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Unschooling, Deschooling and Other Homeschooling Terms Eplained

24 Oct 2014 – 02:04 PM EDT

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We decided to homeschool our daughter this year and quickly became overwhelmed with terms like “unschooling” and “deschooling” The more I read, the more confusing it got. Were we going to unschool or follow a curriculum – and if so, which one? Were we going to have a deschooling period? Were we going to be structured or relaxed homeschoolers? It was a lot to learn about and contemplate. I was overwhelmed and don’t want you to be, so here are some common homeschool lingo explained.

Traditional homeschooling

This follows a curriculum and mom (or whichever adult is guiding the learning) has a detailed lesson plan and daily schedule. There are typically textbooks and workbooks for each subject, along with tests and quizzes. There are dozens of pre-packaged curriculums available.


This method doesn’t follow a curriculum, but is instead directed by the child’s interests. There are no tests, quizzes or worksheets. Children learn by following their interests. For example, a child interested in baking would pick up math and science skills while mixing up cakes and cookies. Unschoolers often follow a loose routine, but don’t operate off a strict schedule.

Radical Unschooling

This philosophy extends following the child’s lead until all areas of life. Parents act as guides, but trust that their children know what is best for themselves when it comes to things like what to eat and when to go to bed. Parents act as partners helping children make choices for themselves.

Relaxed homeschooling

There are many different ways to homeschool and it doesn’t have to be either/or. Relaxed homeschooling is a cross between the traditional method and unschooling. A curriculum is often still used for one or more subject, but the schedule is flexible. If your kids are enjoying learning about sea animals during science, extend the studies. Take a field trip to an aquarium, watch Netflix documentaries and draw dolphins. Then move on to the other subjects when you’re ready, even if they are untouched for a week.


Becoming a homeschool family is a huge adjustment for everyone involved. It’s not simply public school at home. It’s a whole different beast. Deschooling is deciding to take a period of time off from any formal education. Many experts recommend one month for each year children attended public school. Have fun together as a family while you decide what type of method to implement.

Deciding to follow one path doesn’t mean you are locked into it forever. Try things out and see what works best for your child and family. Do you homeschool or unschool? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.