Unschooling

The world needs more signs like this.
Our philosophy of life and learning.

I didn’t start out unschooling my kids. Indeed, my daughter went through 4 years of public school, and my son went through Kindergarten.

Even when we stopped public school, we didn’t unschool at first. We used the COVA (Colorado Online Virtual Academy) curriculum for a year and a half, then we branched out into some of the 374598374598437 billion curriculum sets available, and then we slowly progressed into unschooling.

The better I learned and understood my kids learning styles (divergent, hands on, independent, relevant, visual, and kinesthetic, to throw out a few fancy schmancy terms) the more I saw them as really capable, confident learners. And the more I saw them in this light, the more I trusted them. The more I trusted them, the more I listened to them. And then the more they talked, and explored, and discovered!

Unschooling started out as an education choice and slowly evolved into a lifestyle. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What exactly is unschooling? For our family, it means that we don’t follow an external curriculum. No workbooks, no daily schedule of preorganized lessons, not any rote memorization. It relies on self direction, passion, free play and interest. It means that my kids are learning at their own developmental pace, not on a standardized, disconnected and impersonal timeline.

What unschooling is:
holistic
comprehensive
relevant
child led
passion driven
exploratory

What unschooling isn’t:
standardized
cookie cutter
linear (or, maybe it is, depending on the kid!)
negligent
unlearning
lazy

What our unschooling looks like:

Favorite Unschooling Moments
Links to my posts about what our everyday looks like.

Unschooling books:
Anything by John Holt
Other interesting reads

Our Unschooling Journey:

It started with Benjamin Franklin.
It continued into Science.
I started noticing that my way wasn’t everyone’s way.
I learned to lighten up.
I learned to listen to my kids.
My kids actually thanked me.
I learned the powerful difference between ‘having’ to learn something and ‘wanting’ to learn something.
Sometimes I thought deep thoughts.
I often get snarky at the NEA. Seriously. NCLB really kills me.
And sometimes I really sound crazy.
And then other times I get to celebrate a milestone, or a great day!

(*note: sometimes, I refer to what we do as ‘unschooling’, and sometimes ‘homeschooling’. There is a difference, but at the same time I hate living by labels. So, I personally use them interchangeably, even though I probably shouldn’t. But everyone understands the gist of homeschooling while not everyone picks up on what unschooling is…so in the interest of brevity I just stick with the term that is most known.)

Unschooling quotes.
More unschooling quotes.

What is your own experience!
Do you have anything to add to the ‘Is’ and ‘Isn’t’ unschooling list?
Do you have an unschooling blog with your own daily happenings?
Do you have a favorite unschooling article?
Do you have any questions?
Do you want to leave abusive comments? Well, don’t. I’ll just erase them.

But for everyone else, feel free to comment and leave links or replies!

23 Responses

    • My husband and I are going to unshool or daughter. She is 8 months now but we were looking for groups to join so we can talk to parents. we love the idea and just want other people support. do you know of any groups in the Colorado Springs area?

  1. Cool! I do online school now. This sounds more fun though

  2. Unschooling looks like so much more fun, but I’m afraid. I will come back to read more and maybe ask questions ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi! Found you in Heather’s comments.

    We’re unschoolers! My two boys and me, for the past 9 years. I love, love, love our lives. My blog’s not an unschooling blog, because it’s more about me and my thoughts and inner processing, along with my youngest son’s fart jokes.

    Unschooling IS a lot more fun, gnubee! It’s an awesome way of life.

  4. I just found your blog while searching WordPress. I have just recently took an interest to unschooling. I am sort of stuck though on the fact that I’m not sure if I could be 100% committed, and that’s what it would take. I plan to study this further and I’m glad to have found your blog ๐Ÿ™‚ Everything I have read so far though is so interesting to me, and I caught on and understood the concept right away. I currently use a very mixed curriculum style. I’ve tried the complete packages, and about half of the 374598374598437 billion curriculum sets that you mentioned, lol. Through it all, I think my kids have learned MORE of the things they WANTED to learn, than the things I tried to MAKE them learn. Amazing how that works. I am going to bookmark your blog to come back when I have some extra reading time ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thank you.
    I am a new ‘homeschooler’ who seems to have gravitated towards unschooling. It just seems to fit us in a natural way that textbooks and worksheets do not.
    I often feel guilty that I’m not “making them learn”. But really, they are learning. They are learning about all that they are interested in. I keep tons of books about every subject available. When they ask question, we discuss them, which leads to more questions, etc.
    It works. It really does.

