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What Is Unschooling: Prepare Kids For The Future Without Homeschooling

    Parents working on unschooling a young child by teaching on a floral laptop on a brown desk.

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    Unschooling is a non-traditional approach to education that encourages children to learn through exploration and discovery, rather than being constrained by a rigid curriculum. It is often viewed as a supplement to traditional education, providing children with more flexibility and individualization to help them prepare for the real world. In this article, we will explore the benefits of unschooling for enhancing critical thinking skills in school-aged children.

    Homeschooling vs Unschooling (Definition)

    Homeschooling and unschooling are two different approaches to education, and there are some key differences between them.

    Homeschooling involves parents taking on the role of the teacher and following a structured curriculum. Parents usually plan lessons, teach the material, and evaluate their children’s progress.

    Unschooling, on the other hand, is a non-traditional approach to education that emphasizes child-led learning. Parents do not plan lessons or follow a structured curriculum. Instead, they encourage their children to explore their interests and passions and learn through real-life experiences. Unschooling emphasizes self-directed learning and giving children the freedom to pursue their interests at their own pace.

    One of the main differences between homeschooling and unschooling is the level of structure involved. Homeschooling involves a more structured approach to education, with a defined curriculum and schedule. Unschooling, on the other hand, is less structured and allows for more flexibility in terms of what and when children learn.

    Another key difference is the role of the parent. In homeschooling, parents take on the role of the teacher and are responsible for planning and teaching lessons. In unschooling, parents act as facilitators, providing resources and support but allowing their children to take the lead in their learning.

    Types of Unschooling Topics (Curriculum) to Introduce to Your Kids

    When it comes to unschooling, the sky’s the limit in terms of topics that you can introduce your kids to. However, some topics can be particularly beneficial in teaching kids critical thinking skills and helping them develop a strong foundation for learning. Here are some examples of topics you can introduce your kids to during the unschooling process:

    1. How to Think for Yourself

    In a world where information is readily available, it’s important to teach kids how to think critically and form their own opinions. Encourage your kids to question everything, analyze information from multiple sources, and form their own conclusions.

    2. First Principles Thinking

    First principles thinking is the process of breaking down complex problems into their fundamental components and building from there. Teaching your kids first principles thinking can help them develop problem-solving skills and think creatively.

    Yellow school bus with blue and white sky behind it.

    3. Circle of Competence

    The circle of competence is the idea that individuals should focus on what they know and understand, rather than trying to become experts in everything. Teaching your kids about the circle of competence can help them develop self-awareness and focus on their strengths.

    4. Cognitive Biases

    Cognitive biases are errors in thinking that can affect our decision-making. Introducing your kids to cognitive biases, such as anchoring, framing effect, cognitive dissonance, egocentric bias, confirmation bias, hindsight bias, and self-serving bias, can help them become more aware of their own biases and make better decisions.

    Anchoring: The tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive when making decisions.

    Framing effect: The way information is presented can influence our decision-making.

    Cognitive dissonance: The discomfort we feel when our beliefs and actions are inconsistent.

    Egocentric bias: The tendency to view the world from our own perspective and overvalue our own opinions and abilities.

    Confirmation bias: The tendency to seek out information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.

    Hindsight bias: The tendency to believe that events were more predictable than they actually were after they have occurred.

    Self-serving bias: The tendency to take credit for our successes and blame others for our failures.

    5. Decision Making

    Teaching kids about the basics of human decision-making can be a valuable part of the unschooling process. Here are some key concepts to consider:

    Emotions: Emotions can have a significant impact on our decision-making, sometimes leading us to make choices that aren’t in our best interest. It’s important to teach kids to recognize and manage their emotions in order to make more rational decisions.

    Heuristics: Heuristics are mental shortcuts we use to make decisions quickly and efficiently. While heuristics can be useful, they can also lead to errors in judgement. Teaching kids about common heuristics, such as availability bias and representativeness bias, can help them become more aware of how their thinking can be influenced.

    Rationality: Rational decision-making involves weighing the pros and cons of each option and choosing the one that is most likely to lead to the desired outcome. Teaching kids to think rationally can help them make more informed decisions and avoid impulsive choices.

    Risk assessment: Making decisions involves assessing risks and benefits. Teaching kids how to evaluate risks, consider potential consequences, and weigh the likelihood of different outcomes can help them make more informed decisions.

    6. How to Negotiate

    Teaching negotiation skills to kids as part of unschooling can be a valuable life skill, and one popular resource for learning about negotiation is the book “Trump: The Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump. Here are some tips for teaching negotiation skills to kids based on the book:

    Set the stage: Introduce the book “Trump: The Art of the Deal” to your child and explain how it can teach them about negotiation skills.

    Discuss key concepts: Discuss the key concepts in the book, such as the importance of preparation, the power of leverage, and the art of the deal. Explain these concepts in an age-appropriate way so your child can understand them.

    Role-play: Use scenarios from the book to practice negotiation skills through role-play. Ask your child to take on the role of Trump and negotiate with you or another family member.

    Emphasize the importance of listening: In the book, Trump emphasizes the importance of listening to the other party during negotiations. Encourage your child to actively listen to the other party’s needs and concerns in any negotiation.

    Teach creativity: Trump also emphasizes the importance of creative problem-solving in negotiation. Encourage your child to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions that can benefit both parties.

    Overall, teaching negotiation skills based on the book “Trump: The Art of the Deal” can be a fun and engaging way to introduce kids to the world of negotiation and help them develop valuable life skills.

