Bare Foot Unschooling and Comfortable Shoes

Many years ago I fell in love with a pair of soft golden-brown leather moccasins. They were decorated with tassels, threaded with tiny glass beads. Those shoes were absolutely beautiful and as soon as I saw them in the shop, I wanted them.

There was only one tiny problem: They were half a size too small. I soon convinced myself the shoes would stretch once I started wearing them. I was sure I could put up with slightly cramped toes until they grew to the perfect size. So I bought them.

But the shoes refused to grow. One day, after yet again peeling them off my very sore toes, I reluctantly faced the fact they were never going to fit my feet. I should have left them in the shop. Those gorgeous moccasins were the perfect fit for someone, but not me.

It’s hard when something looks absolutely perfect and then you have to admit it doesn’t fit properly. All that hope turns into disappointment. It doesn’t just happen with shoes. It can happen with homeschooling too.

I remember reading book after book about Charlotte Mason. Her way of education looked perfect. Living books sounded very attractive. I just knew we were going to read book after book after book. Of course my children would eagerly narrate back every single one of them. I could just imagine the beautiful nature notebooks my children were going to put together. And short lessons? That made perfect sense. 

Except Charlotte Mason wasn’t perfect for my children. Although they loved reading living books, they didn’t like narrating. Our nature books never filled up because we hardly ever went on a nature walk. And no one liked it when I looked at the clock and then shouted, “Time to move on to the next lesson!” just as they started to get involved with whatever we were doing. Soon we all became very uncomfortable, and I had to admit this method didn’t fit our family at all. I reluctantly let go of my Charlotte Mason dream and went looking for something else.

We tried classical homeschooling and unit studies and I even glanced at the Robinson curriculum, among other things. Each method beckoned me, trying to convince me that it was the perfect way to educate my children. And there was something about each one I liked. But each time, after valiantly trying to do as required, I had to admit these methods weren’t for us. 

Of course one day I stopped trying to make other people’s homeschooling methods fit my children. I gave up and instead we quietly ‘did our own thing’. Our own thing turned out to be unschooling.

So we tossed off those restricting methods that weren’t meant for us, and now we’re free. We’re walking bare-footed. Bare-footed unschooling? Doesn’t that sound good?

We’re wriggling our toes in the warm sun. We’re digging our feet deep into the damp sand. We’re running without shoes over the springy grass.  We’re dipping our toes into cool water, and splashing in puddles. We’re living life. Our life. Unschooling is a perfect fit.

Those beautiful moccasins weren’t the only uncomfortable shoes I ever wore. I used to totter on high heels, suffer pinched toes in pointy shoes, shuffle along in flip-flop thongs which refused to stay on my feet, increase my height on top of platform shoes…

Somewhere along the way I became sensible (or perhaps boring). Now I refuse to wear anything other than flat comfortable shoes like my favourite Doc Marten boots or my ballet flats or my lace-up canvas sneakers. 

Of course if I’m not going out, I wear my bare feet. I like wriggling my toes and feeling free. Don’t you?

Image: Four huge BEAR feet

You could visit my Stories of an Unschooling Family FACEBOOK page to read all the extra blog stuff.

Or take a look at my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek, on LuluAmazon or Barnes and Noble.

Or listen to one of my podcasts.

Or just stop to chat about your favourite shoes!


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    • Vicky
    • September 28, 2014

    I guess eclectic homeschooling came about because of all of this. But, for some reason, I've never wanted to call us eclectic homeschoolers – it doesn't seem to have the same sense of purpose as other methods. I think our family has learnt a lot from different methods and streamlined a lot over the years. We seem to have settled into a routine of good literature, creative writing and non-fiction read alouds. We also try to do some Maths and Latin most days but we don't stress about them – it seems to happen in little steps.

    I still would like to see the requirements relaxed so that we can freer to enjoy our learning the way that suits our personalities and interests.

    This is a lovely, happy post, Sue 🙂

    1. Reply


      I think you are right: Eclectic homeschooling borrows a bit from this method and a bit from that. Perhaps it's more tailored to the needs of a particular family. I still think it is a method chosen by a parent though, unlike unschooling, so maybe that's why we didn't adopt it.

      I could quite easily join in with your homeschooling days. Good literature, creative writing and other read-alouds sound good to me!

