Will Unschoolers Have Gaps in Their Learning?

Yes. They will.

And it’s your job to get comfortable with that.

Will Unschoolers Have Gaps in Their Learning?

If you want to educate your children for freedom, to be unique individuals, to find what lights them up and follow it, then you must get used to the fact that they will have ‘gaps’. And you must adjust your expectations.

What even are gaps?

That depends what you think an education is. Do you desire a shallow education that touches on every subject just a little? Then maybe school is for you.

Or, do you think being educated means loving learning, knowing how to learn and find the information you need, being resourceful, creative, and adaptable, having practical knowledge and skills, becoming an expert in the things that interest you? Then maybe unschooling is your best option.

The thing is, maybe option 1 will make you feel comfortable that things are less likely to be ‘missed’. But are they? Just because children are presented with information, doesn’t mean they have really learned it.

Will Unschoolers Have Gaps in Their Learning?

“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” — Katrina Gutleben

Very little is truly learned in school. We all know this. Ask any adult what they remember and they can probably count on one hand. You cannot force a person to learn, least of all in an uninspiring and controlling environment.

Even if we lived in a magical land where children learned all the information that was thrown at them in school, do you think that would still leave no ‘gaps’? Think about it. Is it possible to cover all the information that every child will need in their life and their chosen career? Are we expecting them to all have the same job at the end? Are they all meant to be interested in the same thing? No.

Do we actually even believe there is a magical curriculum made up of the essential knowledge all humans need to learn by age 17? Of course not.

“Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.” -Sir Ken Robinson

Will Unschoolers Have Gaps in Their Learning?

The truth is, there is no option that doesn’t leave ‘gaps’. And covering every single thing shouldn’t be the goal. That’s not how we need to define education, and that’s not how learning works.

Education is not stuffing as much information into a small child’s brain as possible for 13 years and calling it a job well done. It is inspiring confident and capable learners who know who they are and never stop learning. Then, the gaps don’t matter. They are just avenues for discovery.

In school, there is no adjusting for individual differences and desires. No pursuing your interests which you might one day make a job out of. You study what they tell you. That leaves many gaps, probably the most detrimental ones.

Will Unschoolers Have Gaps in Their Learning?

What it really comes down to is this: EVERYONE has gaps in their learning. Get comfortable with it. There are things you haven’t learned yet. When you need to know them, you learn them. If you think school is some kind of guarantee of an ‘education’ then you are kidding yourself. What a boring world it would be if we all had the same knowledge and skills anyway.

Instead of arguing over what should be taught, it’s time to focus on how. Because when you know that the education your children are getting is one that encourages continuous learning, passion, discovery, self-motivation, confidence, satisfaction, creativity, joy, mastery, and the growth of a unique individual, then there is no need to worry about ‘gaps’. You know that with that background they’ll be well equipped to learn whatever they truly need to in their own individual life.


October 23, 2020 at 1:16 pm

scholarship is impoten

October 26, 2020 at 2:50 pm

My schooling was interrupted with lots of gaps due to moving, family travel etc. I turned out ok. I wonder what the long term effects of school closures with COVID-19 will be… From watching friends and family they have done a wonderful job homeschooling

February 14, 2021 at 12:54 pm

I just love every post of yours. I share your blog with many of my unschooling FB groups. You have a way of sounding a common chord; I just wanted to say thank you! I enjoy reading your posts at night when I put my kids to bed. I am currently a school teacher in New York, and this is my last year so that I can be home with my young children and enjoy our new unschooling future 😀

March 10, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Good site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

Lauren D
February 20, 2022 at 11:38 pm

My kids are 4 and 2 so not in school yet. I’m looking at all options and everything I’ve read about child development and learning supports more of an unschooling approach. My biggest anxiety comes to history and learning about others cultures. I’m nervous that if kids don’t know certain historical events then they are destined to continue with the status quo, for example slavery in the U.S. and the path to present day institutional racism. Any insight? Thank you!

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