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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Two Common Unschooling Misconceptions

August. August. Not only the time of year where most children go back to school, but also the time of year where we are asked a lot of questions and we hear a lot of comments about the way we school. Since this is my place of venting, I figure I will do that...Right Now.

There are two extremely common misconceptions about unschooling. I know them all too well because for the longest time I bought into these misconceptions. They irk me now, however, to hear the constant questioning and bashing. I never had the nerve to question or bash anybody specifically though, but some people are ballsy. I don't know why it bothers me really. It shouldn't. Who do I owe answers to but God? With that said, before I begin my ranting and raving, here are those two things:

Un-Schedules: I hear a lot about how "unschoolers don't adhere to schedules." And while it may be true that  most unschoolers do not adhere to a STRICT schedule, most unschoolers do have a daily rhythm. (There will always be those that make us look bad. You've got a few bad apples in every group.)

I would have to try very hard to keep S off somewhat of a schedule. Children naturally lean toward schedules. Even without a bedtime, S goes to be between 11 and midnight every night. (Her body is on a night owl schedule, and that is okay. She gets to sleep in later than most kids do in the morning.) She eats around the same times every day. It really depends if we are out doing something or if we are really engrossed in a project, but for the most part, she does eat around the same times every day, simple because those are the times her body is hungry. Schedules, are naturally occurring. And as an unschooler, I am all about naturally occurring. So while we, as unschoolers, do not adhere to a strict, "Must be here at 2. Then here at 3. Then here at 5" schedule, we will always have a rhythm. So common misconception Part 1 of 2, explained. Unschoolers have rhythms, not schedules.

To add, I simply would like to ask, for those people who think that this is bad, why? Because our schedules may very 30 minutes or an hour every day? Because we allow time to sleep in if you went to bed later than usual or we allow extra time before starting dinner to finish building that super cool model of the Huntsville Space Station? Because we don't over schedule and make sure every minute is so full there is no room to budge? I don't understand. Please enlighten me.

Part 2 of 2. I also hear a lot of questions about, "How can unschool be good for a child when later on in life they will experience deadlines?" *Looks Around* Are you talking to me? Again, deadlines are a naturally occurring part of life, I understand. I really do. Children must know how to meet deadlines. If they work for a corporate office their boss will not stand for reports to pile up and deadlines to constantly be missed. If you work for yourself, well, your business won't last long if you can't make sure things are done in a timely manner. And by goodness if you are a stay at home Mom you have GOT to know how to set deadlines for yourself, because with nobody there to tell you the dishes need to be done my 8 o'clock at night, things will start piling up quick! But again, I would have to try really hard to keep S away from deadlines altogether. We have simple deadlines for things like turning in our library books. Hate to see those fines accruing because when you check out 50 to 100 books at a time like us, 20 cents per book per day really adds up! We have deadlines for projects at the Geography Fair and the Science Fair. If we didn't get it done, we couldn't participate. What a pity that would be! S would soon learn her lesson that being left out is not work it. We constantly experience "time deadlines" when we have to be at gym at a certain time or a a CHEA event.

Deadlines, Deadlines Everywhere! We must be modelers of the behaviors we expect. We must guide them while they are young, but also teach them to work at their own steady rhythm. It take some people longer than others. How much I must stress that everyone is different. I am naturally a fast person. If you have a task you need done by Monday, give it to me. I can't stand having things to do on my plate, so I will get it done the minute it is assigned, and thoroughly. (The Center loves me for this quality.) However, my Husband is slower. He needs time to mull things over. Even worse, he procrastinates. And *gasp* he even went to school where deadlines and due dates are running rampant! But the job gets done because pressure causes him to act, and to act well. Temperament. That is the key. We must learn to work under all conditions and with our own temperament. What better way to learn how we work best than to have full control of the situation and experiment? So now that I have rambled and ranted a bit, Part 2 of 2 explained. Deadlines DO exist, even in an unschool environment.

