So let’s start the new year with the basics.
How do you START unschooling?
You’ve weighed it all out.
You’re not 100% confident (because good parents seem to second guess themselves all the time!)
But you’re doing it. You’ve decided.
And then… what?
What do you do if you don’t lay out curriculum or morning baskets?
That’s what I want to give you here today - the starting place!
How DO I start unschooling?
(so glad you asked!)
Take all cues from your child
They will tell/show you what their interests are and then you will know what the next step is. Don’t be swayed by the marketing powers of curriculum! You don’t need THEM to tell you what your child is interested in learning more about. Do you wonder why we’re so drawn to curricula? Then read this: The Curriculum Crutch.
I’m Sue Patterson, and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast. I come here each week (or try to!) to give you a quick peptalk about unschooling. Usually under 10 minutes. That’s about all we have time for right?
But I want you to know that unschooling really DOES work.
You just have to get your fears figured out.
And moved out of the drivers seat!
So when we first start to think about how to unschool, it’s scary for most of us. We’re so used to relying on “experts” to handle everything. The idea of taking responsibility for ourselves usually doesn’t sit that well with us. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we’re not really capable and we NEED those experts.
But that’s simply not true.
Your children learned to walk and talk without formal instruction. They can learn so much with you as a partner and a guide. And what makes unschooling great is that they won’t just learn a collection of facts they may or may not ever need. They will amass a collection of knowledge that’s unique for them. That’s what a TRULY individualized education is.
So, for those still nervous, ask questions. Read about unschooling, deschooling, how people overcome obstacles… and then jump in.
7 Tips to Start Unschooling
1. Take all cues from your child
They will tell/show you what their interests are and then you will know what the next step is. Don’t be swayed by the marketing powers of curriculum! You don’t need THEM to tell you what your child is interested in learning more about. Spend the first few weeks observing them. Notice their rhythm. Notice your own. Are mornings pretty active, or do you need a bit of an on ramp for your day? This is the time to learn more about how your kids move through the world - without you orchestrating everything.
Then read this: The Curriculum Crutch.
2. Play a lot of games
Play with them - whatever interests them. This too will give you a lot of clues about what they like and it helps foster a connection between the two of you. If they struggle with losing games, try more cooperative ones, where it’s a team effort to get EVERYONE to win. Maybe it would be fun to snag a new game every month. Or plan a weekly game night. Or keep dice or cards or paper and pencils in a basket on the table. Access matters a lot too.
And if games aren’t their thing right now, think about ways to be more playful as you go about your days with them
3. Connection is the top priority
Know that CONNECTING with your kid is the most important thing you can do. When they can turn to your for help and advice – without worrying that you’re trying to manipulate or mold them – then they really get to thrive with unschooling. Remind yourself of this as you’re interacting with them. Think about what you’re asking or saying to them - Does it help or hurt your connection with them?
And sometimes this is really hard to do. Surround yourself with other parents on this similar path.
4. Look for the Learning that's Hiding In their Activities
Unschoolers recognize that learning really does happen all the time. In all kinds of ways. The school version of delivery is only ONE way - and not even the most effecient or effective way! Think about how you learned before and after you were in school… that’s what unschooling is like.
Notice their hobbies and interests and see what they’re learning as they navigate their way through.
This podcast/blogpost will really help you see how you're surrounded by learning every day!
5. Don't Skip Deschooling
We’re always in a hurry to get to the good stuff, right?
And for some reason, many of us feel like deschooling is some kind of limbo. Like we’re a plane on the tarmac, waiting for our turn for take off. 🛫
But it’s all part of the process. Read more about deschooling while the kids are playing. Listen to the podcasts about it. This will help you separate the Learning from the Teaching…. Real Life from School Life. Giantly different perspectives.
A Deschooling Walk-Through...
This website has a lot of deschooling resources I've collected over the years.
But if you're looking for a little more fine-tuning, this Unschooling Guide will walk you through what you need to understand about deschooling.
Deschooling is an easily overlooked concept!
But when we skip it, we get blindsided by some Fear that comes to wreak a little havoc.
Whereas, if we've spent some time learning more about deschooling, Fear doesn't cause such a huge impact. It's almost expected.
Take a look at this Guide - it will strengthen your confidence and your unschooling foundation!
6. What's Your Home Like?
Create a happy learning environment – an unschooling nest at home.
What makes everyone happy?
Rooms can be set up to fit the people in your family and what their interests are. No, it’ probably not going to make the cover of a magazine, but it will be the cozy environment where they can really thrive. Also, remember that it’s not permanent. Kids grow and change, so do you! And so do everyone’s interests. It may seem really wild right now… and then 6 months from now, it’s not the same. Allowing for that kind of flexibility is a huge benefit of this kind of lifestyle. Make it work for you!
7. Remember that Learning Happens Forever.
For the person’s ENTIRE life! You have no finish line that you’re trying to race for. Your child has no reason to learn anything in particular by a certain age. I don’t remember who coined the phrase, but there areally are no Educational Emergencies. If someone doesn’t know something, and now NEED to know, they have so many resources available. And when a person WANTS to learn something - they retain it. There’s no resistance. There’s no stopping them.