Do you wonder if Unschooling could work for you?
Are you trying to figure how to make the best choice for our kids’ education in the midst of all the craziness of these times we're in?
You Have Options!
You really don’t HAVE to duplicate school.
And yes, your kids can still get into college if they want to.
Yes, they will learn what they need to know.
AND, you’ll be able to reap a few more benefits as well.
You really can trade a home filled with tension - to a calmer (or more adventurous!) home.
You can skip the daily wrangling to get school work done - and create a home where kids can explore their interests.
You can move away from the widening gap between you and the kids - and toward a closer connection with them.
Because duplicating school, trying to check off all those boxes while you have everything else going on is too much - and, as a mom with grown unschooled kids - I want you to know it’s not even necessary. I know what you’re thinking -
“This all sounds great but HOW?
How can I have these things AND prepare them for adulthood, be a good parent at the same time?
First, we don’t duplicate school.
So often that’s what we lean toward first because it’s so familiar. But really, the BEST schools, the more progressive schools, have learning areas that look like living rooms! They try to make the environment more relaxed and HOME-LIKE. And… that’s what we already have!! Fear makes us panic a little and resort to the familiar. But it’s not the best.
Let me first introduce myself.
I’m Sue Patterson and I was sitting where you were 25 years ago. School didn’t fit and I didn’t even know I had options. But like a thread on a sweater, the more I pulled on it, the more the school approach unraveled. And we walked away. We were a military family so we moved quite a bit. We had the advantage of meeting a lot of different people along the way. I saw what worked and what didn’t work when it came to homeschooling. I learned things about how kids REALLY learn as well as how I wanted to parent. I LOVED the flexibility and the autonomy that this kind of life gave us.
And now, with my kids grown - we went from all of our unschooling adventures to them off on their adult adventures. And this unconventional path we took, did not close doors for them. We didn’t duplicate school AT ALL - and they got into colleges, conservatories and trade schools - whichever path they wanted to pursue was available to them. They have families, own homes, run businesses… all the typical things for adults like them. They’re 28, 31, and 33 - and they loved their childhoods!
I share all this to show you that you DO have options - options that look nothing like the one-size-fits-all (yet fits no one) approach that schools want us to stick with.
So let’s dive into this:
Why would we not want to duplicate school?
It’s familiar - but It’s time to really remember what schools were like. And even as we look back - it’s looks INCREDIBLY different for kids today. Yet this list, has continued.
- Subjects they'll never use
- Always needing an Expert
- Having No Control over Schedules
- Shelving Curiosities
- Anxiety/Stress Interferes with Learning
- Becoming People Pleasers
It’s not a good list.
Schools have tried to convince us that their way is the One Right Way to approach learning and if you don’t follow THEIR steps, your kids are doomed.
- But how much do you truly remember?
- How much do you use everyday from school?
- And couldn’t you learn it some other way?
- Aren’t other ways more readily available than they were when we were young?
Actually, you’re probably learning all kinds of things by following your interests and googling when you get to a place where you need more information. Here we are online together now, right?
I remember my teacher telling me I’d have to memorize all kinds of math equations because I “wouldn’t always have a calculator nearby!” But… I do. And it never makes mistakes!
In fact, I have an entire - always updated - encyclopedia set right here!
So all that time memorizing… was totally unnecessary.
It’s far better to help kids figure how to find the resources to learn what they need - because the world is changing fast! Their adulthood won’t look like this - anymore than ours looks like our childhood! Most of us didn’t grow up with Google or YouTube! And those will turn into dinosaurs too - like AOL’s You’ve Got Mail and Myspace.
Learning to change with the times is an incredibly useful tool!
That’s why I want to tell you about Unschooling.
Learning - on the go, when it’s needed - that’s what it’s all about.
You may have heard of it - and you may have heard some ideas about it that aren’t even factual.
Here’s the gist of how unschooling works:
We know that all humans are hardwired to learn, so you can tap into that.
We know that when humans - and that means kids too - are able to follow their interests, they retain it
We know that when the material is relevant and in context, it’s useful to the learner.
Unschoolers focus on the Learner’s perspective instead of the Teacher’s.
Because what do grade levels, quizzes, and grading have to do with the Learner? It’s all for the benefit of the teacher or the system.
And you’re a family - not a system.
You have conversations. You have shared experiences. You have nuances you can work around.
School operates on the idea that they’ll give a ton of information and then hope that when a child grows up and needs it, they’ll retain it and access it.
But Life doesn’t really work like that.
Unschooling flips that around and encourages the child to explore their interests, contemplates questions, and then when they come to a place where they need more information or need to develop a skill to move forward - then THAT is what to focus on.
Again, it’s relevant and in context - so it’s useful for the learner.
The unschooling parent’s role is more about being the Resource Finder or the Tour Guide - instead of the Teacher.
It’s living alongside your child and helping them navigate their path. It’s a kinder gentler way to parent. And this approach brings everyone’s stress level down so learning happens in much more organic way. Less stress sounds nice, right?
I’m here to tell you that doors do not close - in fact they open for kids who unschool.
They’re not waiting until 18 to begin their life. They’re engaged with the world now.
If it’s college you’re worried about - they love unschoolers because they truly want to be there! They’re not on that conveyor belt from grade school to middle school to high school to college. Kids that have been living like that - without a lot of say in their lives - often have a much harder time transitioning into young adulthood. We see what happens to many kids when they first experience freedom at college.
Unschooled kids have usually been playing in that field and then often want to explore at a higher level - so they know what they’re choosing…. And that’s the direction they move in. It’s not just from a list of possible careers that they might be interested in. College admissions boards can see that unschooled kids have had EXPERIENCES in these fields, so they’re much more likely to succeed at their school. And that’s their job, to somehow ascertain who will be successful and who won’t. Unschooled kids do have unique and interesting applications - not the cookie-cutter application that so many high schoolers have.
Homeschooled Teens Speak Out!
If you’re worried about unschooling through the teen years, listen to 75 young people describe how they lived their teen lives without school.
They’ve answered all the questions that parents (and other teens!) want to know about what a life like this is like!
You’ll love their candor.
Homeschooled Teens will give you the reassurance you need!
Unschooled kids develop a confidence and a skill set that fits them perfectly.
The School approach to learning just doesn’t fit everyone.
And you may have a child that’s miserable in that setting. I want you to know you that you have options.
Know that Life doesn’t really divide up into Learning Time and Time for Life. It’s all squished together. Because LEARNING happens everywhere.
How Does This Work?
Parents observe the interests of the child and encourage them to continue to explore their curiosities.
Parents begin to notice that learning weaves through all these daily activities - including videogames. (That’s usually the concern most people have!) Many kids learn to read through Minecraft. They learn vocabulary and strategy. They learn to persevere when the tasks are hard. They learn about references to history and culture, geography and science. And it doesn’t take you orchestrating it - just encouraging them on their path.
Unschooling families watch movies and documentaries together. They play games. They talk about the community, and politics and what’s happening on the other side of the world.
It doesn’t take a ton of effort to have a rich engaging life with your kids - it just takes a shift in some of the preconceived ideas you may have about what’s REAL learning and what isn’t. You’ve had a lot of conditioning - but it can all be examined and looked at in a way that allows you to be the parent you want to be - and your child have a real childhood.
Think of the flexibility you’ll have as you get to decide what goes on the calendar for each week. If your kid is a night owl, you don’t have to constantly harass him about bedtime. You can come to a compromise that works - because he won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus or have you drive him to school. IMagine not having that! The drop-off and pick-up time alone adds at least an hour into your day!
But since many of you have so many unique issues happening in your home, you could skip “getting permission” from school to do what’s best for YOUR family.
Yes, school offers free child care. And some people need that. But we have all noticed that there’s a price attached. And some of these strings attached have become problematic. Again.
I just want you to know you have options.
Because you really can drive away from it all.
QUESTIONS FROM PARENTS:
Will they learn what they need if I don’t duplicate school?
They will. Because they’re actively engaged in life, they’ll see what they REALLY need. And those things they don’t need, they don’t have to bother with - until they DO need it. The brain will be far MORE open to receive it then too. They can always google it or watch a YT video if they bump into something they want to know more about.
Will they get into college?
Yes. Unschooled kids often start at a community college level, where they simply take the assessment test, and then enroll in the class that fits their knowledge level. So if they don’t do well on that test, they take a “remedial” or “developmental” class, before they take a full-college-credit class. Interestingly, unschooled kids discover that those remedial classes are filled with young adults who actually WENT to school the whole time - but still needed the same class. These become transitional classes for kids - from unschooling to college life.
Then they can transfer to a university with college credits under their belt. And, transfer students can bypass the SAT/ACT, if you were worried they may not be able to score high enough. They don’t have to take it.
How will they make friends?
They’ll make friends based upon similar interests - which is a much sturdier basis for a friendship! They’ll be involved in the community, diving into their hobbies, and meeting people. Parents may have to help the kids who are younger find their way with this, but online support groups are available to help you get connected.
I wrote a book, Homeschooled Teens, where I interviewed 75 young people - from 15-39. And I asked them all the questions I had heard from parents over the years. And they spent quite a bit of time talking about all the ways they DID make friends.
Will unschooling make my kids weird?
This question about “making kids weird…” always amuses me. It’s not like we have a corner on that market. There are plenty of “weird people” in schools! How well kids socialize or interact with the world, has a lot to do with how the parents interact with the world. So that’s something to consider.
Think about where that question comes from too.
Is it about valuing conformity over individualism?
Maybe something from your own school experiences?
Truthfully, most kids do some pretty weird things. It’s just that unschooled kids get to have these kinds of traits too.
It’s interesting, most grown unschoolers tell me that in spite of their unique childhood, they don’t stand out as odd or different in the workplace. In fact, they’re the ones with initiative and enthusiasm! And all kinds of cool life experiences to draw upon and share with those around them.
Can only wealthy families unschool?
Someone asked if this is only for the rich families. And I’m living proof that’s not true. I knew someone once that said,
“A bus pass and a library card, that’s all you really need.”
That was back in the 90s. I’d add on that access to WiFi is pretty important - but even that can happen at the library, if you need it to!
Resource: One Income or Single Parent Resources
Do I have to spend my entire day entertaining them?
No. But you do have to check in and see what they need. Maybe they want time to play a game with you or have a conversation. Maybe they want to run some ideas past you, and then that gives you some clues as to what resources you might know about that they’d enjoy. Think of a really great Saturday. Or a summer vacation. How did you do that? Unschooling is like that.
How will I know what they need to know?
Often people worry about how they’d know what the child needs to know - and if they’d be doing enough.
Find out more here: Unschooling Guide- "Am I Doing Enough?"
I wanted to show you something quickly before we wrap up - something that might help you see how allowing learning to flow... to happen organically… really DOES work. When we rely on the learner’s natural curiosity and stop thinking we have to have a Teacher Driven approach… information shows up and can be easily absorbed. Like this. A simple interest in sharks.
Can lead to this…
Take a second and look at this. Kids can take their simple interest in sharks, and move out into Any or all of these topics. This is how learning works, when we don’t get in the way. One thing leads to another. One topic becomes a jumping off place for something else. And you can see how subjects like math, reading, science, history, geography… all of it weaves through there. Every single topic of interest happens like this. If we stop trying to control it all so much.
Expand Their World!
Unschooling is not about making the kids’ world smaller - it’s about opening it to let them see all kinds of things out there. Books, Videos, Travel, Conversations - there are so many ways to explore the world.
The goal is a full rich happy life - connected with the adults who love them most as well as others who share their interests.
I’m an unschooling coach and I’m happy to help you brainstorm solutions and create a strategy that could work for your family. Everyone is unique. You don’t have to become a warden, forcing them through hoops or making them stay at the kitchen table until they’ve done their work.
That’s why I tell people NOT to duplicate school.
It’s totally unnecessary.
I have a free PDF for you. Signing up for it will get you onto my mailing list. Unschooling resources that I think will help you along the way.
If you have certain worries/fears about unschooling, I have a variety of ways to tackle it. Just as we have to pay attention to how our children learn - we need to see how WE learn best too.
Some of us want all the info at once so we can work through it - in a course format.
Others want to surround themselves with community so they don’t feel so isolated and can brainstorm or share ideas… the group membership offers that.
I do one-to-one coaching calls too, if you want to focus more on your particular situation.
And I have these Unschooling Guides that can walk you through.These are deeper dives on 20 different topics that might be holding you back. Topics that worry you. I have so much information to share with you! Reach out if I can help.
I just wanted to be sure you know you have choices.
Unschooling is a really good option.
You don’t have to Duplicate School.