Unschooling and Rejecting Conformity
I want to tell you about four amazing people I know.
My 9 year old is a planner. She has ideas swirling around in her head all day long and not enough time in the day to do everything that she wants. She dreams BIG! She wants to change the world and she loves animals and nature. She adores her friends and loves the role of leader and being part of a team. She is mad about minecraft and always thinking up new things to create.
My 7 year old loves to find out how things work, invent, create, and asks ‘why?’ about everything. If there’s not a good reason for something then it’s not ok with her. She takes things literally and expects that you mean what you say! She is caring and empathetic and she would never hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if it means being different. She is colourful and passionate and full of life.
My 4 year old is really interested in shells right now. She collects them every time we go to the beach, washes them, and keeps them on her special shelf. She’s super funny and her giggle is so contagious. She makes us all laugh. She loves to paint and create and be by my side involved in whatever I’m doing. She is affectionate and caring and full of energy!
My 3 year old is such a character. She’s all about the dresses and has about 4 wardrobe changes a day. Layers are in for her right now and you’ll often seeing her wearing winter clothes with a dress on over the top and always ALWAYS sparkly shoes. She is cheeky and adventurous and knows exactly what she wants.
They are all unique in their own ways and I love getting to know them as they are. And I really get to do that. Know them as they are and as they were meant to be, without pressure to be someone else. This is one of the reasons we chose to opt-out of the schooling system. We value their uniqueness immensely and want them to always know that they are loved and accepted for who they are.
These are not lessons learned in school.
“What else does compulsory schooling teach? It teaches you not only to personally conform, but to value conformity, to despise differences, to be dependent upon institutions…” – Gina Cassidy
Our differences make us who we are. They are important. We each have something unique to bring to the world, but we are educating it out of our children. We are carving them all into the same mold, shaving off all that is interesting and wonderful about them. What is left at the end of this 13 year long process? Is there a scrap of the person they once were, a child full of wonder, confidence, individuality, and unique interests?
How can we possibly expect them to be themselves, to be accepting of difference, to take a risk, to stand out, to speak up, to love who they are, when they have spent so many years being told that this is not ok?
What does it do to a child’s self-esteem to constantly receive the message that who you are is not as important as how well you conform?
“Expecting a child to develop at a pace set by you contradicts loving him for who he is, because his worth is then measured by your standards and timetable. Instead, loving your child is being delighted with his pace of growth so that he feels free to be himself at each step of the way, free of the concern that you won’t love or appreciate him if he doesn’t live by your timetable or standards.” -Naomi Aldort
Standardization and conformity are absurd and damaging goals. The world needs leaders and team members, doers and thinkers, fixers and feelers, and the many other varieties of talents and personalities we are blessed with. We should be empowering children to meet their own goals, not educating them to satisfy ours.
Children deserve to be accepted for exactly who they are. School doesn’t communicate that.
The lesson of school is: you are here to be shaped into the person we want you to be; to meet our requirements, follow our rules, think how we tell you to think, and prove your worth.
The lesson I care about couldn’t be more different. Whether you are out to change the world, or you just want to wear sparkly shoes today, you are accepted. Whether you are captivated by a seashell or a math problem, you are accepted. Whether you are a social butterfly or enjoy your own company, you are accepted. Be you, because who you are is wonderful and you need not prove your worth to anyone. Your uniqueness is celebrated and cherished.
School tells us that success is conforming, outperforming others, and meeting expectations. We don’t have to buy into that ridiculous idea.
We can choose to communicate radical acceptance and unconditional love instead.
I’m not sure what’s best way to contact you – I have so many questions that pop up from your posts and as I consider the possibility of doing what are doing and inevitable road blocks. Questions like: how many hours per day do you get to work vs. support kids learning? How critical is it to have a driver’s license to support unschooling? (I do not drive neither does my partner). Is unschooling different with only 1 child vs, 2,3,4? I worry about isolation of only one child being at home, especially if I also want to keep my career and work. And so on!! <3 thank you
You definitely do not need to drive to unschool. In most states there are no set hours to school. So for example you could work during the day and school in the evening or even the weekend. Unschooling is about exploring the kids interest and learning what they want on their own level. Dont worry about socailizing. Unschool kids socialize everyday in real world situations, the market, neighbors, at the park. It really comes natural for children to talk and interact with others. Good luck! Have fun.
My 3 year old sounds very similar to yours! All about the outfit changes, sparkly shoes and dresses! Perfect just as she is 😊
We have been unschooling for 9 years with no regrets. Our oldest is about to graduate. This is the best experience for the kids and parents. Kids dont learn to socialize in public school they learn to conform. Our kids are well socailize with all age groups not just their age group. Anyone who doesnt know how unschooling works please ask someone who does it. Dont assume and make rash judgement. Unschooling is a world of wonderfully bright, intelligent kids.
Can u explain to me is unschooling homeschooling ?
I love all of this! Thank you
Is unschooling the same as home schooling?
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling. Some homeschoolers school wih a very strict schedule & curriculums (basically school at home, parent led), and others do child-led unschooling like described in this blog. These are the extremes. There are also many other ways to “school”.
I have a question: I have a child in 2nd grade at a Waldorf school (he turned 8 in Sept) and a 6 year old in the second year of kindergarten (same school) and I see in them what you are talking about in this article – they are learning to conform and compete and losing some of their uniqueness. If I begin now to unschool, can I bring them back from this?
I think your kids sound amazing. I have 4 kids on my own and I have often wondered how I could help them not only being in the typical hierarchy of siblings? You know – the eldest a typical leader, the youngest free and wild etc. I think it’s good to try out different roles than those you get from being in a big family. But I often fell challenged about fx having the little one to take responsibility and leadership. Have you any thoughts about that? And sorry for taken it in a whole other direction 🙂 I really do like your blog.
I really enjoy reading your blog. I’m nearly 28 now and I wish that I could have enjoyed the life of your children. Being raised in this school-culture makes one feel “armored” and stiff, not relaxed. I began noticing this when I noted that I and other teenagers ceased to play like we used to. I felt like something was missing. Now I understand what it was.
Is there a way for adults to still experience that joy that your children have?