Unschooling: The Gold Standard for Young Children

Updated 9/28/2022

Young children thrive with lots of unstructured play and exploration because it’s how nature intended them to learn! When allowed to discover and think without adult-sponsored lessons, their capacity to learn new things is amazing.

Our homeschooling pioneers didn’t school their preschoolers. While I don’t think babies and toddlers need to be homeschooled, it’s becoming clear that parents who aren’t putting their children in preschools or TK today feel great pressure to start formal homeschooling.

If that is your situation, then unschooling is for you! You can ask about it at almost any homeschool park day, and you can also search online to find unschooling articles and books.

Unschooling parents work to create a natural learning environment that sometimes looks like they have done nothing, but they may actually plan and research just like school-at-home homeschoolers. They know if they put a magnet or magnifying lens on their science shelf, that their child will become curious and then find a use one day.

If books are around the house, the child will pick up the ones that are interesting to them and look at the pictures or ask to have it read aloud. If there are measuring cups in the sandbox or the bathtub, the child will measure! If they go for a daily walk, they know their child will see new things and be curious about them. If paper, tape, crayons and other art supplies are available, the child will make things. Unschooling parents don’t do formal lessons because they know this relaxed environment allows children to learn even more, and have fun at the same time!

By the time children are 6, parents may consider if unschooling is still working, or if they want to investigate another approach – either sending a child to school or homeschooling more formally. But for the first years, if you are looking for the best possible start for a young child, just remember that the gold standard from birth to age 6 is unschooling!

Originally published at universalpreschool.com

Karen Taylor’s always homeschooled son attended a local community college after graduating from homeschooling. He transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior, and received a PhD in neuroscience from UCSF.  She shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.