Unschooling Research Study Published

Dr. Peter Gray has published the first installment of the results of his research study about unschooling; it explores how the benefits of unschooling are perceived by unschoolers and provides a neat window into our world.

Dr. Gray views unschooling broadly and then classifies unschoolers into three categories based on their responses. Here is his thinking behind this:

In my earlier post, in which I announced the survey, I defined unschooling simply as not schooling. I elaborated by saying: "Unschoolers do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, they do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and they do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They also, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child's learning. Life and learning do not occur in a vacuum; they occur in the context of a cultural environment, and unschooling parents help define and bring the child into contact with that environment."

In the survey, one of our items was: "Please describe briefly how your family defines unschooling. What if any responsibility do you, as parent(s), assume for the education of your children? [I am asking only for generalities here. I may ask for more details in a subsequent survey.]"

Not surprisingly, we found a range of responses here, ranging from what some have called "radical unschooling" at one end on to gradations at the other end that overlap with what some have called "relaxed homeschooling." We coded the responses into three categories—radical unschoolers, moderate unschoolers, and relaxed homeschoolers—according to the degree to which the parents seemed to play some sort of deliberate, guiding role in their children's education.


I like how Dr. Gray used parent's own descriptions of their roles to place them within the unschooling continuum, and their responses indicate a joyful, if self-selected, group of families who, regardless of why and how they unschool, support their children's individualized learning in ways that school can not, or will not. I look forward to the future installments of this work and how it will line up with some of the other existing research about children who learn without schooling.