Confession: There’s always been an eensy weensy part of me that struggles with laws regarding compulsory ages of children and laws that they must enter school at a specific time. I believe in law and order. I do. But, that eensy weensy part of me questions why a government has the right to force someone to get an education. Yikes, I realize how that must sound. Sorry. Of course, I believe everyone should get an education. However, the bottom line is: Should the government be allowed to mandate it? This post is Part 2 in a short series, providing more info on unschooling. If you missed Part 1, you can find it, here.
In my heart of hearts, I love everything about the idea of a natural learning environment. And, in reality, I’ve been blessed to be able to provide an atmosphere of simplicity and natural living in conjunction with my family’s 19 years of homeschooling. This is particularly true for the past 16 years where we have lived on 24 acres of beautiful, wooded land. To an unschooler, a homeschooled education might be analogous to swimming in the ocean with blow-up arm pillows on. The unschooler has tossed aside all tethers and floating devices and stepped out into the deep. So — is it legal?
Info on unschooling includes state laws
Every state has its own laws, policies and regulations regarding homeschooling. (Since unschooling is largely considered a subset of homeschooling, we’re addressing the legal aspect from a homeschooling perspective. There are not specific laws that address unschooling.) Multiple states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas do not require any interaction on the part of a homeschooling parent with a school district. In short, there is no government oversight in these states other than to acknowledge that it is legal to homeschool.
In states such as Pennsylvania, where I live, there are stringent homeschooling laws, many of which are excessive and invasive to privacy. Homeschooling (and therefore, unschooling) has been legal in all 50 states since 1993. Every homeschooling parent must comply with the laws of the state in which he or she holds permanent residence.
More info on unschooling, the legalities of it all
To clarify (at the risk of being redundant) it’s important to understand that unschooling is legal, but there are no specific unschooling laws. All state homeschooling laws (which, we’ve already mentioned includes many states that only have one law: Homeschooling is legal) apply to unschoolers because unschooling is considered a subcategory of homescooling.
In short, if you’re considering unschooling your children, you must first learn what the homeschooling laws are in your state. Your unschooling experience per year must comply with these laws. I mean, if I wanted to unschool, I’d definitely consider living in one of the states that have no regulations other than that homeschooling is legal. If you live in a state like Pennsylvania (known as one of the four most highly regulated states in the country for homeschoolers) you will have to decide what you will do to be in compliance.
Standardized tests, written work examples and more
Even in a highly-regulated state, the school district may not specify what curriculum parents use, what syllabi or other details. (Pennsylvania does require that certain subjects be taught within a certain amount of time.) Many states do, however, require review of a parent’s homeschooling portfolio. This typically must include samples of written work that show evidence of progression of learning. Most homeschooling parents fill a portfolio with examples of work in each subject from the beginning, middle and end of year. This is the easiest way to show progression of learning. Some states require standardized testing in grades 3, 5 and 8.
If you’re researching info on unschooling, you’ll want to try to find some experienced unschooling parents, preferably in your state. You can ask them what they do to make sure they are in compliance with state laws. (Unless you’re lucky enough to live in an unregulated state, then you have nothing to worry about!)
Can unschooled students go to college?
The obvious issue here is that colleges have entrance requirements. Unschooled students must meet these requirements just like any other student. Also, while a student would find it necessary to inform a prospective college that he or she homeschooled, I don’t see where it would be necessary to add the unschooling part since, legally, it is simply considered a subset of homeschooling.
That said, you might be surprised to learn how many famous people were unschooled! Sawyer Fredericks, for instance, who won The Voice in Season 8, was unschooled, as was hip hop music star, Billie Eilish. Professional tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff was also raised in an unschooling lifestyle. Check out this impressive list of famous homeschoolers and unschoolers! Do you know that Ben Swann (award-winning investigative journalist, news anchor and political commentator) earned a high school diploma at age 11, a Bachelors Degree at age 15 and a Masters at 16? He has nine siblings who did the same! They were all homeschooled. Super star athlete Tim Tebow had never stepped foot inside a brick and mortar school until he entered college!
Why do people choose unschooling?
According to the website “Why Unschool?” veteran unschoolers say they chose this route for many reasons. At the top of the list is development of strong family bonds. Unschoolers also say their children had the opportunity for more socialization, interacting with diverse groups of people in a real world environment, whereas formal school settings segregate students for hours on end with peers of exact age group. Unschooling advocates also say that this lifestyle allows kids to learn at their own pace and to thrive through intellectual, experiential and academic exploration.
Are you brave enough to try unschooling? I’m not, but I wish I were!