Defining Free Schooling, Unschooling, and Home Schooling

July 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

On this blog I’ve been using the terms free schooling, unschooling, and home schooling pretty interchangeably. Lydia brought up a good point, though, when she asked what the difference between them was. So, I’m going to go through a very quick, albeit insufficient, breakdown of what they are. To be honest, though, when I use the terms in this blog – I’m using them in the contexts of which they are the most similar.

Free Schooling

Free schooling is really the act of learning and do-ing through a free school. Thus, free schooling is more-so of a community, collaborative, cooperative, and collective activity. To see a short definition of what a free school is, go here. For a longer, in depth one, go here.

So, a free school is comprised of a group of unschoolers. However, someone can be free schooling without there being a formally declared “free school” if they are learning collaboratively in a way with other unschoolers.


Unschooling is the act of controlling one’s learning through their own means. This can be done in a vast number of ways and through many methods. John Holt, who popularized the term, described it as when we take individuals out of school and help them learn via alternative avenues. I want to extend this definition, though, by saying that someone can be in school and be unschooling if they recognize that the school does not have a monopoly over the ways in which they learn – that learning is natural, and there is no separation between learning and living, and that everything they do is a part of how they learn (and that they are determined to uphold and continue this notion). In short, an unschooler is one who rejects the domination of school over their mind (in whatever means that they can) and continues to recognize that they are the ones who have the most control over how they learn, what they learn, and when they learn it.

Home Schooling

Home schooling is kind of complicated, because there are many forms of home schooling (unschooling-home schooling, Christian-home schooling, tutoring, etc.). But, when being discussed in this blog, I am not referring to it as the act of replacing the chalkboard in the classroom with the chalkboard in the living room. Instead, it is the act of an individual being removed from the school system and curriculum – and this becomes replaced with the process of one’s education being organized and orchestrated democratically via the individual and their family.

I want to note, though, that these distinctions are not entirely accurate or strict. I’ll use them in ways that might contradict with what I just said here, but I’m not very worried by that – as I said, when I use them I’m saying them in the ways that they are most interchangeable. I’m not really concerned with trying to label things, and I hope folks who have their own definitions which are different than the ones I provided here will not feel that I am trying to lay down the law as to what is what. I welcome other definitions and ideas, and I hope you will share with me your perspectives.


Entry filed under: General Free Schooling. Tags: , , , .

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