Unschooling and Social Justice/Multicultural Education: (Un)Realized Potential


  • Kristan Accles Morrison Radford University


Unschooling, multicultural education, social justice, student-directed learning, homeschooling


An online survey of unschooling families (student-directed form of homeschooling) sought to discover whether and how unschooled children experience a social justice curriculum (one that seeks equity between cultures, ethnicities, genders, classes, and sexualities). The 2016 survey asked about unschooled children’s relationships with/recognition of people different from themselves, their degree of critical analysis of systems and institutions in society which created, maintain, and perpetuate inequities, and whether they had opportunities to envision and work for a just and equitable society. The philosophical tenets of unschooling complicate this query, and are explored. Findings illustrate that unschooling’s educational philosophy of “curriculum-as-lived” (as opposed to “curriculum-as-plan”) (Aoki, 2004) has the potential (though not realized by all unschooling families) to provide a unique approach to social justice/multicultural education, allowing unschooled children to learn about minoritized cultures, systems that led to the minoritization, and the possibilities and pathways to a more equitable society.

Author Biography

Kristan Accles Morrison, Radford University

School of Teacher Education and Leadership



Aoki, T. T. (2004). Teaching as in-dwelling between two curriculum worlds. In W.F. Pinar and R.L. Irwin (Eds.), Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (pp. 159-166). New York: Routledge.

Banks, J. & Banks, C. (1997a). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Banks, J. & Banks, C. (1997b). Approaches to multicultural curriculum reform. In J. Banks and C. Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives, 3rd ed. (pp. 229-250). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Bennett, C. (2001). Genres of research in multicultural education. Review of Educational Research, 71(2), 171-217.

Bennis, D. (n.d.) What is democratic education? Retrieved from http://democraticeducation.org/index.php/features/what-is-democratic-education/

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2006). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Bourdieu, P. (1986) The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York: Greenwood.

Breaking Point: The Education Crisis in America (2003, November 23). Fox News channel.

Collom, E. (2007). Home schooling. Encyclopedia of activism and social justice. Ipswich, MA: Credo Reference.

Cho, H. (2017). Navigating the meanings of social justice, teaching for social justice, and multicultural education. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 19(2). Available at http://ijme-journal.org/index.php/ijme/article/view/1307/1180

Counts, G. (1932). Dare progressive education be progressive? Progressive Education, 9(4). 257-263.

Eisner, E. & Vallance, E. (1974). Conflicting conceptions of curriculum. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Corporation.

Farenga, P. (1999). John Holt and the origins of contemporary homeschooling. Paths of Learning, 1(1), 8-13.

Gatto, J. T. (1991). Dumbing us down: The hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Gay, G. (2012b). Multicultural education, purposes, and goals. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of diversity in education (pp. 1548-1553). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gray, P. & Riley, G. (2013). The challenges and benefits of unschooling according to 232 families who have chosen that route. Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning, 7(14). https://jual.nipissingu.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2014/06/v72141.pdf

Hicks, S. (2004). Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Tempe, AZ: Scholargy Press.

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling society. London: Marion Boyars Publishers.

Jupp, J. C. & Sleeter, C. E. (2016). Interview of Christine Sleeter on multicultural education: Past, present, and key future directions. National Youth-At-Risk Journal, 1(2). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/nyar/vol1/iss2/2/

Kapitulik, B. (2013). Home schooling. Sociology of Education: An A-Z guide. Ipswich, MA: Credo Reference.

Kapitulik, B. (2011). Resisting schools, reproducing families: Gender and the politics of homeschooling (doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1465&context=open_access_dissertations

Kirschner, D. H. (2008). Producing unschoolers: Learning through living in a US education movement (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Pennsylvania, Philadephia, PA.

Kohl, H. (2007). The politics of children’s literature: What’s wrong with the Rosa Parks myth. In W. Au, B. Bigelow, and S. Karp (Eds.), Rethinking our classrooms, Volume 1: Teaching for equity and justice (pp. 168-171).