    7. Navigating Through Fake News

    The prevalence of fake news makes it challenging to distinguish credible information. News outlets prioritize viewership and use tactics to engage one side of the political spectrum. These behavioral science cues can create a divisive mental state. To promote their mental well-being, children need to learn how to discern credible information and interpret news events impartially.

    Parents can help cultivate the skill of identifying and analyzing news by doing the following:

    Encourage critical thinking: Encourage your children to question what they read or watch. Teach them to think critically about news stories by asking them to consider the sources, the evidence, and the language used in the article or broadcast.

    Teach media literacy: Educate your children about media literacy, which includes teaching them how to identify bias, propaganda, and other forms of manipulation used in news stories.

    Expose them to different viewpoints: Encourage your children to read news from a variety of sources that represent different viewpoints. This can help them understand that there are multiple perspectives on any given issue and can help them develop their own opinions.

    Model good behavior: Parents should be good role models by demonstrating how to consume news in a healthy way. This means avoiding sensationalized or biased news and seeking out credible sources.

    Discuss current events: Engage your children in discussions about current events and encourage them to ask questions. This can help them understand complex issues and develop critical thinking skills.

    8. Simplification

    Teach children to simplify complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, if a child is struggling with a math problem, encourage them to break it down into simpler steps. Help them understand the value of simplification in problem-solving.

    By introducing these topics to your kids during the unschooling process, you can help them develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

    Finding a Happy Balance for Unschooling vs Traditional Learning

    Finding a happy balance between unschooling and traditional learning can be a challenging task, but it is possible with careful planning and consideration. Here are some ideas for finding a balance that works for your family:

    Evaluate your child’s needs: Consider your child’s learning style, interests, and goals. Some children may thrive in a more structured environment, while others may prefer the freedom and flexibility of unschooling.

    Create a learning plan: Develop a learning plan that combines both unschooling and traditional learning. For example, you could use a traditional curriculum for core subjects such as math and language arts. But allow your child to pursue their interests through unschooling for other subjects. You could also use a combination of online classes, homeschool co-ops, and real-world experiences to provide a well-rounded education.

    Be flexible: Be willing to adjust your approach as needed. If your child is struggling with a particular subject, you may need to switch to a more structured approach. If your child is excelling in a particular area, you may want to allow them more freedom to explore that subject through unschooling.

    Seek support: Connect with other homeschooling and unschooling families to share ideas and resources. Joining a homeschool co-op or online community can provide valuable support and guidance as you navigate the balance between unschooling and traditional learning.

    How to Unschool Your Kids

    If you’ve made the decision to provide a level of unschooling to your kids on top of what they are learning in school, here are some steps to unschool your kids:

    1. Understand Unschooling

    Before you start unschooling your kids, it’s important to understand what unschooling is and what it entails. Unschooling is a philosophy of education that emphasizes child-led learning, and it’s different from traditional homeschooling or traditional schooling.

    2. Encourage Your Child’s Interests

    Unschooling involves allowing your child to explore their interests and passions. Encourage your child to pursue their interests. Provide them with the resources and support they need to learn more about those topics.

    3. Create a Supportive Environment

    Unschooling requires a supportive environment that allows children to learn at their own pace and in their own way. Create a space where your child can pursue their interests and learn freely, without fear of judgment or criticism.

    4. Provide Resources

    Unschooling requires access to resources and materials that can help your child learn. Provide your child with books, educational videos, online resources, and other materials that can help them learn about the topics they are interested in.

    5. Get Involved

    Unschooling involves being actively involved in your child’s learning. Be present and available to answer questions. Provide guidance to them and help facilitate learning their experiences.

    6. Be Flexible

    Unschooling involves being flexible and adapting to your child’s needs and interests. Be open to new opportunities and learning experiences. Be willing to adjust your approach as needed.

    Trust the Process

    Unschooling is a long-term approach to education, and it may take time to see the results. Trust the process and believe in your child’s ability to learn and grow through unschooling.

    Remember that unschooling is a personal decision, and it may not be the best approach for every family or every child. However, if you’re interested in unschooling, these steps can help you get started.


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    Benefits of Unschooling

    Unschooling provides a more individualized approach to education compared to traditional education, as it allows parents and children to work together to design a curriculum that is tailored to the child’s interests and strengths. This approach can lead to a more engaging and personalized learning experience, which can help children develop a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for their education.

    For example, if a child shows an interest in animals, unschooling allows parents to design a curriculum that incorporates animal biology, habitat, and ecology. The child could then explore these topics through reading books, watching documentaries, visiting zoos, and observing animals in their natural habitats. This approach allows children to develop a deeper understanding of a subject, which can lead to greater critical thinking skills.

    Real-World Preparation for Kids

    Unschooling can also better prepare children for the real world compared to traditional education. By allowing children to pursue their interests, they can develop skills that are relevant to their future careers and interests. For example, if a child is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, unschooling can provide opportunities to learn about business and finance through real-world experiences, such as starting a small business or investing in stocks.


    Unschooling can provide a valuable supplement to traditional education for enhancing critical thinking skills in school-aged children. By providing a more individualized approach, unschooling can help children develop a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for their education. This approach can better prepare children for the real world and help them develop essential critical thinking skills that are necessary for success in life.

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    Unschooling, Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, Cognitive Bias, Decision Making, Homeschooling, Negotiation, Thinking Productively, Circle of Competence, First Principles Thinking, Simplification, Heuristics

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