Unschooling: FAQ



 Why did you unschool?

I wanted my children to get an education and to love lifelong learning. I value education but not necessarily having it delivered by an institution.

In one sentence, what is unschooling?

Unschooling is education whereby the learner determines what he learns (content, pace, depth), when he learns it (any age, or not at all), where his learns (home, community, online or school) and how he learns (self-taught, teacher-taught, facilitated, classroom, apprenticeship, online, correspondence, book, video, game, experiential, lecture, volunteering, project, job, or travel).

Isn’t that giving a lot of control to children?

Ultimately, every child has this ability to determine what he learns because every learner decides what to remember and what to forget, whether they are homeschooled or institutionally schooled. Children who tune out, act out or drop out of school are already deciding what parts of their education they will keep and which parts will be dumped. Unschoolers are just more direct about it.

How do children learn if there is no teacher? How do you know learning has taken place with no exams or writing?

All humans and mammals learn whether there is a teacher or not. If one breathes, they learn. Babies learn to walk, toddlers talk, preschoolers learn to add and subtract, school-agers learn to read, all without school.

How do we know if our children are getting enough vitamin D? Observation. It’s a very powerful assessment tool. It takes time and documentation and is not used very much in schools. But it is useful in the home. Parents know exactly what their children know because they spend so much time with them.

The learning process works like this: When children read something in a book or off a screen or is told by a lecturer, some of that information is stored in short term memory. Most students use this information to pass the test, the course and finish assignments. The act of using the information and making associations strengthens neural brain connections and moves the learning into long term memory storage.

For society to know that learning has occurred, children need to produce output such as a written expression, graphic expression, physical expression or verbal expression so that it will move into long term memory. Many unschooled children do this. But it is not documented. Some children express learning through their play, and others through product production. Some expression will be invisible to others and only done by the child, such as reflection. Other times, the observers in the environment will see, hear, touch, taste or smell what the child has produced, as a teacher would see in a classroom setting.

Parents, as the education professional in the home, have great powers of observation. Teachers, as the education professional in the classroom, have to use many different assessment methods because they are managing 45 kids, not 1.

How is unschooling different from homeschooling and school?

Unschooling is a self-directed education. If a learner in school or homeschool is empowered to decide the what, when, where and how of his education, than he can technically unschool at a free-learning school or in a homeschool.

Is this new?

This philosophy of self-directed education is almost a 100 years old, beginning in 1921 with Summerhill school in the UK.

Every parent unschools their child from ages 0-6 years. The child is in the driver’s seat of what they learn and given a rich environment of resources, unstructured time, and an adult supervisor/facilitator, vast amounts of learning takes place during those formative years. Children learn to walk, talk in any language, learn to read, play music, do math, distinguish between colors, shapes and numbers before starting formal school at age 6. All children have a learning agenda. Schools tell them to push it aside when they turn six.

If Unschooling is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it?

Most people haven’t heard about it. Unschooling can’t be monetized. It doesn’t earn anyone money, or create jobs, so it is not widely advertised. For each dollar the government gives to the education industry, two dollars are taken from families and taxpayers, to pay for it. Families give up their freedom along with their taxes. School is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Many industry jobs are on the line if the public knows a child can learn from video games just as much as school attendance.

As well, some people want the government to take care of them from cradle to grave and are willing to outsource all their needs such as daycare, preschool, school, university, jobs, and homecare. That’s fine. Other’s want their family to be the centre of their life and will take care of their own needs at home including birthing, education, work, and even dying. Everyone should be aware of their options.

Does unschooling work for everyone?

Yes, unschooling can work for any child. Even if a child with lots of family adversity (poverty, isolation, parents with untreated mental illness), really wants to become an engineer, nothing will stop her. All it takes is grit. The internet is free. Kahn academy is free. There are no financial boundaries or limitations on education supply now, as most students are now borderless with the internet. There are loans and scholarships. One can’t force a child to learn and one can’t stop a child from learning.

