Here is interesting video on unschooling in the extreme

With all the comments on unschooling from the interview I did with the author of new book on the movement, I decided to post this ABC “Good Morning America” clip on “radical” unschoolers. This interview spurred a lot of comment from unschoolers.

21 comments Add your comment

William Casey

April 23rd, 2011
11:48 am

Rousseau pushed this idea in the 1700’s after placing his own children in an orphanage. We’ll see if it works better now. I’d respect the parents more if these kids were responsible for providing their own food, clothing, shelter, etc. As it is, these children are living in a fantasy world. I understand and respect the impulse but question the execution. As the “Barenaked Ladies” put it in song a few years ago: “It’s All Been Done Before.”


April 23rd, 2011
12:58 pm

Unschool rules! And thanks to Chip Rogers, you can get the tax payer to give you $6k toward a new boat, dirt bike, media room – whatever you want!

A rebuttal by dad of unschooled child

April 23rd, 2011
3:49 pm


April 23rd, 2011
4:24 pm

There is nothing in the GMA clip about what the unschooled kids can do, only what they have not done. I would be interested to know how well they can write, how well or how far they pursue their own intellectual curiosity (if at all), how well they interact with other, traditionally schooled kids their own age, and how well they take responsibility for their lives. If they are not self-motivated, if they don’t have curiosity, if they exist in what William Casey called a fantasy world that is bounded by lethargy, passive media and no exterior requirements to impell interaction and responsibility, I cannot see how this approach is anything other than destructive.

That is the impression the GMA clip leaves. I hope it’s not the truth.


April 23rd, 2011
6:15 pm

These parents have their heads in the clouds.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 23rd, 2011
6:20 pm

I don’t believe there is any one “right” way to educate a child. Public schools work for the majority because many parents do not have the time, patience, academic background and/or money to support alternative choices. Furthermore, one must take the personality of the child into account. Some children need more structure. Some do better in less traditional settings.

As a public school teacher, I have worked with previously Home Schooled children who have rejoined the system. Most were ahead of their peers in some areas and behind in others. Some were far behind. I rarely met any who were ahead in all areas, but I suspect that is because THAT particular population is less likely to rejoin the public system.

Most of the children I worked with were back in the system either because they had reached a level of education their parents could no longer support, or because their parents had decided it was too hard to get unmotivated children to learn anything. In short, most of the parents I saw were in over their heads. I had one child who came to me in second grade who was unable to even write his own name. His Home Schooling experience had consisted of being placed in front of a television to watch “educational videos.” At age eight, he had a sight word vocabulary of about 50 words, and knew only a few basic math facts. Thankfully, that was not the norm.

I also worked with parents who decided to pull their children out of traditional public school and start Home Schooling. I helped put them in touch with support groups who could guide them. As a teacher, I am interested in finding the best educational fit for every child. In a perfect world, each child would get an individualized, one on one education by a caring, knowledgeable adult. Some parents can provide this, but for most of us, it is an unreachable goal.

David Sims

April 23rd, 2011
8:39 pm

Phooey. Finding your own way, learning to teach yourself, is what you become able to do after you’ve already acquired some skills to work with. That’s how theoretical physicists do things… after they’ve graduated from a university where they studied what is already known about their chosen field, and after they’ve picked up enough math that they can construct any new math technique that they might need.

Unschoolers aren’t going to pick up that groundwork. It’s as if they were having to rediscover, all on their own, what the greatest minds of Ancient Greece, the Renaissance, the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries learned as pioneers in their respective disciplines. No, it won’t work. There isn’t a human alive who is genius enough to dispense with some sort of competent tutelage.


April 23rd, 2011
11:40 pm

Really amazed

April 24th, 2011
12:04 am


Atlanta mom

April 24th, 2011
12:06 am

Any individual or two individuals who believe they can offer everything a child needs, is delusional


April 24th, 2011
7:21 am

“You need to trust your kinds to find their own interests.”

“…she’s getting everything done that she wants to get done.”

“There’s no hierarchy in our house, so there is no judgement, no discipline…”

“It hasn’t been an interest of mine.”

There are things in life we want to do, and things in life we have to do, and sometimes they’re not the same thing. Will these kids ever leave the egocentric stage? Will they ever learn how to navigate personal relationship hierarchies?

April 24th, 2011
9:10 am

This video is designed to provoke an ignorant reaction: show some kids sitting around watching TV and pretending in the front yard to make unschoolers look foolish. I think posting this video was incendiary and betrays your bias, Maureen. That’s too bad.

