Unschoolers Are Valued Members of Their Families & Communities

“This article addresses cultural differences in children’s initiative in helping in their
home. Many 6- to 8-year-old children from an Indigenous-heritage community in Guadalajara, Mexico, were reported to engage, on their own initiative, in complex work for
the benefit of the whole family (such as tending younger siblings, cooking, or running
errands). In contrast, few children from a cosmopolitan community in Guadalajara, in
which families had extensive experience with Western schooling and associated practices, were reported to contribute to family household work, and seldom on their own
initiative. They were more often reported to be involved in activities managed by adults,
and to have limited time to play, compared with the children in the Indigenous-heritage
community, who were often reported to have plenty of time for free play and often
planned and initiated their own after-school activities. The differences in children’s contributions on their own initiative support the idea that children in some Indigenous
American communities have opportunities and are expected and allowed to learn with
initiative by observing and pitching in to collaborative endeavors of their families and


"This chapter discusses two cultural paradigms of children’s involvement in family and community endeavors that channel many aspects of children’s everyday lives and their families’ approaches to child rearing. One paradigm–in which children are segregated from many family and community endeavors–is commonly assumed in scholarship on children’s development to characterize childhood generally, but this paradigm is likely to be limited to highly schooled communities like those of many researchers. In a distinct paradigm that occurs in some communities in which Western schooling has not been prevalent, children are integrated as valued, mutual contributors in family and community endeavors."