Code 300’s: Are They Really Learning?

In my last blog post I posed the question of homeschooling, specifically unschooling, as threatening the nation state. To define ‘unschooling’ it is a mainstream sub-classification of homeschooling describing individuals who are taught without a prescribed curriculum and often through real life experiences. Unschooled children are, therefore, not learning government mandated curriculum which is otherwise learned in public schools. 

Romero (2018) describes unschooling as rebellion against the nation state. He states, not only are ‘unschoolers’ rejecting the curriculum, they are also rejecting the institutional power inflicted upon students through government mandated curriculum that pushes the goals of the nation upon children. Wardekker (2001) offers an alternative explanation to government mandated curriculum stating that conformity is a strength with regards to education as it creates unity within the nation state, and the nation state is better able to achieve it’s goals. The nation state mandating school curriculum can be seen as both a positive and a negative thing depending on whether the nation states values align with the personal values of its citizens. 

Conformity in education may create a mentally united nation-state, but our students are disadvantaged by having to learn things they are not interested in, and will therefore, never use in their lives again. Our education system is over run with government agendas and standardized testing to further homogenize the learning environment. Mampaey (2016) offered the example of universities becoming increasingly homogenized through standardized testing and standardized curriculum so that universities are comparable and competitive. Schools are becoming bureaucracies that capitalize off the production of knowledge that occurs within in them, either monetarily or by the indoctrination of future citizens.

Unschooling is an educational option that provides parents with the opportunity to educate their children in an individual manner that relates more to the individual child’s interests and less to the governments agenda. Petrovic & Rolstad (2017) describe unschooling as a truly democratic education, where neoliberal values are not pushed on children. Unschooling promotes autonomy within education; autonomy of thought, learning and the curriculum that is taught. 

Autonomy, and learner centred learning fosters intrinsic motivation because it draws on the individual’s desire to learn and there is no external reward or punishment based on the performance of the individual on whatever evaluation method is prescribed (Riley, 2016). The current schooling system does not foster intrinsic learning because progression through the education system is based simply on how well an individual is performs on standardized tests based on the government mandated curriculum they are required to learn. 

Standardized, government mandated education does ensure that individuals are all learning the same things. Unfortunately all individuals do not want or need to learn the same things as we are not all going to have the same careers or the same skill sets. It may be hard to regulate what is being taught in the home it even if nothing is taught, at least a child’s desire to learn will not be destroyed by the use of extrinsic motivation such as grades, and their self-esteem will not be destroyed by a constant comparison to others. 



Mampaey, J. (2016). Are higher education institutions trapped in conformity? A translation perspective. Studies in Higher Education. 43(7): 1241-1253.

Riley, G. (2016). The role of self-determination theory and cognitive evaluation theory in home evaluation theory in home education. Cogent Education. 3: 11636551.

Romero, N. (2018). Toward a critical unschooling pedagogy. Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning. 12(23): 56-72.

Petrovic, J. E. & Rolstad, K. (2017). Education for autonomy: Reading Rousseau and Freire toward a philosophy of unschooling. Policy Features in Education. 15(7-8): 817-833.

Wardekker, W. L. (2001). Schools and Moral Education: Conformism or Autonomy? Journal of Philosophy of Education. 35(1): 101-115.

10 thoughts on “Code 300’s: Are They Really Learning?

  1. I think that unschooling makes sense in a lot of categories through the school systems. But I do think there still needs to be some sort of structure, especially when it comes to the basics of learning. L. Ma explains that within elementary school mathematics there are two features that play a role in the organizational structure. Content and nature of the relationship of categories (Ma, 2013). They express that with basic mathematical skills leads to other everyday factors of life. For example you can’t preform multiplication if you don’t know the basis of numbers. But with that being said I defiantly think as a student gets older there are curriculum outlines that are irrelevant to every students needs within primary and secondary education.

    Ma, L. (2013). A critique of the structure of U.S. elementary school mathematics. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 60(10), 1282. doi:10.1090/noti1054

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    1. Yes! It is important to learn basic mathematics skills, as well as other skills, but is the classroom really the best place for that learning to take place given the state the educational system is currently in? There are plenty of resources out there to help parents teach their children really life applicable knowledge with regards to all subjects, even mathematics. Wouldn’t it have been more memorable for you if you could have learned math in a way that applies it to real life situations in which it is useful, rather than in just abstract terms, such as how the curiculum currently lays it out after the basics are covered in early primary school.


  2. There is some good arguments for homeschooling here, and current education goals are not a good reason for not allowing home schooling. There is the fear that kids who are home schooled will not learn the basics, but that is not true. It just means that whoever is taking care of them needs to provide opportunities to learn, and with the internet that is a much easier task. The internet allows for distributed learning, which allows a student to learn materials at their own pace at any time, whereas traditional schooling gives you a few classes to tackle a subject then you leave it for another, and hopefully remember it (Gernsbacher, 2015). With the internet we can learn basics like math, writing, reading, even communication. The only thing that the student in a home school needs is someone responsible enough to help them with their learning, and provide the tools they will need to succeed. Home schooling is difficult though in low socioeconomic family, especially when parents or gaurdians are busy working.
    Gernsbacher, M.A., (January 21 2015). Why internet-based education? Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01530

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    1. It’s true! There are tons of online resources when it comes to education, and I’m sure many of us even in university find ourselves using them. Sometimes very frequently! It would be hard to homeschool if you were of low SES, and I’m not sure the legislations around dual working parents in the stwtes, but in Canada one parent has to be designated to be the sole educator and stay home with the children they are teaching. That being said, a large influx of homeschoolers in the U.S. are black families that are appalled by the education system their children have access to, and turn to home schooling as sn alternative to ghettoized and radicalized schools (Mazama & Lundy, 2012).


