Unschooling

Aside from a series of articles from various publications, the only real work on Catholic unschooling is Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling by Mrs. Suzie Andres. Mrs. Andres has the benefit of being exceptionally clear in defining her terms because she is married to a philosophy professor who has written his own book on logic. She defines unschooling as follows, “Unschooling is a form of education in which the child is trusted to be the primary agent in learning what he needs to know to lead him to happiness.”

There is essentially no teaching authority in unschooling, and indeed many criticize it as being the complete absense of order. One questions even if Mrs. Andres is correct to call it a form of education because for the most part, there is no instruction properly speaking, only discovery. The student not only has the responsibility to properly abstract universal concepts from matter, but he has the responsibility of presenting the right material before his sense. Because the student studies whatever appeals to him at the moment, there is no necessary connection or relation between the elements of his “education”.

The Warren Survey found that the majority of Catholic Homeschooling leaders did not consider unschooling to be “an authentic form of homeschooling” at all. The simple fact of the matter is that schooling or education involves instruction. Any method that relies solely on discovery cannot be called schooling. The name itself would seem to imply this. “Unschooling” implies that there is no schooling, and hence no “homeschooling”.

Even if the student were free to ask questions and get answers, this wouldn’t be instruction. Instruction involves imparting knolwedge, but especially in a methodical way, and while it might be possible for a student to have some method in the seeking of knowledge, there is nothing methodical about the imparting.

It should be noted, however, that many, if not most, parents who claim to be unschoolers, in fact are only partial unschoolers. Even Mrs. Andres, in an interview on a Catholic parenting website, revealed that she actually has some form of minimal curriculum that is parent-chosen and enforced. She said, “Secondly, each school year we decide on the type and amount of school-type work we want Joseph to accomplish. This year, for example, we agreed that Joseph would complete a set of algebra workbooks and learn typing with a computer program.”

A system of complete and total child-direction fails to account for man’s fallen condition. Man has an inclination to do what is wrong, and children in specific are insufficiently formed in virtue to have the prudence to know what is best for themselves.

This article on unschooling is not meant to demonize parents who experiment in this area, but is primarily intended to argue that the phenomena of unschooling is completely separate from that of homeschooling, and is thus not properly considered a method of homeschooling.