Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald is useful reading for anyone interested in learning more about self-directed education. McDonald doesn’t limit her discussion of unschooling to only those who are homeschooling (although that is certainly one path to a self-directed education). She defines unschooling as “the act of fusing living and learning, of seeing them as one and the same. There is no one way to be an unschooler, no singular path of facilitating self-directed education.”
In the Foreword, Peter Gray, Ph.D. points out that “schools were designed for obedience training and memorization.” In contrast, “Education [is] the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life.” True education “requires an active, questioning mindset, not the passive, obedient mind-set of schooling.” Gray states that schools utilize a top-down learning style that “crushes [children’s] natural creativity.”
What is the alternative? Unschooling, or self-directed education, is based on the idea that “learning happened naturally, and much more meaningfully, when it is driven by the learner’s personal motivations.”
McDonald discusses several ways a family can pursue this type of education. While the obvious choice would be to homeschool, there are other options. There are unschooling resource centers and even schools that operate on an unschooling philosophy. McDonald also points out that “libraries are free self-directed learning spaces in the truest sense.”
McDonald offers a solid overview of the unschooling movement, discussing both the historical roots of self-directed education as well as the many forms it can take in the modern world. She makes a solid case that self-directed learning is useful in helping children develop their creativity and unique gifts. These characteristics will help children find their place in both life and the job market.
While written from a secular perspective (and does profile same-sex families), those who choose to use a self-directed methodology of education may find Unschooled helpful in forming arguments to defend their lifestyle to well-meaning family and friends who question their educational choices. Those looking for a Catholic take on unschooling should read Homeschooling with Gentleness or A Little Way of Homeschooling, both by Suzi Andres.
Order Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom on Amazon (affiliate link).