Is Unschooling Legal? Yes, And Here's Why

Posted in Unschooling on April 26, 2017 - by

Is Unschooling Legal? Here's the answer

After receiving several messages and inquiries about the legality of unschooling, it became evident that this question deserved its own page. The legal aspects of homeschooling and unschooling are naturally common concerns among new homeschooling parents.

Is Unschooling Legal in the United States?

Unschooling is legally classified as a form of homeschooling. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 U.S. States. That being said, each state has the right to create their own rules, requirements, and regulations that apply to non-public education.

Some states, like Texas, are extremely lax and require no reporting, requirements, documenting, or testing. Other states, like Ohio, have very reasonable state laws but have school districts with overreaching policies. Homeschoolers are required to complete school district forms that require information state laws do not.

And states like Rhode Island might require parents to report and document extremely large amounts of information and take specific evaluations. This means parents have to report test scores, seek out professional evaluations, have curriculum approval by the state, meet parent-teacher qualifications, and allow state officials to visit their homes.

Getting started in your state

It has never been easier to start homeschooling in the United States! Go find a homeschooling group in your state or country and seek out the legal advice of people who have years of experience. There are almost always willing to help out because, at one point in time, they were in your shoes! Tese veterans can explain all of the specific and procedural details to you! Also feel free to check out our state-by-state homeschooling pages.

Legal issues for unschoolers

There have been a number of headlines involving unschoolers over the past years. Just because it is a legal non-public education option does not mean there haven't been court cases and other difficulties. Nevertheless, there are very few sensationalist stories to report. The most famous unschooling "arrest" would be the following: Kentucky ‘free range’ family loses custody of 10 kids over apparent ‘unschooling’.

Are unschoolers really not doing any school?

Calling your educational method "unschooling" might seem like a bold move when it comes time to face a school board or legal investigation. This is one reason why I love the explanation given by the Hewitts, an unschooling family in northern Vermont.

When asked what unschooling was, Mr. Hewitt replied that he doesn't like the term. He said it described what they were not doing, but it didn't describe what they were doing.

Some people hear “freedom” and “self-directed” and assume we are totally hands off. Any parent who spent a day or a week with us would come away realizing it’s a hell of a lot easier to put the kids on the bus.

Is Unschooling Legal in Other Countries?

Internationally, a mixture of countries supports unschooling as a legal alternative. The majority of countries that allow homeschooling also allow unschooling, as it is almost always judged to be a variety of homeschooling.

Notably, unschooling is legal in Australia, Canada, Russia, and a number of European countries. Homeschool Base contributors regularly help update the Wikipedia list of Homeschooling international status and statistics which contains a reasonably comprehensive country list.

Where Is Unschooling Illegal?

  • China
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Brazil
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Turkey
  • Sweden
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Ukraine
  • Croatia

Please reference this Wiki list for a complete list.

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7 Responses to “Is Unschooling Legal? Yes, And Here's Why”

  1. A.J.Dyl says:

    My comment is it’s another socialistic based experiment at the cost of the children who will fail miserably at the cost of this experiment. Just like day cares and other means of parents having hands off education. Children’s brains are not formed to be having no guidance as to having a choice of what they need to survive as adults. Maybe some parents are teaching their kids math and science and reading etc. but some just let kids sit around and play on s computer all day. It’s lazy sand leaving the child to make adult like decisions at 6 years old is preposterous and a lack of parenting responsibilities. And I am someone who raised 2 children who when not in school taught them other things and they were left to also do things on their own. I think chores, and teaching them ‘work’ skills are awfully important for the world they will be living in in the future. How low do we really want to lower America’s bar already? I am trained in child development and marriage and family development and have been married 40 years.

    • S says:

      I've been unschooled and I've not failed miserably, not even close.
      I have higher academic skills than most of my schooled friends.
      I don't think you get the idea of unschooling if you think there are no chores, no learning and no responsibilities. Most lazy parents will send their kids to school, having them at home is much harder and I'm sure that if you have kids you can understand.
      As a person who's trained in child developments, I highly recommend you read about unschooling and read some studies in this regard.

    • Erika says:

      I'm not even a homeschoolers, and I realize how little you know of unschooling.

      • Gil Rimon says:

        just to comment on the "socialist approach" (1st comment)
        calling unschooling "socialist" is absurd. hard socialist countries where always judged on lack of personal freedoms by capitalists. that's why usa always allowed free education, for personal liberties, so do Australia and other countries which are sensitive to personal freedom.
        authoritarian regimes like n.korea, russia, will never let a kid escape the state education propaganda

    • Christina Bowen says:

      Such an ignorant long, drawn out “conclusion”. My son is unschooled and his level of knowledge is 2 grade levels above his age. He is also very social and has the advantage of extra time to do things he loves, like learning entomology and Irish dance. Your 40 years mean nothing to the rest of the world.

