly three years younger, would have clocked about half that time.


If this sounds radical, it’s only because you’re not taking a long enough view, for the notion that children should spend the majority of their waking hours confined to a classroom enjoys scant historical precedent.

Even to someone like me, an individual who finds the concept of authority and involuntary activity revolting, unschooling seemed a bit radical for our family when I first read about it. Nevertheless, as I’ve considered it in more over the past few months, it’s become more and more appealing. To get an even better sense of what it’s all about, let’s read some more excerpts from the Outside article referenced above:

The boys will pay the bus no heed because its passing is meaningless to them. Maybe they have never ridden in a school bus, and maybe this is because they’ve never been to school. Perhaps they have not passed even a single day of their short childhoods inside the four walls of a classroom, their gazes shifting between window and clock, window and clock, counting the restless hours and interminable minutes until release.


Maybe the boys are actually my sons, and maybe their names are Fin and Rye, and maybe, if my wife, Penny, and I get our way, they will never go to school.


Hey, a father can dream, can’t he?…


The first incidence of compulsory schooling came in 1852, when Massachusetts required communities to offer free public education and demanded that every child between the ages of 8 and 14 attend school for at least 12 weeks per year. Over the next seven decades, the remaining states adopted similar laws, and by 1918, the transition to mandated public education was complete.


It was not long before some parents and even educators began to question the value of compulsory education. One of those was John Holt, a Yale graduate and teacher at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School who published his observations in How Children Fail in 1964. Ultimately selling more than a million copies, it was an indictment of the education system, asserting that children are born with deep curiosity and love of learning, both of which are diminished in school.


Holt became a passionate advocate for homeschooling, which existed in a legal gray area, but he quickly realized that some parents were simply replicating the classroom. So in 1977, in his magazine, Growing Without Schooling, he coined a new term: “GWS will say ‘unschooling’ when we mean taking children out of school, and ‘deschooling’ when we mean changing the laws to make schools noncompulsory and to take away from them their power to grade, rank, and label people, i.e. to make lasting, official, public judgments about them.”


In addition to fundamental curricular differences, there is also something of a cultural schism between the two styles. Home-schooling is popularly associated with strong religious views (in a 2007 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 83 percent of homeschooling parents said that providing “religious or moral instruction” was part of their choice), while unschooling seems to have no such association. “Unschooling has always been sort of code for being secular,” explains Patrick Farenga, who runs the unschooling website “It’s about understanding that learning is not a special skill that happens separate from everything else and only under a specialist’s gaze. It’s about raising children who are curious and engaged in the world alongside their families and communities.”


I can almost hear you thinking, Sure, but you live in the sticks, and you both work at home. What about the rest of us? And it’s true: Penny and I have made what most would consider an extreme choice. I write from home, and we both run our farm, selling produce and meat to help pay the bills. Everyone we know who unschools, in fact, has chosen autonomy over affluence. Hell, some years we’re barely above the poverty line. But the truth is, unschooling isn’t merely an educational choice. It’s a lifestyle choice.


Unschooling is also perfectly legal in all 50 states, so long as certain basic stipulations—from simple notification to professional evaluations, “curriculum” approval, and even home visits—are met. But many unschoolers have been reticent to stand up and be counted, perhaps because the movement tends to attract an independent-thinking, antiauthoritarian personality type.


Of course, unschooling is not the only choice. Increasingly, families are turning to options like Waldorf, the largest so-called alternative-education movement in the world. It was founded in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919, based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who believed that children learn best through creative play. In 1965, there were nine Waldorf schools in the U.S.; today there are 123.


Still, perhaps the best answer I can give to the question of what price my children might pay is in the form of another question: What price do school-going children pay for their confinement? The physical toll is easy enough to quantify. Diabetes rates among school-age children are sky-high, and the percentage of 6-to-11-year-olds who qualify as obese has nearly tripled since 1980. And what do children do in school? Exactly.


They sit.

So what prompted me to shift from, “this seems interesting, but it’s probably not for us,,” to “this might work for our family,” in just a matter of months? For one thing, I have a fundamental issue with forcing kids to sit in a classroom all day with other kids of the exact same age, while being forced to learn in the same way and at the same pace. Second, with all the information currently available online, the resources for thoughtful parents and curious kids is simply extraordinary and unprecedented. Typical schooling seems very outdated in this reality, and I’m not the sort of person who just does things because it’s what everybody else does. Finally, I started to ponder some less obvious downsides to traditional schooling. What if we want to go on an adventure as a family. Whether desert camping in Morocco, or a drive up to Montana, our ability to do such trips would be confined by school schedules. We’d have to take trips at the same time as all the other kids, which just rubs me the wrong way.

