Misconceptions: Unschooling Parents are Lazy

I republished this post after reverting it to draft. I have doubts I expressed my thoughts properly. My intention was to encourage parents, who are thinking about unschooling, not to be put off by claims it’s a lazy way of life.  I fear I was defensive rather than encouraging. Even if the post isn’t well worded, you might like to read the interesting comments!

Unschooling parents are too lazy to plan their children’s education. They just let their kids do whatever they like. It’s criminal. They’re neglecting their children’s education… Or so say the critics. It won’t take you long to find such opinions if you do a bit of googling.


I am guessing that the people who write such things have never unschooled. Or if they have, they have done it without understanding the philosophy properly, and have given up. That’s the only conclusion I can come to because what they say is so far from the truth.

I hate stumbling over sites which are full of misconceived ideas about unschooling. The words are usually highly emotive, even rude. The writers don’t present any real evidence to back up their words. Oh yes, someone may know of a wild and undisciplined family who unschool. But we all come across such people at one time or another, and they certainly don’t all unschool.

I wonder why people get so worked up about unschooling? It’s not as if we are forcing others to adopt our way of doing things. Can’t we just respect each other’s way of life? Maybe some people feel so outraged at the thought of parents neglecting their children, they think they have the right to point the finger and make a fuss about it. I wouldn’t mind that if they did it in an informed way. Perhaps if they found out exactly what unschooling is before sitting at the keyboard and writing such highly charged accusations, they just might find out they are wrong.

Yes, they are wrong. Unschooling is not a lazy way of life. I know this because I live that kind of life. It is true I don’t spend hours and hours making elaborate plans that will hopefully answer all the needs of my children’s education, and I don’t spend further time making sure my children learn according to that plan. But I do spend most of my day with my children, listening, helping, learning, chatting, discussing, playing, loving… discovering and responding to their needs, and at the same time trying to be a good example of everything for them. That can be hard!

Although I do have my own work, my children come first. I don’t say, “Go off and do what you like,” and then get on with my own life. And when other mothers might look at the clock and say, “School’s over!” indicating learning is over for the day, I’m still going. Unschooling is all about life. And life means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I’m still going? I’m not saying life with my children is a chore. Oh no! I love our amazing life. And there are quiet periods in each day. All mothers need these. (Children do too.) Yes, I have time for myself. But that’s not being lazy.

There is only so much I can say in a short post. If you are unschooling, you will know exactly what I’m getting at without me writing anything extra. If you are at the investigating stage, I invite you to browse a few of my stories. I’m sure you will soon discover we live a rich, satisfying, full unschooling life where everyone – parents included – works hard, helping each other, as well as learning.

A few months ago, I recorded a podcast discussing the topic of laziness and unschooling parents. It’s called Mothers, Unschooling and a Lazy Way of Life. If you’d like to find out more about what I do each day, please feel welcome to listen.

So is unschooling a lazy way of life? It’s definitely not. Those people who say it is, are misinformed!

Photos: Unschooling parents are not lazy, but they can be silly and they enjoy having fun!
I’m hoping to continue this series about misconceptions. In the meantime…
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  1. Reply

    Well written. I have seen wonderful unschooling families and struggling ones. The same goes for families of all walks of life. I think the most important thing is finding what works for your family and living your truth.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Reply


      I agree, there are some families who describe themselves as unschoolers who struggle but they are not representative of unschooling as a whole. It doesn't have to be that way. I suppose I'm trying to give the other side of the story. What works for our own families? Oh yes! God bless you!

  2. Reply

    I think the real issue that people have with unschooling is that they see schooling as a synonym for education, therefore unschooled equals uneducated. It's not true, as you have been pointing out, but I think dealing with that misunderstanding is the first step that allows people to hear what you are saying.

    For example, if some one asked me about unschooling, the first thing I might say was that unschooling offers a personal education without using a school model. That reframes the conversation to HOW the education is happening as opposed to IF any education is happening!

    Here's a question: to what extent is it people's business? I know a lot of people who think how we raise our children is no one else's business. But I think on one level it is their business in that they have a right to live in a society that has educated citizens. I also think that if I see a child who is abused or neglected I have a duty to try to help that child. I do think there needs to be enough freedom to educate our kids the way we believe helps them the most and that parents are usually the best judges of that.

    I also agree with Dawn, the problem with anecdotes is that anything unusual accounts for all difficulties. We are the only large/home schooling family most people meet, and I have had the experience of seeing people who think all large/home schooling families must be wonderful/horrible/efficient/disorganized/nightmarish/heavenly based on meeting us once. Personally, I think it's pretty funny! My favorite was the librarian who was surprised we home schooled and managed to say, "Home schooled? Oh. I thought you were…normal." That's the first (and last) time anyone ever thought we were normal!!

    1. Reply


      Yes, I haven't addressed a few very important points. I could answer a few more misconceptions such as 'unschooling children won't be prepared for life' or 'parents jeopardise the future of their children by choosing to unschool them', as well as others. (I'm taking these concerns from articles I've read online.) I could answer these to show unschooled children are indeed educated, and maybe the 'how' would be addressed too. I discovered it's very hard to say everything in one short post. It all overlaps.

