Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Started:

Diving Deeper:

Becoming an SDE Space Founder:


Getting Started:

I’m new to Self-Directed Education (SDE), where do I start?

Our “What is Self-Directed Education?,” “Four Educative Drives,” Optimizing Conditions, “Why Choose Self-Directed Education?,” and “How Do People Practice SDE?” articles are great places to start.

You can also read and hear about the stories and experiences of diverse folks in the movement on Tipping Points, our online magazine.

And if you’re looking for resources, books, podcast, support groups, or SDE schools or learning centers, check out our extensive Resource Directory.

We are also here for any questions you have, so feel free to reach out.

Help! What are the laws around unschooling where I live?

Laws vary depending on where you live. and you can always look up your local homeschooling laws with a quick internet search for your country, town, province, or state. If the laws are confusing, we recommend finding a local unschooling group in your area and asking them about specific laws and how they relate to and play out in unschooling. These groups will know the best routes, supports, and tricks from their own experience. You can search for these groups in our Resource Directory, or oftentimes by searching Facebook (we realize Facebook is not the preferred platform for many. This is not an endorsement of Facebook, but it is true that Facebook is where many people are still gathering online in homeschool & unschool groups).

What’s “a day in the life” look like for a Self-Directed learner?

It’s different for everyone! Just like no two work days look the same (even for people with the same job), or no two daily lives look the same, every day in the life for self-directed people is different. There can be days filled with video games and YouTube, playing at the park or hiking, or trips to a local museum. There can be days of baking, doing your laundry, or sitting in an online drawing class. There can be days spent at a local community college taking programming classes, or at a rec center playing basketball. Here are a few glimpses into a Day in the Life.

What do Unschoolers DO? By Idzie Desmarais
Is An Unschooling Curriculum A Thing? Raising Free People podcast episode
Growing up unschooling Exploring Unschooling podcast episode

How do young people learn “the basics” if there is no formal instruction?

If something is truly basic knowledge that one needs in order to live successfully in this world, one cannot help but learn it. The “basics” will be captured in kids’ natural learning, which happens through living. We don’t need to force or trick them into learning something. Basic knowledge and skills are defined by our current world. Whereas once it may have been basic knowledge to know how to saddle a horse, today it is to know how to open a web browser. The rich world environment in which we operate sets us up to prioritize knowledge and skills reliably and naturally based on our experiences.

For more information on how people learn “the basics” in Self-Directed Education:
Unschooling Subjects by Idzie Desmarais
Math Beyond the School Mindset by Laura Grace Waldon
How I Learned by Bria Bloom

Is Self-Directed Education only for the privileged?

People choose Self-Directed Education for a variety of reasons, and these people are diverse in ethnicity, income, background, and abilities. It is important to acknowledge that Self-Directed Education as many people call it now, is actually a deeply indigenous practice of raising children and learning in community that has been part of hunter-gatherer and indigenous communities for thousands of years. This isn’t new. And it doesn’t belong to privileged people.

There are certainly structural barriers that exist that can affect people’s privilege to even be able to choose SDE. For example, conventional public school for example is free to attend and can act as childcare for those who need it. These are real barriers. Many unschooling and SDE communities are imagining what community care and support can look like and working towards making this option accessible to folks regardless of income and resources.

For more information on privilege, race, and income in Self-Directed Education:
Ours First by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor
They Played Their Hand, and We Have to Say, “We’re Not Going Back” By Crystal Byrd Farmer
Part 1: Why Unschooling as Decolonisation by Zakiyya Ismail
Part 2: Unschooling as Decolonisation by Zakiyya Ismail
Unschooling as an Asian American is an Act of Resistance by Iris Chen
Self-Directed Education: Inequitable or Radical? By Haley Tilt
How SDE Intersects with Parenting and Ethnicity a conversation between Anthony Galloway Jr., Lora Smothers, and Mikala Streeter
The SDE Weekend 2: How to Start a Tuition Free Unschooling Co-Op Unbusiness by Dr. Sundiata
The SDE Weekend 2: Social Justice Panel

Is Self-Directed Education a good choice for neurodiverse young people?

In Self-Directed Education, learning differences are often considered to be a form of diversity that everyone can benefit from. More importantly to the young person who has been labeled, SDE allows them to engage with the community in ways that acknowledge their needs, goals, and interests, while honoring their differences. Since SDE is about the individual and relationships, it leaves space for individual needs and differences to be explored, identified, and met, with opportunities to shift as needs shift. In many ways, it is helpful to neurodiverse folks, as it honors their specific ways of learning, being, and needs, and is flexible enough to change as they learn more about themselves and what is needed to feel the most supported.

