An Unschooling Imposter

The other day, I posted the following words on my Facebook page:

Do you ever have times when you fall apart? You just can’t cope? You question everything you’re doing? I felt like this last week. You see, we’re not a perfect family. In particular, I’m far from the perfect mother I’d like to be. I’ve wondered if I’m on the wrong pathway. What if I’m leading others astray by sharing my stories?

Yes, I’ve had a difficult time recently. There have been too many problems for my soft mother’s heart to deal with. I’ve wondered: Why do my kids have problems? Have I failed in my parenting? Or is it unschooling that has let them down? Perhaps I’m just not a good unschooling mother?

Whatever the reason, I decided I could no longer write about unschooling.  How can I expect other parents to follow my poor unschooling example? I felt like an unschooling imposter. And so I wanted to delete everything I’ve ever created. Remove all evidence of me, my family and my unschooling stories from the Internet.

But when the time arrived to press ‘delete blog’, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Instead, I found a plugin that would allow me to make my blog private. But even then, I hesitated. I didn’t end up activating it. I decided to think about things for a while.

While I was thinking, a number of unschooling blog articles appeared in my email inbox. They were articles written by younger mothers who seem to have things all worked out. Proper unschooling mothers, not imposters like me. They’re doing a fantastic job of both unschooling their kids and also spreading the unschooling message. Perhaps they’re doing things far, far better than me. Yes, that might be true.

But I also wondered: Does anyone have everything worked out perfectly? Or do we all have times when we feel like we’re failing? Maybe some people never share their low times. But does this mean they never have them?

Low times don’t mean we aren’t unschooling properly. They don’t indicate that unschooling doesn’t work. Low times, when we struggle to get through our days as we deal with various problems, are a natural part of life.

When life isn’t going as well as we’d like, we might be tempted to look around at what other people are doing. Maybe it’s time to leave unschooling. The critics are probably right. Moving on is the sensible thing to do. Except I know I could never do this.

I am an unschooler for life. Nothing will change that. Why? Because I know it’s right to respect kids, to accept them as they are, to love them unconditionally, to forgive their mistakes, to trust them. It would be wrong to grab hold of control, insist my children do what I tell them, try and turn them into the people I think they should be, withdraw my love when they make a mistake so that they learn a lesson. Even if I did all these things for a good reason – because I care and love and want only the best for my kids – it would still be wrong. I’m absolutely sure about this.

My Facebook post continued:

Yes, I’ve had a low week. But this morning, I woke up and one of the first things I thought about was how, the other day, when I wasn’t coping, when I no longer wanted to be a mother, my girls wrapped their arms around me and held me tight. They didn’t criticise and condemn me. They just loved me as I was. All the pain and hurt came flooding out with my tears. It was okay. Unconditional love. That’s what it’s all about. We don’t have to be perfect. As long as we love and forgive and help each other. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

It’s all very well loving each other when our days are perfect. That’s easy. But when things aren’t so good, can we continue loving each other? Can we choose not to take offence when someone treats us unfairly but instead try to understand and be forgiving? Can we pull each other up again when we fall? Can we help each other become the people we are meant to be? If we can then, even if everything is not looking and feeling as we’d like, we’ll be unschooling perfectly.

So even though I’m far from perfect, I don’t think I’m an unschooling imposter. There really isn’t any reason for me to pack up my blog and disappear. For now, I’m not going to do that. But I do feel the need to disappear from other places, prune back on what I’m doing, lighten the burden, reduce the commitment, and give myself more breathing space.

I’ll tell you more about that next time.

Images: Sometimes I feel like this burnt-out wreck of a car.

What about you? Do you ever fall apart and wonder if you’re doing something wrong? And are you grateful for the gift of unconditional love?

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    • Anna Vaschina
    • May 22, 2017

    I’m only now learning what that (unconditional love) is. Yes, I’m grateful. It’s hard to give something you’ve never been given (love from a parent). Thankfully despite my emptiness unconditional love is not out of my reach to give to the ones I love.
    I’m very glad you didn’t delete your blog. It’s a beautiful, experienced, motherly voice.

    1. Reply


      You are so right: It is hard to give what we’ve never been given. But maybe never experiencing unconditional love as a child makes us more determined to give our own children what we lacked. Perhaps we want things to be different for them. Yes, we can do it. It’s not out of our reach! I hope that by giving your kids unconditional love you now feel wrapped up in unconditional love yourself.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog!

