Dreams of an unschooling village



by Jens Peter de Pedro

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I couldn’t agree more! So, let’s create that village for our children! Literally. Now.

I dream of an unschooling village – a village where children don’t go to school but learn directly from real life. I dream of a village where my two daughters are free to play all day, everyday, all year round; a place where parents are always around to help and work to maintain a sense of community, because they chose to live in it. Somewhere where there is no traffic, just lots of nature to play in. No school, no homework, just learning from real life – from other adults, from older children, from day trips, from the Internet. I’m imagining something more akin to how humans lived for 99% of our existence when we were hunter-gatherers, but without the ills of the past and with the benefits of modern technology. Is that too much to ask? I don’t know but I think it’s possible!

Click here to read more research from Alternatives To School on how children learn.

Very rough estimates say there are 200,000 children who are unschooled in the US. If we can convince just one in a thousand of those unschooling families to move we would have 200 children in the village. Imagine that! Don’t you want your children to have that childhood? You are probably the only one in your neighborhood or in your town that unschools. What if instead unschooling was the norm in your neighborhood? What if your children grew up alongside other free children that were not yelled at, reprimanded or chastised for doing what we all do – make a bad decision every now and then? I think we could build that place, a place where adults are not considered superior to children, just people. The Free Children’s Village.

Perhaps this village exists already? We are visiting White Hawk EcoVillage in Ithaca, New York in a couple of weeks. A majority of the six families there are relaxed homeschoolers, although they say they welcome people of any educational philosophy. It seems great, just a little chilly, but as a kid the cold never bothered me anyway. (It does now — but I’m willing to stick it out.) Maybe you know of other places? I’ll talk to you in the comments!

What do you say?

Jens Peter de Pedro is a collaborator with Alternatives to School. By day he is a Play Designer at Toca Boca, the Swedish digital toys studio. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter: @jp_de_pedro


  1. Sarah South says:

    My husband, 5 year old son, and myself, would move in a heartbeat… to anywhere there was an unschooling/holistic/nature based community. And I’m serious. We. Are. There. Can we get a group together somehow and start discussing the real potential of this?

  2. This blog post got a reply on Erik’s Blog:

    Thoughts on “Dreaming of an unschooling village”: http://ehaugsjaa.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/thoughts-on-dreaming-of-an-unschooling-village/

    Some nice points from Erik who moved to Massachusetts to be close to the Sudbury Valley School.

    Erik , what about this: An unschooling village with a Democratic School in it! Couldn’t beat that!

  3. Hi Jens,
    I’m sorry I missed your visit to White Hawk–I was visiting family in, of all places, Brooklyn! My husband and four year old son and I will be moving from Northeast Ithaca to White Hawk next year, and the opportunities for my son to play, explore, and learn–in nature, in community, with other kids, and other adult role models– is definitely what I am looking forward to most. He is and will remain an only child, yet he is very child-oriented. We are definitely designed to grow up among groups of children, roaming around on the landscape. It’s no wonder kids who don’t have that are so attracted to electronic media.

    We haven’t decided what educational route we will take when he is school-age, though I am an unschooler at heart. In the meantime, I am thrilled to have co-founded a forest preschool here in Ithaca which my son attends five mornings a week. It’s yet another resource for families considering White Hawk. Check us out at ithacaforestpreschool.com!

  4. Let’s make one in the Ashville area! There are tons of unschoolers there. My husband and I are traveling the US looking for a place that fits for us, and unschooling is high on the list. How can we find more about these villages so that we can visit?

  5. Kat stout says:

    Sounds like the title should read “realities of an I schooling village”. I am in love with this idea and would love to be part of one. Any information on visiting communities already in exaisitance would be awesome. We live on Maui but travel as often as possible, any of you live in the islands? Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Yes! We are in.
    Community is so important, at every age. We have focused on creating community for teens (since that is our family’s immediate needs) in the form of temporary learning communities for unschooled teens. But what you suggest is really representative of our big dream. I am so excited to read about this.

