Do you want to be unschooling parents but aren't sure where to start? Many parents think they need to be a teacher to consider homeschooling and unschooling. Absolutely not true!

Many of us wish there was an unschooling handbook to guide us and our kids as we leave traditional school behind to embrace self-directed learning.

You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and out of your depth.

Many unschooling families and homeschooling families who have left public school to pursue child-led learning find the idea of natural learning daunting. Juliet English, a home-educating mother of seven, chatted to Kelly Davis at a recent Galileo InspirEd event about her own struggles as she moved from a defined curriculum to an unschooling approach.

It is scary, and Juliet said, "when you start out, it certainly is because you have this idea in your mind that you need to do what schools are doing, and I certainly came from that approach."

Juliet shared her experiences about learning the unschooling way and why the ultimate goal for homeschoolers should be to find the best fit for their family.

Homeschooling offers families freedom

Do You Need To Be a Teacher to Homeschool Your Kids?

Actually, being a teacher might make an unschooling method more challenging.

"And what is interesting, is that teachers who have gone on to home educate have actually said that in some ways, it was more a hindrance than a help to them " - Juliet English

Education doesn't need a specific learning environment with core subjects, lesson plans, and a formal curriculum.

Children learn when they are engaged, interested, and curious.

To start unschooling, you need a child-centered approach that allows you to follow your child's interests and dive down the rabbit hole of their current passions. If your child has ever had an interest in dinosaurs, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Homeschooling and unschooling is a child-centered learning approach

Learning Is So Much More Than Teaching

"If the child is not engaged, then it's the same as school. The child is the one who needs to do the learning. We can't put the learning into them; we can't put anything into them unless they want it. So when they're looking for it, when they have the need, we can help, and we can give them the info they want" - Juliet English.

When your child realizes that their learning is in their own hands, it opens up a world of freedom and independent learning that will set them up for future success.

When kids are hands-on with their learning, they develop valuable life skills that they will need for our ever-changing world. We live in a time when the demand for skills and out-the-box thinking is higher than ever. By empowering your kids to think critically, question, and engage meaningfully with the world around them, you allow them to become adults who will confidently tackle entrepreneurship and skills development.

Being in a classroom doesn't automatically equate to learning, and industrial schools can stifle children's innate creativity and curiosity.

Juliet says, "a lot of the education system within a school building is about crowd control" because there are large groups of kids and a strict content schedule to complete in a school year. Resources and time are often stretched, leaving students and teachers frustrated.

Learning can happen outside the classroom

When there are large classes of kids with different learning styles, teachers can't get through the prescribed school work and curriculum and still provide a personalized school experience for children.

"So that's what is missing to a large extent from the education system is that teachers don't have that freedom to be able to do more for the individual child" - Juliet English.

Teachers as Homeschool Tutors

An audience member from Australia said that many teachers are leaving the school system and becoming tutors in the homeschool space. She asked Juliet what advice she had for those teachers transitioning from public school to homeschool.

"I would just be encouraging them not to look at it as the same situation, but to actually engage the child and speak to them more on an equal basis. So you're speaking person to person, not teacher to child or teacher to student. It's a different relationship" - Juliet English.

School is different from homeschooling, and an entirely new approach to learning is needed. It requires a mindset shift and trust in your child's innate ability to learn.

An audience member asked Kelly Davis, Galileo's co-founder, what Galileo teachers were like and how they taught on a self-directed, online platform.

"We have trained coaches, we have trained educators, we have lots of different educators that are coming to us with lots of different experiences. And I think that this is one of the best parts about our education team is that we all bring something different and have something to offer in that way" - Kelly Davis.

Galileo has facilitators and coaches rather than teachers because they partner in learning and are not experts but instead learn alongside the students. It is a student-centered approach that fosters relationships.

This allows space for different learning styles and offers students the chance to be creative and inquisitive.

Unschooling requires facilitation instead of teaching

Deschooling is Vital When You Start Unschooling

Deschooling is the process of unlearning what you thought education looked like.

It is just as important for parents as it is for students when embarking on a self-directed learning journey.

