Unschooling::Not Just For Lazy People!

Guess what I love more than Junior Mints at movies?
If you said the beach, you’d be close, but wrong.
What I really love is to read the comments people post on my blog.
At first, it was because the only people who read my blog were family, and they’re always the nicest!
Then, it was friends and family, which grew to other blogging homeschoolers, friends, and family…and everyone was so nice!
Now, it’s all of that plus an added bonus of people who are not unschoolers, friends, or family…and they call it how they see it. It’s not always kind, but is always always entertaining!

For instance, Chris, aka The Book Guy wondered, after I blogged about Unschooling Myself:

So, um, the moral of the story is that it was hard, so you gave up and now have no plan. You’ve turned your children’s lives upside down, but it’s okay, because now you have less stress and aren’t as afraid? Did you do the unschooling for your childrens future’s are because you wanted to make your life easier?

So, first, I laughed and laughed. The last part…about unschooling to make my life easier?! Let me just state for the record, I’ve never worked harder than I have since unschooling.

Easier is letting a third party make decisions for my kids. Easy is sending them away somewhere for 7 hours so I get some down time. Easy is leading an unexamined life. Easy is doing things my way rather than taking time to listen and collaborate with other people. Easy is trusting someone else to provide my children with what they say will be skills for the future rather than tackling that job with my kids.

I know from experience, “easy” is telling a kid “No!” and using strict discipline to keep them in line with the rules. Harder? Ditching hard and fast rules in favor of principles, and using examples and discussions to help guide kids to self reliance and self discipline.

I guarantee that if I wanted an easier life, I would have kept them in public school! Sometimes, I think about what my life would look like if I’d done so. They would all be away from me for 8 hours a day–probably more if you factor in after school stuff and sports.

8 hours! To myself!!!! What would I do?! For starters, whatever I wanted. Probably get a job. That would be the responsible thing to do. Or I could just clean the house all day. That would make more sense if I still had my house. Maybe I’d go back to school for a Masters Degree. Perhaps I’d work at a coffee shop and become a poetry reading hipster. Ice cream would be involved in some way, I know that much. Fudgy ice cream in a waffle cone, I’d eat one every day.

Instead, I’m here doing the unschooling thing. Chris isn’t the only one to wonder if I’m doing this for an easy life. Since moving to California, other peeps have accused me of being on a long term vacation. It must be all the beach/pool/hiking/sightseeing we’re doing. Hello, people! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…there’s a lot of learning in the play going on!

Amy, a lovely bloggy lady all the way in Maine, found this quote: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~~Seth Godin

So, that’s what we’re about. Living life, learning as much as we can from it. Going out into the world, exploring, discovering, talking, interacting, traveling, asking, wondering, making, sharing, walking, running, swimming, studying, watching.

It’s freaking exhausting!

I’ve never seen a bunch of harder working parents than those that unschool. Without a curriculum or any standardization to fall back on, they do their darndest to provide activities and experiences that will help their kids learn and grow. This means being involved in the community, online, with other unschooling/homeschooling groups, and tuned in to both their kids needs and the resources available to help fill that.

Exhausting! And also loads of fun. Much more fun than eating fudgy ice cream in a waffle cone every day.

I have a theory, that people who get upset with our lifestyle and claim it’s because I don’t want to do any work or that it is making my kids ignorant, are actually upset with themselves, and their lives. These people were told that learning was a monotonous experience done between four walls and at a desk. They suffered through 10+ years like that. To see kids out in the world, exuberant, learning while living….well, sometimes it’s too much to take. It’s like pulling back the curtain and finding out that the wizard of Oz is really just a salesman from Kansas.


42 Responses

  1. This is a wonderful quote. “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~~Seth Godin
    Thank you for passing it along.
    btw I think you are right. The critics are just unhappy with their life choices. There is still time for them to change though.

  2. amazing stuff and thinking!!! love it….
    thanks for the encouragement and insight!

