"We are all wanderers on this earth...our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams." ~ Gypsy proverb

Monday, January 24, 2011

Unschooling, openly and honestly.

Unschooling has done tremendous things for our family, and for me personally as a mother, a parent, a wife, a friend, and as a human BEing, there is no doubt. But, the honest to goodness truth is that I still struggle with the day to day with unschooling.

I do focus on the wonderful things about our unschooling adventures, such as my son has finally found joy in learning again, loves playing chess, building lego, brainstorming money-making strategies, watching Mythbusters, and beating me in monopoly.  Unschooling has nourished my daughter's fascinating imagination of 55 invisible friends, her inventive stories, her love of books, movies, dot-to-dot, and Brainpop Jr., and her ability to draw beautifully. 

I will testify that many days unschooling flows harmoniously in our household, and that I unequivocally believe that learning is better naturally, without coercion, curriculum, or compulsion in a formulaic setting.  But there is more.  Sometimes I still get scared that what we are doing is never enough, and doubt creeps in to check-in on me and see how strong my resolve is on this way of living and learning.  My fear does challenge me that my children may be ill-prepared for "real" life, that what I am offering is too ideal for our society and too good to be true.  Admitting these weaknesses feels raw, but very real. So what keeps me going? What is the source of strength that compels and propels me forward through all these emotions?

Trust, faith, gratitude and my children.  I do trust in my children.  It is this faith and trust in them that keeps me balanced and hopeful, urging me to stay present, urging me to stay the course and push those fears aside, allowing balance to take hold.  They give me reminders everyday that they are learning with deep joy and happiness, and they remind me that no matter how or where they learn, the issues of fear and doubt will always be there. It is in my nature to worry, to obsess, to analyze, to question. This is what I do.  But, unschooling has undeniably created a resilient bond in our little family, one that is powerful and strong, and something we never had when they were traditionally schooled.  This is what I hang on to and what I am deeply grateful for.  It is because of unschooling that I can seek that balance between fear and faith everyday, and I do believe that I will find it, someday soon.


  1. I love your post. Although we are not unschoolers or homeschoolers our daughter attends a Steiner (Waldorf) school here in Australia. It sits right with me most of the time but I do feel when we leave this area, which will be some time in the not too distant future, the idea of homeschooling or unschooling has crossed my mind. My hubby isn't so into the idea, but I don't want to give up on it for that reason. I have tried to explain that no one questions how you choose to 'educate' your kids before they are school age. I think about all that we teach them in those early years and like the little sponges our children are, they take on so much just from example and the environment that surrounds them. I hear you on the doubt and questioning ones self. That is something I need to look into myself. Wishing you a wonderful journey. I'm sure your children (and yourselves) will only be richer for your experience. Now look, I have gone and written a novel in your comments section! Happy days, Jacinta

  2. Jacinta, thank you for your comments and kind words :). More than anything, I feel like my world has expanded because of unschooling. It's almost like standing on the edge of a cliff with arms wide open, scary but exhilarating at the same time. It isn't an easy place to stand, but I do feel it will be well worth it :). So you know, my hubs had to ease into this, as did I. Cheers to you and your family and thanks again.

  3. Thank you for this post and your honesty. How long have you been unschooling? Do the doubts ever go away I wonder? Or is that just a part of being a good parent? My confidence and doubts ebb and flow. This week there has been doubt... I find strength in your post. Strength in seeing the joy and happiness in my boys too.

  4. I can relate to everything you write here.
    Unschooling is a journey of faith, faith in what we deeply believe and faith in our kids and their own dreams.
    It is hard to let go of the doubts, I struggle with all the same ones you do!
    But it has been so worth it for our family. As you say, it brings out the kids talents and passions and that is wonderful to see.

  5. I obsess,too. Not fun when you're fretting about something. :/
    But I'm learning to let go of that, too.

    I think (hmmmm, well, right this minute, anyway) that my fears are lessening, because I'm learning to pay attention to my questions. I learning to be mindful of my own concerns and questions... and then I simply address them. I ask my children. I investigate. I fix the problem before it becomes some huge, looming thing.
    So there is some comfort in that. I can trust myself to deal with things. That's pretty cool.
    So maybe it gets a little easier. :)

  6. Very well put. Though we are Waldorf homeschoolers, not unschoolers, I still struggle with many of the same feelings you have and have come up with the very same answer.. trust and faith in our children and our family life.

  7. I, too, struggle with unschooling. But I think that's only because I've been so well schooled. I meet people every day who have been debased and broken and made ineffectual by schooling...some few of those have the strength of character or the strength of will to move forward and really make a difference in the world. I guess that says something to me...it says that humans are smart and resilient and strong. They can survive a lot, and still allow the truth within them to express itself.

    Others, as we have seen, are not so resilient or strong. How many people do you know who have attended schools all their lives, and yet are completely unsuccessful in the world? My answer, as a former teacher, alas, is "most of them."

    I meet people every day who have chosen something other than schooling, who have trusted the universe and themselves, and who have found their truth and their passion. You are one of them. And I meet people every day who have bought into the notion that schools truly prepare people for the "real world", only to find their children broken and powerless. The "real world" is awfully hard on people, most especially those who believe in its values that some few are worthy and most are not.

    Do you offer enough to your children for them to be successful? Absolutely. Anyone who knows and trusts his or her inner being can be successful on this planet. That is what matters. There are "facts" that we expect people in our society to know. Your kids probably already know them. But facts are a minuscule part of education. Do they know who they are? Do they feel that thing within them that hopes to express itself? Do they allow themselves to be fully human? I can see from the photographs that all of these things are true. They are beautiful children, in every sense of the word. Trust yourself. Trust them. Everything that you hope for them is already true.

    I hope that's enough for you. If it's not, imagine them in school, bowing to authority, giving the right answers to every question. Imagine them raising their hands, eager to give that answer. Imagine them, even, becoming the teacher's pet. Imagine them learning all you hope they might learn, there, which upon reflection isn't really so much, is it?

    And then, if that's not enough, imagine them as less than the teacher's pet, which (depending on the personality of the teacher) they would almost surely be. What chance would they have then? I guess they'd have the same chance as me or you or all the innumerable children of chaos, some of whom have been very successful and most of whom have not.

    If it's any consolation, teachers (which, remember, I have been) don't have a clue either. We're all just doing our best. Your best with the children you know is far better than the best of some stray teacher doing his or her best.

    Relax. It's fine. Your children are perfect expressions of love and light and being. How could they not be?


“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
~ George Bernard Shaw