Unschooling is Crazy

Sometimes I forget just how ‘crazy’ some things I say might sound to an outsider. To someone who has had no experience of what unschooling is before, my life must look totally foreign! I forget this though. To me, it seems so natural. But looking at some of the things we do, they are very different when compared to what is ‘mainstream’…

We have no curriculum. The kids can learn about whatever they want. We give them lots of opportunities but they are never made to learn anything.

Unschooling is Crazy

There are no formal lessons.

Learning is not separated from life. There is no ‘school time’, terms, or holidays.

Unschooling is Crazy

The kids can choose to play all day/week/month if they want to. We value play!

No subject is more important than another. Art is just as important as reading or maths.

Unschooling is Crazy

There are no tests.

There are no deadlines for learning anything.

Unschooling is Crazy

We trust that our children will learn what they need to for their own life, in their own time.

We’re more concerned with having fun, nourishing relationships, and being passionate about life than ticking off academic outcomes.

Unschooling is Crazy

We’re not scared when we don’t have the answers. We learn together with our children.

Unschooling is Crazy

We don’t use praise or rewards.

We don’t use punishment either.

We’ve scrapped ‘bed time’. Wake, sleep, eat whenever you want, no matter your age.

We’ve let go of control over our children’s lives. We’re there to guide, but it is their life to live. We trust them to make their own decisions and mistakes.

We’re basically all about freedom and trust trust trust. These two things seem increasingly uncommon for kids these days.

Unschooling is Crazy

But just because it’s uncommon/different/alternative doesn’t mean it can’t work. You may have no concept of what childhood and education look like without school, but there is more than one way to do things and quite frankly we find this lifestyle amazing. If you have never heard of unschooling or gentle parenting, or if you’ve never met anyone who chooses to live this way then it can sound totally crazy. You wonder how it could possibly work until you see it in action. If you’ve always believed that children need control/rewards/punishment then you might think that without that they would end up spoilt and unruly. Thankfully, not true.

Maybe unschooling is crazy when viewed thorough the eyes of the majority, but to us it is totally natural and ‘normal’. Sometimes you’ve got to do something crazy and step out of the box to live the life you dream of. It can be amazing.

Unschooling is Crazy

 

37 thoughts on “Unschooling is Crazy

  1. I love this post!!!! I am so glad to be following your blog and ‘meeting’ other families who follow the same lifestyle as us. Your children are so blessed to by your trust and enthusiasm!

  2. I am really enjoying your blog and your perspective! I started homeschooling my middle guy (8) in January and have yet to find a philosophy or curriculum that truly resonates. Unschooling is close, but I have a few questions that I’m hoping you can help with. I have days that I feel like the needs of my children conflict with what I feel are the needs of myself or my family as a whole. I still don’t trust that not giving my children boundaries with certain things (bedtimes, sugar intake, screen time) will result in self regulation. I’m concerned that I will not be able to keep up with my boys learning needs and consistently be creative about facilitating their education.

    • I think it’s ok if every day is not perfect πŸ™‚ And everyone’s needs are definitely equally important!
      Sugar intake and screen time are things that worry me too, because I know they can be addictive but I just go about it in a way that doesn’t come across as ‘controlling’. e.g. only have as much sweets in the house as I’m comfortable for them to eat, providing an environment where there is so much more interesting stuff to do than watch tv.
      I think that everyone wonders if they can do it but I’ve found it not as hard as it first seems! They also learn so much independently.

  3. This does not sound crazy – it sounds completely wonderful. I love the freedom and natural flow to unschooling. I was such a scheduled person before I had kids, it is hard to let go as much as you do, but I’m trying to find a nice balance.

  4. Love your post, as always :). I agree with everything, except for the bed time thing, just because I have a hard time seeing the benefits of that. Say (hypothetically) they go to bed at 8 pm one night, and 11.30 pm the next, and at 6.45pm the day after…doesn’t that make them super tired and crabby? Because when *I* get off my sleep schedule, I definitely do! πŸ˜‰

    And also, won’t they appreciate the structure of having a fixed bed time? I’m not talking about forcing a child to stay in bed if they’re really not tired at their fixed bedtime, but rather working with them to find a bedtime that works, but is regular. Or do your kids go to bed around the same time every day anyway, just because they get tired? I’m just curious!

    • I wondered the same thing Bee. When I first did it I thought they’d stay up super late just because they could. But they have been to bed between 8pm and 8.30pm every night so I guess they can make those decisions. I think just the same as you, they would realise if they had a late night that meant they were more tired the next day. And even if they didn’t realise on their own we could always talk about it with them and encourage them to consider it.