      Mazama, A., & Lundy, G. (2012). African american homeschooling as racial protectionism. Journal of Black Studies, 43(7), 723-748. doi:10.1177/0021934712457042


  3. I really enjoyed this post. Unschooling pops up a lot as an alternative to state-mandated curriculum in politically libertarian discussions of education, and I definitely think it has some merit. The current system seems inefficient (with the solution to many problems being to “throw more money at it”) and autocratic, homogenizing students through what they learn. Davis (2006), discusses the benefits of unschooling, noting that it encourages learning topics by choice, allowing students to learn things that motivate them rather than things forced upon them. Davis also notes some disadvantages to unschooling, such as learning deficiencies (e.g. if a kid does not want to read, they may not be compelled to learn) and a possibility of missing out on certain important topics. For example, kids in a strictly fundamentalist religious environment may not be taught science because their parents disagree with concepts like evolution or reproductive health.

    So, while I think unschooling sounds great in theory, I think it could be very flawed in practice without at least a small element of structure. I feel like my homeschooling experience provided me with a lot of unschooling elements while allowing me to learn core skills. We got to go on field trips all of the time, and I got to choose how to approach my math, english, social, and science courses. It was autonomy-supportive while retaining enough structure to keep me functionally literate.

    Anyways, thanks for the post. I love reading about this topic!

    Davis, M. R. (2006). ‘unschooling’ stresses curiosity more than traditional academics. Education Week, 26(16), 8.

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    1. Those points are very true, and I think unschooling can be dangerous in situations where it is used to disadvantage the child, such as refusing to teach about certain scientific topics as you have mentioned. I do however think when learning is approached in an open manner, such as it is in unschooling, students learn so much more from directing their own learning. I know when I was in school I constantly confounded by the slim array of topics students were able to learn, especially in the sciences. There’s so much out there to learn, and it’s all so easy to access so why limit an individual’s learning by confining them to the four walls of a conventional classroom when the world can be their classroom.

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  4. On the topic of conformity (in opposition to), there have been studies that show freedom of choice positively impacts intrinsic motivation. It can improve performance inside and out of the classroom, in addition to facilitating flow states wherein the individual becomes fully immersed and focused on the activity they are doing. This has obvious benefits for learning and creative pursuits.
    It sounds like “unschooled” students have a strong case of stickittothemanosis. Hopefully its incurable.

    Mannell, R. C., Zuzanek, J., & Larson, R. (1988). Leisure states and “Flow” experiences: Testing perceived freedom and intrinsic motivation hypotheses. Journal of Leisure Research, 20(4), 289-304. doi:10.1080/00222216.1988.11969782

    DuPaul, G. J., & Weyandt, L. L. (2006). School-based intervention for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Effects on academic, social, and behavioural functioning.International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 53(2), 161-176. doi:10.1080/10349120600716141

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  5. That’s definitely true! Even with this class, where our learning is very self-directed, I feel much more motivated to write my blog post each week when I compare it to some of my other classes that just have midterms. I feel like having a collaborative, and open learning environment to present and discuss our ideas helps us feel like they are useful, and contributing to the greater knowledge of the subject matter by making new connections. Compared to just regurgitating knowledge that was barked at us by some university professor that thinks their knowledge and their lecture slides are superior to all the knowledge we could access on the internet.


  6. This is something that not a lot of people think of positively, at least in my experience. Those who are home schooled are commonly perceived as not up to speed as other students, and therefore not as smart. This is of course false. The ability to learn what they want to learn enforces autonomy and nurtures intrinsic motivation in students, which has shown to increase actual learning of a subject as they strive to truly understand it, instead of getting something at face value and going onto the next subject. Also generally when being home schooled it is by someone you trust such as a parent or guardian, giving confidence to the student to ask questions about subject they may not understand as much as they would want to, as not every student is brave to ask their teacher, especially in a room full of their peers. Incorporating technology, such as a computer or phone to look up further information is easier with the smaller ‘class’ sizes a home school would face. This allows for the teacher to keep their students on task easier so they don’t get distracted by a Facebook pop up while using such devices. A paper I read talked about students who were home schooled vs. those that were in a traditional school setting and found those home schooled performed better in academics and psychological development (Ray 2013). All in all, I promote home schooling if its possible for each family, as it allows for a more tailored education experience.

    Ray, B. D. (2013). Homeschooling associated with beneficial learner and societal outcomes but educators do not promote it. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 324-341. doi:10.1080/0161956X.2013.798508

    Liked by 1 person

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