If you have worries and concerns swirling around in your head,
I can help you gain a little clarity.
Let's talk about what really matters when it comes to unschooling.
Revised Blogpost 8/2/2021
Unschooling is one of those terms that people love or hate. Or at least, the vocal people seem to shout from the far ends of the continuum, and then everyone reacts. It’s been the same arguments for years now.
I don’t mind the term at all anymore. I used to avoid it, because I wasn’t completely sure we’d stick with such a different way of approaching learning. Maybe I wanted to give myself room to back out, if we needed to.
I’m Sue Patterson and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast. I offer weekly peptalks here to help you with your unschooling journey. I have a variety of resources to help you - and, in much the same way we look at all the different ways KIDS can learn, I’ve looked at all the different ways PARENTS can learn too. So you’ll find Guides to read, Courses to take, Memberships to join - whatever way I can help you grow your confidence, overcome your fears, and help you see that unschooling really DOES work.
So let’s talk a little more about that…
When my kids were younger and we were “in the thick of it,” I didn’t really care about whether we were considered unschoolers or not. We were part of pretty eclectic group of homeschoolers and people referred to us as one of The Unschoolers. At the time, only one or two books about unschooling existed and, of course, we read them. But they didn’t govern our lives.
Back then, the label didn’t have all the cool connotations it has now. Actually, people wrote about how unschoolers were going to be the unraveling of the homeschooling movement. Terms like “educational neglect,” were tossed around. And if you’re active in more traditional homeschooling circles, you may still here these kinds of comments about unschooling.
While we noticed their comments, we didn’t really react much. We just lived. We wrote about how much fun our families were having learning together. We dove in, connected with our kids and got creative. The kids continued to grow and blossom naturally.
And, yes, they learned – every single day.
We lived like every day was a series of Saturdays. Or one long Summer Vacation.
Today, unschooling seems a little different. People want to BE unschoolers before they even understand it. They’ve read about it. Unschooling sounds intriguing, so they latch onto it. They want to leave the school system and quickly find a place to fit in. We’ve been conditioned to need a group to function.
Society doesn’t really encourage people stepping away from the mainstream and doing something on their own. But instead of thinking in negative terms, what if we step out of that type of thinking and consider it thinking independently, using critical thinking skills and coming up with our own conclusion. We don’t have to conform just because everyone else does. Isn’t that what even mainstream parents say to their kids?
“Don’t do something just because other kids do!”
Unschoolers just took that seriously and continued to apply it in our parenting choices!
But still, about that label of unschooling…
Some people worry about it more than thinking about the preferences and individual inclinations of their child. They look at what their kids want to do, and wonder how can THAT be the right path? Yet they want the label, and they care a LOT about that aspect. But a problem exists with this kind of thinking too.
The cart is before the horse. The bowl is hotter than the soup.
And lots of people want to take advantage of those fears.
People declare themselves unschooling gurus and want to show you how to “do it right.”
Some of them don’t even have grown kids - and if they do, many of them didn’t even unschool. And companies pop up, because they’ve seen that unschooling works, they think they have a handle on it, so they package up something for all the “self-directed learners.”
But that makes it hard for parents like you to know where to find the good solid unschooling information. And, people search for unschooling instructions to help them.
It’s understandable. It’s familiar, right? We had a few years conditioning us to do that?
The only real instructions are this:
Get to know your child. What makes them tick? What inspires them? Do those things.
Explore with them. Discover new places. Read maps. Go on adventures - out in the community or discovering something at home.
Build a beautiful nest. Create a home environment full of interesting art and music and games and food. Let the home be the place where everyone feels nurtured.
Individualization. Remember that your children are not extensions of you. They have a their own path and their own choices to make. Your job is just to clear away some of the undergrowth that’s trying to get in their way. Stay tuned into what THEY want to do or to be. Help them with that.
Get Your Priorities Straight. Your relationship with them is all that matters. Learning a particular thing at a particular age, but sacrificing your relationship with them? Please don’t.
Realize that it’s years of programming happening in YOUR head saying things have to be a certain way. Often it's not true at all.
That’s where you’ll have to put in a little effort. Learning more about unschooling - and really that’s about the hard-wiring of learning in humans, learning how to undo some of that thinking we have from being schooled, resisting the mainstream push for controlling kids and operating out of fear. Not small obstacles, by any means. But you can do it. It doesn’t have to be done all at once either. You have time to mull things over and learn to live more deliberately and with intention within your family.
One word of caution to anyone new to unschooling... worry less about whether you’re unschooling the right way and pay more attention to your own kids.
Notice if you have a tendency to stay on the computer to read “juuuust a little bit more,” and if all these fabulous tools are a distraction or a way to procrastinate from plunging in.
Sometimes when we’re so focused on getting it right (which is translated into we’re afraid we’re screwing up royally!) we don’t get around to starting. Or we don’t dive in and give it all we can. Of course, there are all kinds of psychological reasons for this, and everyone will have to identify their own obstacles.
My dad used to say,
“Too much analysis leads to paralysis.”
And as someone who OFTEN chooses to procrastinate, it’s a great tool for continuing to intellectualize all the nuances instead of simply starting. Remember that those blogs, email lists, podcasts and websites are just tools for YOU to use. Not vice versa.
Don’t let any of it distract you from the fact that your kids are standing right there in front of you.
And you have this glorious adventure awaiting you WITH them! Seize the day!
Your relationship with them.
Those are the only things that matter.
Need Some More Support?
You're not alone! Sometimes when we choose this somewhat unconventional path, we need to connect with a few other parents on the same path. It's so great to be able to share successes - and brainstorm solutions to problems!
I've created a private membership group just for this purpose - it's called Creating Confidence! I offer coaching within the group, in live streams, and weekly coaching calls. If you're feeling isolated, this is probably just what you're looking for!