      • That is true! Funny (and a little disturbing) how the idea of *talking* to a child to show them that maybe staying up very late isn’t the best choice didn’t even cross my mind.

        Thanks for the reply – always interesting to hear how your family is doing things and how they’re working out :).

  5. Thank you – as a ‘natural learner’ family – it’s nice to be reminded and touch base with those who are dancing to the same tune as you. Thank you. I needed this.

      • We are unschoolers by “Education style” but not by lifestyle. We limit sweets and don’t have cable TV and other screens just don’t exist at all. We definitely have a loving, gentle, cuddly bedtime routine at a certain time every night. So when I read this:

        Diane
        APRIL 7, 2015 AT 1:27 PM
        Scrap bedtime? Eat, sleep whenever you want? Is that part for real?

        Sara @ Happiness is here
        APRIL 7, 2015 AT 3:06 PM
        Yes. I do, so why shouldn’t children? They are people too after all πŸ™‚

        I wanted to pipe up to hear your opinion. I learned how to eat properly, go to bed at a decent time and take good care of myself (brush teeth, bathe etc.) from my parents. How can your children learn all of that without guidance? I understand that they will eventually get it, once they’ve been cranky for weeks and all their teeth hurt, and they have cholesterol issues, but I think it’s important to lead by example, and get them into the swing of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t you?
        Please don’t take this the wrong way. I am not implying ANYTHING about you or your kids or your parenting! I am genuinely curious how you feel about that, because I have considered being more unschooly as a lifestyle…but just can’t wrap my head around those things. And I think they are of utter importance!!!

        • Hi Megan! There is definitely still guidance πŸ™‚ It’s not an all or nothing type situation. Just not strict rules if you know what I mean. We model the behaviour we hope to see and if we saw that they were making some unhealthy choices we would definitely address that, just not through punishment or enforcing certain things like bedtime etc. We would just talk about it and ask them what they think etc. I think it’s a common misconception as well that when given freedom children will choose to make the wrong decisions. I can only speak from my experience but I haven’t found that to be true at all. They have control over their bedtime but still they choose to go to bed before 8.30pm every night. I’ve found that when given the chance they really are capable of making great decisions for themselves πŸ™‚

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  7. This terrifies me. Worrying about the future is what I do best. This kind of parenting would force me to give that up. WHAT IF THEY HATE ME FOR NOT WORRYING ABOUT THEIR FUTURE IN THE FUTURE??
    Seriously, though, what if they find that they can’t do the work they want to do because they don’t have the “qualifications” or “education” required? And then they resent me for being That Hippie Mom?

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  9. I really admire your perspective Sara. Kids are naturally free spirits … it is only our collective conditioning that makes us believe they have to go to school, and be taught in a certain way. We are Irish and Australian ex-pats living in Africa, where school goes from 8am till 5pm for most kids (mainly because their parents are at work). We decided to send our 4 year old to school only in the mornings so that he can learn the local languages, and socialise, due to him being an only child. The rest of the time he is with us, and by learning all sorts of things together through experience, he has become a fabulously curious child. You are dead right when you say that kids won’t necessarily make the wrong decisions given the choice. I believe they thrive on the trust we show them. Well done you. The world needs more of your thinking.

  10. Thank you for this! My oldest is 4.5 and we’ve been doing unschooling (or just living life πŸ˜‰ ) her entire life. We read books about all sorts of topics and look up whatever questions she has. I love what you said about not worrying about knowing enough, it’s so true we learn right along with them! It’s great to see how it is working out for you, it gives me confidence for our future.

  11. So, they won’t have a diploma at 18? I really like the sound of what you’re saying but I know when I was home schooled we had to turn things in on a regular basis to the school by mail and it was so difficult because they didn’t know us and I felt like we were graded unfairly on things like English papers. I felt this especially when I went to a main stream high school I got amazing scores in English when I thought I was bad at writing. How will they be able to go to college after your unschooling? Will they do online high school in the future or will you leave that to them once they are adults? I really hope this doesn’t sound judgy, I want to learn.

    • Not judgy! Questions always welcome πŸ™‚
      Did you do Distance Ed?
      They won’t have a diploma unless they choose to but there are many ways to get into uni, just like a mature aged student would. Or they could choose to go to TAFE for the certificate, or do the last two years of school, depending on their plans πŸ™‚

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