Ultimately, my wife and I haven’t decided on exactly what we’re going to do, and we plan on keeping an open mind about all options and taking cues from our kids themselves as they are each unique individuals with their own desires and needs. This post isn’t about making the case for a particular type of educational path, but to get people aware of the various options out there and inspire everyone to think outside of the box.

From a societal perspective, the reality is unschooling necessitates at least one person to be a stay at home parent. In the case of Ben Hewitt, he works from home and his wife is also there. That’s the ideal situation in my opinion, and it’s simply not an option for the overwhelming majority of U.S. families. In fact, most households consist of two parents working full-time just to make ends meet. This is a tragedy since it stifles household creativity and forces everybody into a stressed out box where family becomes an afterthought.

My wife and I are in a fortunate position which gives us options, and we will explore them all. That said, the choice to potentially unschool is not something I take lightly. If we decided to go down that route, I’d have to change a lot about how I do things. At the moment I spend most of my day reading and writing for the purposes of this website. If we accepted the enormous responsibility that comes with having kids at home, I’d want to dedicate far more time during the day to interacting with our children. My everyday life would be affected in a very significant way.

Parenthood is a tremendous honor and responsibility, and it saddens me that so many parents don’t have the opportunity we do to be so engaged with our children on daily basis. Given this reality, it’s important that those of you fortunate enough to be home with your kids think deeply about the options available before doing something just because everybody else does. The world’s changing fast and it’s crucial we raise as many children as possible who can think independently and ensure the future looks very different in a positive way from the one we’re living in. Humanity depends on it.

Finally, here are a few resources readers pointed me to on the subject of unschooling. If you have any other good ones, please share in the comment section.

Lazy Mill Farm

John Taylor Gatto

Living Joyfully

Dayna Martin

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GUS100CORRINA IridiumRebel Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:17 Permalink

Observation about education from President Lincoln that is worth remembering."The philosophies of the school room today will be the philosophies of our government tomorrow."America needs a reformation in education to undo all of the MARXIST PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL indoctrination that has occured with America's youth. Abraham Lincoln's quote is sobering if one really thinks about where we are today. This concept regarding pholosophy actually explains ROGUE FBI AGENT and DOJ behavior we have witnessed lately.

In reply to by IridiumRebel

cheka ParticularlySt… Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:45 Permalink

the whites of generation z, aka generation zyklon is radically different from the millenials.  they've been brow beaten since birth that they are evil because they are white.  mexicans and blacks hate them because of their skin color.  they've been treated like second class citizens by everything gov, esp the skoolz.they will make some waves in the near future

In reply to by ParticularlySt…

Anteater Grandad Grumps Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:59 Permalink

...provided the home-schoolers pass the same internationally-recognized CCSS assessment tests, and don't bloviate Bible."Adam begat Seth; and Seth, Enos, 2 Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered,3 Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech,4 Noe, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.5 The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, and Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.6 Forsooth the sons of Gomer were Ashchenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah!!"Amen!

In reply to by Grandad Grumps

GUS100CORRINA Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:10 Permalink

It's Time To Rethink Education – Part 2 (Unschooling)My response: I AGREE COMPLETELY!!! It is going to take time and a lot of effort to fix so we better get started ASAP!!!

Endgame Napoleon GUS100CORRINA Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:45 Permalink

It is great for kids. I admire the people who do homeschooling, bypassing the almost universally awful public secondary schools. But as far as older or middle-aged adults are concerned, self education is mostly just for entertainment or hobby purposes. Everything comes down to hiring norms unless you have the capital to start a business, using your self education that way.

Employers often hire young people with zero experience in the field, near-zero life experience and even zero formal education in the field and/or licenses, whereas they rarely hire older people who lack experience in the field, even when they have a college degree and, amazingly, state-required licenses.

Or, they will occasionally hire you, but only for the least desirable jobs that involve multiple expenses, no benefits, irregular pay structures and twice-as-high SS tax due to contractor-style pay. Jobs really come down to cronyism and, at the lower end, things like unearned income from spouses or welfare and tax welfare that makes the low wages palatable.

In reply to by GUS100CORRINA

ReturnOfDaMac Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:18 Permalink

Good luck teaching your kids metal work, biology, chemistry, physics, and elementary electronics unless you have the budget or resources to get that equipment. Otherwise, go for it.  Prolly won't come out a tranny if they are home with granny!

CRM114 ReturnOfDaMac Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:00 Permalink

You'd have to ask a biologist ;)As I said, it's better with the kit. However, for an experienced teacher, it's not hard to put together a useful set quite cheaply (one can pick up lasers for peanuts on keyrings these days), and one advantage of homeschooling is that the kids are much better behaved, so robustness is not so important.

In reply to by ReturnOfDaMac

Miffed Microbi… ReturnOfDaMac Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:46 Permalink

I agree the hard sciences could be difficult but for the elementary school kids I think it would work well.

