'Unschooling' Is the Ultimate Laissez-Faire Version of School Choice. But Can Your Kids Teach Themselves How To Read and Do Math?

Author Kerry McDonald explains why her kids flourish outside of conventional classrooms—and why yours might too.


One of the most interesting and unconventional forms of school choice doesn't just reject traditional K-12 public and private classrooms but also rejects even homeschooling using conventional curricula. 

The "unschooling" movement is a radical departure from a conventional wisdom that says kids need structure and direction in order to learn. Proponents of unschooling—coined by educational theorist John Holt in the 1970s—even believe that kids are able to teach themselves how to read and do math and should be given as much room to wander and grow as they want.

It's a radical notion even for those of us who believe in robust school choice and grew up in a world where popular culture such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and movies such as The Breakfast Club, Heathers, and Mean Girls vilified schools as factories of oppression, conformity, and violence. 

Today's guest is Kerry McDonald, a senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), a board member of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, and the author of the new book Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom. It's a fascinating read, filled with insights both from academic research and her experiences unschooling her own children. She talks with Nick Gillespie about the origins of the unschooling movement, its intellectual underpinnings, and why it's good for parents as well as children.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.