If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

I recently read this article titled ‘If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Does In School All Day’. When I saw the title I wondered to myself if there was something I was missing? Were there amazing things about school I was unaware of? I was pretty sure the answer was no, but being a person who always likes to challenge myself and be informed about all the options, I clicked.

And I was shocked.

Not in a good way.

I didn’t find anything I was unaware of. Not even close. But what shocked me, was that this was supposed to be ‘amazing’! If this is the positive spin on school, then I am truly sad about that. This is what children learn? And we’re supposed to be amazed and grateful for that?

“She follows the appropriate protocol of her classroom routines”

“When she completes her seat-work, she follows the directions given for what to do next.”

“She knows where she should be, whether in her chair, at a table or on the floor. She is aware of the classroom schedule and it’s accompanying expectations. She is encouraged to think about making smooth transitions and to anticipate needs and expectations for what lies ahead.”

Amazing? No. Dull, boring and robotic? Yes.

Is this the best we can hope for? Are these even things we WANT our children learning? Most of them were things I’d try to avoid in favour of self motivation and creativity.

I can’t help thinking that if people actually knew what children were like without school, then there is no way they would settle for this.

So please, allow me to tell you about the amazing little people that we are lucky enough to know, and what they are truly like without institutionalised ‘education’.

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

Your child is a learner. They were born that way! You witnessed it from ages 0-5 when they learnt everything they needed to know. From how to smile and roll over, to how to walk and talk. You couldn’t stop their learning if you tried. It didn’t need to be controlled or coerced back then, and it doesn’t need to be now either. Your child has an amazing ability to learn everything they need to know for their life, if only you would give them the freedom to follow their curiosity.

Your child is a mathematician. Your child won’t “actively participate in math activities for more than 60 minutes every day”. She probably won’t do workbooks either. Instead, math will be seamlessly integrated into her life, the way it is for everyone else. Math is everywhere. All around us. It cannot be captured in a worksheet. To a child who hasn’t been subjected to a maths class, math is beautiful and exciting and interesting in a way that is hard to imagine for someone who has been schooled.

Your child is an author. They probably don’t “memorize word patterns and work on spelling and grammar” too often. They dream up stories from their imagination about anything and everything. They write them down using whatever colour pen, pencil, or texta they want. You might find them writing while sitting at a table, up a tree, on the trampoline, in bed, or sprawled on the grass. Wherever and whenever inspiration strikes! Having never been evaluated or compared to other people, they feel confident and happy with how they express themselves on paper.

Your child teaches themselves to read. You probably find this VERY hard to believe. But then you see it. Your child is surrounded by literacy, you have time to read to them often, they ask many questions and you’re there to answer them. And then one day, they’re reading. Amazingly, they have worked it all out themselves without any ‘program’ or ‘lessons’. Your child is a capable learner, ready to teach herself anything, even how to read, if given the time and space.

Your child is a scientist. Your child may not follow instructions in a book to test hypotheses that were never posed by them, to find answers that other people already know. But they are out there in the world, head full of questions and eyes full of wonder. They are truly experimenting and seeking answers to their own questions, every day.

Your child is free. Your child doesn’t “make choices on how to spend her free time both in the classroom and outside during the limited free time the class may have or earn through positive behavioural choices” (yeah, that was literally one of the AMAZING things kids do in school. I know right? You can’t make this stuff up). No. All of your child’s time is their own. They make the choices about when and what they do, and they don’t need to earn that right by meeting adult expectations. They learn how to spend their time by being in charge of their time! They follow their passions and interests and consequently are not easily ‘bored’ or looking to others to entertain them.

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

Your child is capable. They don’t need every moment of their lives micromanaged. From what to wear, when to eat, when to sleep, how to think, who to be friends with. They make their own choices. They contribute willingly to family life because they want to. They join in with all the aspects of daily life, instead of being isolated from it, gaining valuable skills they will actually use in the future. They can likely cook, clean, handle money, build, and many other useful things from a young age.

Your child knows who they are. Without the constant demands and instruction from adults, your child grows to truly know themselves. They know what they like and don’t like and they aren’t afraid to let you know! They’re unlikely to be influenced by what’s ‘cool’ and what’s not. They’ve been taught to trust and respect themselves, and that they are in control of their own lives. They feel confident and capable.

Your child is creative. They have an amazing imagination and their head is constantly full of ideas! They are never at a loss for things to do and often have many projects on the go at once. They are inspired in a way that is often deemed ‘unusual’ for schooled children! Their energy is contagious.

