Is Unschooling Working?
Is Unschooling working? A question that comes up a lot. Often with a side of guilt. Like we should be immune to worry. We should just TRUST and everything will be ok if we’re good unschooling parents.
Yes, unschooling means trusting your children to learn all they need to, when they need to learn it. So, do you just sit back and hope for the best? Well, no. Being an unschooling parent is an active role, not a passive one. And as parents, who doesn’t worry from time to time? We love our children and we want the best for them. It makes sense we would be regularly reevaluating what works and what doesn’t. In my books that makes you a good parent!
So how do you know if Unschooling is ‘working’, and what does ‘working’ even mean when you don’t adhere to standards and grade levels? I guess that’s the first thing you need to figure out. To me, when things are ‘working’ my children are happy and fulfilled. Our days and weeks have a beautiful rhythm that feels good and meets everyone’s needs for play and rest. People are inspired and curious and constantly learning, and at the same time the difference between play and learning is indistinguishable. We are connected, happy within ourselves, and progressing along our own pathways!
Keeping that in mind, if I wanted to know if Unschooling was ‘working’, these are some questions I would ask myself…
Are my children content?
Are they learning?
Is their learning growing and changing as they do?
Do they have passions and interests?
Are they curious about the world around them and eager to explore it rather than feeling restricted?
Do they have access to the resources they need?
Am I in tune with their needs?
Am I making enough time to be available to help with the things they want to do?
Do they feel empowered and in charge of their life and learning?
Do they take risks in their growth and education knowing they are supported?
Am I encouraging a growth mindset?
Are they ok with trying and failing and trying again?
Are we working through any challenges together so they can grow, rather than avoiding them?
Am I introducing them to new experiences? New people? New perspectives? New opportunities for learning? Am I expanding their world view rather than limiting it?
Do they know who they are? How they learn? What lights them up?
Are they connected? To family, friends, community?
Are we meeting their social needs adequately by being involved with our unschool community regularly?
Do we have enough down time?
Does our family life feel good?
What do my children think? Have I asked them? What are their goals? Is there anything they would like to change?
What if it’s not working?
Should you send your kids to school? No! Don’t do anything hasty! Ha!
School can’t provide what each child needs individually, but you can. You just have to know what it is! Stay in tune with your family and how things feel. Ask yourself these questions regularly. And when you find an area you think is not working, change it! This is what unschooling is all about, following your children’s needs, readjusting whenever they change. And they should frequently as they grow!
If things aren’t working, don’t ignore it, sit back and trust that it will magically all work out without any effort. But at the same time, it’s ok if things aren’t quite right sometimes. Things don’t have to be perfect, everyone is learning. And you don’t need to have all the answers straight away. It’s ok to try new things and work out that they don’t suit your family. How else would you know? There will be periods of change. There will be periods with huge leaps in growth and learning, and times of rest and reflection. This is normal!
A successful unschooling parent is not one that never worries and blindly trusts. That would be 1) extremely difficult to do, and, 2) unhelpful. A more productive goal would be to be the kind of parent who is tuned in to the needs of their family, and willing to evaluate and adjust things to suit what feels best for them.
“Family culture is the manifestation of your priorities — not what you say, not what you wish were true, but what you actually do on a daily basis. You create your family culture with your choices.” -Lori Pickert
Thank you for sharing what many unschooling parents struggle with. As I examine my own discontent with, “Is it enough, Are they learning enough, Am I supporting their passions enough,” I find that it is actually my own discontent, not theirs that gives energy to these anxieties. I surely hope that their experiences as empowered learners in unschooling will remediate/break the cycle of feelings of inadequacy and enable them to feel “enough.” So far, it seems to be working. I am so grateful for unschooling and your eloquent expression in its favor.
I absolutely love that you highlighted self-knowing questions – “Do they know who they are? How they learn? What lights them up?” I feel as though so many adults have no idea how to answer these basic questions and I cannot help but to think it is because as children we were never truly able to explore them. Certainly not in the way an unschooled child is.
Doubt and worry are just as much a part of the human experience as anything else it would seem. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight, you are so motivating to so many of us.
What a lovely helpful post. We are a few years away yet before my daughter is school aged. With a teaching background and an inside view if schools I know that I do not want to send her to mainstream school. I have just now started her in day care 2 days a week though (2.9yrs) as due to other family circumstances I am needing a chance to have some down time to myself (I also have a 5 month old so this is only when he naps).
My question is how do you get space/rest for you while unschooling? What does that practically look like? I also run a business online which I mostly do in the evenings and other bits and pieces around the day.
I love to think a head.