  2. Amber Lewis says:

    Hi there. My name is Amber and my husband and I live in Tennessee. I am married to a man that was unschooled since the fourth grade, and I feel as if unschooling is not a very good way to bring up your children. My husband has three other siblings and they are enrolled in unschooling as well. One of the many many cons of being unschooled is that the children are not taught anything academically. Their schooling is based off of what they do daily, as in "If you go walk through the park, that's a gym credit," or "If you make slime that's a chemistry credit." My husband, his brother, and I are very close, and both of them have cried to me multiple times because they feel like they have no education, and they feel as if they aren't as smart as the people who went to a public school or were actually homeschooled. Many times, they have begged their mother to put them back in regular school but her reasoning that she hasn't is because it's too much of a hassle to take them and pick them up, and that she was worried that they would get bullied. She didn't want to put them in an actual homeschooling program because she felt as if she wouldn't be a good teacher. To this day, my husband struggles with anxiety in taking to people his age, as he worries that the other person would think he is stupid. She has an 8 year old daughter that doesn't know how to read or spell, and her excuse is that "She will learn when she's ready." She has a 13 year old son that doesn't know how to spell much, and he can only read and spell basic words. My husband wanted to be a nurse, and his mom, for years, told him that he would pass through college with flying colors. The problem is that he didn't even get accepted into the basic community college of our town, because he has no proof of actual education. He has no ACT or SAT score, he has never taken a state mandated test, therefore his "highschool diploma" is worth nothing. For years his mother him that he would apologize that he wanted as long as he had a high school diploma, and put his hopes up that he would become something successful and he would make everyone proud, but he can't get the accepted into a college without a GED. Please trust me when I say that unschooling isn't worth it. It will cause your kids a lifetime of heartache and resentment towards you.

    • Chris says:

      I don’t mean to condescend nor criticize, but based on what you've said, it’s almost certain that your husband (and his brother) were not “unschooled” and that you, your husband, his brother, nor their mother understand the motives and rationale for unschooling. That’s quite understandable if they’ve been falsely correlating what you’ve described with unschooling. Let’s juxtapose what you’ve described against the concept:

      1) Considering a walk in a park as a "gym credit" is still within the autocratic paradigm of schooling.
      Unschooling parents recognize that learning is a reward in itself. Giving credits, grades, scores, awards, etc. for learning actually diminishes the reward of learning in itself—which ends up deterring further learning.

      2) If a parent is concerned about their ability to "teach", they have yet to realize that there is no such thing as "teaching". Learning is the active verb and it is an endogenous activity that occurs in the learner. Such a parent has not fully reclaimed their own faculties that were lost in school. A parent attempting to unschool without understanding the essence of unschooling, is likely to neglect the potential they have for facilitating and/or guiding learning opportunities.

      Additionally, an unschooling parent should (and likely does) consider themselves an unschooling student. If “not being good at something” were an obstacle—the unschooling parent has the confidence and likely the commitment to climb that obstacle.

      3) You clearly stated your husband’s mother’s motivation for not sending her children to school was to avoid the hassle of getting the children to and from the school. I'm sure there's more to it but...
      An unschooling parent recognizes their decision as a matter of their will and effort to provide as many learning opportunities and varieties of choices and experiences as possible to their children. Such an endeavor requires much more time, effort, and patience than sending them away for 5 days a week. Unschooling parents choose such because they know learning is more effective when the individual decides for themselves what to study and pursue.

      4) Your husband and his brother caring what other people think regarding their education reveal that they’re not interested in education but in what people think. If your husband wanted to expand his education, he would. If your husband needed to expand his education, he would.

      Additionally, unschoolers typically recognize that school isn’t designed for education. It’s learning by rote predominantly without purpose nor passion. Believing that people are smarter than you because they went to school reveals a complete misunderstanding of what education is. How well do you suppose a “valedictorian” would fare on the same tests they took in 8th grade at their 10 year class reunion? And what would it matter if the topics tested are not being put to use?

      5) When you say your husband wasn’t accepted into a community college, you say his high school diploma is worth nothing. This is very confusing considering you’re asserting that he was unschooled. You later claim that he can’t get accepted without a GED. There is so many contradictions here that clarification may be necessary to respond coherently. But I’ll try.

      If an unschooled individual wanted to do or achieve something that has prerequisites they would start there. A GED is not a wild horse. A GED can be acquired. SATs and ACTs are more for gaining scholarships but are attainable at any age from anywhere if there is truly a desire to do so.

      6) If your husband resents his mother for his lack of education, then he has failed to discern who is responsible for his education. Albeit, I empathize if he was mislead to believe he could achieve his goals without doing what it takes.
      An unschooled individual is not forced to go to bed at a certain time, because it is their responsibility. An unschooled individual is not forced to eat vegetables for disallowed available candy or sweets it's their responsibility to find their own motives and reasoning for doing or nothing doing everything they do.

      P.S. You mentioned your husband was “enrolled in unschooling”. I’m not sure what this means, but to me it sounds like decisions were being made for him instead of being presented to him to choose for himself—which is akin to schooling and the antithesis to unschooling.

      Note: I don't mean to speak for all unschoolers as I typically strive to speak for myself only. I've expressed myself in these terms for clarity.

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