Ideas for Starting Unschooling

A few posts ago, I was talking about collaboration. Would anyone like to work with me as we try to spread the unschooling message? Could we light a gentle unschooling fire together? I was afraid no one would respond to my invitation, but quite a few people did!

You might have noticed the recent guest posts which have widened the unschooling conversation. Instead of just reading my thoughts and ideas and hearing about what my family is doing, you’ve been able to see unschooling from other parents’ perspectives.

But guests posts aren’t the only way I’m collaborating with other unschoolers. Hayley, from the blog Taking a Kinder Path, had another idea. She took the closed captions for a couple of my Youtube videos and adjusted them so they match my spoken words perfectly. When I’ve updated the captions, thanks to Hayley, you’ll be able to watch the videos with the sound muted without missing a word.

I’m also going to publish the video transcripts here on my blog as posts. And that’s what this post is really all about. Today, I want to share one of those transcripts with you.

Hayley transcribed my video Starting Unschooling. The spoken words originally came from one of my podcasts. They were a taste of episode 33.

The transcript for the Starting Unschooling video:

Do children need time to adjust to a new way of doing things? Do they need some encouragement to start following their interests? And does it take time for trust to build up between parents and children?

I think unschooling is a whole new way of looking at things and it affects the way we live our lives. It’s a big step and I think it does take time for parents and children to actually adjust to this step. Maybe parents have to trust that given time their children will start following their own interests. With a little bit of encouragement, they will actually start following their own pathways. In the meantime, it can very difficult for parents to have that trust, to say, ‘Well it’s going to happen, all I have to do is wait’. I can imagine a lot of parents saying, ‘Come on, you’ve got to learn something, what do you want to learn?’ And to start questioning their decision to unschool if nothing fantastic is starting to happen pretty quickly.

I wonder if asking our children what they would like to learn about is too confrontational. It might sound like we’re applying pressure, ‘Come on you’ve got to learn something.’ Maybe instead of jumping in with questions like this, we could begin just by relaxing with our children. Just enjoy being with our children. Watch a few movies together, read some books, play some games, go on a few outings, do some craft, take lots of time to talk, just have some fun together, concentrate on building up our relationships.

I know that my relationships with my children were really suffering when we were doing structured homeschooling. As I said, I often put other people’s expectations ahead of my children which resulted in a lot of hurt. Maybe one of the first things to do is to work on those relationships so that we build up trust with our children. While we’re doing this, we could be doing all those things that we always meant to do. I always had a big long list of things that I used to want to do with my children when we’d done the serious business of homeschooling. ‘We’ll do this when we’ve done all the work,’ I would say. But, of course, that never happened. The work was never-ending and all those things that I really would have enjoyed doing with my children got put aside day after day after day. We never actually got there. I wonder if you know the sort of things I’m talking about. So maybe some of those things are good things to actually start doing once the decision to unschool has been made.

Here’s the full podcast just in case you’d like to listen to the whole episode:

And here’s the video in case you’d like to watch as well as read:

I didn’t edit the transcript to make my spoken words flow better as written ones, but I’m going to do this before I include it in my  upcoming unschooling book. Yes, I’m still working on the book and I’m determined to finish it!

Thank you, Hayley, for your hard work. I love working with you. Your ideas are inspiring and your enthusiasm is contagious!

If you’d like to collaborate with me, please leave a comment or an email or you could join us in our Unschooling Collaborators Facebook group.

And if you have some ideas for starting unschooling, I hope you’ll stop by and share them!

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    • MotherOwl (Charlotte)
    • July 17, 2017

    Thank you for these words. I’m a reader, not a listener, and those words gave me a gentle shove in the right direction for ideas on how to spend the rest of the summer holidays.
    Descolling days are over, now we need to do unlikely things – those together-things, we always push ahead of us until work is done 😉 Learning will happen.

    1. Reply


      I was thinking about you when I said some people prefer reading rather than listening. I hope I can post more transcripts because I know you find it difficult to listen to podcasts and watch videos.

      I’m glad you could relate to my words. It’s good to actually do those together things, isn’t it? Oh yes, learning will happen! I hope you enjoy your unlikely things!

  1. Reply

    First, I want to say I love your blog! I don’t know if I’m a ‘real’ unschooler, but my kids are still under school age, and all their learning has been interest-driven as of yet. Next year they have to start school (homeschooling is illegal where we live), and it breaks my heart. Any advice on how to support unschooling while the child is in school would be very welcome.

    1. Reply

      A worried mama,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog.

      I definitely think you are a real unschooler! Unschooling starts from birth. It’s a natural way of learning. Kids are curious and can’t help learning. All we need to do is provide a rich environment, encourage them and be good examples of learning ourselves. Learning is a natural part of life. I’m sure you already know this by observing and interacting with your own children.

      I’m so sorry you won’t be able to keep your children at home. It must be very difficult not to be in total control of their education, especially when other families like ours have the freedom to do as we like. Despite having to send your kids to school, I do believe you will still be the biggest influence on them. There’s a lot you can do during the hours that they are at home. The principles of loving unconditionally, acceptance, respect, trust, forgiveness… these can all be lived out within our families whether we school or not. We can support and encourage our children’s talents and interests, accept them for who they are, encourage them to become the people they are meant to be.