Juliet shares, "It is a slightly different relationship because that school mindset is something that as a home educator, as a parent, you have to get out of your brain and the child has to get that mindset out of their brain"

Unschooling is a whole new way of life that has less to do with teaching and more to do with connection, freedom, and respect.

Unschooling is about exploration and learning together

Would You Consider Alternative Education?

Making the leap into homeschooling or unschooling can be daunting and isn't always the right choice for every family.

"For many children, it is a good and positive way to go. But for some children, schools still provide a safe environment where they actually do get some support and help" - Juliet English.

The ability to provide your children with the one-on-one attention they need is special and something that Juliet said she loved about homeschooling her seven children.

It offered her the opportunity to get to know her kids and provide them with the support and resources they needed as they tackled the subjects they were passionate about.

Family is important to both students and parents who choose to home educate. Homeschooling, unschooling, and online learning offer families the chance to craft an education that focuses on experiences.

Choosing an unschooling lifestyle will impact how your kids learn and change the way you act as parents. When you start giving your kids autonomy in their learning, you realize how crucial independence and respect are in all aspects of life.

Homeschooling parents are often respectful parents who value genuine, empathetic connections with their kids.

Unschooling is about freedom, autonomy, and respect

What is the Difference Between Homeschooling and Unschooling?

Homeschooling and unschooling are both considered alternative forms of education, although they are becoming more mainstream.

Parents choosing to home educate will often use a homeschool curriculum. This can be made up of resources and materials that suit your family's needs. For example, if you are homeschooling high school, you might want subjects like language arts and math with lesson plans. However, many homeschool curriculum options are available if you need more structure.

Unschooling is generally more unstructured and self-directed. Children are free to explore their interests and passions without the pressure of a set of goals to reach.

The critical thing to remember about both homeschooling and unschooling is that they are based on respect and believe in fostering a love of learning through play, exploration, and autonomy.

Juliet says she sees confidence in homeschoolers that school students don't have.

"The difference is, and I find this with children that have come through the school system, is they sometimes don't even know why they're doing what they're doing. And they go to college, and they don't really know why they're there' - Juliet English.

Is There an Unschooling Curriculum?

No! And isn't that the most freeing idea?

Allowing your child to dictate their own education by following their own interests is the reason many unschoolers opt for learning freedom rather than more structure.

Juliet says that her family started out as homeschoolers, and she had a more structured approach to home education.

But then they moved house, and she didn't have access to her resources, so "we kind of had to wing it. After that, I never quite got back to that kind of structure again. It all got a little bit loose and relaxed, and in some ways, that was quite disconcerting because all your scaffolding has gotten a bit shaky. But on the other hand, it actually freed me up to understand what learning was about and to understand that unless the child is actually fully engaged in the learning, you're actually wasting your time."

No set curriculum doesn't necessarily mean no structure though. Learning is collaborative so you can create a learning plan with your kids based on their interests.

But What Will Other People Say About Our Unschooling Family?

The prospect of judgment is a big concern for parents of unschooled kids.

The world has such a narrow view of education, and many aspects of unschooling and homeschooling go against the teachings of the traditional school system. Juliet says, "so much of the challenge we face is where people don't understand what learning is and how it happens."

Young people should have the chance to be self-motivated and to experience life. They need to explore the world around them, develop an interest in certain subjects and forget about test scores.

So often, they are ready to leave the structure of school and curriculum behind and embrace an unschooling approach, but it can be difficult for parents.

Unschooling requires trust in yourself and in your child's ability to learn

"So if I think back to when I started out wanting to be very structured, my motivation was that I didn't want people to criticize me. I didn't want my children to fall behind. I didn't want my children to fail. And when you think of it, that is negative motivation; it's not positive motivation. So you need to unpack all of those things. You can look at your own stereotypes, your own prejudices, your own background, your own education, and what other people are saying. You have to strip away any kind of negative motivation so that you can truly put your child at the center of it and consider what is going to be in their best interest for their big picture" - Juliet English.

Juliet has an annual Learn Free Home Educators Conference designed "for home-educating parents with the idea of equipping, encouraging, enabling, and empowering them to educate their own children."

