So Many Unschooling Questions

So many unschooling questions

What about Technology??

Q:  "How to you handle device time? Worried they will get too much."
A:  I'm not really sure we really know what we mean when we say "too much." Who's determining that? Society certainly pushes us to limit it - and we know from our own life experience how that just makes it more of a Forbidden Fruit! So for purely practical reasons, that supports the idea of NOT limiting it.
I like to think of their time on their various devices as simply part of a giant buffet of options.  Long ago, my family went to places like Golden Corral or Shoney's. We'd later refer to these places as The Trough... but let's set that aside. Maybe we can upscale the visual to more of a Cruise Ship Buffet. Food doesn't really fall into a "good' or "bad" category. And sure, if you bring a kid there, their first plate may be loaded up with strawberries and pudding. But if we walk through WITH them, we can point out, "Oh look, you like this..." and they put a little on their plate. And some days, we just load up on chicken wings! But navigating it all together helps them see that they CAN fill their plate with one thing, AND, they might like to expand their palate a little. And if WE force them to load up their plate with foods they don't like, it's more than likely going to end up in the trash. A waste, in so many ways.
Ok, I've meandered with my analogy long enough, right?
It's time for us to recognize that the articles that are all fear-mongering about "too much technology" aren't looking at kids today. Let alone kids in a pandemic - I'm guessing they have to rethink a LOT of that now!
Here are a few things to remember about "handling device time:"
  • The research was done on school kids who were desperate to play with their videogames or technology, because they had no other self-direction in their lives! School all day, homework, bed in time to make it to the bus the next morning. No wonder they clinged so tightly to it all. But that's not what our kids' lives look like. They have a lot more freedom to move through their day sometimes playing, sometimes not... comfortable in the knowledge that THEIR parents don't vilify the thing that brings so much joy, learning, connection, creativity into their lives.
  • When you're fearful, it's human nature to move away from the thing you're afraid of. But in the case of technology, you should move toward it so you can see for yourself what it is your child is enjoying, developing, learning! Think of it as a Data Discovery Mission!  Kids DO learn a lot playing games I have a free PDF you can have to see this: What Kids Learn Playing Videogames
  • Use their device time to read OTHER literature about all the BENEFITS of technology! We have a big collection of articles here:
    Maybe one article every morning over coffee, or one before bed. Just a little every day to offset the tsunami that pushes against you wanting you to be fearful and "make those kids conform!"

Want to Dive Even Deeper?

Maybe their video game time is still bothering you a lot, even AFTER you do a few of the things I mentioned above.  Or maybe you just want ALL the info I have on this so when you have a mini-panic attack, you can run to the resources!

Good Plan!

This Unschooling Guide about Technology is full of so many helpful pieces of information to see where you might even be inadvertently making it all worse! So many unschoolers have figured this out and are willing to share the info they've discovered. The tips above and this Guide would be a good place to start.

Unschooling and Future STEM Career

Q: My 13 year old son is leaning toward a career in science - specifically paleontology.  What do you do when you've read all the library books on dinosaurs? But how do I help him gain the math and science he'll need for that kind of degree?

A: Lots of changes happen during this adolescence period. And sometimes we would have bet our last dime that our kid was going to go in one direction, only to have something shift and suddenly he's on some completely different path! So I want to invite you to hold onto that big goal of "paleontologist" loosely - with plenty of room to pivot, add to the list of curiosities and see where it takes him!

That being said, to answer your 2 questions... first about how to find more dinosaur info. My Go-To resource is a Facebook group called: My Unschooler is Interested In... Lots of unschoolers over there with very creative minds on how to expand your exploration - on any topic really!

About how Unschoolers can get what they need in the STEM area for a future career - they continue to do what they've always done! Play with science, technology, engineering and math! The more a person plays with the topics that intrigue them, the more they really internalize the concepts. And that's the BEST way to have future success with an abstract class or topic. Having a pile of knowledge that you know the "ins" and "outs" of, gives those abstract topics something to hook into. Concrete examples where the learner is has experience and familiarity with it all. That's why kids can have a hard time with subjects  that have too much abstract info too soon, before they've had an opportunity to amass their own unique pile of knowledge. They have nothing to "hook" it onto, and it drifts away.

A lot of families feel like kids need to start to buckled down at this age - especially if they are leaning toward math or science careers. They don't have to though!  Continuing to live a full rich FUN life helps them gather what they need. And while some kids may like moving toward an Outschool class or something local, many are happy to watch YouTube videos and continue to wallow in the wonderfulness of pursuing their curiosity in a more organic way. Most 13 year olds are not really interested in taking a class to "get them ready" for something else down the road. From a growth and development standpoint, that's not really where they are at all! And if they're not interested, the likelihood that they'll retain much is pretty small.  Even if you're worried that they need "basics" - they can get that in every day life or take a community college course in a few years to get them ready for their math or science degree. There's no rush because there's no finish line!

I get it... there's a lot of pressure to push the kids at this age into "getting serious" about their studies. But with mine all older now (32, 30, 27) I can tell you with confidence that if you get the slightest bit of resistance on something you're suggesting, it's time to look at your own motivations for the choice.

Depending on where you live, that community college experiences can start at 16, 17, 18 or later! It's not a competition for who gets there the fastest. There's no hard-and-fast timetable.

I'd continue to play with the ideas that interest him. He doesn't really need to focus on prep work for the future - doors will not close. He'll still be able to pursue whatever he wants when the time comes.

Really? No formal Math??

I created this Unschooling Guide about Math to help you see who you don't have to grab a curriculum to make sure the kids "get all the math they need." So many everyday activities include math - we just have to notice and engage with them!