“We didn’t have a name for it, but my friends and I often noticed that our kids–– who didn’t go to school–– had this quality of attention as they moved through the world.  They were in a different mental state from schooled kids.  You could see it.  They noticed everything.  They remembered everything.  Their minds were open, clear, alert, at ease.  If something caught their interest, they were on it with laser focus.  When we encountered adults who were used to dealing with groups of school kids — at museums, aquariums, archaeological sites, animal-tracking hikes, beach clean-ups, citizen science projects –– they would say they had never seen kids like this before.  They would be sort of dumbfounded by it.  They expected all children to be wound up, tuned out, half-frantic with suppressed energy, like a dog who’s been locked in the house all day.” –Carol Black

Your child is motivated. Your child hasn’t been taught that learning is ‘work’. They don’t need to be motivated by rewards and punishments. Learning is a part of life and they love it as much as they did when they were babies. No one killed their love of learning at age 5, so they continue to be motivated to learn about and discover the world.

Your child has friends. Friends of all different ages and stages! They weren’t determined by seat allocation but by connection and shared interests. Authentic and real friendships based on mutual respect and enjoyment.

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

Your child plays. Play is not reduced to 30 minutes at lunch time or in the evening. They play all day and every day, and they don’t distinguish between play and ‘learning’. In a world where children’s play is restricted, to their detriment, your child is free to follow their instincts and develop how they were designed to.

Your child is content. Instead of feeling the stress and pressure that comes with mainstream schooling, they are unrushed and unburdened.

Your child is connected. Connected to you, to their siblings, to their friends, to extended family, to their community. You don’t spend most of their waking hours apart, and therefore you get to truly know your children and who they are without the world telling them who they should be. Your relationships are deepened by time spent together and mutual trust and respect. They confide in you, and enjoy spending time with you. Siblings develop strong bonds that will last a lifetime.

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

“One of the first effects of school is to break the bond between parents and children, when the children are five or younger. It breaks bonds between siblings, and replaces them with prejudices about age and grade, with rules against playing with kids of other ages, and with social pressure to be hateful and secretive” —Sandra Dodd

Your child is unique. And the best part? Your child could be all of the above, some of the above, or something totally different. Because they are unique. They are not made to think the same things, learn the same things, wear the same things, play the same things as other children their age day in and day out. Instead, they blossom into the perfectly unique person that they were made to be. They have fascinating interests and ideas, because no one tells them that there are certain times for learning certain things. They are completely free to be who they are and it is the greatest pleasure to know them.

If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

A child without school or any other coercive learning environment is inspired, motivated, capable, free, joyful, independent, and a thousand other things! That spark in their eye and joyful energy has not been dimmed. They voraciously learn all they can about their world and you get to be there to witness it. They are an absolute pleasure to know and spend your days with.

A child without school is amazing, and if more people knew what they were like, I can’t help but think that they wouldn’t be so quick to send them away to be molded into something different.

43 thoughts on “If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Could Do Without School

  1. Love this! Do you ever suggest ideas? I feel my 5 year old does the same activities for months at a time. Colors with her favorite crayons and moves blankets and large items around to make imaginative living spaces and such. I suggest painting or going outside but it’s not super interesting to her. Do you suggest ‘do you want to read?’ If you feel they haven’t had much reading lately?

    • Hi Dana! I don’t usually suggest anything. Unless it’s something that I really want to share with them in the same way I would share something with my husband or a friend that I know they’d love and want to know about. So it’s really about intention iykwim? If my intention is that I want them to learn a certain thing and would rather them spending their time in other ways because I’m feeling anxious about it, then I don’t share. I wait and watch and assess my own motivations. But if the intention is just to share something authentically the way I would in another relationship, then I do. Did that make sense?

  2. So perfect!! I loved every word! My two unschooled kids are now 14 and 16 and I’d rather hang out with them then anyone else on the planet!

  3. Unfortunately, there is a very large portion of the civilized world that are brainwashed to want their children to grow up obeying authority and not questioning anything around them. The way we unschoolers are doing things is beyond their comprehension. Children who are free and independent, are scary for some because they can’t control them. Control is very powerful for some adults, because maybe they were so controlled as children they don’t know any different. I still get a very blank look when I describe what I’m doing with my children, ha!