Kunzman R. (2014). Homeschooling. Encyclopedia of educational theory and philosophy. Ipswich, MA: Credo Reference.

Lee, E., Menkart, D., & Okazawa-Rey, M. (1998). Beyond heroes and holidays: A practical guide to K12 antiracist, multicultural education and staff development (2nd ed.). Maryland: McArdle Printing.

Lundy, G., & Mazama, A. (2014). “I’m keeping my son homeâ€: African American males and the motivation to homeschool. Journal of African American Males in Education, 5(1), 53-74.

Mayberry, M. (2007). Home schooling. Gender and education: An encyclopedia. Ipswich, MA: Credo Reference.

Mazama, A. & Lundy, G. (2015). African American homeschooling and the quest for a quality education. Education and Urban Society, 47(2), 160– 81.

Mazama, A. & Lundy, G. (2012). African American homeschooling as racial protectionism. Journal of Black Studies, 43(7), 723–748.

Mercogliano, C. (1998). Making it up as we go along: The story of the Albany Free School. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Miller, R. (2004). Educational alternatives: A map of the territory. Retrieved from http://www.educationrevolution.org/store/resources/alternatives/mapoflandscape/

Miner, B. (2007). Taking multicultural, anti-racist education seriously: An interview with Enid Lee. In W. Au, B. Bigelow, S. Karp (Eds.) Rethinking our classrooms, volume 1 (pp. 15-17). Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Morrison, K. (2007a). Free school teaching: A journey into radical progressive education. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Morrison, K. (2016a). Unschooling democracy. In P.R. Carr, P.L. Thomas, B. Porfilio, & J. Gorlewski (Eds.), Democracy and decency: What does education have to do with it? (pp. 165-179). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers.

Morrison, K. (2016b). “The courage to let them playâ€: Factors influencing self-efficacy in unschooling mothers. Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning, 10(19). Retrieved from http://jual.nipissingu.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2015/10/v10193.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Table 206.10. Number and percentage of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17 with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through 12th grade, by selected child, parent, and household characteristics: 2003, 2007, and 2012 [table]. In Digest of Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_206.10.asp?current=yes

Neill, A. S. & Lamb, A. (Eds.). (1992). Summerhill School: A new view of childhood. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Nieto, S. (1999). The light in their eyes: Creating multicultural learning communities. New York: Teachers College Press.

Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2018). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (7th ed.). New York: Pearson.

Nieto , S. (1995). From brown heroes and holidays to assimilationist agendas: Reconsidering the critiques of multicultural education. In C. Sleeter (Ed.), Multicultural education, critical pedagogy and the politics of difference (pp. 191-220). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

North, C. E. (2006). More than words? Delving into the substantive meaning(s) of “social justice†in education. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 507- 535.

Pattison, H. & Thomas, A. (2016). Great expectations: Agenda and authority in technological, hidden and cultural curriculums. In H. Lees & N. Noddings (Eds.) The Palgrave international handbook of alternative education (pp. 129-144). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Picower, B. (2012). Using their words: Six elements of social justice curriculum design for the elementary classroom. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 14(1), 1-17.

Ray, B. D. (2012). Homeschooling and diversity. Encyclopedia of diversity in education. Ipswich, MA: Credo Reference.

Semel, S. F., Sadovnik, A. R., & Coughlin, R. W. (2016). “Schools of tomorrow,†schools of today: Progressive education in the 21st century (2nd ed.). New York: Peter Lang.

Sleeter, C. (1996). Multicultural education as social activism. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Sleeter, C., & Grant, C. (1994). Making choices for multicultural education: Five approaches to race, class and gender. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Spring, J. (1998). Traditions of dissent to government education. In Wheels in the head: Educational philosophies of authority, freedom and culture from Socrates to Paulo Freire. (pp. 37-58). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

Wise, T. (2010). Colorblind: The rise of post-racial politics and the retreat from racial equity. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.





Peer Reviewed Articles