Click the link to learn more about what's in this Guide. I really think it will help you begin to shift from being fearful about providing math - to embracing it in a completely different way!

Or if you're looking for a good deal and worried about how unschoolers learn these academic subjects,
you can get a "Bundle" price - Buy 3 and get the 4th for free!
Academic Bundle

About Teen Years

Q: "If your 16 yr old isn't starting college, will you be carrying on the same as you are now , spending days on stuff that interests them? Even if the child has autism and only thinks in the now?  I have mentioned to my son that if he ever wants anything different like college, to let me know and we can see what’s available. His reply was “I don’t want to be a bother and I’m too stupid anyway.“ My now 26 year old was quite content at home until he expressed at 17 he wanted something more and started volunteering with a business and getting paid in cycling clothing. He worked full time with them now. So for him it was a lovely smooth self-motivated transition.
I think I’m reaching another child milestone of “he’s turning 16 and we need a plan “ Yet again my mindset wanders to the norms of what is expected at certain ages . Again fear-based!"

A: He probably doesn't have any idea what to suggest when you ask him to let you know if he wants something different from college. Remembering that he has autism means that looking at "typical 16 year old choices" isn't going to work at all. Comparing him to your non-autistic (I assume) 26 year old's path isn't fair and he'll always come up short. Not meaning to be critical, it's just a pattern we can sometimes find ourselves in... that comparison thing.

It might help to stay focused in the here and now. What's interesting him this week? When you move in this direction, instead of catastrophizing about the future, you can be so much more help to him. You have more life experience and possibly more resource knowledge. What would be something to help him dive into his interests more - totally separate from traditional subjects. They'll weave through there without you orchestrating it. And if some don't, he didn't need them. Yet. Or maybe ever. (So why bother him with it now?)

You're right... your concerns are fear-based and not rooted in the reality of what's happening with your son right now. When you lean toward connecting with him on those, you'll have a much more positive outcome. Focusing on the fear of "what if I do this all wrong?" almost moves you into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shift the question to "What if this turns out great for him? Unique to his skill set. Totally different from his brother. But all choices he loves."
I get it, that adding autism into the mix is challenging. But as unschoolers, autism or not, meeting the kids where they are is the approach that we see work time and time again.  Instead of trying to move him along quicker and further, embrace What Is, right now.

Need More Support?

It can be hard to move in a different direction than everyone else. So many question come at us:

  • "What are you doing about college?"
  • "He's going to have to stop all this playing, right?"
  • "How will he be prepared to support himself?"

And the questions can start really early! What 13-year-old really has the maturity to begin planning for the future? And no, that's not your job either! Your "job" is to connect with him, help him see his options, as that frontal lobe develops.

But you may need more support as you travel on this unconventional path. My membership group has a lot of parents where you are, sharing ideas and reminding you that you're not alone. I've collected a lot of resources for parents of teens - and that's available in a private members-only area too. In addition to the weekly coaching calls, we also have two additional calls every month dedicated to the topics to help families with teens.

There's no longtime commitment. You can stay for one month and get your foundation stronger - or hang out with us for as long as you need support!

What to Buy?

Q: Some families have charter school funding options, or money in their budgets earmarked for their kids education.
"I always thought it would be spent on curriculum but unschooling has shown me that is not necessary and we are excited for the journey.
So if you had an empty house (it's not really empty ????) and access to money to spend what would you fill your unschooling nest with?"

Remember that the starting place is Your Kids Interests. Craft supplies for a skateboarder will not be a hit.  So here's what I'd ask myself - or them if they want to play along:

If money was no object...

  • What would we do as a family?
  • What would you do here at home?
  • What do you wish you could play with?
  • How could we make the days FABULOUS?

If you're still stuck at home due to the pandemic, some of the ideas that pop up are:

  • Craft supplies - pens, markers, paints, various textures of paper
  • Redecorating a bedroom (stickers for the wall? new pillows? fake fur rug?
  • Audible or Scribd subscription
  • Giant wall maps with push pins for favorite places or friends/relatives homes
  • Windowsill garden
  • Get more games
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Subscription Boxes
  • Take a money management course
  • Learn to meditate - or some other stress reduction technique
  • Go ahead and buy apps instead of only doing the free version
  • Outschool courses for fun thing
  • Dress up clothes
  • New video games or consoles for the whole family to play together
  • Video recording props

You could get some inspiration over at these Pinterest Boards that I have:

Cabin Fever Remedies
Staycation Ideas
Play = Learning
Art Journals & Smashbooks
So many more!

If you're able to get out in your community:

  • Season passes to concerts, live theatre, museums, water parks, amusement parks, etc.
  • Try a new local restaurant - be a Food Critic, or and Ambience Evaluator
  • Go to historic reenactments
  • Go to festivals and farmers markets - talk with the vendors, let everyone spend a certain amount of $
  • Memberships to Science centers, Aquariums, etc.
  • Budget for a hotel room in a nearby city to hit all the tourist places


Need Help Brainstorming?

This Unschooling Guide will give you a loose structure to talk with the kids, finding out what they may like to try. Conversations like this can reveal that they've matured a little and their interests have shifted!

Here's what longtime unschooler, Krystal Trammell says:

I bought this Unschooling Guide from because even though we've been unschooling for over a decade, I find Sue's approach to be so useful and refreshing.

The [Brainstorm Time] Guide has already helped me to be more intentional about how we spend our time together. I printed out the guide and the whole family had a ton of fun filling out the prompts over several sittings (yes, even my teen!). This guide helped me get a lot more insight into what each of my kids really enjoy and value, and I'm using that info to plan our days and weeks with even more FUN in mind!

I love that Sue really GETS unschooling - she's been living it for decades - so I know I can trust her products to be full of applicable advice." ~

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