An In-Depth Look at Catholic Unschooling

Have you ever wondered about unschooling or self-directed education? The theory that children can be trusted to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it without coercion has always intrigued me. Despite reading many books on the subject and seeing that it does work wonderfully in many cases, I’ve never been brace enough to try it. I think that there is a particular sort of self-motivated child that this method does work very well for, and my children haven’t necessarily fit that mold. Nevertheless, I have tried to take some of the lessons that unschooling has to offer and apply them to our lives.

From unschooling, I’ve learned to appreciate that children learn best when they want to learn, that learning never stops, and that much can be learned from simply living life. It has caused me to look critically at my own education and all the things that I was forced to “learn” but fell out of my head as soon as the test was over. In my own homeschool, I’ve done formal lessons, but I’ve also tried to allow my children an abundance of time to pursue their own interests. Unschooling has also taught me that even if I personally don’t feel like an activity has much value, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value for my child. Only God knows our children’s futures and what skills might come in handy.

Sue Elvis is a Catholic homeschooling mom from Australia. Her book Curious Unschoolers: Stories of an Unschooling Family was recommended on a Catholic unschooling Facebook group I belong to. If you have ever wondered what Catholic unschooling looks like on a daily basis, this is the book to read.

Many of the chapters in this book were adapted from her blog, videos, and podcasts. As a result, chapters can sometimes seem a bit disjointed and don’t always run in chronological order. Still, Curious Unschoolers covers a variety of topics that would be of interest to anyone seeking to learn more about unschooling. Elvis discusses what unschooling is and is not, what a typical unschooling day might look like, how children learn, preparing children for the future (yes, unschooled children can go to college), how to strew materials to foster learning, the importance of trust and freedom, how children learn math and writing through unschooling, how to keep records, and what to do when homeschooling is hard. Curious Unschoolers is a comprehensive look at unschooling life.

“Parents have to get excited about learning if we want our kids to feel the same way.” – Sue Elvis

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Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her fifteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary". She blogs at