  6. I have been afraid that if I let go totally, my boys will spend their days in front of the computer and TV all day – except when they go to some of their chosen activities. They already spend a lot of time doing that, but they wouldn’t do anything else, if I gave them full control…

    • I have let them do this at times for as much as a month at a time before, so why would they choose to do other things on their own?

    • Hi Cindy! I’m an Unschooler. I’m 14 but I really lead my family in this direction and have a serious interest in Alternative Education, which I’ve been pursuing for the past 2 years.

      Many people share the same anxieties that you do and have a hard time “letting go” for the same reasons. One thing that has been learned is that your children may very well do this for months on end at first… let’s face it, gaming is addictive for many kids. But it also also can be an important healing process for you and your family.

      When you really feel TRUST, love & respect for your kids, deep in your heart, they will eventually come around and realize that gaming is not making them feel happy & healthy in some way and will pursue other things. Getting to that point is a process, and there is plenty of support out there to help you with your paradigm shift. Joining http://familyrun.ning.com/ is one of the best ideas ever for this.

      Also, video games and computers really do have their own merit (as well as having a passion for them dose) and your children may have some real need, one that you could never understand but you can support, to do this thing that they wan to do. And they need to be respected for it, or they will continue to rebel, regardless of how it makes them feel.

      Who knows, maybe they’ll grow up to program computers and design video games? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Most importantly though is the Trust that let’s the freedom, respect and responsibility flow naturally.

      What if you’re child really desired and drew happiness from a life in the fast food industry or from a life of homesteading, meditating and hermitage. Would you really discourage his present happiness and fulfillment just because you and the rest of the world don’t understand or appreciate it? Just because it isn’t generally respected? Just because you want him to explore all the opportunities first?

      Of course they may choose to follow a path you would choose. Whether that includes church, college, travel, art, scholastic pursuits, a high paying job, a job based on their interests, a life in the suburbs, marriage, a life of super-ecoISM, ect.

      Children (and people who weren’t damaged during childhood) are wonderfully capable of handling life in the best way possible FOR THEM. Nurture them, support them, honor them… and then get out of the way. They will appreciate you for it.

      โ€œWe all want whatโ€™s best for our kids, and itโ€™s so hard to quell the urge to micromanage them instead of trusting them. If you want certainty, and preparation for college is your ultimate goal, then unschooling is probably not for you. However, if your ultimate goal is simply for your children to be happy throughout their lives, and you trust them to make choices that are likely to bring them happiness and fulfillment, then unschooling is a better fit.
      Traditional schooling methods are like building something by stacking blocks. Itโ€™s tedious, and the end result may have a somewhat plain, ordinary appearance, but itโ€™s highly predictable. Generally speaking, everything stacks and fits together according to a predetermined layout, on a fixed, orderly schedule.
      Unschooling, on the other hand, is more like watching a crystal grow in a supersaturated solution. Each newly learned concept becomes a nucleus for new thoughts, questions, and discoveries. Progress may seem slow at first, but the growth rate is exponential. Thereโ€™s no way to predict the final shape. However, you can be confident that it will be beautiful!โ€
      -Stephen Rogers

      Unschooling takes a paradigm shift, one that you can experience and that will leave you and your family better off.

      Good luck on your Unschooling journey!!!

