Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Monday, June 30, 2014

Those Dirty, Stinkin', Smelly Rotten, No Good Parents and Their Radical Unschooling

It's funny. One day, when S was only 2 years old, I was texting a friend about school options. "I bet you will end up homeschooling her," she said. I was offended, "No! I would never do that to her! She would miss out too much on all the cool stuff, field trips, buying ice cream at school, recess." Yah. Yah. Little did I know what all she would gain from homeschooling, but I learned. And I changed my entire perspective. Now she still gets fieldtrips.  She can still buy ice cream at lunch at my brother's school. (Or we can have lunch at home and go out for ice cream afterward.) And she sometimes gets recesses that last all day long, including some with her CHEA friends. So I should have done my research first. I admit.

Well, not long after I toured the elementary school I always dreamed for my child to attend, and was severely let down, I did start my research. It took one book and I was hooked. THIS was for our family. I started learning about all the different styles of homeschooling. So many! All the forms seemed acceptable to me, something to research and consider, except that wretched unschooling practice! What were those parents thinking? Chaos!

I could imagine it now, a family that had several, dirty, smelly kids, doing nothing all day except watching television and running wild. And since unschooling usually goes hand in hand with parenting styles, they must "unparent," and therefore there children must be horid brats, drains on society. They should go to jail for letting their children's brains rot. They don't deserve to be called homeschoolers!

Being that I was thoroughly convinced boxed curricilulums were for us, I went that July to our local curriculum fair to see all the pre fabricated curriculums and choose which would work best. I was going to find which the top one there was, and only that would be good enough for my beautiful daughter!

I went and listened intently to each of the seminars. I chose, "Starting to Homeschool," "Homeschooling ABCs," and "Christian Homeschooling." I took my notes and I learned all I could. There are two things I took away with me that day that I will always remember. 1. Children need at least 8 hours of play a day, with a majority of it being outdoor. (A Charlotte Mason representative advocating for a curriculum that didn't take a long day, as well as advocating for lots of time in nature.) and 2. Unit Studies were a good choice, exactly what we wanted.

So as soon as I got home that day, I started working on unit studies to do with my 2 year old. THIS was going to be fun! We spent one week on each topic, including recycling, weather, animals, climates, community helpers, etc. Each week we read books, completed an activity, did an art project, something in the kitchen, watched a video that was related to the topic, that sort of thing. After awhile I started loosening up and letting her choose the topics that she wanted and how long we studied them. Her first choice was butterflies. And what a blast that was because she WANTED to learn it. Thus, began our adventure to unschooling.

Unit Studies worked for years. I know she gained knowledge from them and had lots of fun. I am not sure, however, in what way all the formal work at such an early age effected her. Should I have allowed for more free play and not made it so much about learning formally? Or was that play for her as well as learning? And what would she have learned instead, had she been allowed to just play? Ha. Maybe I am over exaggerating the amount of formal work we did.

By the time she was 4, I was determined to be a relaxed homeschooler and just write out my own curriculum that we would follow loosely. "This is not exactly like unschooling. Unschooling is for lazy Moms. We are just extremely relaxed. You could call it unschooling, but it is not radical for sure." I was very confident in my choice and couldn't quit patting myself on the back for doing all my research early on.

It didn't become a fight until she turned 5. I couldn't stand the thought of Samantha being "behind." I couldn't stand the thought that people might think badly of us-because we are homeschoolers-if we didn't teach formally and only on her grade level. It was enough to drive a woman mad. And I took out my madness on S, forcing her to read easy readers every day and repeat math facts as fast as she could. (Not quite the relaxed schooling I had in mind.) I had heard of homeschool burnout before, but never had I thought it would come so soon. "If this is what homeschooled is about, I don't want any part of it," I thought. (And I'm sure S thought that too!) Of course that is a guilty thought no homeschooling Mom wants to admit she has had, but I had it. So we took a break and soon I realized how much she was learning while I was recooping.

And then my mind turned to those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good unschoolers and their blissful outlook on life. How they looked at everything with a new light and their children taught themselves things without fighting. They learned about real life things and not superficial stuff. No strict schedules to adhere to. No standards to follow. No forcing them to learn. But they were still learning! They were...free! I was jealous of those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good parents and their radical unschooling life. And I'd had it with mine, so for the next 6 months I struggled to adopt that lifestyle, once and for all. I became one of those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good unschooling parents and I wouldn't have it any other way. (And neither would S!)

I recently posted this post featuring my last battle within. I hope anybody who visits my blog and is in need of unschooling encouragement, receives what they are needing. I know that in my times of doubt, it was good to get some reassurance from SOMEONE, even a stranger on the Internet, who has been there, done that, and won the war.

This is our story. What is yours?


  1. Seems like your journey to live the type of school life you want is going fairly well. I never realized you had so many doubts you always seemed so put together and like you knew exactly what you were doing to me. The only thing I do not agree with in this post is kids spending 8 hrs a day outside. As a child I would have gone mad (I was homeschooled) and my kids would go mad now spending that much of their day outdoors. I also think this is a child to child practice. Some kids just don't like the outdoors and where as my kids spend a lot of time outdoors it is nowhere near 8 hours. I don't think they would thrive being out for so long. They like the outdoors in doses =)

  2. Nope. It has been crazy figuring Samantha out and figuring out exactly what works for me and for her and making sure that it won't "ruin her life." But I think this year will be easier and much more enjoyable. (Although I don't have too many complaints about last year.)

    Oh no. Not 8 hours every day outside! I mean 8 hours of free play. But lots of freedom to go outside and explore. I never really thought about how much they learn through play until that day! Ever since then I have started noticing more and more!

  3. Oh yes definitely we do a lot of unstructured play. I think this year will be fun for you guys 6 is so much different than 5.