Dealing with Our Fears and Other People’s Critical Comments


The other day my daughter Sophie received an email. She read part of it out to me and then said, “What do you think?”

“She hasn’t expressed herself very well,” I remarked. “I don’t suppose she meant to sound so abrupt.”

“How do I reply?”

We discussed a few ideas and I finished with these words: “Whatever we write, perhaps the most important thing is to be kind.”

Sophie giggled. “Have courage and be kind.”

“Yes, like Cinderella,” I agreed.

Cinderella’s mother had the right idea. We should do everything with kindness.

Unfortunately, not everyone places much importance in kindness. Many people say or write things that hurt others deeply. And I wonder why they do this. Is it just a matter of not thinking before speaking? Or could they lack proper communication skills and not know the best way to say things? Or maybe they just don’t care how their words affect other people .

Sometimes it can seem risky to voice an opinion (especially in public). What if someone disagrees with us? What if they react in a hurtful way? How do we respond to unkindness? Often it can seem easier to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

Unschoolers probably get more than their fair share of critical comments. Many people don’t understand our way of life and aren’t hesitant about telling us what they think. How do we deal with that?

And when people are telling us we’re wrong about unschooling, are we tempted to question it too? While we’re listening to someone’s objections, do those fears which we’ve been trying very hard to squash gain new life?

In this week’s podcast, I talk about dealing with our fears and other people’s critical comments.

I also ask:

  • Are communication skills important? How can we pass on good skills to our kids?
  • Is it really possible for unschooled children to direct their own learning?
  • Do a parent’s words and fears affect a child?
  • How can we encourage a child to write? Would free-writing help a reluctant writer?
  • Can a visit to the doctor be recorded as real life maths?

Show Notes

Camp NaNoWriMo

Unschooling video
A Talk About Unschooling, Reasons Why I Love Being a Life Learner (Unschooler) by Skylar the gymnast

My latest unschooling videos
Are My Kids Glad I Made the Initial Decision to Homeschool Them?
Self-Directed Learning: An Unschooling Interview

Blog Post
My Podcasts

Other Podcast
Your Morning Basket
YMB 14 Add Freewriting Fun: A Conversation with Julie Bogart

Podcast Music
60’s Quiz Show by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)

Images; Sophie took these photos of Gemma-Rose who is writing her Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

You can find more episodes of my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on

and here on my blog.You can download episodes, listen to them online or use an app. Have you seen the Podbean app?

Please feel welcome to comment on this week’s podcast. And if you’d like to share my link, please do! Let’s spread the word about unschooling!


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  1. Reply

    Great podcast, thank you!
    I started to watch Skylar's video but didn't finish it. Yes, I think it is important to trust your children but I think it is really important to protect them too, especially on the internet. As a parent who could have the understanding that what their daughter is saying is probably not going to be understood in the right context, I would tread very carefully in allowing her to post internet videos.

    Something that strikes me from having your girls involved in your podcasts and videos is the joy they exude – they seem like genuinely happy and relaxed people, it's great!
    Keep up the good work!

    1. Reply


      Yes, I don't think it was necessary to watch the whole of Skylar's video to understand the points I made in the podcast.

      I sometimes ponder the safety of Youtube and blogs. They're both as public as each other. but Youtube seems to attract many more hostile commenters.

      I'm glad you like the involvement of my children in my videos. I do think they make the videos more helpful. It's one thing for a mother to talk about her children, and quite another to hear a child's own opinions. I'm fortunate my kids don't mind me interviewing them or writing about them. I wouldn't have much to offer if they were more privately minded. So far everyone has been very kind in their feedback and I haven't had to worry about critical comments. I hope it stays that way!

      Thank you so much for listening to my podcast!

  2. Reply

    I felt sorry for Skyler. I knew what she was setting out to do, but she seemed so young and vulnerable. Like your daughter said, people do hide behind their computer screens.

    I guess we also all learn from our mistakes. That's the beauty of unschooling:) Mistakes are not dreaded but used as a learning tool.

    Thanks for another great podcast!

    1. Reply


      Yes, I felt sorry for Skylar too. She was attacked in a big way. As I said, I don't know how I'd deal with that.

      You are so right about mistakes. I've been pondering how we learn from them too. I made a note about mistakes and fear of failing for my next podcast. I wonder if I can turn that note into somehing worth listening to!

      It's wonderful to receive your feedback. Thank you so much for listening to my podcast and for stopping by to say hello!

  3. Reply

    Very thought provoking podcast, Sue. I like your way of handling criticism with kindness, but also shielding oneself from casual cruelty (like having to click through to your blog to leave a comment).

    You reminded me of something a friend told me way back when I started homeschooling. She was a little older than I, and she did not home school, but had observed many friends who had (successfully and unsuccessfully). She told me I would do well with home schooling because I was confident, and that in her experience, it was not the method of homeschooling that had determined success, but the confident outlook of the mom. If the mom was confident, the kids would be confident, and would succeed.

    I've thought about that a lot, and I reached the conclusion that fear-and dwelling on what other people think- is a recipe for failure in homeschooling, primarily because it's a recipe for failure in life.

    I also think that finding like minded and supportive people is important. While I'm not a true unschooler, I do feel that unconditional love, respect, and love are also the keys to my homeschool. It's interesting: I've never felt that you were critical or unaccepting of me because I don't home school in the exact way that you do.

    You are confident enough in the path God has laid before you that you aren't threatened by me following my path. On the contrary, I feel very supported and nurtured by you and your blog.

    Thinking back to the comments Skylar got, I wonder if people are sometimes critical to the point of cruelty because they aren't confident in their own choices, and feel threatened by another view. I see what you mean, she did not present a good argument, but what could possibly justify the tone of those comments towards a 10 year old girl?

    1. Reply


      Yes, confidence! I like what your friend said. Children do pick up on our feelings and attitudes. They know when our hearts are truly involved in something. And I suppose they also know when we are hesitant and unsure.

      Oh Wendy, I'm so glad you don't feel I criticise you. I'd hate to come over that way. We aren't exactly the same, but this doesn't mean we can't share ideas and support each other and be friends. We are still like-minded even if the details of our homeschooling may differ a little.

      I agree: When we feel confident, we feel at peace and we are accepting of other people's choices even if they differ to ours. Yes, maybe those Youtube critics aren't as happy with their choices as they try and make out. That's a very interesting thought!

      Wendy, thank you so much for listening to my podcast and commenting. I've enjoyed chatting with you!

  4. We have to face a lot of criticism, too, as an Attachment Parenting family – because people don't understand our way of life. And because they feel questioned by it.
    When our first child was born that was very hard for us. Now it's easier, we simply don't care any more.
    Although it's not as simple as it sounds.
    I think what helps me a lot is my stubbornness… 🙂

    1. Reply

      Living a Catholic fairy tale,

      Oh yes, attachment parenting attracts its critics too. You are so right. Unschooling and attachment parenting seem to me to go hand in hand.

      You are stubborn? I am too! Stubbornness can be a good trait to have. These days, like you, we don't care what other people say. We take great delight in being different. It doesn't worry us at all!

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