Structured Homeschoolers Outperform Unschoolers

Unschooling seems to be all the rage these days. But is it truly the best option for homeschoolers?

There are so many home educators promoting unschooling – many with a rather large following – that it’s easy to believe that unschoolers are the majority. While I understand that it might work for them and their kiddos, the fact remains that the data doesn’t back the hypothesis.

In this article we’re going to explore the data, the definitions and why Mama Human supports Structured Homeschooling.

I almost fell for it myself. A popular dad blogger loudly proclaiming that his kids are so much happier because they unschool. In today’s world it’s easy to look at a person saying their kids are “so much happier” and believe that maybe your kids could be too, if you just unschooled. While kids are happy to spend most of their day playing, they still need a little structure when it comes to learning.

The data proves it.

The truth is that children can be happy AND learning. In fact, structured homeschoolers spend an average of three hours a day on their education but were at least one grade level ahead of their public school counterparts in word identification, phonic decoding, science, social science, humanities. They were nearly a half year ahead in math and somewhat advanced in reading comprehension (Dewar 2013). 

Testing showed that children with unstructured home education, also called unschoolers, tend to test equivalent to or below their public school counterparts, depending on the subject. Student success in home education is likely attributed to low teacher-student ratio and the ability of parents to individualize learning (Dewar 2013). 

I should stop here to add that I don’t advocate for testing homeschoolers. I would never subject my own children to a study, but I am thankful for the study group that was willing to test for this data.

This data shows why most homeschoolers that decide to go back to public school do so well. They’re ahead of their classmates when they reenter school.

There are several factors to consider. Classroom size is small in the typical homeschool. While most homeschoolers have 3 or more children, the student/teacher ratio is well below the national public and private school average. Having a parent teaching you one-on-one is akin to having a private tutor – even if the tutor doesn’t know the subject well. Why? Because when you’re a home educator, you have more time to dig into the work and help your child find the answer. Homeschoolers have the ability to continue learning the topic at hand vs being pushed along to keep up with the class.


Structured Homeschooler – Structured Homeschoolers are either working through a curriculum or textbooks or have structured learning in another form, such as deciding on a topic and researching it thoroughly. Most structured homeschoolers are learning content that is at their grade level.

Unschooler – A learner that does not have structure to their day. Most unschoolers believe that they will find what interests them and pursue it.


Dewar, Gwen. (2013). Homeschooling outcomes: How do they compare? Parenting Science https://parentingscience.com/homeschooling-outcomes/

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