I Can’t Justify School

When I was trying to decide if we should homeschool, I read everything I could. I wanted to know how hard it would be, how much time it would take, what I needed to teach them, what the reporting requirements were. I always remember one thing that stood out. I read somewhere that for a child in prep homeschooling only took 30mins, 3-4 days a week. I have no idea if this is true or not because as you know we don’t ‘homeschool’ now, we unschool, so there is no formal teaching. I assume it’s different for every child and family but nevertheless this comment got me thinking. Could education take so little time? We’re used to the thought of education taking 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 13 years. Could a lot of that time really be better spent?

What if I told you that it could?

I Can't Justify School

What if I told you that children can continue to spend their childhoods in free unstructured play like they did before they were ‘school aged’?

What if I told you that kids could be left to develop at their own pace?

What if I told you that your time with your children wasn’t limited? You don’t only have them fully until they’re five. You can be with them day in and day out for as long as you both choose, giving you the chance to really really know your children.

I Can't Justify School

What if I told you that slow pace of life you crave is achievable?

What if I told you you don’t need to be a teacher, or have all the answers?

What if I told you that your children could follow their own interests instead of a standardised curriculum?

What if I told you that you could spend your days in whatever way YOU wanted? You could travel whenever you liked, and take holidays any time.

What if I told you you could do ALL of this while still giving your child a fabulous education. Could you justify sending them to school? For me, the answer was no.

Now that I’m living it I know that you CAN do all of that. You can. My children’s childhood is so important to me. I want them to have freedom and time to grow in their own way. When I learnt that education could take so little time, could happen so easily, and could evolve naturally through life, I wondered if I could send my children to school without giving it a try. Now that I’m living it, it’s even better than I imagined. Now that I see what we would be giving up, I can’t justify school at all.

I Can't Justify School

48 thoughts on “I Can’t Justify School

  1. Thank you for this. My daughter would be going to school this week if we’d not met some inspiring people and blogs who introduced us to home education. We’re so happy she’s not.

  2. Hi Sara, I love your blog, totally irrelevant to your article but which baby carrier do you use? It looks comfy, thanks for sharing your unschooling journey!

  3. Hi Sara, I liked your blog about homschooling. I have heard about it before & how some parents are prefering this way of teaching other than sending their kids to school. In my ooenion, if parents have the time & patience plus the will why not choose this method πŸ˜‰

  4. Well written, I feel just the same! My husband is a shift worker and if the children went to school they would very rarely see him. They would be so limited in what they could do, who they would spend time with and after 15 years of homeschooling I just can’t imagine separating our family all day every day.

  5. Yes! And as a former public school teacher in the States, I can tell you that most of the day is not spent on instruction. There is SO much wasted time in the school day. Busy work so teachers can work with small groups or attend meetings. Re-teaching because half the class didn’t understand something from the day before. Lining up to go down the hallway. Behavior issues. It’s maddening.

    Most teachers try to minimize distractions and focus on learning opportunities, but it’s difficult. I don’t know about schools in other countries, but here there is this idea of ‘seat time’ meaning kids should attend school for a certain number of days/hours. It’s about TIME spent inside the classroom, and not enough about the actual outcomes of that time.

  6. I love your blog and I love your post, I agree 100% with all of this. It’s so awesome to be able to do anything we want on any day of the week. When I was a kid (and went to public school in the states), my sister and I “played hookie” (skipped school) 1 day/year to go down hill skiing with my grandfather. We couldn’t tell the school we were not actually sick, because it would have been an unexcused absence. I can’t imagine my girls not being able to see their grandparents any day they wanted to. They see their grandmother often, and just went apple picking with her today. I love unschooling and would never change it for the world. Thank you for such a beautiful blog πŸ™‚

  7. I would make one big correction. Education *does* take up all of childhood. What you meant to say is, “*schooling* doesn’t have to take up all of childhood.”

    Kids are always learning and self-educating. It’s important that we use these terms correctly.

  8. We unschooled for 10 years, but for the last 6 years, we’ve been Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. The answer for us is YES! Covering 21 subjects in a 4-day week, we were, at the elementary age, doing lessons for an hour a day. Now they are middle and high school kids.

    The middle school child does all her lessons (same 21 subjects per week) in about 3.5 hours, and the high schooler does hers in about 6. Even so, that’s better than the number of hours spent in public school *plus* X number of hours on homework.

  9. Love all your comments and thoughts. Only wish I had found unschooling earlier for my 10 year old ( my son only completed half day pre-school and has no conception of public school. He is 6 years old). I do worry a lot about what happens as they get older. The pressure from other family members can be quiite overwhelming BUT to see, especially my public schooled daughter, so happy, unstressed and eager to learn, it is definitely worth it!

  10. My daughter is in year four. Now that I’ve taken her out of school it takes until about lunch time ( from 9.30 ish until 12) to get through a formal lot of learning. We are moving away from this towards more natural learning and living. Still, my daughter tells me that she “does the same amount of work at home” as she did in school, but at home she always learns from her work, where at school she only learned stuff sometimes. I am a teacher and this is making the journey towards natural learning slower. Parents who aren’t teachers might have an easier time in leaving the ‘school’ out of it! Thank for your post. So true. Even following a formal model of education, children who school at home have more time for childhood.