  3. Sing it sister!

  4. Oh absolutely. For instance? Today? I am exhausted and we stayed home all day. The kids have so many projects going on and so much LEARNING going on and they want both hubby and I involved in it.

  5. Tiffani–please come live next door. Please??? Oh, and can you please put this post on your Child’s Play letterhead and mail it to some of my family, m’kay? Thanksss.

    How in the world anyone could read your blog or see your photos or know even the slightest damn thing about you and accuse you of taking the lazy path is beyond me. (And that goes for all the unschoolers I know, too, btw.)

    Yes, I really like much of what Seth Godin writes/says, and thanks so much for the linky love! Mwah!

  6. That always cracks me up, too. I wrote a post about it a while back. Not so much about the learning part of it, but the parenting.


    Now, grab some junior mints and read your comments on your laptop at the beach 🙂

  7. “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~~Seth Godin

    That is just all kinds of wonderful.

    As is your post.

  8. (Just for the record, there are people who homeschool in a very lazzez faire way. A good friend of mine, who unschooled in the mountains of Tennessee, felt another family nearby was negligent – their kids weren’t readers, and she worried about them.)

    If I unschooled, I’d work way less hard than you do, Tiff. But I like to read and play with numbers and think, and my son would be exposed to all that, so he’d be ok. I probably would be a lazy unschooler, but it would still be harder work than what I do now, with my son in school. ;^)

  9. Oh yes,
    I ♥love♥ you. 🙂

  10. (I can’t spell French words right, and I was too lazy to look that up. It looks wrong, though.)

  11. I think Mike covered it at “Bam”!

    I totally admire what you are doing!

  12. Fabulous! Thanks for putting it into words for those of us still running around with our kids…or just now getting to sit and breathe!

  13. Yes, yes, yes! Sometimes I think about the future ahead of me, and when I am tired and ready for a break, when I just want to run away and have some time to myself I think of how nice it would be to send my children away to school all day, how much easier it would be for *me*. My kids are young (my oldest is only 4) but I think about that for a few minutes, and then I think about all my years in the educational system and I know that’s not what I want for my children. I do think many of the critics are upset about their lives, their past–heck, I am! I am jealous of my own children! I was stuck sitting behind a desk all day bored with learning, slowly losing my love for learning as I went through more and more years of monotonous busy work, regurgitating the ideas of someone else in papers, taking tests that didn’t matter in the end. Doing it all for a grade so I could get into another class and get another grade so I could move on and get another grade.

    Yeah, definitely not what I want for my kids. And I am so glad to have discovered that I can (and have) regained my love of learning and it is a joy to take on projects and learn new things, the things I am interested in now (some of them things I was taught in school and don’t remember because I was not interested in them then, or not interested in the way they were taught to me).

  14. The comments here are fascinating to think about. Do “lazy unschoolers” still work harder than public school parents? I just think it depends on the parents.

    What I would like to know Tiff is if you consider yourself a radical unschooler or not and how you feel about that term. I have stopped using the unschooling term because I feel like the radical unschoolers have taken it hostage and changed it into what they want. I don’t agree with a lot of their tenets. Plus I think it sounds too negative.

    I prefer “delight directed learning”. Plus I can just say homeschooling with that phrase and stay safely in the comfort of people thinking that means I do school at home with my kids. Who keep me busy doing all sorts of interesting stuff instead of the worksheets that people think we’re doing.

  15. Yea…..ditto the “Bam!”

  16. Tiff, so you mean you’re not from Kansas? WTF?!

    • Oops! I slipped that “not” in there in my haste. You know. what I mean, oh Great Wizard. 🙂

  17. Fantastic!! I can’t imagine how anyone could read your blog and come away with Chris the Book Guy’s attitude.

  18. Chris the Book Guy is going to have to try and make his judgements stick somewhere else, cuz he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!

