How an Unschooling Life isn’t Perfect and Why That’s Okay

I take a look at my drafts file. I have SEVENTY half-written blog posts! Can I finish any of them? How about this one?

I began writing this post some time ago when I was enthusiastically working on my unschooling book. If I publish it, will I feel motivated to continue writing my book?

I’m writing an unschooling book. I’ve been thinking about the main message I want to share. What do I really want to say?

Of course, I want to tell everyone about unschooling. I want readers to feel excited by my words. Will my book encourage someone to say, “Hey, I want to give unschooling a go!”? I hope so!

So what words will I use? Will I say, “Unschool and everything will be wonderful”? I could tell loads of stories that will convince you that my family is living a perfect life. But is this really true?

Are my kids perfect? Am I a perfect mother? Is life one long and interesting and enjoyable adventure because we unschool?

I’d like to answer yes to all those questions.  But I can’t.

So why write a book about unschooling if it isn’t a perfect way of life? Why do I write this blog? Am I just another voice in the crowd? Are we all shouting about how we’ve found the best way to live when none of us has? Or is unschooling truly a way of life that is different from everything else?

I believe unschooling is different because it’s all about unconditional love.

Unconditional love? Surely unschooling is all about giving kids the freedom to learn what they like? How do we get from that to love?

Oh my, it would take me a long time to explain. That’s why I want to write an unschooling book.

I want to share how choosing to unschool, although it won’t make our lives perfect overnight, will result in a love so powerful it will encourage us to become the people we are all meant to be.

I have already explored the topic of unschooling and unconditional love many times in my blog posts and podcasts. As I’m writing my book, perhaps I should go back and read and listen to my own words. Refresh my memory and then put everything together in an organised way.

I could start with podcast, episode 21: Being Honest, Talking about Mistakes and Perfection. I can’t remember exactly what I said. Can you? But the title looks promising.

So what do you think? Is your unschooling life perfect? Is perfection necessary? And have you discovered the connection between unschooling and unconditional love? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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    • Elizabeth
    • June 8, 2017

    I would very very interested in reading your completed book if you get around to finishing it! Many unschooling blogs and books have inappropriate content (it seems that many unschooling parents who blog lead alternative lifestyles or encourage their children in this way) and I am always looking for resources that are not offensive. Your blog has been very refreshing! Some things that would be helpful for me (someone who wants to dive into unschooling) to read about are:

    1. Since you have college-age children, what process did they go through to get into University? Did they need to study for any placement tests? If so, how did they go about doing that?
    2. How do your children feel about not learning in a similar fashion as children who attend school? Do other adults ever try to quiz them about things they think they should know?
    3. Do you ever receive criticism? If so, how do you deal with it?
    4. How do you incorporate teaching your Catholic faith to your children?
    5. What are your suggestions if husband and wife have different ideas about how the children should be educated? For example, my husband does not so much mind unschooling with most areas of life, but wants our children to follow in step with mathematics (as school children).
    6. Reading about your experiences with strewing has been very enlightening. I had never come across that term before. I would be interested to read about your successes / failures with this.

    Your tutorials on Evernote have been very helpful. I have already got mine set up with plans to capture my children’s unschooling for this summer. I am curious to keep track of the many different things they learn about and study. Thank you so much for your blog posts and podcasts. Your experience is so helpful and you are such a wonderful example of nurturing good relationships with your children.

    1. Reply


      Your comment encourages me to keep working on my book. I get distracted easily by everything else that’s going on in my life and sometimes the book seems very unimportant.

      I am very happy to answer your questions. Perhaps I can suggest some blog posts to read as well. I hope you don’t mind if I leave that to another time. As soon as I get a longer quiet moment, I will write another comment. I’m writing this quickly on Saturday morning before heading to town with a couple of my daughters. We’re having a special morning tea together.

      Enjoy the weekend!

    2. Reply


      A few answers to your questions!

      1: My older children studied several university units online before applying to for the university degree course of their choice. They studied online through Open Universities Australia choosing units they were interested in. The results of these units gave them a ‘score’ that could be used instead of a school leaving certificate for university applications.

