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The following definition of Unschooling as presented on the John Holt website can be found at


This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term “unschooling” has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn’t use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.


The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an “on demand” basis, if at all.


John Holt Evergreen College, WA

This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work. So, for instance, a young child’s interest in hot rods can lead him to a study of how the engine works (science), how and when the car was built (history and business), who built and designed the car (biography), etc. Certainly these interests can lead to reading texts, taking courses, or doing projects, but the important difference is that these activities were chosen and engaged in freely by the learner. They were not dictated to the learner through curricular mandate to be done at a specific time and place, though parents with a more hands-on approach to unschooling certainly can influence and guide their children’s choices.

John holt speaking on beach, April 1970

Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it.

Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not “natural” processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn’t unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.

Jonh Holt and Kids196

—Pat Farenga, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

Unschooling is not unparenting; freedom to learn is not license to do whatever you want. People find different ways and means to get comfortable with John Holt’s ideas about children and learning and no one style of unschooling or parenting defines unschooling, as the following selection of books demonstrates. ÑPF

Homeschooling With Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling (2004) by Suzie Andres Click here for more information.
Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves (2002) by Alison MacKee. Click here for more information.

Christian Unschooling (2001) by Terri Brown with Elissa M Wahl. Click here for more information.

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith (1998). Click here for more information.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook (1998) by Grace Llewelyn. Click here for more information


John holt August 1965

The website referenced above is about John Holt, a teacher and writer who advocated more humane classrooms and then, when he sensed such school reform was not really wanted by most people, became one of the founders of the homeschooling movement, which Holt originally called “unschooling.”


Unschooling—learning that doesn’t look like school nor has to happen at home—is an effective way to work with, not on,young children and teenagers to help them learn.


Unschooling is also documented in the pages of the magazine Holt founded, Growing Without Schooling(GWS). All of its issues, covering the years 1977 to 2001, are available to read here, as are articles, audio, and video recordings of Holt and other pioneers of learning without schooling.


You will also find informationresearch, and support for learning outside of school, self-directed learning, unschooling, homeschooling and the work of John Holt.


JH playing Cello like a Violin