  11. My kids are 9, 7 and 1 and we are just starting out homeschool journey and my heart is aching that I’ve lost so much time already with the oldest two. I keep telling myself that I can’t go back, only forward and that when you know better you do better, but there are moments that I can’t help but be filled with regret for not doing this sooner. I’m so grateful for those of you who found it sooner!

  12. A beautiful thought piece. The closer by son gets to school age the more I’m doubting the merits of formal schooling. I don’t know if you’d be willing to talk about this, but I wonder how you have overcome any financial challenges of unschooling you may have faced? I’m a solo mum and can’t see a way I could afford to home or un-school (as I wouldn’t be able to work) but perhaps I need to think outside the square? I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have on making unschooling financially feasible. Thank you

    • I am a single mom who works full-time and homeschools. I worked third shift while the kids were in elementary and middle school so that I could be with them during the day. And if I needed to catch up on sleep on a weekday we would just do a couple lessons on Saturday morning or after church on Sunday. I am back on days with one in college and one in highschool. My teens do most of their classes online or at our local CC so I don’t have to do too much right now. The great thing with homeschooling/unschooling is you can do it at any time. Of course, I was able to drop my kids off at my sister’s house to sleep while I worked so I wasn’t paying a sitter. Maybe open a home daycare?

  13. Hi Sara, Thankyou for your post. As usual it inspires me and sends my thoughts pinging! Sometimes I am sweeping and I want to peek in your window and see what it looks like at your place (I know, sorry, a bit creepy). Can you possibly comment on how you get your everyday work done and whether this leaves the children ‘bored’ or other, how to you ‘keep it together’ or do you not always and you find that is okay? Would you also please share a sentence on social networking? I have read a lot but just wondering how your girls go without a gaggle around them. if no time, i understand! thank you again, sarah.

    • Hi Sarah!
      Nope, I don’t always get everything done, LOL. But that’s ok, we’re too busy having fun.
      I just do things when they’re around. They are free to help me or find something else to do. Boredom is fine with me, it’s where creativity starts!

  14. I’ve been homeschooling for six years and I couldn’t have said it better! Lovely article! I just had a friend in another part of the US ask, yet once again, when I am going to send my children to school. I don’t need to justify our decision but it’s working great, so why change it? I guess she feels we need to fit her rules. Meanwhile, I wish she would stop complaining about the schools her children are in and the waste of time and money getting them services they need πŸ™ I needed this article, today…thank yoU!

  15. Awesome blog. Unschooling entices me but scared me also. I want to make sure we’re covering all the basics. I’m good with a loose curriculum, or even a previously prepared one (currently- Easy Peasy), but I worry without some structure, I’ll slack off. How do you do it?

  16. I have just started unschooling my 8yr old due to anxiety issues at school. This is only day 3 so i know she has to have some time to unwind but so far she has been complaining constantly! “What am i supposed to do?” “I’m so bored” “i have nothing to do” “i hate playing, it’s so boring!” I am so worried I have done the wrong thing by taking her out of school. I was so sure of my decision before hand. It probably doesn’t help i have another 2 kids at school as well. I would love to homeschool them all but my husband is skeptical and my oldest 2 bicker and argue constantly. They always have. Anyway, could anyone shed some light on how long it will take for her to have any self motivation to do anything or has she been at school too long for any hope of that?? Thanks

    • You haven’t done the wrong thing β™₯ It takes a while to remember what you liked to do before people started telling you what you should be doing all the time!!
      They say to allow AT LEAST one month for every year they’ve been in school to ‘deschool’. In that time don’t do anything that looks like school! Let her be free to do what she likes. She’ll eventually think of something πŸ™‚ In the meantime I would just empathise… ‘it’s hard to know what to do sometimes isn’t it?’, ‘it sounds like you’re really having trouble’, ‘you can’t think of anything to do right now and that’s frustrating for you’, etc.

  17. I have been following your fb page for a while and a lot of your articles really resonate with me. I want a lot of the things that you ascribe to unschooling. It mostly sounds great except for the little catch that I am a single mum and I work as an RN. Sadly, I can’t afford to stay home and have the time with my little ones that would be required to unschool them. Do you have any advice for people in my situation?

  18. Thank you for this. I am so grateful that we discovered the world of self-directed education before my kids became β€œschool age.” They are now 4 and 2 and we have one on the way, and while I often feel bombarded by others who feel we aren’t doing the right thing and it causes me lots of self doubt, I know deep down that this is best for them and best for our family.

  19. I couldn’t agree more with the idea that there should be so much more to childhood than being away from their loved ones for over 6 hours a day, being lectured at and retaining only a portion of that. I am of the opinion, however, that unless your child is incredibly self-motivated, they should have some structure (provided by the parent) to their learning if you want them to have the basics that would open the possibilities to them for wherever they chose to later on.

    Having said that, I don’t think the structure always needs to be intense. In fact, we spend only about 2.5 hours (on average) each day on our structured work – which might be sit-down-at-the-table work, hands-on crafts and projects, unit studies, lapbooks, online games/documentaries/classes, or co-op classes. Where your child might not motivate themselves to regularly scaffold their learning in a particular subject area, you can step in and encourage and guide them to do so so that the basics are covered.

    You can confer with your child, allow them input into the curriculum choices, make regular trips to the library with them, encourage learning experiences and meaningful discussions regularly. I think there can be a balance between allowing your child lots and lots of input and self-direction to their learning experiences, while also being a guide, facilitator, and an organizer of their learning where needed.

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