Every Day Living: Some people, a lot of people, seem to think that unschooling is a random collection of "every day living," mostly a collection of doing chores with intermittent playing and arguing, just making it through life barely, picking up random facts and tossing them to kids. And waiting for exciting things to come our way. "Tra-La-La-La-La Sha'll we sit and watch the news and wait to see if something interesting comes on that we can discuss? Then I can throw some random facts your way and hope that you care." Nope. Definitely not. Unschool life is something explainable. We don't sit and pick our noses while other kids sit in their desks at school picking theirs. We make it a point to live our lives richly. We make it a point to explore outside, because seeing a bug in a textbook does not compare to viewing a colony of carpenter ants through a magnifying glass. Or finding animal skeletons and taking them home to add to our Nature Collection. (Don't worry. We wash our hands with Colloidal Silver afterward. Ha Ha Ha.) We make it a point to read books with rich text, vocabulary, visual details, Historical backgrounds, and the like. How better to learn about History than to read the real diary or autobiography of someone? How better to learn to read than to read REAL books, to read more than, "The cat sat by the bat." S despised those Level 1 readers, as she should. She said, "Nobody talks like that. I'm not stupid." She skipped them altogether and now she is reading for real, despite the fact we did not actively practice level by level. We make it a point to do math daily, the way we would use it in real life, not a book. We make it a point to have something that is important to ourselves. For S, right now, that is sewing. For me, right now, it is gardening. For DH, right now, it is his newly build desktop that he tinkers with daily. And we share in each others interests. It opens our eyes to new things. And then, this is what gets people's goats. We DO make it a point to live randomly. Yes. We make it a point to live a life exposed to different people and many different things. We make it a point to connect things to other things, like rock climbing to physics and perspective, to give things a real world view and not isolate facts. We hope that maybe it'll spark an interest. Or maybe she will simply remember it because it meant something to her at the time. If not, well...some things just slip through the cracks. ;)

So my question, how is this hands off? How are we leaving our children on their own to explore when we are doing all we can to introduce new things and to guide them so that as they grow older they can guide themselves and just share in the victories with us? They become even more of a leader and we the followers, being there to mentor them when they want it. For those of you who accuse me of forcing my child to make her own way in this world, I ask you, how? As one PS Mom once said, "What's the problem? Sounds like she is more involved in her child's education that most of us parents these days, including myself. Even if the way she does it isn't conventional." I liked what I heard. Yes, I did. Because for once, somebody who didn't unschool, still understood. She understood that unschool IS in fact an education. It isn't sitting down and letting life pass us by and hoping that our children will soak up enough to live in this world.

Speaking of, I was talking to SIL the other day about how easy unschooling sounds, how simply simple it sounds. It sounds like you just have to kick your feet back and watch. While children will soak up a majority of the basics with little to no assistance, we still need to expose them to things and help them to follow their interest while they are young. You are never too young to have an interest. If, at 1, your child shows a love for music, why not expose them to different types of music and instruments? If your child, at 2, your child shows an interest in animals, why not check out books with all types of pictures and information? Why not go outside and explore? Go to a wildlife preservation? Why not do all you can so that a child views this as "everyday life?"

My LAST question, how is unschooling random or not true learning because it doesn't follow the same time table as the school systems? Because S learned a lot about life science last year while caring for chickens, dogs, seeing kittens born and caring for them, watching babies grow, seeing life cycles, learning about the Human Body, etc. instead of learning it is 5th grade like standards state, why does that make it any less credible. Why is it any less credible that my child learned about money last year, at 5, while sorting it, counting it, starting her own business, spending it, etc. instead of in 2nd grade like standards state? WHY, is it any less credible that my daughter is learning about the Victorian era and the Civil War era this year instead of learning what the each US symbol stands for, like most children her age. Why is it any less credible because she learned in a way that wasn't carefully planned and executed on worksheets or other non-real life instances? Who said that children needed to learn those things at those ages in that way that makes people think you can't have education without it? How have we come to view the world in such a way that we think children will never learn unless they are forced?

Lastly, here is a quote I came across tonight that was affirming:

"An education can not be boxed and sold, despite what others claim."


  1. Did you ever know that you're my hero,
    and everything I would like to be?
    I can fly higher than an eagle,
    'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

    Haha jk but on the real! Love! This is so true. As the sil you speak of, it really is harder than it looks. I always tell you just relax don't stress she will get it. What did you have to tell me the other day? The same thing. It looks easy but in reality it is a lot of work and planning. There will always be those jerks that are rude but you know it works and you are doing what is best for S. :)

  2. lol Girl, you are funny.

    Glad you like it. I have had writer's block all week and was sort of worried it might be all jumbled, but I wanted to get all my thoughts in.

    I know! We will just have to keep reminding each other and A is only 2! I honestly think it is more work in some ways than using a boxed curriculum. It is also harder in some ways than when I used to write my own lesson plans. It was harder before trying to get her to do them at certain times. But at the same time, it was easy because I never worried about what else she was learning. I just said, "Well, we did X, Y, and Z today. She learned enough." But this is different. We have to think outside the box and be spontaneous. It has really done a lot for her. And Me! I never could have let go like this in the beginning. I'm so surprised you have had a relatively easy time de-schooling yourself, but I understand why. Your bad experiences create better experiences for A.