    • Alison
    • May 22, 2017

    Oh Sue, I am SO glad you didn’t delete your blog! You have been an incredible inspiration to me and I have learnt a huge amount from you and your family. I am very touched by your honesty and openness about all the topics you share and I always look forward to hearing another of your podcasts and reading your articles.

    I have certainly had very difficult times in my life and sometimes it is because I am doing the wrong thing – being selfish or looking to others too much or doubting myself – but I think it can also be the case that when there’s something wonderful coming around the corner, the enemy of our souls wants to stick the dagger in and drag us down. But we know the unconditional love of the Lord which keeps us going, no matter what. That’s what I cling to in difficult times – the fact and the truth that He is holding onto me, loving and accepting me always, giving me the strength and patience to keep going. Then I can forgive myself and pour that love and acceptance into my family.

    You are such a wonderful blessing and I am very thankful for you.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, I was questioning what I’d done wrong as a way of explaining how difficult life is at the moment. But you are right: There are times when the devil just wants us to feel discouraged and give up. I often ponder how the unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness we show our kids is a reflection of what God gives to us. These thoughts remind me that we are indeed on the right pathway.

      Without the kindness and understanding of friends like you, I wouldn’t be able to share in an open and honest way. You make it easy for me to admit my failings. Thank you. It’s always good to chat with you. Thank you for lifting my spirits with your encouraging words.

    • Nancy Saffield
    • May 22, 2017

    You are a wonderful example Sue. We need more honesty in the world and I believe the world is hungering for grace.

    1. Reply

      Thank you, dear Nancy. I appreciate your kind words very much!

  1. Reply

    Thanks for writing this, and sharing your experiences! It really does help to know that we’re all in the same boat. I’ve thought about writing about difficulties, but I haven’t been able to muster the courage to be that open yet. Thank you!

    1. Reply


      There is something very comforting about knowing we are all in the same boat. Being open may seem courageous, but it’s easy for me to share because you and my other unschooling friends are very kind and understanding. I don’t think I have ever had any negative feedback when I’ve been honest. I hope, if you ever decide to write about any difficulties, you’ll feel as encouraged and supported as I do. Thank you for your kind comment!

    • Deb
    • May 23, 2017

    Hi Sue,
    I can’t tell you how happy I am that you didn’t delete your work off the internet!!! I love your blog, your stories, your suggestions. You are honest… What a concept? Everyone feels like an actor in their own life sometimes, a total fraud. You are sincere enough to tell the truth about it. There are no perfect mothers, except one and no perfect family, except one. The rest of us, struggle. Thank you Sue for sharing your life’s insights with us. I’m so happy you are here.

    1. Reply


      An actor in their own life? I’ve also been thinking about that! I’m sure we all wonder what other people think of us. We feel insecure. What will everyone think if they find out we’re not as good as we pretend to be? Sometimes it feels easier to run away and hide and then no one will find out that we are indeed total frauds!

      I was talking to our priest yesterday and he reminded me of our one perfect mother. Someone to turn to. She understands.

      Deb, are always so kind to me. I appreciate your emails and comments. Thank you for encouraging me. May God bless you and your family.

    • Maria
    • May 25, 2017

    I just found your blog today. I am so very thankful you did not delete it. I am just beginning to discover the world of unschooling after homeschooling for many, many years. I won’t go into our particular situation, but it has been very, very difficult. Your blog has been an inspirational vision for me of a way to overcome some of our current struggles. Thank you so much for continuing to “fight the good fight”.

    1. Reply


      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had some difficult times recently. We found our way to unschooling because of our own difficulties. I just couldn’t continue homeschooling any longer in a way that didn’t take my kids’ needs into consideration. We always seemed to be battling to meet outside expectations. This began to pull us apart. We gradually changed what we were doing as I listened to my children and eventually we arrived at unschooling, Unschooling has been such a blessing for my family. Life isn’t perfect but it’s full of love and forgiveness and we all seem to pull together during the tough times. I hope unschooling brings similar peace and joy to your family.

      Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello and to encourage me to continue sharing on this blog. Maybe we can chat again another day!

    • venisa
    • May 26, 2017

    Sue, I can really relate. I love what you had to say, as always. I am so sorry you are going through a difficult time as a mother. Because you are a great mother and I wish that you could only have sunshine! Keep going! The best is yet to come!(right?)