Maureen Downey

April 24th, 2011
9:30 am

@Honey, I had watched both of the ABC series on unschooling, including the one with the younger momn from New Hampshire that created such a furor in the unschooling community. I thought this couple — the parents — were more even handed in their comments, which is why I shared this clip. In anyone is interested, there is also a very good series of YouTube videos by an unschooled young woman, now in grad school, about the experience. She has a whole series, which I watched with my kids. She is very charming in her videos. If you go to this one, you can find her others as well:

April 24th, 2011
10:52 am

@Maureen, I appreciate you posting that other clip. I have first-hand experience of some incredible unschooled kids, and I think a broader picture is needed. It is truly not for everyone; I could never let go that completely and still feel like I was doing my job, but some parents can, and do, successfully.


April 24th, 2011
10:54 am

Could this video be any more biased? How many time did the commentators make negative remarks about this?!?!!! Most unschoolers I know expose their children to myriad things, people,places and ideas. And the children learn how to learn. My children by age five new how to look things up on a computer, use a card catalog, and find someone to answer their questions.(doctor, mailmaan, etc.) It is with THAT knowledge that unschollers flourish!!!!


April 24th, 2011
2:19 pm

I agree with “honeyfern”. This clip was initially shown on network tv and replayed here just to be sensational. Unbiased journalists would have interviewed at least 3-5 families and shown a spectrum of unschool families. Instead, they sought out the most extreme example to stir up dialogue. And, it was edited to show the extreme side. Stirring up dialogue this way serves no useful purpose for anyone, regardless of your position about schooling. It’s only purpose is to stir up commenters and web clicks to make money for advertisers of the tv station. For this blog, I expect a higher level of dialogue. An alternate clip is mentioned by Maureen in the comments, but why wasn’t that part of the original post, so we could see more than one example?

Based on some of the comments, some people wonder how homeschoolers and unschoolers will function in the world and how will they learn to get along with others, etc. They are in plenty of real world, community environments on a daily basis, and are exposed to people of all ages. This is more typical of their future, adult world, than a classroom with kids isolated by age.


April 25th, 2011
8:43 am

Maureen, thanks for showing this…yes, it was designed to show the extreme side of unschooling…no doubt about that. But that’s exactly what it needed to show. How crazy can two human beings be to call it schooling of any kind at all. It’s just abdication of parental responsibility. Any of us can imagine tutopic unschooling with parents who have all the time, money and resources (intellectually, morally, ethically) to do it right… truly wonderful for kids and parents…but I think most of us can imagine what the majority of unschooling would result in… this just shows it.


April 25th, 2011
8:56 am


Lt Dan

April 25th, 2011
8:22 pm

Hey, I’ve got one helluvan idea! Let’s teach the kids about that all-important safety awareness. But let’s not bore them with those traditional time-proven educational methodologies. Hell no…we’ll put ten kids in a playground so that they will feel free to “explore” on their own volition. Then, we’ll split the group into two groups of five apiece. We’ll issue group one a book of matches, and group two a stick of dynamite. Then we’ll remind them to be careful while they explore…no guidance, no classroom preparation on the dynamics of explosives…no, none of that constrictive boring stuff. Just let em learn as the spirit moves em!

Tontoto: Hi- ho buy Silver!!

April 25th, 2011
8:59 pm

Tiger Mom meets Free Bird Mom:

There’s a reason unschoolers are only 5-10% of home schoolers. I think some of their ideas are worth incorporating into a home school curriculum. However, I also think discipline and memorization has its place. I fully support the parent’s right to educate the children as they see fit.

Lisa Trossarello

April 27th, 2011
11:36 am

Is this not child neglect? “If the children are hungry, they can fix their own food of what they want to eat.” So the kid ends up eating a donut for every meal and laying on the couch watching TV or playing video games all day. If some kid was locked in a hotel room with no food except unhealthy, sugary stuff we would be up in arms. But since the child is “choosing” this, it’s okay?

I would think that most kids when offered a new food or idea will reject it,but once they are made to eat it or try it, they may find that they like it after all. This is the parent’s and educator’s job, to introduce kids to new things.

My son didn’t like to read. It was boring to him. So I kept on bringing home different types of books until we found somthing he did like. But it took me not giving up. Because I KNOW it’s important to not just be able to read the words, but to have the ability to get lost in a book and get transported somewhere else.
These parents are not “parenting”. No discipline and no hygeine requirements??? Will they pay to get the inevitable cavities filled in their kids teeth?

Last thing – what kind of job are these kids going to be able to get later in life?? High school diploma? no. GED? no. College grad? Get real! My daughter had straight A’s in her senior year of high school and is still struggling like heck with her college classes. These kids will have no chance in college. (And yes, maybe there is the story of that one girl who is now in grad school, but I seriously doubt that this is or will be the norm.)