However, if a child gives up too easily due to temperament, I can see how unschooling might not work. But institutional schools are not going to work either. The child has to want to learn.

Where is the research that shows unschooling works to educate students?

Summerhill School in England, and Sudbury Valley schools in the US, are some of the best examples of research.

The Fraser Report 2007 titled, Homeschooling: From the extreme to mainstream, and The Fraser Report 2015 titled, Homeschooling in Canada: The Current Picture 2015, are two very good sources of evidence.

Be aware that our culture worships scientific studies. We have a fixation on all things measurable and quantifiable. If it can be measured, it is treasured. Often, unless an issue or phenomenon is studied, and has a measurable outcome, it is perceived as not existing. We need to acknowledge that some things can exist even if they have never been measured or examined. Unschooling has existed outside schools for many years but not any wide spread studies have been undertaken on their effectiveness.

How many people unschool in Canada?

Most homeschooling families estimate that about 10 percent of homeschoolers unschool. There is no hard data because many provinces do not require homeschool registration and most provinces that do, don’t keep records on the education philosophy or methods chosen by non-institutional learners.

Why did you write the book, Unschooling To University?

Education is in crisis and the industry is in need of disruption. Just as every other industry faced new models, school today no longer serves a purpose other than employment support. Students today need a personalized education and human relationships. Parents and teachers. For example, publishing houses used to be the gatekeeper to publishing ideas, just as schools used to be the gatekeepers to learning. Neither is no longer true. With the internet, students can learn anything, anywhere, anyhow, and from anyone, including self-taught. They can use the skills and knowledge to obtain credentials.

Tell us about the book?

This book has three key themes:

  1. Adult relationships are more critical in this digital world than curriculum that is at one’s fingertips.
  2. Play is key to children’s academic success.
  3. Every person already owns their education from birth, and continually know best what/when, and how they need to learn. When a curriculum is forced on a person, without consent, they may act-out, tune-out and eventually drop-out of institutional schooling.

The book outlines what is unschooling, why it is a beneficial choice, and how to do it, as well as how it fits with different stages of childhood development.

The book is written for skeptics! It is written for the naysayers, in addition to families already unschooling.

The book focuses on post-secondary from unschooling and especially STEM careers, because there are already many books out there on how to unschool. I wanted to add how unschooling fits with brain and child development information. When people find out one unschools, the second most common question (after the first most common one about socialization) is, “What about University?”

When I looked around and saw 30 of our unschooling friends go on to post-secondary, I thought this information needs to get out there. And there are thousands of others we don’t know about. In the book, our Team of Thirty, had 12 kids in STEM careers (4 of those in engineering), 9 in humanities and 9 kids in the arts. 20 have already graduated with degrees, diplomas and their credentials from post-secondary schools.

One does not need to go to post-secondary to be successful.  There are many unschooled children who have began businesses and enjoy careers outside of higher education, but if children choose to take a post-secondary career path, I wanted to assure parents that it is certainly doable.

3 Benefits of Unschooling for kids – learning sticks when engaged, there are no bullies, and academic enthusiasm ramps up during the years that counts.

3 Benefits of Unschooling for parents – no stress, inexpensive, and family closeness.

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Unschooling To University

Judy Arnall describes Unschooling to University

The book, Unschooling To University, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  It will be published September 30, 2018

Pre-order on Amazon.com

Pre-order on Amazon.ca

This book explores the journey of the Team of Thirty, a group of young individuals who unschooled from 3 to 12 years each and were accepted or graduated at university, colleges, and technical schools.  12 went into STEM fields.  Learn more about what unschooling is, why it is beneficial, how to unschool and how unschooling fits with child development stages. This book outlines everything one needs to know about unschooling and self-directed education worldwide.

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Unschooling To University

UTU Chris cover5sig

Welcome to Unschooling to University!  

