Unschooling defined by dictionary.com is ” home-school education with the child taking the primary responsibility instead of a parent or teacher”. Not every parent who claims to “unschool” would agree with this. It is good to remember that unschooling is just another method of homeschooling or home education.
In general the word unschooling refers to homeschool parents who are more concerned with the process of learning and enrichment than they are with “doing school” in the tradition (or modern way) of doing things.
Most people forget that the public school system is fairly new. Until the last 150 years or so education was left up to the parents. Children learned life management skills, homemaking skills, marketable trades, how to work land, and other things to help sustain themselves. The way we do public schooling now is a very recent development. 100 years ago if you would have told parents that their children needed to go to a school room with peers only their age and sit in a classroom for approximately seven hours during the day the parents would have been outraged. This is the defense that unschooling families will use to diffuse the argument.
Because of the nature of homeschooling or home education it is in essence very personal and up to the family to decide what course they will take. There may or may not be any text books in the home. Most unschooling families do not like to connotation of the word school. The word “school” makes one think of sitting at a desk, being fed information, having deadlines, assessments and what not. Unschoolers steer clear of these things.
Depending on your state’s homeschool laws you may or may not be able to get away with all of the thinking behind homeschooling. There are great homeschooling books on the topic.