      (p.s.- sometimes people get offended by what I say. or they think “well that was wishful thinking”. or crave a clear list of what to do in order to support their children’s free learning… minus the video games. I just have this to say… there is no magic formula. But support always helps. Again, visit http://familyrun.ning.com/ at least for a few minutes. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  7. i think it is great, how you are raising and teaching your children. after highschool…i went i traveled the far easr, on to europe, back to asia….for 9 years.
    this was instead pf college…
    i learned so many life lessons.
    keep it going.
    samantha

  8. poignant and funny entry about you, your fam. and unschooling! you echo and articulate so many of my thoughts. for example, it is a lifestyle isn’t it? i say that all the time when i try to explain. i too, do not like labels and choose my words based on who i am speaking to about it. i do try to talk about it as life learning, learning from life, learner-directed. i say that at school there is a curriculum, we are just participating in a different kind of curriculum- LIFE. currently though, i am trying to come to terms with appeasing my husband’s concerns about some ‘gaps’ in their learning with my feelings on the matter. so, while it’s winter and cold outside, we have inserted workbooks covering ‘the basics’ (especially in math, reading and writing) into most of our days. i feel we can have it all in a sense. they still have plenty of time to delve into their interests and passions. i see this shifting again though as the warmer weather approaches! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hey fellow unschooler!
    I just found your blog from Sara Janssens’ blog I LOVE her blog and I think I will LOVE yours too! I so appreciate people like you who journal their lives with their families. I have tried to blog but just haven’t felt inspired.
    We unschool our 3 boys and are loving it! We did send them to PS as well, but have slowly evolved into unschooling. My boys’ ages are: 12, 10 and 9. We are all learning Japanese right now because we plan to be moving there this summer through my husband’s job!

    Well thanks so much for your blog, it’s very inspiring and I agree with ALL of it. Love the quotes… think I’ll use them too!
    Jess

  10. Love it! Somthing I read when my firstborn was an infant made me sure I’d homeschool. And before my boys were preschool age, I stumbled upon John Holt. How Children Learn and then many more of his books later, there is nothing but child led learning for us.

  11. Oh, the first unschooling quotes link is no longer available.

  12. We’ve just begun unschooling and are in the midst of transition. This transition is HARD just like any other, but whew! We’ve done two years of public school and I really don’t have a desire to go back. Ultimately, however, it’s my son’s decision. I noticed in this post that you’re in Colorado. Don’t know what part and it’s not really any of business, but I’m down in Colorado Springs and am blessed to have found such a large homeschooling/unschooling community already here. We’re called CHUMS and it’s helping us move in the direction we want to go, but the unschoolers in the group are far less than the homeschoolers. I fantasize about a HUGE state-wide unschooling meetup!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Side note: I’m fairly new to this whole blogging thing and I can’t figure out how to add your blog to my subscriptions. Do you know how? I use Google reader if that helps… Thanks!
    ~Shannon

  13. […] Looky! I put up a brand spankin’ shiny new TAB on the top of my page. ‘Home’ and ‘About’ have procreated and made ‘Unschooling‘! […]

  14. I just learned about unschooling and and trying to find more info on how I go about doing it. Do I just inform his current school that I am taking him out and putting him in unschool or do I have to tell anyone? My son has always been a non conformist and although he has always gotten along with kids at school he has never understood why he must learn the things and they way the make him in PS. I even tried a public home school program but he is still learning stuff he and I think are pretty much useless for real life. Anyway sorry for rambling but I am glad there are sites like yours to help. Thanks

    • Beth, I wouldn’t mention “unschooling” to anyone at his school! Unschooling is a type of homeschooling, so you’d need to follow the laws about homeschooling for your state. You can find lots of links to specific info here: http://sandradodd.com/world
      You can check with local unschoolers where you are to see how they handle legal requirements. It is up to you, though, to know and understand the laws where you are. HSLDA isn’t the best resource, because they too often state certain things are requirements for a certain state, when they’re not, but other unschoolers should be able to point you to other resources where you are.
      Good luck!

  15. We are planning on doing the unschooling this year with our kids. 1st year…yay! I have found someone here in FL to log attendance with, but we will be moving to CO soon. Can you point me in the right direction?

  16. We are unschooling here in Nevada, but will be moving to Colorado soon. How to do you begin in Colorado? Nevada is very relaxed. I read about required testing on odd years… How do we prepare? Thank you for your time. Loved your page!

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