Unschooling in Maine: A Growing Movement in Progressive Education

Unschooling in Maine

Unschooling in Maine – Maine has long been a hub of progressive education, and unschooling is no exception. Maine is home to a growing community of unschooling families who have found that this alternative approach to education provides a more flexible and engaging learning experience for their children.

What is Unschooling?

Unschooling is a form of education that strongly emphasizes student-led learning and the pursuit of individual interests. Rather than following a traditional curriculum or structured lesson plan, unschooling encourages students to explore their interests and passions and learn through real-life experiences and self-directed exploration.

Benefits of Unschooling

An important advantage of unschooling is that it gives students the freedom to explore their interests and passions, leading to more profound and meaningful learning experiences. For instance, a child with a love for animals may dedicate hours to researching and studying various species, visiting zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, and volunteering at a nearby animal shelter. This process allows them to acquire knowledge and skills related to biology, ecology, animal behavior, and other related areas.

Another benefit of unschooling is that it allows for greater flexibility and customization in the learning process. Rather than being constrained by a rigid curriculum or set of learning objectives, unschooling students are free to explore and learn in the most meaningful and relevant ways. This can lead to a more personalized and engaging learning experience tailored to each student’s needs and interests.

Unschooling in Maine

Maine has a strong tradition of progressive education, dating back to the work of John Dewey and the establishment of the country’s first public high school in Portland in 1820. This tradition has continued in recent years with the establishment of alternative schools and the growth of homeschooling and unschooling communities.

One of the leading voices in the unschooling movement in Maine is Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College and author of the book “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” Gray has been a vocal advocate for unschooling and self-directed education and has written extensively about the benefits of allowing children to pursue their interests and passions.

In addition to Gray’s work, there are several unschooling communities and resources in Maine. The Maine Unschoolers Network is a statewide organization that provides support and resources to unschooling families, including an annual conference and various online resources and forums. The network also offers a directory of unschooling-friendly businesses and organizations throughout the state.

Maine also has several alternative and unschooling-friendly schools, including the Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport, the Watershed School in Camden, and the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, MA, which serves students from Maine and other New England states.

Challenges and Criticisms of Unschooling

While unschooling has many benefits, it is not without its challenges and criticisms. One of the main concerns is that unschooled students may not receive a well-rounded education or develop essential skills necessary for success in the workforce and life. Critics argue that unschooling may focus on individual interests and passions and neglect crucial subjects and skills needed for a well-rounded education.

Another concern is that unschooling may be more difficult for parents not well-equipped to provide a supportive learning environment. Unschooling requires a high degree of parental involvement and support and may not be feasible for families with limited resources or educational backgrounds.

Is Unschooling legal in Maine

Yes, unschooling is legal in Maine. The Maine Department of Education recognizes homeschooling as a valid alternative to traditional schooling and does not require homeschooling families to follow a specific curriculum or teaching method.

This means that unschooling, a form of homeschooling that emphasizes student-led learning and self-directed exploration, is also legal in Maine. However, homeschooling families in Maine must submit a letter of intent to homeschool to their local superintendent. They are subject to annual assessments to ensure that their children are making satisfactory progress in their education.

It is important for families interested in unschooling to familiarize themselves with the legal requirements for homeschooling in Maine and to seek out resources and support to ensure that they are providing their children with a quality education.


Unschooling is gaining popularity not just in Maine, but across the country because of its distinctive and adaptable approach to education. Although it may not suit everyone’s needs, those who embrace unschooling principles can reap the rewards of a more customized and engaging learning journey, enabling them to delve into their interests and passions in a supportive and nurturing atmosphere. As a parent, educator, or student, it’s worth exploring the potential benefits of unschooling and discovering the available resources and communities in Maine and beyond.