Unschooling is a free and unstructured way of letting your child learn what they need to know in life by simply learning naturally from the world around them. They will pursue the knowledge that interests them and investigate the topics they need to know in order to further their interests and passions. Children’s innate curiosity will lead them to the information and experiences they need to get by in this world, but many parents still worry that the unschooling path will not be able to sufficiently educate their children and prepare them for succeeding in the world as an adult.
Unschooling can refer to any type of child led education and in its most basic form it can simply be the process of a child learning what it needs to without being sent to a classroom to learn from a structured curriculum. Children may choose to learn through courses or educational materials when they so choose but they do these things on their own terms and when their own personal goals require it, not because they are forced to. For those who think that it is impossible to succeed this way, that children will choose to be lazy rather than motivated to learn, or that children aren’t learning what they need to, think again.
Check out some of these famous people who not only succeeded without conventional schooling but went on to accomplish great things. Some of these great minds received almost no formal schooling while others only received a few years here and there. All of them made their own success by pursuing the education they actually required without needing direction from a school teacher to guide their goals.
Abraham Lincoln received some formal education in his youth but his schooling was only received intermittently and taught through travelling educators. His total schooling added up to less than a full year and the rest of his education was gained through self-teaching. Lincoln was a lifelong learner and an avid reader, sometimes reading and rereading many of the same books over the course of his life.
Charles Dickens was able to attend school for a few years but due to problems with his father’s employment and his family’s financial situation he was required to quit school in order to obtain a job working in a warehouse. Despite this lack of a full and proper education, Dickens became one of the most recognizable names in the realm of English literature.
Aside from a total of 12 weeks of public school, Thomas Edison received all of his education through homeschooling with his mother, later developing his own systems of independent learning and self-education. He loved pursuing new information and read books on a wide range of different topics. At 12 years old he started selling newspapers, then began publishing his own, thereby taking his first step on a long road of entrepreneurial ideas.
Mark Twain’s formal education involved only a few years of elementary school. He was forced to leave school after the death of his father but he educated himself extensively throughout his life in a vast array of subjects, including botany, history, politics, and foreign cultures. Many of his quotes show his disdain for formal schooling, deeming it mediocre and counterproductive to true education. He has such things “I never let my schooling interfere with my education” and “education exists mainly in what we have unlearned”.
Agatha Christie was mostly homeschooled for the majority of her youth. She was once quoted to say “I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.” She believed that her unstructured education helped her to develop her creativity, allowing her to come up with her original and incredible ideas. She later attended school for a few years but found it hard to adjust to the structure and discipline of the classroom setting.
Benjamin Franklin attended grammar school when he was 8 and he excelled in his classes. He had to leave school after his second year because his father could no longer afford to pay for it. He loved reading and writing and constantly tried to improve on his grammar and writing style. He went on to apprentice under his brother as a paper printer and while he wished to write for the paper, he was not permitted. He began submitting his letters under the pen name Silence Dogwood and his articles became very popular.
Albert Einstein attended primary and secondary school in Germany until his father was forced to move to Italy due to business troubles. Einstein was supposed to stay in a boarding house in Germany to finish his schooling but he felt stifled by the strict learning structure and dropped out, instead travelling to Italy to meet up with his family. He was told he would never amount to anything and his future seemed bleak but his natural talent for math and physics, combined with his passion for knowledge, proved otherwise.
Colonel Harland Sanders
Colonel Harland Sanders’ father died when he was 6 years old. His mother began to work to take care of the family and sometimes needed to be away from home for days at a time. Sanders became responsible for the care of his younger siblings and became quite skilled in the kitchen. When his mother remarried, the Colonel didn’t get along very well with his stepfather. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade to work at a nearby farm, leaving home not long after. He worked a series of odd jobs throughout his youth until he became the fried chicken mogul he is known as today.
As a child, Henry Ford attended a one-room schoolhouse when he was not at home helping his father on the farm. At 16 years old, after 8 years of school and farm work, he left home on foot and went to work in a machine shop. He was introduced to the workings of an internal-combustion engine and when he returned home a few years later he spent much of his free time experimenting in a small machine shop he had set up. He later became a world-famous business leader and the owner of the Ford Motor Company.
George Gershwin discovered his love for music at the age of 11 when his parents purchased a secondhand piano. He attended school until he was 15 years old but then dropped out to play piano professionally. He tried learning from a handful of various piano teachers but did not find his mentor until he met a man named Charles Hambitzer. He began work as a song plugger for a time and then began to create his own musical compositions and collaborated on multiple broadway musicals.
If we look at the lives of these great minds and creative geniuses we see that the majority of their most valuable education did not come from the classroom but rather from real life experience. Some of these incredible figures studied on their own and taught themselves through books and research because they were driven by passion. Others were required to drop out of school and work at young ages due to family situations, learning simply through their experiences and creating their own success out of necessity. A few of them held a powerful disdain for formal education, believing it to be the death of creativity, while others simply didn’t have the means to attend school. The important lesson here is that it was not their grades earned in school that led these people to success but rather it was the experiences and knowledge they sought on their own that allowed them to create their own amazing destinies.