Unschooling Philosophy

General philosophy
Unschoolers commonly believe that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn what is necessary to become an adult. Some argue that institutionalizing children in what they term a "one size fits all" or "factory model" public school is an inefficient use of those children's time because it requires every child to learn specific subject matter in a particular manner, at a particular pace, and at a particular time regardless of that individual child's present or future needs, interests, or goals, or any preexisting knowledge he or she might have about the topic.

Many unschoolers also believe that "...the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don't know." Proponents assert that individualized, child-led learning is more efficient and respectful of children's time, takes advantage of a children's interests, and allows deeper exploration of subjects than what is possible in formalized education.

Unschoolers often believe that learning any specific subject is less important than learning 'how' to learn. They believe, in the words of Alec Bourne, "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated," and in the words of John Holt, "Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." This ability to learn on one's own makes it more likely that later, when the child is an adult, s/he can continue to learn what s/he needs to know to meet newly emerging needs and interests. S/he can return to any subject that s/he feels wasn't sufficiently covered, or learn a completely new subject.

Another belief frequently held by unschoolers is that "Children... if they are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world than anyone else could make for them."

Some people unschool for not only educational reasons, but social reasons as well. They think that the age segregated and tightly controlled environment of schools creates an unhealthy social environment. They feel that their children (or they themselves if the student is the one who initiated the unschooling process) benefit from coming in contact with people of diverse ages and backgrounds in a variety of contexts. They also feel that their children benefit from having some ability to influence what people they encounter, and in what contexts they encounter them. Unschooled children are often reported to be more mature than their schooled peers, and some people believe this is a result of the wide range of people with which they have the opportunity to communicate.