What Qualifies You to Teach Your Children?

Nothing, other than the fact that you are their parent and have their best interests at heart. And is there any better reason or qualification?

You don't need to know everything or be a teacher to facilitate learning in your home. Children are naturally designed to learn, and all they need is a supportive adult who will help them access the resources they need.

Juliet says, "we often think we have to know everything, but we actually don't because the internet can often explain things to our children far better than we can." Homeschooling and unschooling are choices that every family should have the right to make, but there is still global hesitancy around alternative education.

"There's so much research behind it, yet you find that the politicians and the policymakers are still leaning on their old prejudice and not going and looking at the research. I think that is a huge problem, and that is something as parents we have to stand up to and become much more vocal about."

The Importance of Finding Your Unschooling and Homeschooling Community

"Community is such an important part of functioning as a human being. You need to feel you belong and you're not alone, and you're not isolated" - Juliet English.

One of the biggest arguments against homeschooling and unschooling is kids' lack of social interaction.

This always seems like a strange subject to emphasize and shows how little people understand unschooling families and child-led learning. Students interact with other kids of certain ages in school, but generally, they are all the same age.

Homeschooling and unschooling children come together in their community and go on field trips with kids and adults of all ages. These children learn how to interact with various people and form relationships outside of their own age groups. For homeschoolers, mixing with diverse people is a learning tool, and it allows them to explore their interests with others who share those interests.

Juliet says that when you start unschooling or homeschooling and find a community of like-minded families, the children develop a wider social range. "I have found this to be true, regardless of where I've lived, that children, when they are in groups with children, are quite happy to connect on different levels."

Juliet has a background in social work and lives by the saying, "See a need, fill a need." This led her to start numerous home education groups, initially in South Africa and then in the UK.

She believes in the power of community and the support that homeschooling parents can get from each other when they get together and share ideas and resources. Online schools can also provide this feeling of community in a virtual, global environment.

Community is a vital aspect of alternative education

Why Mixed-Age Play is Vital for Social Development

In 'Free, to Learn,' Peter Gray talks about the importance of mixed-age free play for children and their social development. Along with Lenore Skenazy, he founded the Let Grow Play Club, a program that gives children the opportunity to come together and have unstructured free play.

When children can interact with each other, they develop empathy, leadership skills and learn new skills. For younger children, playing with older children provides a scaffolding for learning, and it teaches older children to be patient and empathetic.

Juliet says that children coming out of the traditional school system may take some time to adjust to playing in a mixed-age group but that it will only take a few months as they begin to explore new friendship opportunities.

Free play is vital for social development

Alternative Education Benefits the Whole Family

Living and learning together is challenging but also incredibly rewarding. It fosters respectful relationships within the family dynamic as everyone learns to respect boundaries and personal space. Unschooling allows kids to have more freedom, but it can be difficult for working parents.

Juliet says, "train them to access resources safely from the internet so that they can also guide their own learning" and give them access to a wide variety of books and good toys like Lego.

Balancing work and home life, particularly when your kids are young, can be challenging. Still, Juliet says, "if we model our own growth and our own progression and we model our own interests, we model our excitement about learning children pick up on it."

John Holt is an author that Juliet says was instrumental in her approach to homeschooling, and she shared some of his wisdom.

"John Holt talks about when children see you doing something, and it's productive, they like it, they want to get involved, they like productivity. And so you can model living a productive life yourself, take them along for the ride. They might choose their own path from that, but you give them that confidence to go ahead because they see you doing it".

So you see, unschooling is a lifestyle that the whole family can get involved in.

Homeschooling and Unschooling are valuable educational alternatives

You Don't Need To Be A Teacher To Homeschool, But Rather a Student

You need to be willing to learn with your kids and help them fall in love with learning.

Alternative education is about finding joy in discovering new things and encouraging your kids to become life-long learners. You can model that for them by staying curious and exploring your own interests.

Choosing to embark on an alternative education path doesn't require a curriculum or a qualification.

It requires a willingness to explore the world, learn new things, and realize that learning is a personal journey that looks different for everyone.

If this story inspired you, share it and keep the conversation going.