A Classical education (as in the three stages of the trivium) has been used since the Middle Ages. Perhaps we should just return to this. But I guess it's difficult to indoctrinate when teachers challenge their pupils using the Socratic method.


In reply to by ReturnOfDaMac

CRM114 Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:47 Permalink

Well, I'm going to take issue with starting with the autodidactic approach. It's quite clear that the authors of these panegyrics have never actually had a good teacher. The fact that they haven't does not surprise me, but what they are doing is the equivalent of demanding the sacking of all sea captains just because their first voyage was on the Titanic.I had excellent teachers, and eventually became one. Neither they nor I fell foul of the behaviours the author quite rightly rails against. In contrast, we encouraged, we passed on wisdom as well as knowledge, and as far as possible we taught our charges to think properly and carefully for themselves. We passed on our experience of the World as well as of our subjects. We taught them how, by the time they left, to be efficient autodidacts when possible, and when it was still better to seek the instruction of others.In conclusion, get better teachers. This will be difficult. All the good ones I know, and myself, have retired early or changed professions because we don't want to work with weak-kneed wasters under the orders of witless w@nkers.

serotonindumptruck Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:28 Permalink

"...with all the information currently available online, the resources for thoughtful parents and curious kids is simply extraordinary and unprecedented."This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the internet age.Anything that might be taught within the public/private school system is readily and immediately available from any home computer.The biggest challenge might be the effort required to inspire our young people to seek out knowledge and information that might influence and direct their goals and ambitions towards a successful future, while dissuading them from falling victim to the social media popularity contest.

Miffed Microbi… serotonindumptruck Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:59 Permalink

I have given tours of the lab many times for high schoolers. It's fascinating to watch because you can see such varied responses from " dear God when will this be over" looks to " this is so cool!" Kids naturally pick their way if allowed to do so.

I used to try and get the " dear god when this will be over" group to be more engaged by putting a unit of blood in their hands to feel. After picking up so many on the floor I realized that was not such a good idea.


In reply to by serotonindumptruck

PresidentCamacho Miffed Microbi… Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:06 Permalink

I agree, the children that are gifted and intelligent should be enabled to do whatever they want  ..... the kids who have shitty parents should be given the chance to leave the hell they are in and achieve somethig too, I'm thinking something along the lines of starship troopers for poor kids, and apprenticeships and scholoarships for the best and brightest. also no geographic "public" schools forced  indoctrination.

In reply to by Miffed Microbi…

besnook PresidentCamacho Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:04 Permalink

i was a victim of dod and private schools. as a precocious kid school bored the crap out of me. i was way ahead of all my peers. in 11 years(i was finally allowed to skip 12th grade) only 2 teachers made allowances for me. one was in elementary school who let me to do whatever i wanted as long as i studied something and an algebra teacher who allowed me to just post answers without the work. i had a history teacher punch me(catholic school) because he thought i was mocking him since he knew i never read the text book but still got high 90s on his tests and asked questions he couldn't answer and another teacher who tried to flunk me because i fell asleep in his class one time(racist fucker) and other teachers who were woefully ill equipped(too fucking stupid) to deal with a way too smart the end it made me a relatively lazy ass because i never had to work for anything to be good at it which is why trading has been my salvation. i get money for nothing but not enough chicks for free. so, yea, smart kids need to be challenged and i am not talking about the work hard and get 'a's kids.

In reply to by PresidentCamacho

Anteater besnook Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:47 Permalink

DoD and Catholic schools. That's a rough Head Start.There are Trades schools if you ever want to enter theworking world, and $100B's in hot money about topour into even more R/E developments in the USA.Trading will work, provided you get out at the top.Don't end up driving for Uber in a GE Finance SUV.

In reply to by besnook

rejected Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:37 Permalink

The only way to improve education is toA: Get government out of it completery.B: Eliminate Unions or greatly reduce their power.Ain't gonna happen.The US government hands anywhere from $2,000 to $6000 dollars a year in tax credits to buy off the parents. Since this awesome economy requires two workers to survive it means they have to send little johnny and jenny to some government 'approved' propaganda institution called Day Care.You think the poor bastards are dumb graduating skools today.... wait,,, soon the dumb & dumber TV show will be a documentary.

besnook Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:40 Permalink

schooling isn't a bad thing if schooling stuck to the three rs but it is clear reading, writing and "rithmatics is no longer the focus of public education. formal schooling, even in private schools(because of fed funding) is more about political and social indoctrination. one of the most egregious examples is feminism.this is an excellent example of what a first world society looks like without feminism and pc. this video was corroborated by an ipsos poll. it will make you wish american girls were like this.

Hikikomori Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:39 Permalink

Asians are the world's most intelligent people - and they send their kids to classrooms where they work HARD, with ZERO monkey business.   Until that's been tried here - and it hasn't been for the last 60 years - their system is still the best.

CRM114 Hikikomori Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:58 Permalink

Unfortunately, the Asian system is highly didactic and cheating is endemic. My experience is that the best student is an Asian* educated in a Western private school. You have the highly focused work ethic exposed to a genuinely liberal education. Discipline and innovation.* Other cultures are only a little behind. The key factors are honesty and work ethic from the parents, and excellence coupled with liberal (small 'l', i.e. non-propagandizing) encouragement from the teachers.

In reply to by Hikikomori

coast1 Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:40 Permalink

I went to school...and I want anyone making money to give some to me. I deserve it.. I want the governemnt to take care of me.  Andrew Jackson was a very bad racist man...pharma drugs are better than exercise and a good organic diet...the chemtrails look lovely this time of year.   GMO food is good for me, and I take all my vaccines..I think taxes should be raised to pay for my iphone.  Open borders are awesome because it brings diversity and new chances to learn what is going on in the world...I went to skool, and I voted for hillary clinton and proud of it...we should nuke Russia, but my worst fear is global warming..Al Gore is a great man and has done great things to bring global warming to our attention, and he even invented the internet....He should be vice president to hillary...I went to skool and also think that other people should pay tuition. Its a win/win, I learn more and can be a help to our community.  I am curently majoring in "best ways to change my gender"...

Expat coast1 Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:47 Permalink

Nice sarcasm from an idiot typing his garbage on a computer built and designed by people educated in schools.  Using an internet developed by the government.  And applying programs written by students from those horrible, liberal dens of sin like MIT and Stanford.Feel free to cut yourself off from everything education has brought to the world.  I look forward to seeing you on a CNN special about rural poverty and ignorance.

In reply to by coast1

coast1 Expat Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:04 Permalink

zerohedge needs a safe space for me in this posting hurt my feelings.  :-(    The universities that teach technology, also teach it so they can control the use of it.  Which is great, because if any good technology comes, the ones who helped it happen, can use it for more communism... We cant lose....except those bastards in alternative media are messing it all up for us... Time to shut down all these websites and their opinions...I met a guy who just came back from MIT and he is making video games...I love MIT.   The other guy from stanford is figuring out ways to block any alternative news, so I love both MIT and stanford...And MIT and stanford pupils all voted for hillary...Not sure why you call me names, I am right with you.. But to be honest, the internet was not invented by the government..It was invented by good people but when the government saw it was doing well, they took it over for control..just like they do everything...They do not build anything they only take it from others who did learn..And most of the ones who really got the internet going did not do it by the education system but in little parts such as learning the three r's.  They did not go to safe space communist skools. 

In reply to by Expat

coast1 Expat Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:32 Permalink

highest technology was built centuries ago...pyramids etc, there were no skools..Jesus did not go to school, ..Beethoven's regular schooling was brief. He did not like to study on command, and his performance in school was, as a result, quite poor. I have a million more stories if you would like me to share them with you...henry ford did not go to skool either..

In reply to by Expat

Expat Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:44 Permalink

Homeschooling depends on having a parent at home who can teach.  Given America's profound stupidity and ignorance, this seems optimistic at best.  I suppose many of the ranters here are decrying "liberal" education which is destroying America's greatness.  Their solution is no doubt to unschool and spend four hours a day teaching bible studies and the rest of the time watching Fox News.  I am pretty sure that is why America is as fucked up as it is.

401K of Dooom Expat Thu, 12/14/2017 - 23:01 Permalink

Fuck you!  I had to suffer in public school until I got out!  You have the nerve to say that the harm that millions of kids go through each day!  Why do you think gangs exist?  They are there to protect each other and harm & torture others.  When they did away with corporal punishment, the bullies took over.  Get out of this website now!

In reply to by Expat

DrZipp Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:12 Permalink

I teach 6th grade in Cali.  On average the kids enter with a third-grade education.  15-20% are shitheads who are disrespectful, refuse to work or have emotional/behavioral problems.  The administration does nothing about this. They are under pressure to not suspend kids and just keep them in the classroom no matter how shitty they are.  Everyone blames the teacher.  We can't save everyone so the kids just get pushed forward to be someone else's problem next year.

besnook DrZipp Thu, 12/14/2017 - 19:27 Permalink

i still blame the teachers because they apparently don't use the power of their union to influence the administration of schools and the teaching methods and subjects that will allow them to do their jobs effectively. teachers are the only profession that blames the client for their failure to do their jobs.

In reply to by DrZipp

Anteater besnook Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:34 Permalink

Teachers are the only profession whose clients berate them in public for not instilling basic education in their little looped up Jack or Jill who come to class without doing homework and with a brand-new iPhone X loaded with WhatsApp and video-poker gaming accounts to while away the class period.TFIFY

In reply to by besnook