  4. You seem like a wonderful parent and clearly want the best for your children. You’ve provided your children with an incredible learning environment – rich learning experiences and resources. You also seem to be a very intelligent person. Your children are very lucky to have you and to learn from you and with you.

    That said, I would argue that few people are as well-equipped to home-school their children. I have met plenty of homeschooling parents who think that it’s so simple, that teaching is so easy anyone could do it. That’s not true. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the intelligence, and I think many children suffer as a result. It’s wonderful that you’re so passionate about spreading the word about how great your children have it, but I feel sad for those children who are both raised AND schooled by idiots.

    • Actually, that’s not true.
      Teaching is that simple because no one knows or is more motivated to want the best for a child than their parents. You don’t need to be super intelligent or anything. In fact research shows that homeschooled kids preform better in all areas than their schooled peers, and that it is not dependent on education level of the parents or income.

      “In practice, educators who worry about “unqualified” people teaching their own children almost always define “qualified” to mean teachers trained in schools of education and holding teaching certificates. They assume that to teach children involves a host of mysterious skills that can be learned only in schools of education and that are in fact taught there; that people who have this training teach much better than those who do not; and indeed that people who have not had this training are not competent to teach at all. None of these assumptions are true.
      Human beings have been sharing information and skills, and passing along to their children whatever they knew, for about a million years now. Along the way they have built some very complicated and highly skilled societies. During all those years there were very few teachers in the sense of people whose only work was teaching others what they knew. And until very recently there were no people at all who were trained in teaching, as such.
      People always understood, sensibly enough, that before you could teach something you had to know it yourself. But only very recently did human beings get the extraordinary notion that in order to be able to teach what you knew you had to spend years being taught how to teach.
      To the extent that teaching involves and requires some real skills, these have long been well understood. They are no mystery. Teaching skills are among the many commonsense things about dealing with other people that, unless we are mistaught, we learn just by living. In any community people have always known that if you wanted to find out how to get somewhere or do something, some people were much better to ask than others.” -John Holt

      • I don’t believe that teachers with certificates or degrees are necessarily better equipped to teach children than their own parents. But they often are. Of course all parents (or we hope all) have their child’s best interest in mind, but they are still limited to their own beliefs and are often oblivious to the societal constructions that shape these beliefs.

        Certified teachers are professionally limited by certain ethical standards in the beliefs and ideals that they pass on to their students. Children who are homeschooled are limited to the sometimes bigoted or problematic beliefs or perspectives of their parents.

        Regardless of the academic success of children in either case, the ideological and ethical development of the homeschooled child can be affected by parents who are either actively or subconsciously racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic…. All beliefs passed on ‘for about a million years now.’

          • My issue is not with unschooling, it is with the idea that everyone can and should, regardless of their character.

          • If Tammy wants to police character, then she might need to go as far as policing who can even have children. I love the assumption that the public school system run by big government has our children’s best interests at heart and carries the moral high ground over a parent who truly loves their child enough to homeschool them. Seriously? I learned hate, racism, bullying and narrow-mindedness at school. I was not taught to think freely, but to find the answers they wanted me to find and that certain ideas and theories were facts, when clearly they are not. I learned to only read books to pass a test question and it took me years after graduating college to love learning for the mere joy of it. I was not taught to question, but to follow. Now I question everything from politics, to religious beliefs, to medical practices and more! Becoming a homeschool parent was like lighting a fire on a dark and starless night. It has completely transformed me and done wonders for my family. Having lived through it, I will never be a proponent of public school again!

    • I feel saddened by your reply and feel you miss the point about unschooling children. We do not ‘teach’ our children, we support their own natural learning that their brain does instinctively. Vast resources are not necessary for this type of learning and many are available within the homeschooling community either free or at a low cost anyway!
      There are many different types of intelligence so you labeling people ‘idiots’ I find close minded, judgemental and aggressive.
      Obviously there are parents out there that are neglectful/abusive and use the term homeschooling or unschooling just so they don’t have to make an effort for their children but thankfully these people are few and far between and unfortunately exist within the schooling community too.
      The vast majority of us are unschooling our children with love, and are facilitating them to become themselves. No-one else, just 100% them and that is a gift that I feel privileged to be able to give to my children.

      • I’m sorry that I was unclear in my reply. By ‘resources’ I didn’t mean physical school supplies, I meant intellectal ability. And by ‘idiots,’ I didn’t not mean people without a degree or even people who lack knowledge. I meant people who hold sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise oppressive beliefs. I do feel quite strongly that these people are ‘idiots.’

