Unschooling is a broad term that has several meanings, but most apply it to the idea of taking students out of what they consider to be the overly standardized US school system and place them in a learning environment, usually at home, that is unstructured and does not have a particular curriculum. Homeschooling has seen a significant rise in popularity in recent years in the US. Most who subscribe to unschooling argue that children are natural learners, and this natural instinct in them can be better applied and exploited to 'teach' a child rather than what they consider to be an authoritarian school system.
According to the proponents of unschooling, schools in the public school system mostly look for performance, a structure that makes teachers expect the same study skills from each student, and expects teacher resources and lesson plans to affect each pupil in the same way, regardless of their aptitude and their future objectives and paths. A standardized system is applied to bring out as close as possible, similar worksheets out of different minds.
John Holt, the father of unschooling in the 1970's quoted, "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." John's philosophy gave rise to a new way of understanding the interests and abilities of children. It led to people thinking beyond the pressure of worksheets and books and made them explore their interest areas on their own.
One of the fundamental ideas of unschooling is the idea that children can learn better and become better skilled in a trade or field by following their parents, idols or influences and should be set free from lesson plans, teacher worksheets, and report cards. Though they are similar seeds, homeschooling and unschooling differ radically in that homeschooling still adheres to syllabus, exams and learning standards. Unschooling follows only a child's psychological instincts and interests to create the learning process in an impromptu fashion.
There have been many challenges to the ideas of unschooling. Critics argue that 'unschooled' individuals have considerable disadvantages in social and professional life over their peers from the conventional education system when it comes to factors such as securing jobs and social skills. This is because their peer interactions are limited without an institution, and many employers may not recognize a diploma from someone who was unschooled. Proponents of unschooling cite that their students are more prepared for jobs, as they have spent significant time learning a trade or a skill they enjoy, and interactions with parents and family can substitute for interactions with peers.
Unschooling is in many ways a reaction to the increased level of learning standardization within American primary and secondary schools coupled with the failure of American educational institutions as a whole to keep up with our peers around the world. As standardization increases, unschooling may become an increasingly popular option.