Many unschoolers/self-directed learners often get asked the second most common question in home education, (after the one about socialization) which is “What about university?  Aren’t you messing up your child’s chances of eligibility?” This blog’s sole purpose is to assure you that unschooled children can go to college, universities, trade schools or the post-secondary school of their choice, if they choose to go. When the time is right for them, they will often choose self-directed education to help themselves earn the requirements for admission acceptance.

Parents do not have to be the teacher and “catch them up” unless they really want to. Believe me, my “math skills” end at grade 8 and I had 3 kids get accepted into STEM programs at university.  Parents do not need high school subject matter expertise.  They just need to be present when their child needs them, and help the child find the resources if asked.  Parents help the child self-direct their education by facilitating what they need. Most unschooled children reach an age that they wish to learn more and seek out tutors, online courses or simply teach themselves from the internet, Kahn Academy, and their jurisdiction’s textbooks.  Whether they learn the entire high school program, or just the final year courses to prove previously acquired learning, or even challenge the leaving or entrance (SAT) exams, children that are motivated are serious, focused learners and nothing will stop them.

As Peter Gray outlines in his 2013 study of 75 grown homeschoolers, those children with the least number of formal schooling years (either in a classroom or homeschooled), were more likely to go on to post-secondary learning.  That has been our experience in the homeschooling community as well.  The more time children had for play and self-directed learning, the more likely they were to continue learning and became motivated for greater stimulation outside the family.

The other myth is that unschoolers tend to choose more arts and humanities fields when applying to post-secondary institutions.  STEM options are also available to unschoolers. Many unschoolers find that the years of experiential learning from play, projects and travel help round out a solid background of understanding that numbers and formulas can build on when the child reaches their teens and acquires their abstract thinking skills from the development of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. They have real world applications for problem-solving with math and science tools.

We know that not everyone aspires to go to post-secondary schools, and that is fine.  We know that some families do wish to plan for that type of education and we aim to help them navigate the waters from unschooling and self-determining their learning during the “school-age” years to a more formal learning environment during the adult years.

Many of these insights come from our family of 5 children, in which we unschooled (self-directed education) the children anywhere from 8 to 12 years that they would have been in school. We had many family friends that also unschooled and I tell their experiences (The Team of Thirty) in the Unschooling To University book, now available for pre-order on Amazon.  12 of the 30 children profiled, attended university in STEM careers. Some went the high school (and self-designed) diploma route and some did not.

We are not outliers.  The gates to education are still there but the walls are coming down. We hope you enjoy our experiences, thoughts and insights to help you make informed education choices. We also welcome your questions. Yes, unschooled children can go on to post-secondary education and they are excellent learners and free thinkers.  We need thought leaders and world problem-solvers.  Join us!

#anyonecanhomeeducate         #letlearnerslead         #unschoolingtouniversity

Pre-order on Amazon.com

Pre-order on Amazon.ca


Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM


Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, Uncategorized, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Unschooled Engineer


How does unschooling work when a child is a teenager and is beginning to choose a career path?  Many people are fine letting young children play away their day, but what about when the time comes to start thinking about their life’s work? And what if that passion is a STEM career? Good question!

Let’s take an example. Josh is 16.5 years old. He has had no formal schooling.  He loves spending his days with his cat, meeting up with other unschooling buddies for movies and lunch, reading all kinds of genre, tinkering with game mods and playing Fortnite.

He has decided on a career.  He passionately wants to be a software engineer. Let’s say he lives in Alberta, one of the most highly regulated home education provinces in Canada. Now what?

He looks up several Canadian university requirements for engineering and needs grade 12 level English, Social Studies, Math, Calculus, Physics and Chemistry for university entrance of a 4 year software engineering degree.