For more information on neurodiversity and Self-Directed Education:
Unschooling and Neurodiversity with Michelle Morcate
Embracing our neurodiverse children for who they are, not who they should be by Esther Jones
Becoming Yourself: Neurodiversity and Self-Directed Education by Naomi Fisher
Experiences of ADHD-labeled kids who leave typical schooling by Peter Gray
Talking about Dyslexia! A conversation between Lynn Chambers and Justine McConville
The SDE Weekend 2: Neurodiversity Panel

Diving Deeper:

What if they are on screens all day long?

This is a typical concern from many people and understandably so. As technology shifts and evolves quickly, people of all ages are learning how to adapt and build healthy boundaries. Just like adult habits vary, some kids spend more time on screens than others. It’s helpful to start by asking yourself: what about them being on screens all day bothers me? And, what do healthy screen habits look like for myself?

Learning what our young people enjoy about their time on screens can help us understand their motives, passions, and drives for this activity. Looking at our own screen habits is also important.

Our relationships with screens evolve and shift depending on many factors, including new programs, work, exciting game releases, and how much our communities are online or in person (whether by choice or by necessity).

There are no easy answers when it comes to screen time and healthy boundaries and habits. When you’ve shifted your approach with your young person from a power-over structure to a relationship and partner-with structure, the knowledge of being in partnership is a great place to start.

For more information on screens in Self-Directed Education:
Unschooling and Video Games by Pam Laricchia
My Child Asked Me to Limit His Screen Time. I Said No. by Iris Chen
Sense and Nonsense about Video Game Addiction by Peter Gray
It’s Complicated The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
From “Video Game Addict” to Computer Programmer by Hope Wilder
Let’s Talk About Screens; “Screen Time” and SDE by Matthew Gioia

What Self-Directed Education (SDE) resources, communities, schools, or other groups are there in my area?

You can check out our Resource Directory for a comprehensive and ever-growing list of resources in your area. If you don’t see anything there, we recommend doing a quick internet search for “unschooling in X city” or perhaps find an unschooling group in your state (see previous question on ways to do this) and see if there are people there that are closer to your area. If you are an ASDE member you can also do a quick member search to find other members near you.

What is deschooling?

There are a couple of definitions of deschooling within the SDE community. One definition is that deschooling is a process a schooled child goes through when they exit a schooled environment and move into Self-Directed Education. The deschooling process for young people looks a bunch of different ways, but it’s a chance for them to adjust to not having their time controlled by others (mostly adults) all of the time, and trying to figure out what they want to do with that time now that it is their own.

This definition is important but leaves out the ways we were all schooled by society and are grappling with deschooling our mindsets.

Another, more expansive definition, comes from Maleka Diggs of Eclectic Learning Network:

“Deschooling is a life-long, self-paced journey to unpack, acknowledge, and decenter harmful practices that affect the ways we engage and hold space in relationships through deep questioning and pivot practice toward respectful and trust-centered relationships.”

Deschooling is a process for all of us, and it is ongoing, ever-changing, and based both in personal practices and community.

For more information on deschooling:
Deschooling by Francesca Liberatore
The Rhythm of Deschooling by Akilah S. Richards
Busting the Deschooling Myth by Akilah S. Richards
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
Parents! Stop whatever you’re doing and DESCHOOL now by Becka Koritz

Can my young person still go to college if they want to do so?

Short answer, yes! Countless Unschoolers have gone to college whether it be a private, public, or community college, and have pursued fields ranging from physics to art history. Some questions your young person may want to consider are “Do I need a degree for the occupation I am interested in?” “What type of college do I want to attend?” “What are the experiences I want to have in college whether they be academic or social?” and, (unfortunate but real), “is the cost and possible debt worth it for my goals and desires?”

The two most common paths for an Unschooler going to college are either attending a community college for a few years and then transferring to a four-year college or going directly to a four-year college. The first path is sometimes a lot easier than the second since transfers from community colleges are a common occurrence. Many Unschoolers also opt for this path because at many community colleges one can begin to take classes at 14. This doesn’t mean that a more direct route to a private institution is not possible, it just requires a bit more creativity and supplemental materials. Also, look into your local state laws – some states (such as Washington state) offer free community college to people in their “high school” years! To learn more about these paths, applying, and choosing colleges as a self-directed learner look forward to our article “College/Higher Education Resource Directory for Self-Directed Learners” coming soon.