    Chris the Book Guy is a joyless man.

    Rock on unschooling Mama :0)

  19. I just wanted to add a thought about empathy.

    I was totally into your whole approach to life, your children and alternative ways of living and doing everything. However, I was horribly offended when I read this segment:

    8 hours! To myself!!!! What would I do?! For starters, whatever I wanted. Probably get a job. That would be the responsible thing to do. Or I could just clean the house all day. That would make more sense if I still had my house. Maybe I’d go back to school for a Masters Degree. Perhaps I’d work at a coffee shop and become a poetry reading hipster. Ice cream would be involved in some way, I know that much. Fudgy ice cream in a waffle cone, I’d eat one every day.

    I believe that you are completely negating that everyone’s life is different and there are people out there where not working is not an option: therefore, making unschooling as a permanent education choice unavailable. It would be great if you could acknowledge the fact that there are two sides to every coin and that there are plenty of individuals out there who have made their choice to put their children in public schools for whatever reasons that they had and are not neglecting their children. I do recognize that there are parents out there that do neglect their children and that is horrible, but traditional schooling does not equal neglect.

    I just think it would be great if you respect everyone and not make generalized statements like this.

    • to “somethoughts” I want to say that you really need to not take the blog as a personal attack. She was talking about what SHE would do if the kids were gone in school all day. She, I feel confident saying, was NOT saying that people who don’t unschool are neglecting their kids are anything like that.

      I do unschool my three and I realize that I am really lucky to be able to do it. I have several friends who would like to unschool (or homeschool for that matter) and simply can’t because they have to work. Unschooling isn’t right for everyone. Or available for everyone. The point is, it’s not the “easy way” that people sometimes say that it is. And doing it isn’t an attack on other types of parenting.

  20. I’m so impressed that your first reaction was to laugh at Chris’ comment. I’m still working through my defensiveness when it comes to opinions like that…I’m working on my thicker skin. 😉

    But it clearly is laughable that parents who decide to take full responsibility for their child’s education are doing it to make life easier for themselves.

    It would be a heck of a lot easier to send my child to school because then I could just blame the system for her poor performance, her lack of confidence, her non-existent interest in learning and her emotional issues.

    As it happens, within months of pulling her out of school her confidence improved, her interest in learning returned and her emotional issues disappeared.

    What I did was make life and learning a more joyful and meaningful experience for her and as a result, our whole family.

  21. I’m getting some family heat about sending dd to high school. Apparently, this home education lark was OK for small people, but when she hits 11 I am fully expected to pack her off to the nearest high school.

    So not happening. I’m going to pull out the Seth Godin quote at every opportunity.

    BUT – I do kind of see ‘somethoughts’ point of view, and I have been accused by my sister of making her feel horrible because she is sending her kids to school! The flip side is that I am judged every single day for what we do by complete strangers, so when the tables are turned, I can be a little bit too, er, vehement in my replies.

  22. I just came across your blog the other day… so glad I did! This is my first year of “homeschool” with an unschool style… I’m still figuring it all out. 🙂 This was a great post… so true!


  23. A good discussion on the merits of “time to oneself”. While I feel that “somethoughts” is overreactng a bit, they do have a relevant point in that your choice in unschooling your kids has been enabled by your husband agreeing to be the main source of income for your family. I wonder if that allows him as much time with your children as you have? I think your choices are wonderful and you have some damn lucky kids — but does your partner also reap the benefits?

  24. All the work involved in unschooling is probably why I haven’t gone that route! There are always people who are going to take extremes out there, your wise to roll with it and stick to your own guns. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, neither is unschooling so, whatever.
    I’m just curious how unschooling is “seen” or “credited” by colleges? Or does it depend on the state or college?
    Not sure about all that’s involve with collecting documentation for college since the boys are still 11 & 7 , but soon I will!
    You’re a better woman than I Tiff, you crack me up, hope you know I love ya 🙂

    Claudia (aka Cosi!)