      Because my children were able to choose units that matched up with their interests, they did very well. My son Callum applied to do a Bachelor of Nursing and was accepted after he’d completed a couple of science related units plus a basic preparation for tertiary studies one. He also submitted evidence of such things as his involvement with St John Ambulance. Callum didn’t complete the degree because he changed his mind about nursing but he was certainly capable of doing it.

      Several of my kids chose to do their whole degrees online. They liked the idea of being in charge of their time. Duncan has a Bachelor of Arts degree. When he completed this degree, he did his Masters of Teaching at an on-campus university. Imogen has a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Publishing. Charlotte is partway through her Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design. Sophie says she doesn’t want to go to university because she has other ideas about how to pursue her passion of photography, but I think she’ll have no trouble getting into a course of her choice if she changes her mind.

      2: My children know they are different but they feel they are at an advantage. They don’t envy the school kids who have to learn what they are told in order to pass exams. Sometimes when they’re talking to school kids they realise they don’t know much about certain topics such as higher maths but it doesn’t worry them. They are aware that they know far more about many other subjects. And it’s these subjects which are important to them. No one has ever tested my kids by asking them questions. I guess we’re fortunate. When people talk to my children, it’s obvious they are involved with many different and exciting projects and are knowledgeable about many things.

      3: Again, we are fortunate: No one has ever criticised us for unschooling. I do know, however, that many unschoolers have to deal with this. I chatted about this in one of my podcasts offering suggestions that apply to any type of criticism:

      Using good communication helps. And trying to see why people are criticising. Usually, they are just concerned for us.

      4: The best way to teach our kids about our faith is to live it. It is our life. It’s part of who we are. I don’t teach my kids about our faith in a formal way. Instead, we talk about our beliefs, relate it to events in our lives, and are constantly learning more about our faith by reading books and discussing them. I share what I discover and what I’m pondering with my children. I buy books and invite my family to read them. We read spiritual books out loud. We pray together. We pray for other people. Mass and other liturgical activities are woven into the normal rhythm of our week. Our faith is important and our kids pick up on that by observing our example and being invited to share it too.

      5: I think it’s important that our spouses’ opinions are taken into consideration when unschooling. We have to respect their points of view and can’t go against them. Saying that, I also think we can share unschooling info with them. Maybe they’d be willing to read a few articles or books and discuss them. And we can make compromises. If one spouse feels more comfortable with formal maths then perhaps that’s the way to go. People might change their minds especially when they see their children thriving and learning. Also, keeping records of our children’s learning experiences can help a spouse see how unschooling works: Children are learning despite not being forced to do certain things. I’ve never written a post on this topic. Perhaps I will!

      6: I strew in many different ways. I look for things that will extend my children’s knowledge of their passions. I also strew things that will open up new possibilities for them. And then there’s the strewing connected to the school syllabus. My girls are supposed to learn what the school kids are learning in order to fulfil their homeschool registration requirements. I sometimes look for resources that will cover the topics in the syllabus in an interesting way. I put these resources in my unplanning or strewing notebook.

      We can strew books, music, objects, thoughts, outings, games… anything that enriches our children’s world. We can leave resources in a place where our kids will see them. We can say, “I’ve put some new resources in the unplanning notebook if you’re interested.” We can offer them: “Would you like to read this book?” We can invite our kids to join us for a movie or an outing, etc. We can also strew by getting involved with our own interests. Many times my girls have wanted to know what I’m doing and I have invited them to join me. There are lots of ways to strew.

      I offer but never force. If my children don’t want to use or read or watch or… any of the things I have offered them, then that’s quite okay. I have curious kids and I know their tastes very well so I have a lot of success with strewing. But, yes, I’ve had my failures too. Sometimes when I’m excited about a resource it can be disappointing when no one shows any interest in it. However, if I go ahead and use the resource myself often my children will end up joining me especially if I’m watching a movie or documentary.

      I’m sure your Evernote notebooks will soon be overflowing with unschooling notes. When we observe our kids closely we can see they are learning all the time. I hope you enjoy adding to your notebooks over the summer.

      I hope my answers to your questions are helpful. I have written blog posts on these areas. If you search the tags or categories you should find them easily. Feel free to continue the conversation!

      It’s been good to chat!

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