      I don't object to people having concerns over what seems to be a case of neglect. I do however feel, if they are going to write a public article about it, they should do their research properly, and find out exactly what unschooling is before going into attack. Convincing people using highly emotive words is no substitute for facts.

      I do like your last story! I am sure you are not normal at all. Who'd want to be normal when you can be wild inside!

      Lovely to discuss these issues with you.

    • Hwee
    • April 27, 2015

    My guess is that most people equate the word "unschooling" (as opposed to "schooling") with undisciplined/unguided/no rigour/uneducated… Also, the media tends to seek out families who are stereotypes of the above notion of unschooling and let the masses think that such families are representatives of ALL unschooling families. It is also rather unfortunate that a few such stereotypical families are the ones who shout the loudest and hence get picked up by the public/media, so the myth of unruly, wild urchins coming from "unschooling" families is perpetuated continuously by this situation.

    These days I tend to just get on with educating my son properly, and let the result (i.e. my son) speak for itself rather than to engage in any debate. Usually after meeting and talking with my son, people want to know which school he goes to, so that they can send their children to be educated there as well! 🙂

    1. Reply


      Yes, there is a stereotypical unschooling family portrayed through the media. However, even within this stereotype, appearances may be deceiving. I am sure there are unschooling families very different to mine in which the children are very well educated, despite a 'wilder' lifestyle.

      Hwee, I'm also tempted to just get on with unschooling my children and not worry about other people's opinions. Most times I just ignore the debate. I don't know why I suddenly felt the need to write something. Maybe I was thinking about people who are investigating unschooling and are put off by the very easy to find negative opinions. Perhaps my own argument won't convince them, but it does give another side to the story. I want to promote unschooling. It is a great way of life!

      I can imagine people asking you about your son's school. That is very funny! It's also a great compliment. I don't think any school could match your own personalised approach.

      • Hwee
      • April 28, 2015

      I do think *someone* has to speak up for the 'atypical' unschooling family (is there such a thing?), so that people will know that there are as many uniquely different ways to educate as there are many uniquely different children! Hence, I'm very glad you've taken on the worthwhile challenge to be that *someone*! 🙂 It's difficult to be the one voice that tells the positive side of a story when most people want to believe the negative, as shown in most media, so I do appreciate your writing this series to dispel some of the common myths of unschooling. It's a much needed exercise!

    2. Reply


      If nothing else, when people google such things as 'unschooling parents are lazy', perhaps my post will appear and give the other side of the story. Food for thought, maybe. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I do appreciate them very much!

  3. Reply

    Hi Sue,

    I hope all is well. I've been reading your posts with great interest! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I just love everything you write.

    As an unschooling parent , I find myself much more involved and active than ever before. The demands of my role during this period of our lives do not afford me the luxury of being lazy! As you well know, it takes time to sit and talk to your children, help them achieve the goals they've set for themselves, check in on how things are going, offer them help, drive them to activities, help them transition from childhood to adulthood, offer advice when faced with adversity, encourage them when they are dealing with insecurities, prepare healthy meals, work together to maintain house and home so that we can all enjoy a space in which to imagine and create, and much, much more.

    There is so much learning along the way! Life and learning are really one in the same.

    Unschooled parents are lazy…indeed!!!

    Take Care Sue!


    1. Reply


      It's so lovely to hear from you!

      I can relate to everything you say. Yes, our lives are very busy! There's no time to even think about being lazy.

      We learn so much from living busy, rich lives.I do agree that learning and life are the same. But is it this way for everyone? I've been thinking about this. Can we just live life and not unschool? Maybe if I can get my thoughts organised I might write a post on this topic. I do love exploring ideas! Thank you so much for reading my posts. I'm so glad you stopped by!

    2. Reply


      I think you are so right about there being no need for us to label our homeschooling. Yes, as long as we are happy, it doesn't matter in the slightest what we are doing or what we call it. Labels can be a problem when we use them to exclude people so they don't feel they belong.

      However, I can see how labels might be useful if we want to connect with other people who are living life in a similar way to us. Maybe they help us find each other. Whatever our unschooling looks like, there are a few principles we probably have in common, and these bind us together even if our days look very different. And sometimes it is good to chat with like minded people and ponder unschooling.

      I'll think about a post though it sounds like you would write a better one than me!

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm always so pleased to hear from you!

    3. Reply


      Great to hear from you! I always stop by and you always leave me with something to think about. I will be better about dropping a line or two. ; )

      I've often wondered exactly that. For a while now I've been thinking about rejecting the idea of labels…even the one of "unschool(er)." Can't we just be and live and learn without them? I really think we can. Everyone's experience will be unique and special in a very beautiful, individual way. I have loved seeing interests and passions develop and flourish in all of us…not just our girls. I have a passion for history and I really want to better understand the "why" of maths and I want to learn to knit from a pattern and also learn to sew.

      Ours is not an experience or methodology that can be duplicated. We follow a path that is uniquely ours. We cannot tell what the future holds but right now, what we do works for us. When and if it doesn't, we will adjust and set on a different course. And all along the way, there will be lots and lots of wonderful learning. I think this is the way life is meant to be…for us anyway. And what helps me along the way in moments when I'm plagued with self-doubt or worry is that we are happy.

      I would love to read a post about this subject!

      Be well!

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