More Unschooling Questions Answered


Boy, my recent posts on unschooling have opened the floodgates for questions, and that’s great because I’m still new to this whole unschooling thing, too. Please don’t mistake my passion on the subject for expertise because I’m surely no expert here. Having said that, I’m excited to attempt to answer these inquiries the best that I can. Always remember, though, that unschooling looks different in every home, so I can only refer to our experience with it.

Here is part of a comment that was written for yesterday’s post.[Please note that the comment has since been removed at the request of the author.] I will follow it with what I hope is a satisfactory response.

1) The majority of unschoolers I know have grown up to be rebellious young adults. I cannot help but wonder if this is related to them not learning school-related discipline. They might learn certain academic subjects quite well, but I am concerned about the character development.

I’ll start with the section on rebellion-

I really can’t answer this in a completely factual way because I have never met any other unschoolers. This homeschooling method is rather rare, so I’m surprised to hear that anyone has met so many formerly unschooled adults that an opinion like this could be formed in the first place. I have, however, met many, many rebellious young adults who graduated from public school, so this is where I believe the lack of “school-related discipline” theory is flawed.

My oldest child graduated from public school. He used to come home daily with tales of the “discipline” taking place in his school. Kids texting, painting their fingernails, listening to music, and doing each other’s hair during class was a rather commonplace thing. My son’s science teacher actually gave up halfway through the year and would just sit at his desk for the entire period because the kids were so unruly. Obviously, discipline in the schools is becoming quite the rarity. So, rebellious adults from public schools-check.

When I was in public school, the local Catholic school was well-known as a haven for rebellious teens, and I’m pretty sure they were given much discipline there. So, rebellion in private schools-check.

I don’t know any homeschooled adults, but I have read plenty of anti-homeschooling tirades written by none other than people who were formerly homeschooled. And I mean traditional homeschoolers, yet traditional homeschooling is full of structure and discipline.

So from this information, I can come up with these points:

Public school kids can become rebellious adults.
-Private school kids can become rebellious adults.
-Homeschooled kids can become rebellious adults.

And I’m going to take a gamble and say that

-Unschooled kids can become rebellious adults.

Notice the broad spectrum of learning and discipline styles. Rebellion can happen in any kind of environment, certainly not just unschoolers.

Now onto the section about character development.

I think it’s important to note that we are not radical unschoolers. Radical unschoolers do not enforce rules in their homes. In this form of unschooling, children can decide when they go to bed, what they eat, what they will do with their time, whether or not they will brush their teeth, and are not expected to do chores. THAT IS NOT WHAT WE DO. We have ten children; that’s a lot of cleaning and laundry and dishes to do, and we all have set jobs that we do. My children make messes, so they will help clean up. My children eat, so they will help with dishes. I am very strict about this aspect of our life because a family of this size will not function if we are not a team, which brings me to the other aspect of character development.


We live in close quarters with each other, so learning to get along is crucial to a peaceful (as peaceful as you’re going to get with twelve people under one roof) life. My children are also being raised as Christians, so serving others is a high priority here. You will often find my children weeding the neighbor’s garden, shoveling her driveway, or helping their Grandma at her house. I can assure you that character development is not an issue here.

Some of you may notice 11 kids here. Our oldest is 20 and no longer lives at home, which is why I always refer to just 10 kids.
Some of you may notice 11 kids here. Our oldest is 20 and no longer lives at home, which is why I always refer to just 10 kids.

As for character development in public school…well, I wrote a little about that here.

If you’re interested, I wrote a post back in January giving a basic rundown of a typical unschooling day. Feel free to browse my archives, as well, because I frequently write about what our days are like.

I hope this has given you a better picture of what our unschool philosophy- our life philosophy- is all about.

Any other questions? I’d be more than happy to address them.