      Perhaps you’ll find Grace Llewellyn’s book ‘Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School’ helpful.

      I haven’t read the book, but it sounds good. If you buy it, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

      Please feel welcome to stop by another time if you’d like to chat further.

    • Julia
    • October 25, 2017

    I think I’ve always had an unschooling slant. I worked in public schools while attending college and I was always the one that went against the grain. I challenged professors with the need to do projects or read texts that would not interest me nor would they actually give me something tangible that I could use in the future. I was always the type in school that did not do homework. I didn’t need to. I found I was not challenged and I often questioned how I would apply a subject or project into my daily adult life, into a career life. Why was a test necessary to determine what I would be good at in life if I wasn’t allowed to discover that for myself? How would a piece of paper or the state government going to know me better?

    My children are younger. My eldest will be 5 in less than 2 weeks. So we have a long time to discover and see what happens. But already as I am preparing to enter into the legal phase of *schooling* her, I am overwhelmed. I find myself feeling like that snarky 16 year old again. Wanting to know how in the world is drowning ourselves in worksheets, workbooks, chronological history, handwriting practice, formal reading lessons, etc going to allow her to understand what not only learning is truly about but that it is something you are supposed to not only love but do for life?! I have bookshelves, more than I want to admit to, of $$$$ spent on books that we will never use. That looking at those books give me a sense of dread and my poor child would wonder what the heck to do with them. That we have raised our girls to this point allowing them to just play. To love reading, even though they themselves cannot read yet. To know that it doesn’t matter what the pencil grip is or that they do not need to worry themselves with learning to properly write letters. Just that they need to be kids and that is their only job. I cannot see myself going from our reality to that of industrialized education at home. it feels heavy thinking about it. I want them to do, go, feel, and enjoy. I am letting go and letting God and trusting the process. I don’t want to focus on academics because truth be told, if our children really desire a certain University or career path, they will dive into the book work themselves. Otherwise it’ll be like throwing marshmallows at a brick wall and not understand why the brick wall is not consuming them.

    I really enjoy your podcasts! I understand that you are moving on into a different phase of life at this point, but your words still are helping newcomers. We are converting to Catholicism and my biggest worry was how to pass the faith onto them. Unschooling is the answer- you live it, you really live it. Otherwise it’s the marshmallow and brick wall all over again. It certainly takes a lot of pressure off once you let the control go. You don’t worry about what your kids are doing all day and how that looks to others. That while other 5, 6 and 7 year old children are spending 3-8 per day in studies, often times with *homework* in for homeschoolers, mine will be enjoying being children. They will enjoy life in our family. The adventures, the games, the quiet moments, and rambunctious play. That these hours are long and the years are short. And I don’t want any of us to look back on these precious years and think of how awful it was or how stressed out mom was. I want them to have fond memories that influence their lives.

    Thank you!

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, traditional schooling doesn’t make sense. Most of it is a waste of time. The problem is that, although many people suspect this, not many actually have the courage to face it and do something different. But our kids deserve better. It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this and have made the decision to go in a different direction.

      Whenever I look at structured education I get an overwhelmed feeling. What if we had to do things the school way? I’d worry about covering every single thing schools think important, forcing my kids to learn everything whether they’re interested or not, testing them to make sure they’re remembering everything…. Education when it’s presented in this way isn’t very attractive. Yes, it fills me with dread! How can those methods instil a love of learning in our kids?

      But then some people protest that our kids won’t get a proper education if we unschool. Perhaps it’s just a lazy method for us parents who get overwhelmed by curricula etc? Except it’s not. Real education happens when kids are interested, want to learn, see a need for knowledge.

      “…do, go, feel, and enjoy.” Oh yes! We have to let kids be kids. They’ll keep learning as they play and explore the world. I feel very sad that children are being forced into preschool and school at earlier and earlier ages. They’re missing out on their childhoods. Maybe parents just want to give their kids an advantage, and do their best for them, but I think kids are much better off at home.

      “…They will enjoy life in our family. The adventures, the games, the quiet moments, and rambunctious play. That these hours are long and the years are short…” You are going to keep on having such wonderful adventures with your children. I know I don’t have to convince you of the advantages of unschooling. You’re already doing it. And you won’t be disadvantaging your kids’ futures. Unschooling children can go to university. Mine have.

      I was so excited to hear about your conversion to the Catholic faith. I’m a convert married to a cradle Catholic. The longer we unschool, the more I am convinced that this is a way of life very much in line with our faith. Have you read Suzie Andres’ Catholic unschooling books? Suzie has a page here on my blog. Also, I have written a few Catholic unschooling posts. This blog started as a Catholic unschooling one, but as my audience grew and I gained lots of secular readers, I wanted to write posts that might open up the conversation to all unschoolers regardless of faith. A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of returning to Catholic unschooling, perhaps starting a new Catholic blog. The problem is that although I feel I know a lot about unschooling and have lots to share, I know I still have much to learn about my faith. Why should I think I have anything valuable to say? Anyway, the idea still sits at the back of my mind. Maybe I’ll explore it one day.

      Thank you so much for listening to my podcasts. I appreciate your feedback very much. Your comment will encourage me to record this week’s episode!

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