What he can do:

  1. Apply to a community college and get his first year humanities requirements now. They might transfer to his first year at university depending on the university. Enroll in distance education or an adult upgrading school classroom for Math 10 and 11 and science 10 and physics 20. Next year, enroll in math 12, physics 30, chemistry 20 and chemistry 30. Four courses per year is doable. He could take the calculus requirement in first year university. By 18.5 years, he is ready to apply to universities.
  2. Wait until he is 19 years old to get his humanities requirements. Read and study The Key Book for English 30 and Social 30. Practice writing essays. He has done extensive reading and discussions of social issues with his friends and he is already quite versed in literature, government and social issues. Write the diploma exams in both subjects for marks and credits. While he is waiting until he is 19, he can take the above sciences at an adult upgrading school, or online, or distance education. By 19 years, he is ready to apply to universities.
  3. Begin self-study now. Do all of number 2 above on his own. Work on his own through the textbooks and hire a tutor or check out Kahn Academy if he needs help. At age 19, write the diploma exams for English, Social, Math, Chemistry and Physics. By age 19, he is ready to apply to universities.
  4. Self-study. Write the SAT or ACT exams for all the above subjects. Make a transcript listing activities and accomplishments that would fit in the above subjects. By age 18, he is ready to apply to universities.

The science behind accelerated learning

When young people choose a career path, many people think that the unschooled kids have to catch up 12 grades of education.  However, we forget that the brain has been working all those years processing, acquiring and synthesizing information. By age 16, the brain is in the final stages (until age 25) of maturing the pre-frontal cortex. Late teen’s ability to reason, critically think, plan, make-decisions and implement self-control (motivation) is ramping to their peak performance. The kids have spent 16 years reading, theorizing, writing, learning and understanding science, history and math in the real world through experiential education. They may need some practice applying it to paper, but that is what high school courses are for. That may take 1-3 years depending on the province they live in. It goes by fast. Meanwhile, the love of learning and curiosity has been preserved.

I know what you are thinking…math is linear. How can Josh possibly do 10 grades of math in math 10? The answer is that Josh is not starting from grade one. Josh has learned 16 years of math experientially. He has baked, shopped, checked the weather, built a project, mailed a package and played Battleship. He has learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measurement, fractions and decimals as well as integers and coordinates experientially. He may need a four month math 10 prep course to transfer that learning to paper. His brain has it’s abstract thinking skills and is ready to commit 16 years of math to learning how it works out answers when written down. Many parents look at their 6 year old and can’t imagine how capable and smart their child will be at 16 years. In fact, that 16 year old might be smarter than them.

Kids are not catching up on knowledge, but switching to a different track – one that requires more output/demonstration of what they already have learned, combined with new learning in subject matter that interests them. At age 16, never being in structured education, Josh is excited to try it, when quite a lot of his school friends are burning out from 13 years of coerced learning (possibly including 3 years of preschool). If Josh is motivated and software engineering is his passion, nothing will stop him. Nothing!

Judy Arnall is a child development expert and the bestselling author of Unschooling To University: Relationships matter most in a world crammed with content

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Unschooling is Growing Across The World



The concept of unschooling as a valid educational alternative is growing worldwide.  Here are some media links of articles that discuss unschooling in different countries.



South Africa



United States

United Kingdom

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bypassing the School Curriculum Gives Your Child an Advantage: Reading and Writing


When people are told about unschooling, a common question is, “How will kids learn if they don’t follow the school curriculum?” The answer is, kids learn when they need to learn. The best inspiration for learning is a motivating reason. It is how adults learn.

The best way for kids to learn how to write, is when they have something to say. When they feel passionate about expressing a point of view on politics, or sharing their reason why a video game is awesome, or why they think school should be optional, writing becomes second nature. Of course, they need to know the structure of writing to put their thoughts and content into, but kids can easily look up how to write a 5 paragraph essay on the internet.

