According to alternative learning methodologies, young children are already connected to their inner selves. Adults and the environment are the ones that disconnect little ones from their true selves and motivations.
Deschooling, as a learning methodology, is based on respect for the true interests of children. This alternative pedagogy emphasizes free and undirected play as the main component of children’s education. His proposal is more radical than homeschooling.
Unschooling, in its most basic form, is not about bringing school home, or leaving children to their own devices. Unschooling is about creating a learning environment that promotes children’s ability to learn, based on the idea that the more we learn, the more something naturally calls us. In fact, it is the innate interests that keep us motivated and engaged.
What is deschooling?
Unschooling, also known as deschooling, establishes the idea that the primary method of learning is chosen activities. In other words, “out-of-school” children learn through their daily lives and experiences. The acquisition of knowledge is done by playing, working, traveling, experimenting with hobbies, interacting with family, and not just by taking courses.
Unlike courses and programs provided by schools, unschooling believers think personal experiences are more important for learning than formal education. They also believe that more meaningful learning – based on experience – equals more useful and comprehensive knowledge.
Based on this methodology, children usually do not attend classes or attend set times when they need to learn a certain subject. Instead, they explore different activities which they initiate and continue.
Origin and criticism of non-schooling
John Holt is considered the father of unschooling; the term was coined in the 1970s. Homeschooling has received a lot of media attention due to public debates about it. Deschooling as a methodology has not generated much interest; however, its popularity has grown in recent years, like that of other alternative pedagogies.
This pedagogical trend suggests that its pedagogy is a more efficient and child-friendly version of traditional schooling. Advocates of unschooling believe that self-directed education in a diverse, often natural environment, is a more effective and sustainable mode of education than school. The ability to self-direct allows children to maintain their innate curiosity and desire to discover new things.
Also it allows them to understand why certain norms, values, skills and properties are important. This encourages children’s creativity and individuality, while rewarding them for their innovation. In addition, unschooling works on children’s ability to orient and manage themselves in unfamiliar environments, allowing them to quickly acquire and develop new skills.
However, this pedagogical methodology is not without criticism, its detractors believe that unschooling is an extreme philosophy: they fear that out-of-school children will be neglected, miss important things or lack social skills. Also they fear that the children lack structure and discipline or that they are unable to cope with difficult situations or adapt to a rigid environment in adult life.
On this last point, since leaving school, it is argued that children are better prepared for life outside of school because of their ability to cope with new and often uncomfortable situations. It is clear that preparing in real world environments helps to face real life, surely more than textbooks.
Methods and philosophy
In deschooling, learning happens naturally or autonomously, for the child to really understand and remember something, he must be intrinsically motivated by it. It can come from a need or curiosity, or from a passion or interest in the subject. Learning is driven by intrinsic motivation and curiosity instead of another person’s extrinsic motivation deciding what to learn, when to learn it, and how quickly. There are a range of methods and philosophies for the practice of deschooling.
1. Natural learning process
Right from the start of schooling, it is emphasized that learning is a natural process that happens all the time. Curiosity is considered an innate quality in everyone, and it is believed that children constantly want to learn spontaneously.
This reasoning can serve as the basis for the idea that putting children in schools designed for a one-size-fits-all approach is inefficient. Traditional schools require each child to learn specific subjects in a specific way, at a specific pace and at a specific time. This is given regardless of your present or future needs, interests, goals or any prior knowledge you may have on the subject. In the classroom, students lose hands-on, real-world experiences that cannot be found in this context.
Also, people have different ways of understanding and processing new information. This is called the “learning style”. Psychological research shows that children have different ways of apprehending. Deschooling attempts to respond to these intrinsic differences.
The child at the center of the learning process
The essential body of knowledge is a set of facts and skills considered essential. Unschooling establishes that learning how to learn is more important than learning a specific subject.
John Holt believed that children should be exposed to the world around them. By interacting with their environment, children can know that it is really important to them and to others. Therefore, they can choose their own learning path, according to him, better than what any other person could choose for them. However, many disagree with this notion and believe that there is a specific body of knowledge we should all have.
Also, children develop at different rates, for example, children can learn to walk between eight and fifteen months. Their ability to walk, talk and learn is not determined by when they were born. Deschooling concerns adapt to these differences.
It is believed that children who learn through self-directed learning are more likely to continue learning into adulthood. They can also naturally learn any new topic or dig deeper into topics that they feel are not covered enough.
The role of parents
Parents have the task of facilitating their children’s understanding of the world by sharing with them books, articles and activities. Also they help to satisfy their interests by locating people with knowledge to go further, these people can be teachers or also professionals in a certain field, for example a mechanic or a computer scientist. Parental involvement is especially important for younger children; Gradually, as they grow, they need less help finding resources and creating learning plans. The non-school approach to education is not non-intervention; it is interest based.
Pedagogical paradigm shift
It is almost impossible to understand the principles of unschooling without making a significant change in mindset. Deschooling it goes against many common beliefs. Therefore, trying to understand this philosophy of learning can cause some friction in thinking. This process can be uncomfortable for children and parents as they adjust to the new way of learning. It’s hard to realize that what we do is not so important, but why we do it.
Few things are more important than understanding the why of our actions. It helps us change our perspective and overcome assumptions made about education.
Deschooling and home schooling
Unschooling is considered a form of homeschooling; in general, it takes place in a place other than a school. However, unschooling differs significantly from other home schooling methods.
Instead of being led by a teacher or a school curriculum, children learn by exploring their natural curiosities. These methods are similar to the open classroom concept of the 1970s, with no classroom, but no grades.
Children receive resources from their parents. Fathers and mothers facilitate their children’s education by helping them navigate and make sense of the world around them. They also help them implement learning plans and goals for the near and distant future.
- Holt, J (1977). “Growing up without schooling”.
- Holt, J. “Teach Yours.”
- Liman, Isabelle. “Homeschooling: back to the future?”. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- Laricchia, P. (2016). What is deschooling? Live and learn without school. Online edition.