    1. Reply


      How would we cope if we didn’t have friends to support and encourage us when we hit the tough spots? Thank you for being my friend and for always lifting me up and making me feel better. Good always follows a time of struggling. Oh yes, the best is indeed yet to come!

    • Luana
    • May 28, 2017

    Thank you for also sharing your hard times with us, I appreciate it very much. I`m a silent reader, enjoying your blogs for years, laughing, smiling and crying while reading and am very thankful for your openness and honesty.

    I felt supported and encouraged through your words and beautiful photographs of your family many times. Thank you for this beautiful place.

    It is strange how discouraged we can feel, when we are doing something that we know is good. This is not coming from God.
    You are my hero, Sue 🙂 Truly. And knowing that heroes also have hard times, helps keep my hope alive. My hope that maybe I could follow the lead of my heart a little bolder, that maybe I could let my heart grow a little bit more, even when growing hurts. Hope that our dear God knew what He did, when he entrusted me with this precious children.

    I pray for comfort and warm sunshine for your soul.
    Thank you for being here for us. Luana

    1. Reply


      You’ve been reading my blogs for years? That means we’ve been friends for a long time even though I was unaware of it. What a beautiful thought!

      Life can be a huge struggle at times. I do sometimes feel discouraged even though I know deep down I wouldn’t change anything because what are the alternatives? How can we love too much? Our hearts do indeed grow larger as we parent through the difficult times and they do hurt enormously. I’ve been thinking a lot about a mother’s heart. We feel every pain of our children. But we also feel all that love!

      Since I wrote this post, I have felt such love and support. I’m sure it’s God’s way of telling me everything is okay. He has indeed sent comfort and warm sunshine for my soul!

      Parenting does demand heroic sacrifices and love. I don’t think we could do it alone. But with God’s grace and the love and support of our kind friends we’ll get there. Thank you for encouraging me with your kind words today!

      I’m so glad you stopped by. May God bless you!

        • Luana
        • May 31, 2017

        Dear Sue, thank you for your answer. May God bless you and your dear family abundantly!
        Yes, your blogs have been one of my dearest inspiration places for years, I wish I would have commented more. So often I have wished we could live somewhere near you, where I could beg you to let me in for a coffee and a good loooong talk 🙂 I envy your neighbors! Would it be ok to write you an e-mail?
        Have a nice and slow day! Luana

        1. Reply


          How lovely it would be to have you as a neighbour. We don’t live near any other unschoolers or even homeschoolers. We really are a bit isolated. But we have each other and our friends online!

          I would love to receive an email from you. Thank you for wanting to write to me. I replied to this comment by email. I hope you found it in your inbox. If you didn’t, let me know and I’ll pass on my email address to you another way.

          May God bless you!

    • MotherOwl (Charlotte)
    • May 30, 2017

    I feel my life falling apart arounfd me as weel. and I begin to wonder if everythin had gomne better if I had homeschooled my children. Everything than can go wrong will go wrong. That’s how I feel rigth now. When the phone rings, I think oh, no, what now. I know it will pass, but times tas these always make you doubt yourself and your choises.
    As you I just post, no correctingh this time, you get all my tyops and all my love. May God bless you and sustain us in the storms of life.

    1. Reply


      I’m so sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time at the moment. Yes, we do question what we’re doing when things look like they are going wrong. I’ve done a lot of that recently. Have courage and trust. I’m sure these times are just part of life, opportunities to learn and grow and love each other. You’re wondering whether you should have homeschooled your children? I think you’re an unschooler even though you don’t homeschool. You’re giving your children such a rich and loving environment to grow up in.

      I sometimes wish we could sit together and chat about our lives properly. Help and encourage each other as neighbours. Although we can’t do that, you are in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless you and your family too. xx

      PS: I’m glad you didn’t worry about the typos!

    • Ashley
    • November 30, 2017

    Thank for this post Ive been feeling like that….woundering am I doing the right thing, and going though our own hard time right now. (Smile) Thank you for not deleting this post. I made my day.

    1. Reply


      I’m sorry you’re having a hard time at the moment. I’m glad we’ve been able to connect through this post. It’s difficult to share the low times but it’s also good to know we’re not alone. I’m sending you a hug. I hope you’re smiling again very soon. xxx

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