      I remember you had a time when you called yourselves unschoolers. Would you return to this way of life if the regulations were relaxed? I can see how registration requirements can discourage people from unschooling. I just do a lot of behind-the-scenes work, translating my girls learning into the required educational language. So far we have been able to comply. I wonder if I'd find it more difficult to meet expected outcomes if my girls didn't have such a wide range of interests. Like you, I hope the requirements are eventually relaxed!

      We were talking about random word stories. This is one of them. I'm glad it turned out to be a happy post!

    • Amy
    • September 28, 2014

    Right there with ya all the way! I love the label of 'Barefoot homeschooling.' 🙂 We have tried it all too over the years—very structued way back in the beginning, then somewhere along the way we found unit studies, etc—until one day I discovered our 'Barefoot Homeschooling' as you call it. And yes, my kids & I LOVE to be bare foot…probably 3/4 of the year. We live out in the country & most of our neighbors are family/VERY close friends & they used to tease when my kids were little that they NEVER saw them in shoes! I told them , 'Nope…only when they go to church or to town. LOL!' And I just remembered how they would tell me they wanted to toughen their feet up so they could have 'hobbit' feet……what a memory. 😉

    1. Reply


      I wonder if most families try a few different methods before they find what works for them. We actually started as unschoolers. I didn't fully understand what it was all about though. I thought parents should step right back and let children learn entirely on their own. That didn't feel right so I went searching for something else. When we did find ourselves back at unschooling, i didn't even realise what we were doing because I still didn't understand the definition of unschooling. It was only when I read Suzie Andres' books that I thought, "Hey! That's what we've been doing for years… unschooling!"

      You must live somewhere with good weather if you can go bare foot for so much of the year. When I was a child most of my friends didn't wear shoes and they all had very tough feet. I tried to go bare foot but my mother always insisted I wore shoes. She had her standards! Hobbit feet… oh I like that!

      Today is the warmest day of spring so far. Yesterday I was wearing winter tights and long boots. Today my feet are bare! And it feels good!

  1. Reply

    One doesn't have to be a homeschooler or an unschooler to really enjoy this post. One can just be a grandma sitting back in her these-are-the-only-shoes-I-can-BEAR-anymore-lace-ups, smiling and saying "I love this post!

    1. Reply


      "…these-are-the-only-shoes-I-can-BEAR-anymore-lace-ups…" Now I'm smiling!

      I was looking for a image of shoes when I suddenly thought of bare or bear feet, and then I found this beautiful polar bear. Don't you just love words that sound the same but are spelt differently? Oh the possibilities! Playing around with words is such fun.

      Thank you so much for smiling over my post!

    • Hwee
    • September 28, 2014

    I like the barefoot analogy. 🙂 You're spot on about the search for a perfect homeschooling method and then finding one that suits our family best. I'm reluctant to label us one way or another, because we tend to go with what feels right at any time. I quite admire those who can stick to one method from the beginning of their homeschooling journey to the end of it. We've tweaked our approach so many times by now that I've given up trying to identify ourselves as any specific type of homeschooler.

    1. Reply


      Although it is hard to go from one method to another, maybe it's good to recognise when something isn't working and to stop doing it. What feels right at any time… yes, we change, our children change and life changes, so I guess homeschooling has to change too. The beauty of unschooling is that it takes all that into account.

      We were talking about labels the other day. It doesn't really matter what label we adopt unless we are searching for like-minded people in particular. But I think we can all share so much, regardless of our labels.

  2. Reply

    Life, education and such is never about "one size fits all" and the sooner we get that, the sooner we'll be more adaptable and content as a species.

    By the way, as a shoe lover, I too would have bought those moccasins and suffered the pain. I still have 6inch heels in my closet, although haven't worn them in like forever (not much need on a farmlet), cause you just never know when you might need them. Thank goodness they started bringing out patterned gumboots just when we shifted here, cause I couldn't wear the plain black ones. Bright and happy footwear makes me smile.

    1. Reply


      Wouldn't life be simple if one size did fit all. It might be boring too! Imagine everyone the same. Oh no, I'd rather be different!

      You would have bought those moccasins? We are certainly kindred spirits, even though I don't own even one pair of high heels. I do however like patterned gumboots. I can just imagine you pottering around your farmlet in your brightly coloured footwear. That picture makes me smile too!

  3. Reply

    Barefoot! I love barefoot, and now I've gotten my ninja boots, it's almost like running barefoot – a post on ninjaboots upcoming >_>

    1. Reply


      I saw your ninja boots! I'd never seen anything like them before. Running barefoot… They must be roomy and soft. Is the separated toe design comfortable?

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