2 Homeschooling Documentaries Looking to Make a Difference in 2012

by ChristinaPilkington on December 17, 2011 · 3 comments

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I don’t know about you, but I love watching documentaries. I wasn’t always that way. Growing up it was all about dramas and TV shows.  

But as I became an older teen and then went to film school, I discovered how wonderful documentaries can be. I began to watch all types of documentaries – on science, history, art, philosophy, culture and travel. (On a side note, if you love travel, check out the film, A Map For Saturday: One Year Around the World – so great!)

I began to see that a good documentary is really like watching an excellent dramatic film – it tells a compelling and engaging story.  The best of them draw you into a world different from your own and sometimes make you uncomfortable by opening you up to new perspectives and ways of thinking (a good one for this is Life in a Day, which you can find on Netflix).

They have the power to change the world because they give a glimpse into a real person’s experience. They can present a message in a way that reporting, blogging, and other media forms cannot.

So, I’m pretty excited to learn about two new documentaries being produced now about homeschooling and unschooling that, I believe, have the power to make a statement about how children learn best and the way we need to work towards living respectfully and in cooperation with our children.  Both films should come out in the next year, although with financing there could always be delays.

So, here are summaries (quoted from their respective sites) of 2 homeschooling documentaries looking to make a difference in 2011.


Class Dismissed

Class Dismissed will focus on the topic of education, specifically the validity of homeschooling as an alternative to the industrial school model. Framed within the historical context of traditional schooling, and particularly at a time when education across the nation is in a state of crisis, the film will examine the numerous approaches to home learning, exploring both its history and recent growth.  There are many choices when it comes to teaching our children, and Class Dismissed will ask some big questions:

• What is education?

• Is it possible to get a great education without attending school?

• What happens to children who never go to traditional school?

• Can homeschooling really provide a nurturing and educationally rich ground for children to grow and blossom?

•Can schools be reformed and if so what might that look like?

Class Dismissed will challenge its viewers to take a fresh look at what it means to be educated, and offer up a radical new way of thinking about the process of education.

* You can help with the project by donating time, money, or by spreading word about the project.


Beyond the Classroom

In our experience, homeschooling is a resource about which few are well informed, and we aim to provide accurate information from those who have real-life experience with it, including families that are currently homeschooling, graduates from homeschooling, families that have made a variety of educational choices for their children, and educators with varying opinions on homeschooling and experience with homeschooling families.

We want to dispel the common myths about homeschooling, demonstrate benefits of homeschooling that families might not have considered, and most of all, provide more information about an educational option for parents seeking to make an informative decision about their children’s education.

* You can also check out this site and donate to the film as well.


I’ve included three other documentaries about homeschooling that have already been out for awhile now.

1.  Unschooled by Jason Marsh – I purchased this film about two years ago. It was interesting to watch three other unschooling families and how they lived their lives, since unschooling families can look pretty different from each other on the outside.  It was a little too short to really dig deep into what makes unschooling fundamentally different from traditional homeschooling, but I’d watch it again.

Here’s a summary of the film, quoted directly from the site.

No grades.  No tests.  No lessons.  No school.

The 25 minute documentary film UNSCHOOLED follows three families that follow the controversial educational method known as “unschooling.”  In unschooling, kids don’t go to school, and they follow no formal curriculum.  Instead, parents trust that their children’s intrinsic interests will lead them to the skills they need for a happy fulfilled life.

The film chronicles the varied and idiosyncratic interests of unschooled children, ranging from ages 5 to 22, and explores their parents’ reasons for choosing this form of education. UNSCHOOLED offers an intimate, often lighthearted, portrait of three families staking their claim outside the American mainstream.  In the process, without passing judgment on the soundness of unschooling, the film considers the strengths and drawbacks of this approach, and raises broader questions about the basic purpose of a child’s education.

2.  Grown Without Schooling   This is a 2001 documentary produced and edited by grown homeschooler Peter Kowalke.  I have to say that I haven’t watched this documentary yet (just the trailers), but it’s on my list. I regularly follow Peter’s blog, The Unschooler Experiment, and love to listen to his podcasts.

Here’s a summary of the film, quoted directly from the site.

Accompany 10 grown homeschoolers from around the country, ranging in age from 19 to 31, as they explore and candidly discuss the lasting influence home education has had on their lives. Produced and edited for the homeschooling community by a lifelong homeschooler, this 107 minute documentary is a frank and often illuminating portrait of the triumphs and struggles homeschoolers face as children, teens and adults.

3.  Learn Free  – This short 15 minute documentary about unschooling on YouTube is really a delightful little documentary.  For such a short film, it captures the spirit of interest-led learning very well. I felt so joyful and glad to be living and learning with my kids after watching this.

Here’s a summary taken from YouTube.

“Learn Free” is a documentary about unschooling which is an educational philosophy that states children learn best by not attending traditional school, but rather through their own interests and by living life.

There two other films in the works that I’m really excited about, although I’ll just let you go over to the site and check them out further if you’d like– I think I’ve gone on too long already in this post :)

Unschooling: TheMovie

The Fourth Purpose – by John Taylor Gatto  


Photo Credit: Night R Star

 So, am I missing any other good documentaries about how children learn best?  Have you seen any of the above films, and if so, what did you think?

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  • http://twitter.com/redwhiteandgrew Pamela Price

    I’m really interested in seeing how these docs turn out.

    • Anonymous

      Me, too. I wish John Taylor Gatto could get more financial backing on his film because I really think it would be powerful.

  • http://www.littlehomeschoolontheprairie.com/ Jenn

    I’m going to check out Unschooled and also Learn Free! Thanks for sharing these resources:)

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