There are many negative connotations associated with unschooling, but in my experience this is only from either a lack of understanding, or in a few rare cases, bad experiences.
At it's heart to unschool simply means to follow your child's leads and needs. The unschooling life is not one for the lazy and no matter what form of homeschooling you subscribe to, it is not for the unorganized. Unschooling itself is a mindset. For my family it means we teach our children how to learn. We teach them to find joy in exploring the world. Above all we teach them the skills they need to acquire skills.
And most importantly we have fun.
As the parent of an unschooler you have to learn to let go. You must completly retrain the way your mind works and how you view education. Leaning does not have to come from books, and the best teachers are life and experience. The first year of unschooling begins the day you give birth...perhaps it even begins before that when you are singing and playing with baby through your belly.
As your child grows you sing the alphabet. You point out the pretty birds. You teach them to wave back to the smiling faces. When they become school aged there is no reason this must stop and "formal" education to begin. Five is not a magic number that means a child stops learning through play.
I say all of this now with the firmest belief, but I always didn't feel this way. In college my goal was to become a teacher, a kindergarten teacher to be exact, and I felt passionate about teaching little ones. The first time I heard of the concept of unschooling I was disgusted. How on Earth would a child ever learn to read? To write? How to count money? And how would they learn social skills? I can not help but laugh now. Ten years ago I would be horrified at my family's approach to education.
But since then I have grown some myself, and unschooling has definitely helped me. I have John Holt to thank for my change of heart and mind. I stumbled across some of his philosophy while doing a project for a class on Classroom Management. I went hrmmmm. Then I read more. I'd liked to say I never looked back, but oh did I. After my oldest turned five I did nothing but second, third, and fourth guess myself.
It has been a long journey and it isn't over... not by half.
This is our journey.