The Homeschool Buzz: Unschool (and Other Alternatives) is the New Cool


As of last year, over 5 million American K-12 students are homeschooled. With the homeschool community’s population greater than that of the entire city of Los Angeles, we can see plainly that parents taking their children’s education into their own hands is a growing trend.

But is being a parental-figure-turned-teacher simply a fad? And more importantly, is it sustainable and feasible? Being able to sacrifice one of a household’s full-time incomes in exchange for homeschooling is not a privilege that every family shares. And even if you can make it work, do you necessarily want to? What if an alternative to traditional classrooms exists that is not exactly homeschool, but still school at home?

Why homeschooling is popular?

Let’s start at square one—a few of the biggest reasons why homeschool is increasingly popular—and wrap up with a quick summary of the alternatives to homeschool.

1. Brick-and-mortar classrooms are suiting fewer and fewer lifestyles.

As a parent, you’ve likely seen this with your own eyes. Students nowadays are smart and talented. From academic excellence to athletic all-stars to performing proteges, a child with high ambitions and potential needs to maximize the value of their daylight hours. Being parked in a classroom for 7 hours a day with little to no flexibility doesn’t offer that type of scheduling support.

A family may seek out homeschooling, or alternatives to homeschooling, to accommodate the unique circumstances of their schedule, such as frequently traveling out of the country for training or performances. A military family offers another perfect example; relocation due to a parent’s work can make acclimation and adjustment to another new brick-and-mortar school difficult for K-12 students. Your student may even learn to take the liberty provided by out-of-the-classroom schooling into their work and adult lives—just ask Laurel Springs alumna and digital nomad Deya Aliaga Kuhnle how it’s done!

Overall, homeschooling is an alternative to traditional learning that encourages more family time or flexibility to pursue interests outside of the classroom.

2. Societal trends in public schools alarm parents.

Plenty of parents have become concerned with what their children are being taught in the public school system, and this fear is a leading reason for why families are homeschooling. While the regulation and restriction of homeschooling varies from state to state, with some being highly involved in the homeschooling process and others imposing essentially no rules, parents generally gain more control of what their students are being taught if they withdraw them from the public school system and opt for homeschooling.

However, hot-button education trends are not always the reasons that parents may be wary of what’s happening within the four walls of a classroom. Students may experience social and emotional effects of bullying in a public school setting, which impacts their entire academic experience. Parents can also fret over on-campus violence—justifiably so—like school shootings and bomb threats.

Whatever the reasons why families are homeschooling, parents are increasingly looking for public school alternatives after something in a traditional school setting sounds warning bells for their student.

3. The educational approach is tailored to the student—not the other way around.

Did you know there are multiple approaches to teaching? A student can learn in a multitude of ways, but teachers in traditional classrooms aren’t exactly short-order cooks… and they can’t be. Brick-and-mortar educators are focused on getting dozens of students across the finish line, not on getting one student—your student—as far as they can go.

If you are a follower of trends in homeschool, you’re likely familiar by now with the term “unschooling”; this is a newer word coined to describe the homeschool approach of letting a student’s personal curiosities and interests dictate what courses are studied and in what direction the education goes.

Unschooling is a close cousin to a different approach offered in many online, asynchronous learning environments: mastery-based, experiential learning, the likes of which we use here at Laurel Springs School. This type of learning is another way that institutions break free of the brick-and-mortar cram-recite-forget cycle: instead of memorization performances, students use experiences and problem solving to learn, and stay in a topic or subject until they are able to demonstrate a deep understanding of that particular subject or topic.

How to reap the benefits of homeschool without the commitment

If any of these reasons to homeschool your student make you shout in agreement as you’re reading, there’s a chance you feel snagged on one slight detail: you are likely not a teacher, nor did you ever intend to be one. If you are a working adult with a career and aspirations of your own, can you still get the flexible, independent education offered by homeschool without calling class into session in your own living room?

Of course you can! By choosing a fully online, asynchronous learning environment, not only are you reclaiming your and your child’s schedule to do the things you want to do, but you are also reaping all the benefits of an organized institution without being bound to a classroom of one: top-notch teachers, college preparation resources, academic support, and extracurricular/social opportunities for students of all ages. It also keeps the sweat off your brow in terms of legality; failing to comply with local homeschool regulations, even if doing so inadvertently or well-intentioned, can lead to state agency involvement in your home life, monetary penalties, or even child neglect charges.

Homeschooling has been a winning alternative for plenty of families, but it may not be the exact right fit for your situation.

Through Laurel Springs’s online instruction, your child can learn from the dining room table, on the road in an RV (raise your hand if you’re a fan of travel learning!), or even in another part of the world, all while you have our many support and self-service tools at your fingertips.

Are you ready to talk more about the alternative to homeschooling that is school at home? Drop us a line today or register for one of our upcoming open houses.