  7. I love this! I was just thinking about this yesterday! It’s so hard to find unschoolers in the area, and even then I’ve managed to make contact with two families, but it takes traveling and meet up points for the kids to meet. I’d much prefer a safe place they can explore with like minded families. Respecting children is also a biggie for me. I’ve always loved the idea of living in an intentional community, working together and having similar values. I didn’t even think that an unschooling one would exist! I’ll have to check this place out! I’m in NZ so we don’t have much here in that sense. I have thought about moving to a country where it wouldn’t be so hard for my kids to have unschooling friends. Thank you for this!

  8. If I was forced to choose the most important reason I reside at White Hawk (which would be quite difficult given all the many reasons), I would point to this very subject — having my kids grow up with others, complete with the freedom to explore, play, and grow within 120 acres of fields, forests, and caring homes and all that it entails. It is a beautiful thing indeed.

    That being said, we are not an unschooling village, any more than we are a vegetarian village, or a village of meat eaters, or a village of liberals, etc. We have established a vision that strives towards interdependence and community-sufficiency and the pack of children residents here is an integral part of that. Certainly, unschooling fits very well with that vision, as well as can childless households, elders, single parents, and other educational philosophies. We have attained a wonderful balance between like-mindedness and diversity, which only enhances our children’s upbringing.

    It’s not perfect here. We do have cars and internet and occasionally, our kids get reprimanded. But it is the closest thing to that hunter-gatherer model of child-rearing that I’ve come across within this culture, so I think your family will enjoy your visit. We’ll look forward to meeting you.

    • Hi Brad! I look forward to meeting you next weekend, hopefully! I realize you aren’t trying to brand yourself as a vegetarian/liberal/unschooler village. That’s too bad because I’m all three! But glad to hear you don’t have a three strikes and you in policy. See you soon! – Jens

  9. I am all for building a community and a village where many people choose to homeschool/unschool. We are unschooling right now in Seacoast area (Southern Maine/New Hampshire) and there are a few hundred families in the area doing so and I feel like there is so much support and I still want to LIVE in an intentional community. I am part of this project: http://www.piscataquisvillage.org https://www.facebook.com/villageproject
    and this is my subgroup of the PVP: https://www.facebook.com/intentional.community.maine
    though this project has not broken ground yet.
    I am on board for creating something/joining up while my kids are still young! (11 & 8).

  10. I love thinking about what it would be like to live in an unschooling village, and am delighted to hear that such places exist! I agree with Laura, though, that we can cultivate change and promote self-directed learning in our own communities, too. Here in the city, with our large and diverse homeschooling population, we are lucky to have many unschoolers — including several in our neighborhood. As more families see the benefits of self-directed learning and witness their neighbors fully engaged in life learning, then more families may decide to seek alternatives to school.

  11. These villages are already around us. Rather than isolate ourselves in a place specific to unschoolers, we can get out and learn directly in our own communities. My kids and their homeschooling/unschooling friends have observed, participated, and connected with hundreds of people of all ages right where these people work, volunteer, and play. The kids may learn, but the adults learn more. Nearly every time they ask if the kids can come back, tell them to consider working in the field, and say that contact with kids has reinvigorated their hope for the next generation. Change happens right where we are.

    • I agree with Laura! We quite happily unschool right in our community, for what are we but a global community. While the idea of a Free Child Village exists, wouldn’t it be more effective if by demonstrating our effective model of child rearing we could begin a movement of change throughout the world that would result in happier childhoods for children everywhere? That’s my dream!

    • Alisa, Laura, Kerry… I’m glad you all are liking the imbedded approach to unschooling, and I do appreciate the work we all do of spreading the message that school is not necessary by living next to schoolers as part of the majority community. Mostly I just want my kids to be able to find playmates freely during the day and to be able to play in nature rather than on the sidewalk or in a backyard. I also do believe thought that having 0,1% of unschoolers form a community could also further the cause, by showing an example of how the lifestyle would look if it were the norm.

      • We might be interested in an unschooling community in the Ashville area!!! :)

        And while I can appreciate the go-getters who want to change the world, at this point in my life, I prefer to be an advocate by example. I just want to live peacefully in an environment where my family can enjoy joyful, free, fun, natural, compassionate, and supportive surroundings!

      • We might be interested in an unschooling community in the Ashville area!!! :)

        And while I can appreciate the go-getters who want to change the world, at this point in my life, I prefer to be an advocate by example. I just want to live peacefully in an environment where my family can enjoy joyful, free, fun, natural, compassionate, and supportive surroundings.

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