An Unschooling Experiment

Do you listen to my podcasts? Normally, I don’t. I make an episode and that’s that. I hope everyone enjoys it, but I don’t really want to go back and listen to my own voice talking about unschooling. But this afternoon, I did listen to an old episode. I was searching for some ideas that I can include in the unschooling book I’m writing.

I decided to start with episode 56, Fan Mail and Lots of Unschooling Thoughts. Maybe that podcast caught my eye because I mentioned it in my last unschooling newsletter. I grabbed a notebook, plugged in my ear buds, started the podcast and listened.

So what did I discover? Anything worth including in a book? Well, I did jot down a note or two about trust, how it’s a mutual thing between parent and child. It takes time for us to trust our children, but we also have to allow time for them to trust us. Children might wonder: “Is this new way of doing things going to last? Or will Mum soon change her mind and put another new idea into action?” We’re good at chopping and changing, aren’t we? I guess we do a lot of experimenting because we want to find the best way to bring up and educate our children.

I’ve done my own share of trying out new ideas. I remember reading a number of Charlotte Mason books. I got excited. This was going to work! We tried this method of homeschooling for a few months. Then one day, I decided that classical homeschooling looked more attractive. Not long after that, I looked longingly at Charlotte Mason again. Should we give that method another go? Or perhaps we should do some unit studies? I went round and round in circles looking for the perfect way to homeschool, experimenting with this idea and then that one, with my bewildered children wondering what I was going to do next. Of course, our experimenting eventually came to an end. We discovered unschooling.

But back to podcast 56. During the last few minutes of this episode, I heard these words:

We don’t want to experiment on our children. And maybe some people think that unschooling would be a big experiment. Let’s stick with what everybody else is doing. We can’t be blamed if things go wrong because that’s the accepted way. What if we unschool and it doesn’t turn out right? What if our child doesn’t get all those skills she needs? What if she’s not prepared for life? What if she doesn’t get into university? A thousand ‘what ifs’. 

But what if we had courage, trusted, and just did it anyway? It could be very exciting. It could be wonderful. 

So as we get into the new year, that’s what I’d like to say. Try unschooling. Be courageous. Try and trust, especially if your way of doing things isn’t working for you. What have you to lose?

Sometimes I think we do know when things aren’t working and we know we have to make some changes. But we don’t make those changes because it requires too much letting go, too much courage. It’s just safer to stay where we are. Keep on doing things the same way. 

I remember how I felt as I said those words. I suddenly wanted to urge anyone who’s toying with the idea of unschooling to give it a go. Yes, trying unschooling might seem like a risky experiment, but it might be the last experiment you make. No more chopping and changing. Doesn’t that sound good?

Now I’ve shared those words with you again, I should get back to writing my book. But before I do that, I wonder…

Can you relate to my experience of chopping and changing? Or perhaps you were well informed and have unschooled successfully from day one? And do you listen to my podcasts? I guess I should think about making my first episode for 2017!

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  1. Reply

    Wow time flies! I do listen to your podcasts, (thank you for them by the way!), and I remember thinking that after you checked out on your last podcast of 2016, it was going to be along wait till the first one of 2017, and now here we are. Wow!

    I don’t know that we’re well informed, so much as just lazy. For whatever reason, lectures/classes have never worked for me, so it just seemed natural to unschool the kids. We’re right at the start of things with our oldest being five, (aka No. 1), but it’s worked out great so far. What our oldest does miss is having routine time to hang out with the same person frequently. Her stint in kindergarten didn’t impress her at all class or learning-wise, but she did enjoy routinely hanging out with other students. We’re trying to find activities to supply that need. Our homeschooling group has a playground day once a week, so not quite often enough. On the other hand, while No. 1 and I were coming back from the farmers market at 6:30 AM a few weekends ago, we happened upon a boxing coach at the donut store we stopped at who asked if she’d like to visit the local boxing gym/youth center, so who knows? We’re going to check it out this week.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, the weeks have whizzed by. Time to get back to podcasting! I’m glad you listen. Thank you!

      When we first started unschooling (the second time around) I thought we were lazy too. Shouldn’t life be a bit more of a struggle? Surely we weren’t doing enough? Of course, we’re doing fine. It’s quite okay for us to enjoy our lives as we learn naturally. I think kids learn far more from participating in our everyday lives rather than spending their days in a kindergarten. I was talking with a friend the other day about how preschools go to a lot of trouble to replicate the home environment with a kitchen and cooking area, a relaxation and reading area, a sleeping area… Why bother with that when our kids can get all that at home?

      You’ll have to let me know how you get on at the gym/youth centre. Or perhaps you can write a blog post about the experience!

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