Unschooling is NOT unparenting

-Let’s bust this myth!-

There is a myth that unschooling is akin to unparenting. Maybe it is because they share the same prefix. More likely it is because most parenting styles work on the premise that parents are in charge of children whilst unschooling parents work with their children in partnership.

Unschooling as a philosophy that influences parenting is known as radical unschooling. Applying the principles of unschooling into all aspects of our lives means that children are trusted to make decisions, not only about what they spend their time doing, but about lifestyle choices such as their sleeping habits, eating preferences and appearance. Parents are intentional in their support and involvement with their children in all their choices.

Unparenting is generally thought of as:

  • being distant and disengaged from your children’s activity.
  • providing little or no guidance on expected or actual behaviours
  • not adhering to mainstream parenting norms such as bedtimes or politeness
  • children appearing unkempt and neglected

Parental involvement is key

Unschooling requires high levels of parental involvement, we are available to our children 24/7, and with our children, in their activity and decision making. Trusting our children is intentional and our focus is on supporting them and providing them with a safe environment in which to explore and express themselves. Our aim is to lead richer lives with our children and build strong family relationships.

Unparenting is the opposite. Children are ignored, their interests and preferences disregarded. Parents are not a sources of comfort or partners in their children’s lives. Children are not trusted or supported in their choices but are abandoned and left to their own devices.

There are no rules

Unschooling can appear to be devoid of rules. The truth is that there are far fewer rules in an unschooling family and the ones that remain are not arbitarily chosen. There are boundaries in any given family often around safety and social interactions. Unschooling families prefer to use guiding principles that are discussed and re-evaluated in accordance with each new situation presented.

Unparenting seems to involve few rules except when an adult wants to enforce something at their whim. There are few stable boundaries and children can find themselves launched between complete freedom and completely controlled at the desire of those who have charge over their lives.

Children get to do what they want

Unschooling supports children in their choices and actively seeks to facilitate their passions. Parents are strongly involved in partnering their children so that they are able to pursue the things that ignite curiosity within them. Unschooling families work together to help their children navigate, achieve and succeed in the world.

Unparenting allows children to do what they want as a means of appeasing them. The aim is to keep the children quiet and busy so that adults do not have to overly involve themselves with the children.

Children look unkempt

Unschooling supports children’s choices and prioritises trust and respect primarily by giving their children trust and respect. This can occasionally mean that our children leave the house with mismatched clothes or their hair longer than standard school issue. Our children are genuinely heard when they express themselves verbally and know that they are loved unconditionally. In this way they learn how to listen to others and respect others irregardless of their physical appearance or other personal preferences.

Unparenting is neglectful. Children are left uncared for physically as well as emotionally because parents are unable to or choose not to provide or meet basic care needs.

Unschooling is not unparenting

Unschoolers are aiming for healthy, engaged, rich, lives with their children. All aspects of life are learning opportunities and children are wholly embraced as entire persons.


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Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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