  25. luv this post. as I have said before we are headed on a similar journey….5 weeks to go…..I will be showing this post to my entire family as they think I have lost my mind. I cannot get them to understand and I do not seem to really care either anymore….my kids are guiding me to what they want to learn, my 11 year old wants to learn about Hungarian history and Einsteins life my 6 year old ballet and my 16 year old has his own dreams of taking over this country and putting it in check

    you are truly inspiring and maybe we can meet in Cali as we will be there in July starting our journey. I can use some pointers from a pro

  26. oh my….bam! is right!

    I have been a contact of yours over a flickr and just finally clicked through to your blog, realizing that you do home/un school and i absolutely agree with you on everything you said. I have always educated my kids at home (I have 4 kids- ages 11-5) and we have slowly worked our way to mostly unschooling. you are so right about it being the hardest job ever. so inspiring, you are! great post!

  27. My comments on your post are summed up in three words: I love you.

    Expanding on this so as not to sound creepy, your confidence and thoughtfulness is inspiring. Additionally, many a blogger becomes defensive and hurls mud back when getting negative comments. I appreciate your perspective as it gives me ideas to think about as we continue on our journey.

  28. […] Unschooling::Not Just For Lazy People! […]

  29. Tiffani amazes me because she is one of the hardest workin’ mamas I know, yet she clearly is having more fun than almost anyone else. I am in awe of her. Rock on, Tiff!

  30. You are my freakin’ hero, Tiff. I so would have got my knickers in a knot over a comment like that. Kudos to you on keeping things light, and for writing this wonderful post in response. Unschoolers unite!

  31. I am the President of the “I Heart Tiffani” fan club.

  32. It truly is backward to suggest that unschooling parents are taking the easy way out. I’m a reluctant, default unschooling mom. 🙂 We came to unschooling after trying public school and traditional homeschooling.

    It would be much easier on ME if I just assigned textbook pages and worksheets. Someone else would have already done all the work for me and I wouldn’t have to deal with the anxiety of being “behind” in certain areas or the fear of being judged a failure by those around me.

    But it would be much harder on my son. He doesn’t learn that way. Unschooling works for him.

    I’m a big girl, so I will deal with my anxiety and “take one for the team.” As fun as unschooling can be, I sometimes feel like I am making a personal sacrifice. Not because I don’t have enough free time, but because not following a well-worn path makes me anxious! I’m working on it though!

  33. Danielle, I love this: I’m a big girl, so I will deal with my anxiety and “take one for the team.”

    I’m not unschooling, but I’ve faced this same thing. Parenting can sure stretch us!

  34. now, you know I follow your blog, I must have missed something somewhere – all the damn negativity! – its always amazing to me when someone needs to tell you what your doing wrong. Tiff, I read your blogs and I laugh, cry, smile, its all good. Never NEVER did I once think it was the easy way out. NEVER did I think it was because you were lazy, its the exact opposite. I know you – I know your passion and its your kids. It exhausts me reading about your exploits – I wish we had a Tiff school curriculum by me! That would be fun! Yes, I send my kids to school everyday, and guess what…I have hours to myself, and I enjoy them, and I sneak ice cream and other goodies, and I go back to school for myself. Its all good – we all live different lives, and I know you think no less of me because of this, hell, if you lived close I’d share my ice cream treats with you!

  35. […] Posted on May 20, 2010 by childsplay I got a lot of feedback on the post I wrote about unschooling not being just for lazy people. I opined about how much easier my day would be if I could ship my kids out for 8 hours and just sit […]

  36. […] Summer 2010, I’m holding a contest. I’ve been mulling it over ever since I declared that if my kids went to public school I’d do nothing but eat ice cream every day while they were t… And then after a poorly worded ending sentence, many of you wanted to know if I were going to pay […]

  37. That is my new favorite quote. Thank you for that.

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