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Unschooling with Kerry McDonald


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This is episode 47 and today I’m here with Kerry McDonald talking about unschooling.

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute, and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). In addition to her regular column at Forbes where she spotlights innovative K-12 learning models, Kerry’s articles have appeared at The Wall Street JournalNewsweekNPREducation NextReason MagazineEntrepreneur, and the Journal of School Choice, among others. Her research interests include homeschooling and alternatives to school, self-directed learning, education entrepreneurship, parent empowerment, school choice, and family and child policy. Kerry has a master’s degree in education policy from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bowdoin College. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four unschooled children. You can find her at and follow her on Twitter @kerry_edu and Instagram @wholefamilylearning.

Adventure of the Week

Disclosure: When I recommend a product that I believe will add value for you, it may contain an affiliate link. When you click the link to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

I share the new program we are using to support our kids in learning to manage their money: Greenlight. For $5 a month, each kid gets their own debit card and an app that allows them to set savings goals, transfer money from checking to interest earning savings, donate to charity, receive allowance, even earn money for chores. And I have the parent app on my phone, where I can manage settings and oversee it all. Click here to join us in trying out the system for your family too! 


Origins: Kerry gives us some context for how we got to the system we currently have.

Power: We speak to the critics who say that families should not have the right to educate their children for fear of abuse and an uneducated citizenry.

Learning: We discuss how children learn.

Definition: We define what unschooling is and Kerry shares what it looks like for her family.

Literacy/Numeracy: We discuss how the research informs our belief that yes, even literacy and numeracy can be trusted to develop naturally.

Replacement: We talk about what we recommend in its place if school as we know it was no more.

Adolescence: We offer advice for parents who are fearful of the teen years.

Launching: We go over what a path to success might look like for an unschooler.

Dive Deeper


Kerry on Fee

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education

Sage Homeschooling

Sage Family Podcast 32: Debt Freedom with Sami Womack

Sage Family Podcast 35: Financial Independence with Paula Pant

Sage Family Podcast 27: Play with Peter Gray 

Sage Family Podcast 8: Reading with Leah McDermott 

Sage Family Podcast 16: Math with Taylor Davis 

Peter Gray’s Survey of Grown Unschoolers

Sage Family Podcast 19: Neurodiversity with Debbie Reber

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I work from an island in the Pacific Northwest, where I live wild and free in connection with my hilarious husband and three growing sailors in our fixer upper on the beach. I authentically live this healing work out loud raising my own neurodivergent family (inner child included) and draw on my decades of education and experience (I've done all the nerdy work so you don't have to) to guide a revolution of overwhelmed parents just like you to feeling at peace within yourself, consciously connected with your children, embraced by a supportive community, and enjoying a values-aligned life you love.

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