        I think that homeschooling – particularly unschooling – has a lot to offer when done by good people. But I don’t think everyone can or should do it. That’s all.

  5. I was also shocked by this article that declared these things amazing! The article actually makes public school sound restrictive and monotonous. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great. When you need emergency surgery are you going to go to a doctor who studied with traditional schooling or one who was “unschooled”? Ridiculous. And all of this learning you pointed to can and does occur outside of school so schooled kids are not missing out. When your “unschooled” kids become adults and hold jobs, are they just going to do the duties they feel like tending to at the moment and let everything else fall to the side? Will it be “too restrictive” when their employer asks that they arrive at a certain time? I’m sorry but this sounds like lazy parenting. Children need structure.

    • Sir Ken Robinson explains freedom-to-learn and the need for Divergent Thinkers well here with memorabke cartoon drawing backdrops:


      Divergent thinkers are needed for the Information Era = Free to Learn environments are needed, as much as possible, so learners can delve as deep and as wide as one wants, at any given time, from any available resource into learning anything, ie UnSchooling, or RLSCL Real Life Social Community Learning (the term we use to describe our learning family pedagogy).

      • Readers here may also be interested in:


        Started by an Unschooler in San Francisco, Dale Stevens.


        UnCollege and Our Founder
        The story of UnCollege and its Gap Year Program begins with its founder Dale J. Stephens. Dale was unschooled – an education movement that promotes self-directed learning – from sixth through the twelfth grade and enrolled at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas following “high school.” At Hendrix, Stephens came to the conclusion that he needed time to decide what he wanted to pursue professionally and that his college experience was not adequately teaching him the 21st century skills he knew he would need to succeed in the professional world. Dale responded in January of 2011 by creating a hub for a powerful international experiential learning community – UnCollege.org.

        UnCollege Gap Year
        In an effort to help young adults in an even more hands on manner, Dale and the UnCollege staff launched its first Gap Year Program in the Fall of 2013. Since then, young adults from 15 different countries have participated in the program. Upon graduating the program, UnCollege Fellows have gone on to start their own companies, receive university scholarships, join startups, and help non-profits around the globe. Find out more here.


  7. I appreciate this article. My daughter is in traditional Kindergarten at this time and I pretty much hate it. Class has almost 30 students in it and all the teachers and aids are obviously stressed and always barking orders or yelling. They won’t help kids get there winter gear on and if they break down and help, its with and eye roll and an attitude. They move strictly from activity to activity rushing to complete things. Kids who arnt traditional learners or have obvious defecits are yelled at instead of helped. I have been concidering homeschooling since week 1. I know my daughter is capable of learning at home because she learned the alphabet, numbers to 100, shapes, colors and writing all from us being together at home before she entered school. I will say she seems to thrive in school and love it. I really dn t think she knows she’s being stressed. There taught that this is normal. But there are days I see its toll on her. My youngest will not thrive in school. She is not a traditional learner and she marches to her own beat. She will be in trouble a lot and that’s not fair because she’s a wonderful kid. Sorry for such a long comment, guess I’m trying to sort things out in my mind and it spilled onto the screen. I get that it may present some challenges, as the world is pushing out cookie cutter stringent kids but i believe there is a place for kids with their own mind.

  8. Questions: what is the role discipline or structure play for unschooled children? Are they free to go to sleep and wake up whenever they want from a young age, to watch everything on television, eat whenever they want, stuff like this I am curious about. Also, as a parent is it a full time job unschooling your kids? Thank you!

    • Unschooling is quite involved as you will want to be available to the child(ren) if they want your participation or help with whatever peeks their interest or they may want to involve themselves in whatever you are doing. So, yes, it’s pretty much full time.
      Discipline isn’t really necessary since there are no restrictions or rules/structure to learning/playing. If one expands unschooling into all aspects of life, sometimes called radical unschooling, children have the freedom to choose how to spend their whole days and are not restricted from television or “screen time”. They eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired. Usually as a family there becomes a natural rythm that occurs because of routines and examples of the parents but sometimes not. It’s about mutual respect and appreciation of everyone for who they are, no matter the age or interest. Think of it as everyone is thought of and
      treated as an adult with a lot of grace and mercy for each other.
      If you were raised in traditional school you may want to research deschooling, strewing, and radical unschooling.