Linking up with





Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

9 thoughts on “More Unschooling Questions Answered”

  1. I can tell you before I started my research on homeschooling methodology, my experiences of unschooling were the uneducated children of farmers or flat out neglected children. I grew up in the back woods of Texas and children who worked on the farm were the only children allowed to not attend school without a visit from the CPS. No one thought anything of it, because farming was a rural way of life. They needed to know how to raise beef cattle, not read and write. The rest used farming as an excuse to neglect their children. Although the children who regularly spent their days farming seemed happier than I was, the rest were sad abused children. I can imagine these kiddos did not grow up to be model citizens. But I don’t see how that’s related to their unschooling as much as it was their abuse and neglect. Which if I had to venture a guess, I would say that does happen with some frequency.

    The typical unschooling families I have read about online are less unschooled and more freedom schoolers. Allowing their children the freedom to explore their interests, but still regulating their learning experience. Big difference!


    1. Thank you for helping to clarify things. I could definitely see how that could become a problem. And I definitely can see how cases like that can make things bad for all homeschoolers.


  2. I am very interested in homeschooling and even more I am interested in researching unschooling. I know that I will never be a radical unschooler but I can see the value in allowing children to let their interests play a role in their education and have some choice in how and what we study, with some exceptions. We don’t live in a strict state like you do, Oklahoma does not currently have any regulations, so we are free to do what we like, BUT I think that some subjects such as Reading and Math are crucial and need to have some structure to them if your student plans to go to College. Now, for my big question: In your opinion, how do you continue unschooling your young children while still teaching them some of the basic necessities (reading, math, grammar). If they are following their interests?You can’t ensure that they will want to read or do math or grammar lessons and in order to truly give them all of the opportunities you need to in order to follow their own interests? Won’t they need to have a solid background in math, language arts, reading, ect.? So how will you bring up your younger children that aren’t school age yet in an unschooling environment and make sure they will be able to pursue their interests as they grow and eventually have the tools they need to reach their goals, ie, get to the place your oldest daughter is where she is striving to continue on with her education and go to college and build a career? I know that you are only speaking from your experience with your family, but that’s what I’m interested in, I’m just trying to figure out the best way to approach more of a free learning environment, but I don’t want to do a dis-service to my child and limit what they can learn and access as they get older. Or do you think it would be wise to make a more structured learning environment when they are younger and build up to more of an unschooling approach?


    1. These are such good questions. I think, if anything, the younger years should have the least amount of structure because at this age children haven’t fallen victim to the assumption that you have to be taught in order to learn. They’re learning all the time and don’t even realize it. This is education in it’s purest form- untainted by what society has deemed to be the proper way to learn. For reading, I say just keep reading to them- as much as they’ll allow. My four-year-old will often point at words and letters and ask me what they say. This is how she’s learning. I used to do reading lessons with my (not the four-year-old) daughter last year. She was not reading well, so she used to get upset, and I would get frustrated, and that only made things worse. I stopped the reading lessons and just let her be- I never did reading lessons again because she worked through it in her own time and can now read some chapter books- she’s in 2nd grade. The same goes with my 6 year-old son. I taught him his letter sounds last year and started a phonics workbook with him this year. He HATED the phonics book, and really had a hard time sounding out words, but I still made him do it. I could see how defeated he felt, so, eventually, those phonics books were put in a basket, and we haven’t used them since. And his progress? Bailey has taught himself how to read with the whole language approach- this is why the phonics weren’t working…his brain is wired more for whole language. He can now read almost any first or second grade level book I give to him. I hope you don’t mind if I use these questions in a post. Otherwise, I could go on and on…By the way, my kids do use a math curriculum, but we just switched to a new one that is literature-based instead of incessant drilling.


  3. You know I always think it’s interesting that the first thing that some people complain about when it comes to homeschooling is the child’s socialization or “rebellious natures.” To this comment, I would ask if they had seen the news article that just came out that talked about three third-graders in a California elementary school, who got caught smoking marijuana in the bathroom. (
    My point with this would be that you are going to find rebellion now matter where you look (homeschool, private school, public school). What I believe is important is what kind of environment you provide your child, what kind of influences they have.

    BTW – I never knew you had eleven children!! I’ll stop complaining about my one – seriously, you must be supermom! *smiles*


    1. I didn’t see that! Then again, I don’t really keep up with the news. Thanks for your support. You’re right- rebellion can happen for any number of reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that you’ll find it more in public schools because of all the peer pressure.


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