The increased interest in home education and the variety of approaches parents take to it has generated a growth in terminology which can sometimes seem confusing to those researching the subject.

This is just to explain a few of the most used terms:

Home Education and Home Schooling are basically the same thing although some do feel there is an implication in the titles. Many home educating families like to steer clear of the term Home Schooling because it does suggest the idea of approaching learning like schools do and for many this approach to their children’s education is something they want to opt out of, taking a more child led than school-style approach. But generally the term describes the same option of taking a child out of the educational system to be educated in a variety of other ways.

De-schooling is a term that’s used to describe the process of recovering from some of the unpleasant effects of ‘schooling’ that have perhaps made a child unhappy, and a period when families adjust to a new routine, most particularly those who have used school. The school approach to learning is a very rigid, timetabled and prescribed one that many families decide to abandon as they find their own approach to learning. It’s often a time families allow the children to pursue their own activities until they feel ready to take up more structured study or activity. De-schooling is the term used to describe this happening.

Un-schooling refers to something slightly different. It describes the autonomous approach families take to all their children’s learning which is discussed democratically with them and mostly initiated out of their interests and own volition. The children decide from these discussions what activities they’re going to do, when and how. It is an approach that gives the children control over their education, rather than being told what to do or following a prescribed course. It may be that from discussions and understanding the children opt to do various courses or adopt particular structures, but they will have influenced these decisions.

It can be quite hard to see how an autonomous approach works since we are all so conditioned into believing that education only happens in a tightly controlled environment, so you may find this previous article on the subject helpful. It also describes the structured and autonomous terms.

Hopefully this has explained some of the terms home educating families use. However, it is not necessary to stick within the boundaries of these descriptions; most families remain flexible in their approach to learning out of school and use a variety of ways, changing often, to suit their child’s and family’s particular needs at the time.


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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.