    • Yes

      Our children’s natural sleep cycles follow the circadian rhythm. It’s fascinating, that human bodies synch with the planet, when free.

      The human body also grazes on foods accurately to meet their individual fluctuating bodies needs, about 6-9 x/day.

      Unschoolers also tend to interact and engage quite heavily in the community because they free flow throughout the home, then the immediate neigh ohi of, then the extended neighbourhood and they find learning opportunities all throughout their days while socializing.

  9. Thank you for this article. I was just explaining some of these ideas to my neighbor, when she asked how our homeschooling is going. I see how my son follows his own interests with self-motivation , creativity , attention, and joy. He paints, watches science videos then does his own experiments, takes care of animals, makes his own delicious smoothies, does some Geometry, makes origami creatures, helps neighbors with their dogs or grandkids, reads a graphic novel….he is happy, smart, friendly. I’m thankful for the opportunity to witness his learning process and I look forward to seeing what he decides to do when he gets older. He’s 11 now and is much more emotionally and mentally healthy now than when he had to sit still at a desk all day in public school., then he couldn’t eat or sleep due to stress in 2nd grade. Homeschool has been such a blessing.

  10. I read this, and my first reaction was: wow! Anyone who believes this is true, doesn’t have a BRAIN. All kids NEED school, and this is coming FROM a High Schooler! I’m sorry, but this is maximum BS. Not ALL kids can learn like that, you know!

  11. I love this article , it encapsulates everything I want to say as a reply to ” why have you chosen to home educate ?”
    Its tempting to print it out and pass it out as my answer .
    It almost made me cry as I was reading it to my husband, it’s so beautiful and a relief to read , what you have been thinking .
    Sometimes as home ed parents we can feel a little misunderstood, which is frustrating.
    Even though we know we dont need to justify our choices as we stand by our decision and are super confident with our life style , it’s great to have our thoughts reiterated.


  13. I am a public school teacher! Now I am fortunate enough to be in one of the best school districts in the nation with supportive families, innovative resources, and freedom within my classroom to follow the interests, needs and desires of my students. I respect the choices you have made for your family! But I also feel that I need to stand up for the educational system. I cannot speak for all schools, but I can speak for myself and the experience I am able to provide in my classroom.
    I spend time with every student in my class everyday just chatting! It only takes seconds to know that S just finished reading a Magic Tree House book about Louis Armstrong and she wants to know what “scat” means and how to do it, or that H can make origami anything – she has an eye for it and is so neat and visual she creates her own patterns. Yes, this can be done by any parent! I have my own children as well, and I take pride to listen and allow them to lead. The difference I find, and the gift of an “institutionalized school setting” is the conversation of 20 curious, similarly aged children in one room. When a child hears a peer share with excitement about a book they are reading, others light up with eagerness to hear and read it as well. The conversation, motivation, and influence children have on each other is more powerful than that of any parent or teacher! I love the idea of unschooling, I just hope parents choosing this for their family have other groups of children to provide positive peer interactions that will inspire them to dream!

    • I wish so badly that all teachers took the care that you do! That’s a huge factor for me. All the teachers and aids are always irritated and raising their voices with the ‘obey or else’ tone. They have a behavior chart that is abused. (Clipping up for giving right answers instead of inforcing upbuilding behavior) that teaches kids w less intelligence that they are not good enough….makes me sad. And this is coming from the mom of a very smart girl doing very well in school. Seems fun is gone. Personabity is gone….at least here anyways. Keep inspiring our youth Vicky! Your a rare bread.

  14. My daughter is four and is in a two-day a week preschool program. There are some really great things about the program, but I can tell I am going to have an issue with five-day a week from 8 am to 3 pm very structured kindergarten. I know that I would do a great job of unschooling at home; however, the social aspect holds me back. I only have two children (ages four and one) so there are not many built in playmates. I live in a large city where no one homeschools. How do you work on social skills and friendships? Eventually our children will go out into the world and they need to be able to navigate the social aspects of it. Plus, I also want her to experience the joys of friends.

    • Michaelene, I doubt that “no one homeschools” in your city, but they might be hard to find. That said, do you have young neighbors with whom you can arrange play dates? You don’t have to overdo it, and I wouldn’t worry too much about the socialization thing. My kids never went to school until college, and they are now in their 20s and 30s, all married (some with kids), all working and with active social lives. I never should have worried about socialization.

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