In his Kindergarten homeschool year my older son asked to stop unschooling. He wanted to know what was expected of him and to a sense of satisfaction and "feel free" when his work was done. I followed his lead and we switched to the Charlotte Mason method blending with classical with some recommendations from The Well Trained Mind. Later we switched to what I guess is more eclectic as I tailor the learning to each child's abilities while aiming for a college prep level of coursework.
I love the concept of unschooling but over the years have seen it done with success by certain types of individuals. My opinion is that certain types of learners or people with certain personalities are better suited to unschooling or radical unschooling. Others do not thrive with unschooling, period.
At the time I'm writing this my older son is now fourteen years old and in ninth grade. In the last couple of weeks a few things have happened to make me realize a few more reasons why unschooling would never work for this son of mine.
There can be a mismatch of the estimation in how easy a goal is to accomplish. My son may think something is easy and he may block out a small amount of time to get the work done but the work can't get done in that time. If my description confuses you I'll say it another way. He will set a goal to do X by the end of the week. He will poorly plot his time and will leave things to the last minute. When he tries to get the work done in the short amount of time, he cannot get it done. Thus, he failed to achieve his own goal. If this happened once or a few times it would be no big deal but for him this has been a constant challenge for years which has not changed the older and more mature he gets. The natural consequence of over and over failing at that method has not led him to change his ways. Yet, if I make up the schedule and say to spend an hour a day doing science reading then the job gets done. He has not been able to set the schedule himself and get it to work.
There can be a temptation to work to get something done rather than to work to mastery. At present he is struggling with some concepts in math. I left my son on his own to do work with an online class. I was giving little oversight, leaving him to be in charge of monitoring his assignments, turning them in on time and so forth. Instead of sticking to the assignments that were given online he explored the website and switched the focus of his work to topics not being covered in the class (you may think that was good as he was following his curiosity and enjoying learning). He enjoyed doing those math operations. However when I went to check his work a week later I found him behind in four content areas but ahead in content areas that were not assigned in this course!
Once I realized that my son was about ten days behind with the online class, I had to start to work one on one with him to figure out what was going wrong. Now I realized he was not just behind in work but struggling to understand the content. He had to work double time to catch up while trying to get current with the course's content. (How kids in school can stay afloat if they get a bit behind is beyond my comprehension.)
I identified he was lacking mastery in content areas that were back at the beginning of the class a few weeks ago. He could not do current work as errors were being made with foundational areas. We had to backtrack to the beginning and work on the more basic concepts. He was unable to realize where he was going wrong and what needed fixing. It too a separate set of eyes to help him see it. If an unschooler is behind how do they know? If an unschooler thinks they get it but they don't then what?
Lastly with the math he is stubborn about practicing things over and over in order to learn them. Yet he is not getting it and is not able to master all the concepts with just a few practice examples. Unfortunately the curriculum we are using gives few practice examples so I have to make up more work on my own for him to practice. He has been fighting me on this as he insists this is not necessary yet when 2/3 of the work is incorrect that is glaringly obvious that he can't do that type of work!0
He begged to go forward and go faster and to "get the chapters done" as "he had a goal to finish Algebra I". His inability to recognize when he is struggling is a problem if he were left to be the designer of his own course and his goal to finish the course and to know the information was not meshing with the reality that he was not really learning the information!
Even when this son has something he really, really, really wants to accomplish he can't seem to figure out what it takes to get it done or he messes up on the timeframes and deadlines. Thus the case that "if a child or teen really wants to do something they will figure out how to get it done or what needs doing" is not true for all kids and teens. Good intentions and wishes do not always result in something getting accomplished or finished.
Unschooling and radical unschooling, I believe, are right for a certain type of person, it is not right for everyone. Exactly what type of mind jives with unschooling is something we could discuss and debate.
What I want is for my kids to learn and to have success at their attempts to learn. I want my kids prepared to do what they want with their adult lives, at this point that is college attendance. I need to do what helps my kids meet their goal and so far neither of my kids seems to jive with unschooling. No matter how much I admire unschooling I am not forcing it on my kids when it isn't what works for them and when it is something they flounder with rather than flourish with. If unschooling works for you, I'm a bit envious of your situation!