Unschooling, or child-led learning, is gaining acceptance as an alternate education method across Australia.

Story+  Photos Mandy McKeesick

In an Emerald cafe in central Queensland Liz Bogle and her four young daughters are sprawled across a table crowded with drink bottles, half-eaten morsels and colouring books. Six-year-old Amelea and five-year-old Arabella chat together and eight-year-old Matilda is drawing. “I am quite fond of horses and like to draw them every day,” she says. “This is my friend’s paint horse, but my horse is a buckskin and her mother is a bay.”

“Do you know why she is a buckskin if her mother is a bay?” Liz asks as she breastfeeds six-month-old Eleanora. Matilda shakes her head and so begins a discussion of basic genetics. The Bogles are part of a growing network of families who unschool their children, forgoing traditional education for one led by the children themselves, and for this moment the cafe is Matilda’s classroom. 

With unschooling there are no schools, no curriculum and no grades. “Unschooling is a natural form of learning. It is about following the child’s own interests and learning through life experiences, and providing opportunities the child can take up,” says Vivienne Fox, president of the nationwide Home Education Association. “With unschooling, we don’t put the students into an artificial environment and require them to learn a set range of things. Unschooling takes away the institutional structure and lets children learn through real life, and to continue to love learning.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #119

Outback Magazine: June/July 2018