The application process for college is slightly different for unschoolers/Self-Directed learners and can vary depending on what type of institution they want to attend. In general, college applications consist of a personal essay, transcript, letter of recommendation(s), and depending on which college, test scores plus a few paragraphs on why one wants to attend a certain institution. Extra requirements depend on the school, it’s best to look at on their website and look under “homeschooled applicants.” This information is on the institution’s website. Supplemental materials may consist of in-person or Zoom/phone interviews, and an extra letter of recommendation. A common myth is that one needs a GED to go to college, colleges will accept homeschool diplomas as well. Unschoolers can use the “Common App” to apply to schools just like anyone else.

I want to help! How do I get more involved with the movement?

There are lots of ways to get involved. Before filling out an interest form, it may be helpful to take a look at our initiatives and projects, and recent strategic planning vision to get an idea of what we are looking to focus on.

‚Ä®Check out our volunteer page and see if there is anything on there that connects with you. You can also fill out our volunteer form to indicate specific areas of interest and we will get back to you to chat more. We are currently in flux in terms of how our working teams operate, so we may be looking for folks for more specific projects soon. If you aren’t seeing anything that connects with you right now, check back or share an idea on the volunteer form.

You can check out our local SDE group support program and see if starting a group is something you’d be interested in.

You can also join ASDE as a member to support the organization.

Resources for Diving Deeper

There are so many resources out there about unschooling and Self-Directed Education! Here are some of the resources we recommend you check out when getting started.

Books:
Unschooling & Learning:
Raising Free People
Free to Learn

For parents, but good for anyone working with young people:
Untigering
Unconditional Parenting

Podcasts:
Fare of the Free Child
Exploring Unschooling
Rethinking Self-Directed Education
The Unschool Files

Articles/blogs:
Tipping Points Magazine
I’m Unschooled, Yes I Can Write
Freedom to Learn

Videos:
Education in Transformation (EDIT)
Self-Directed Education Tidbits

Becoming an SDE Space Founder:

How do I open a Self-Directed Education learning center, school, co-op, or other model?

There are several organizations that have resources to support you in starting an SDE center, including the Agile Learning Center (ALC) Network and Liberated Learners.

For a helpful guide that can apply specifically to ALC models and to starting a center in general, check out the ALC Network’s Starter’s Kit. You can also connect with the network further to learn more and ask any questions you have, or learn more about ALCs in general on their website.

The folks at Liberated Learners also have many years of experience starting and sustaining SDE centers, and provide support to those looking to do the same. You can take their free introductory workshop, or check out their consulting page to learn more about ways they can support you.

Tipping Points Magazine posted a recording of a workshop during SDE Weekend 2022 with Dr. Sundiata called “How to Start a Tuition Free Unschooling Co-Op Unbusiness.” We also published a recording from SDE Weekend 2023 with Raj Kanani called “Starting a (Decolonized) SDE Center.”

The ASDE forums have a lot of people with varying expertise in starting centers and other areas. It may be helpful for you to post your questions there to crowdsource answers, and get support from people who have more experience. If you’re a member, you can post here.

If you are a member you can also browse the forums for previous posts on this topic. Here are some helpful forum topics with information about starting a center:

AMA with Tomis Parker

Got a place, got a few kids... now what?

Starting a Sudbury Model School

What does conflict resolution look like in Self-Directed Education (SDE) communities?

The health of the community is critical to supporting all members, and ensuring that they can learn and live together. Structural oppression affects relationships with others even when they co-create an anti-oppressive space. For these reasons, many SDE communities look to models of restorative justice and transformative justice to guide when conflicts occur.

Conflict resolution varies, but at the heart of all SDE spaces is the shared understanding that conflict should not be resolved by a top down punishment or solution. Conflict resolution should take place between the people who are having the conflict, with or without additional support, as needed. Sometimes this looks like whole community meetings, to collectively bring up issues and seek solutions. Sometimes this looks like one-on-one discussions between two people having a conflict, with or without a mediator. Conflict is as varied as human experience, and in SDE spaces we strive to address conflict through relationship, collaboration, and open communication.

For more information on how people address conflict resolution in Self-Directed Education:
Decolonizing NVC by Meenadchi
Change-Up Meeting by Everett
Electric Fences, Chalk Lines, and the Spirit of Self Defense by Matthew Gioia
Everyday Conversations by Jeana Jones
In The Moment: Managing Conflict at North Star by Ken Danford