It doesn’t take twelve years of school curriculum to learn how to write a five paragraph essay.  Children learn how to write sentences.  The sentences turn into paragraphs, and then the paragraphs turn into a structured essay form. Do they need to have this drilled into them every year from grade 1 to 12?  No.  Above are photos of a Grade 12 student workbook outlining how to write different kinds of essays including the basic 5 paragraph one. In the very unlikely case that a child has never written anything in their life, they will learn how to in Grade 12, again!

A common question is, “Will not knowing their letters or how to read at 9 and 11 make reading harder when they are ready?”  Underneath this is the assumption that practice makes perfect, and in some skills like figure skating, it does. But cognitive skills in learning math or reading doesn’t get better by practice. It’s all about brain maturation.

When the brain is ready, it is ready.  It can learn fast.  All my kids took their first math class in grade 8.  They learned 8 years of math in one year, because they had their abstract thinking skills from the pre-frontal cortex maturation and they can figure things out so much better at 13 than at ages 6-11.  My 9 and 10 year old children who couldn’t read, were reading novels (Warriors and Redwall) within a year of mastering BOB Learn-to-read books. Catch up is super fast when the neurons are firing and the brain is maturing. Another example from parenting is that kids who are toilet trained at age 2 takes months to learn it.  At age 4, they can learn in one day.

A child not bound by the mandated school curriculum can go further because they have time – they can write novels, self-study character development, setting and mood. They can read a wide variety of texts and analyze literature such as “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver. They can read difficult non-fiction books such as Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.”  Kids who read are kids who can write. The average homeschooled child in my informal survey of 20 families’ reading habits read anywhere from 12 to 50 books and novels a year.  In school, they read 1 novel in English classes for the whole year. That’s 3 novels for the entire high school program. Motivated kids can go beyond uninspiring school curriculum. Don’t allow them to be held back.

Posted in Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pre-Order Unschooling To University

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Now available for ordering the print or ebook.  Publishing date is September 30, 2018

Order on Amazon.com

Order on Amazon.ca

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Respectful Cellphone-Video Game Contract



Respectful Cellphone Contract for Family Internet Health and Safety



  • I agree to always ask you for help, explanation, advice and information regarding anything I can’t handle myself on the cell-phone, Internet and computer/video gaming platform.
  • I agree to abide by safety and health precautions as outlined between you and myself.
  • I agree to never meet strangers in person without your knowledge.
  • I agree to discuss and solve any problems that arise from meeting your needs and mine.


Child’s Signature__________



  • I agree to discuss and solve any problems that arise from meeting your needs and mine.
  • I agree to never confiscate your cell-phone, TV, computer, tablet, music player or video game console, if we follow this contract agreement.
  • I agree to abide by the same health and safety rules.


Parent’s Signature__________



  • Tech-free zones will be meal-times, church, socializing with relatives, and when visitors drop by.
  • All electronics will be turned off 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Everyone does 30 minutes of physical exercise every day.
  • Giving attention to people takes precedence over attention to electronics.
  • (Add more here which fits for the whole family…)



Date to Review Contract to Ensure Functioning for Child and Parent: ______

Child and Parent’s Signatures_________________________________________

Posted in Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unschooling To University Book Project has been successful on Kickstarter!

UTU Chris cover5sig

I had to wait until my third child graduated university, and my fourth child was accepted, and now I am ready to launch this book:

Unschooling To University

Back this project on Kickstarter

Do you have a child that is unmotivated in school? (It’s not your child or the teacher’s fault!)  Are you worried that the school curriculum is not relevant in today’s society? (We still do not have mandatory coding lessons)  Do you think your child would thrive if you pulled them out, but don’t wish to homeschool? (Not everybody wants to!)

Now there is an alternative.  Learners can and do lead their learning!  Follow the paths of 30 kids who unschooled and directed their own learning and still entered universities and colleges, with over half in the STEM fields.

Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the e-book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!

A big thank you to everyone who participated in our Kickstarter Funding.  We did it!

The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Release date is September 30, 2018



Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment