Is Homeschooling NOT Working for You?
Did you start this home education journey with one idea in mind, but the reality hasn’t ended up looking like that at all?
Many of you were thrown into homeschooling because of the pandemic and you just did what was familiar to you.
Even before Covid, this is often the pattern. It’s kind of The Evolution of an Unschooler. 😉
So, if what you’ve been doing isn’t working - let’s talk about what you could do instead!
I’m Sue Patterson and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom podcast. Each week, I show up with a 5-10 minute Unschooling Pep Talk. My kids are all grown now and doors did NOT close because we took this unconventional path.
But like many of you, I had a lot of doubts to over come. I was a mom from the suburbs and never considered homeschooling - I hadn’t even heard of unschooling when we first started! And then school wasn’t a good fit for my kids. I’m sure many of us could swap stories!
So we started out and like many of you, I thought, “Let’s just see how it goes.”
I’d tell myself, “How hard can second grade be?” and “if this flops, the school will always take him back - I pay taxes - they have to!”
And while I searched for resources - fun ways to learn different subjects - I didn’t really give it much more thought than that. I had 3 kids and we were moving from San Antonio to Alaska at the time!
Oh! I read a little… books like John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down. And during that first year, Mary Griffith’s Homeschooling Handbook and Home Education Magazine. Unschooling was off in its corner, doing it’s own thing. I didn’t pay it much mind initially.
Until the power struggles kicked in.
My son didn’t want to do the writing projects required by the curriculum I had chosen.
He was bored with the stories they wanted him to read - and frankly so was I.
He really didn’t care about memorizing the arbitrary spelling words that had been selected for all kids his age.
We all wanted to get out and explore our new world but we were chained to that curriculum that *I* had chosen!
I had jumped from one educational conveyor belt to another!
Those Conveyor Belts!
Because when you leave the school system and choose to homeschool in a traditional way with a curriculum approach, you’re really just getting on another conveyor belt that moves you through the process without any consideration of interests, curiosities, moods, environments, family demands. Those things don’t matter. The school, and then it’s proxy, the Curriculum is what matters most. And our job as parents is to fit our kids into their expectations, meet their standards - excel (if we want to be considered GOOD homeschooling parents), and move onto whatever else they think kids our kids’ ages should be learning at the moment.
So you get the visual, hopping from one conveyor belt to another, right?
And I get it… who has time to CREATE an individualized curriculum? And does that mean for EACH child?
What if one’s into animals, the other is into performing arts, and the other wants to shoot air soft guns or play video games?
What do you do with THAT combination??
AND… what about the expense when you’ve already bought the curriculum?
You sorted through all the options and found the most affordable package that you THOUGHT they’d enjoy. It certainly IS more enjoyable than sitting in a classroom all day long - why can’t these kids appreciate how good they have it???
I say all this because I want you to know - I get it.
All those concerns loomed large in my brain too!
I kept thinking,
“If I sparkle up these lesson plans, add more fun, skip over some drudgery, that would be the ‘individualizing’ they’d need.”
And that’s understandable, because that’s what good teachers in schools try to do too, right?
Or when you get an IEP for your child, and you're just trying to survive another year in the school system.
But here’s the thing, no matter how you spin it, when you use a curriculum, you’re saying that that company’s agenda is what matters most. The message that you’re delivering to your child is that they have to shelve their curiosities and interests, and defer to these other plans - because SOMEONE says theirs is more important than your child’s or your family’s.
It’s familiar though. It’s what most people do when they first start out homeschooling.
I run into a lot of families that have even been homeschooling like this for a while- especially when the kids were younger - because the curricula was more play-based.
And then something shifts in the educational expectations, and the kids' resistance begins.
So what do most good homeschooling moms do?
They try harder! They try to make it more fun. They try to cajole their kid into cooperating. They start promising rewards for compliance. Or they get mad. They get frustrated with their kids wanting to have a say over their educational path! Their kids tell them they don’t even WANT an educational path if this is what it’s gotta look like! And the parents are worn out.
And here you are. Wondering whether to plunk down more money to buy the curriculum that promises to be inspiring - but you’ve heard those promises before. And they didn’t come through. At least not with your kids.
But there’s another issue…
Judgmental Homeschooling Friends/Communities
You’ve been in the homeschooling world long enough to hear the way some people talk about unschoolers. You’ve maybe formed some opinions of your own, based on stories you’ve heard or one or two families you’ve met. Or even that girl on TikTok who has a huge following because she was supposedly unschooled and hates how that went. (We can talk about that another time - she does bring up some interesting points!)
You may have some anti-unschooling thoughts you need to work through. And I want to help you do that.
I have a YouTube video about the myths about unschooling called The Facts & Fiction about Unschooling over at the Unschooling Mom2Mom channel. I’d love it if you’d check that out, subscribe, do all the things.
Could Unschooling Work?
So what are the things you need to help you see that Unschooling COULD really work for your family?
It’s going to take some significant deschooling.
Maybe you think you did it before if you first left school, maybe you didn’t. Or maybe your child didn’t even GO to school. You still need to learn all you can about deschooling because it’s really all about seeing how you’ve been conditioned to believe that the school approach is the one legit path to success. We have a lot of layers to clear off so we can do what’s best for our kids.
Since this is only a 5-10 minute podcast, let me leave you with a few Bullet points, so to speak.
Grab the handout to help you dive deeper on each of these points, so you can focus on the obstacles or the clarifications that YOU need to make this leap from the traditional approach to this unconventional unschooling way.
- You’ll shift from Teaching to Learning together. Partnering with your kids to explore what interests them. Yes, unschoolers read books and learn topics like science and history and math - just not in the typical schooly way. They learn in ways that work for them. Unschooling parents are open to WHATEVER ways work best.
- You’ll learn more about how unschooling works, how it’s all about trusting that all humans are hard-wired to be curious and don’t have to be coerced into learning.
- You’ll see that coercion is a problem of it’s own. It sets you up in an antagonistic way, making power struggles unavoidable. This puts distance between you and your child making it harder to tune into what they need - because they have a lot of resentment pushing you away.
- When you opt for unschooling, you can stop with the pressure to complete the work that someone else has said is important. Instead, you and your child will make choices that fit your family. It really doesn’t matter what age kids learn… anything.
- Sometimes people think that unschooled kids never hear the word, “no,” or that parents have to surrender all their boundaries - and that’s not true at all. But unschooling parents do parent a little differently from the mainstream. It really is more of a partnership. More listening and understanding. Less My-Way-or-the-Highway approach.
- No, unschooling parents are not lazy - they’re actually VERY involved in their kids lives and creatively connecting.
If you want my REAL opinion on this one, going the traditional route where you just check the boxes, do what someone else says is important, all because it’s familiar and we don’t want people to talk badly about us as parents - that’s playing small. And our kids deserve better than that. Heck, WE deserve better than that.
I want you to think of it like this…
School and the schoolish approach to homeschooling tells kids that memorizing arbitrary information is important because SOMEDAY they might need it. But we all know from past experiences, if we don’t have an interest, it’s probably going to be forgotten.
And an interest in getting an A or pleasing our parents or teachers, just isn’t enough to make it stick.
Whereas if we take an unschooling approach, we dive into our lives. We, as parents, trust that our kids are hard wired to learn, and we share resources and experiences to support our child’s interests and curiosities. Even those that we think are silly or “not going to get them anywhere.” (can you hear my air quotes?) But when we live our lives first… we inevitably get to a place where we need more information or need to learn something. And then THAT becomes the catalyst for unschoolers to WANT to learn more. And because it’s what THEY want, there’s no more resistance, no need for coercion.
And in a nutshell, that’s how this all works.
I have all kinds of resources to help you shift toward unschooling. My kids got into college, own homes and businesses, have families - all the things! I say that because I want you to know that Unschooling works.
you do not have to stay stuck with an approach that is NOT working, is burning you out, and is creating more friction in your family!