Is it Possible to Unschool Part-time?

I think back to how we arrived at unschooling. I didn’t wake up one morning and announce with great excitement, “I’ve decided we’re going to unschool!” No, it was a gradual process. We threw out all the things that weren’t working for us, one by one, until we were quietly ‘doing our own thing’. One day, we discovered our way of life had a name: unschooling.

But it doesn’t happen like that for everyone. Some people set off in search of answers. They read and think, and then consciously decide they should try unschooling. I imagine that can be rather frightening. Giving away all the more formal methods of homeschooling, that may not be working, but nevertheless make us feel secure, in favour of something as radical as unschooling can’t be easy. And what will everyone say?? I am wondering if this is why some homeschoolers decide to relax their methods partway…

“I’ll organise some formal work for the morning, and then I’ll let the kids unschool during the afternoon.”

Or maybe when the school year is well under way, a parent might say, “You’ve done enough formal work to satisfy me, the authorities, (whoever)… let’s spend the rest of the year unschooling.” The ‘necessary’ grind is over for the year. Now everyone can relax and do what they really want to do.

But would these homeschoolers really be unschooling part-time? Is part-time unschooling actually possible?

I think on the surface of it, these families would look like they were unschooling. Children would have the necessary permission to direct their own learning, at least for part of each day. A wonderful sense of freedom might overcome them after they’d completed their required work. They might be impatient to set off on some wonderful learning adventures of their own. (If their sense of delight hasn’t been stifled by too much enforced learning.) I can see how good this would be. But even so, I don’t think those children would really be unschooling.

If I said to my children, “You may unschool every afternoon,” or “You may unschool for the last part of the year,” what messages would they receive?

You may do what you like, after you have completed the work I’d like you to do.

My ideas are more important than your ideas.

I don’t think your interests are as valuable as my ideas.

I don’t trust you will learn everything you need to know while you are unschooling, so I’d like you to fulfil my requirements first.

What you think you need to know, isn’t what I think you need to know.

We’ve ticked off enough boxes this year, so I now feel comfortable giving you the freedom to direct your own learning.

Children will realise they are not really trusted to learn all they need to know. They will still think of learning as something separate from life. They will pick up the message that ‘important’ learning happens in the morning when the ‘real’ work is done. They won’t receive the full benefits of an unschooling way of life.

Now I’m not saying I think ‘unschooling’, or rather being relaxed about homeschooling on a part-time basis is a bad thing. It might suit some homeschoolers just fine. And it could actually lead to unschooling.

It could be that dedicating afternoons to relaxed learning is the only way a parent will feel able to try out unschooling. Maybe the hours a child spends with the freedom to direct his own learning might gradually increase as a parent realises just how much he is learning. Maybe the relaxed times of day may become so enjoyable that a family may decide to do it all the time.

I don’t know. I am just musing.

Imogen appears while I am writing this post. I ask her, “Do you think unschooling part-time is possible?”

“No,” she replies at once. “Unschooling isn’t just about children and education. It’s how you live your life. And living your life is a full time occupation.”

Imagine if we only lived part-time? If we did, then I would say: part-time unschooling is a definite possibility.


This post has caused some strong reactions, causing me to ponder whether my words were chosen with enough care. Perhaps even what I was trying to say could do with a little modifying. Maybe I could say…

If I said to my children, “You may unschool every afternoon,” or “You may unschool for the last part of the year,” what messages would they receive?

You may do what you like, but I want you to complete the work I’d like you to do as well.

Your ideas are important but you need my ideas too.

I don’t think your interests are enough on their own.

I don’t trust you will learn everything you need to know, so I’d like you to fulfil my requirements as well.

We’ve ticked off enough boxes this year, so I now feel comfortable giving you the freedom to direct your own learning. (Ticking off boxes may be a registration requirement and so I accept that this may be the only way a family may homeschool.)

Children will realise they are not really trusted to learn all they need to know. They will still think of learning as something separate from life. They won’t receive the full benefits of an unschooling way of life. (I am not saying that other forms of homeschooling don’t have benefits, but they are not the same as the ones gained from unschooling.)

I hope my points are now more acceptable, even if they don’t lead to you agreeing with me. The points still aren’t part of an unschooling philosophy, which of course, I suspect, won’t worry a lot of people!

Actually, I suspect my post has become very confusing. I am now confused about what I wanted to say. Perhaps you are too!

I could have changed my post but then the comments would not have made sense.

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  1. Reply

    Yes, unschooling is an educational philosophy, isn't it? You either do it or you don't.

    For us, we ended up on a middle road because I needed to plan to get into a good routine. The planned stuff isn't enforced, though, and it's our ideas rather than mine alone. If something doesn't work, I either try to find another way or we move on. Unschooling taught me to give the children freedom to explore and to be flexible – even though, we are now more structured.

    I'm not sure that you can't do seasonal unschooling, though. Life has different challenges at different times and we adapt to meet them. It's always changing and developing, don't you think? Random thoughts!

    Such an interesting post to ponder:-)

    God bless:-)

    1. Reply


      Your thoughts on seasonal unschooling are interesting. Life does change and present different challenges at different times. Do you think that it's impossible to unschool at certain times? Are some seasons more suited to unschooling? I am just wondering how an unschooling philosophy can be maintained during those times when another method of education is actually being used. How do we prevent our children picking up such ideas as those I mentioned in my post? I'd love to hear your further thoughts!

  2. Reply

    I don't know if this is an answer but I don't think it's ever impossible to unschool. I think, instead, it's sometimes easier to compromise because it brings a sense of peace when confidence might be low or the children ask for structure and a more guided routine (just thinking of our house here). Sometimes, it is quicker or more time appropriate to set things up beforehand, perhaps, or it suits a certain personality.

    In my mind, I think an unschooling philosophy can be maintained but it really depends on the definition of unschooling. How I would see it maintained would be by using planning with a strewing attitude. You can strew at any time – on the day or in advance. We always run ideas past our children. I think the difference is whether you force it on them or whether you let them work with it. In our house, I read to children a lot but I still work it around them. If they are busy with something or just not ready, I either try something else or do my own thing and come back to it. They know there are things the BoS requires so they cooperate to try and complete those things. But we don't stress if we get behind or if something doesn't work out because there are lots of acceptable options.

    Preventing the children from thinking unstructured learning is unimportant happens when we respect everything they do, I think – by waiting for them to finish their story before starting a reading or deciding upon a mutually respectable arrangement. Also, by making a definite effort to record their own projects in the record keeping and by treating it as important learning.

    Just more ponderings. What's your thoughts?

    1. Reply


      I guess I didn't explain myself well. I can see reasons why a family may choose not to unschool or compromise. But I am wondering why a particular season makes a difference? If they can unschool in that season, why not all the time? Is it to do with parental confidence going up and down? Perhaps children want structure at one time and not another? Could some children be unschooled and others not, regardless of the season? I am bombarding you with questions again. Sorry! You don't have to answer them. I am just musing.

      I think you are so right about the need to define unschooling. It means different things to different people. It is quite possible people will disagree with my post because their idea of unschooling is different to mine.

      Your situation is different to ours. I cannot say I have experienced children who prefer structure or who like me to make plans for them (Suggestions are fine! Take them or leave them on the spot.) I will have to ponder this some more. Though I really don't think that we don't need to convince each other that what we are doing is right. If it is right for our individual family that is all that matters. I can easily accept having seasons of doing things differently. I was just pondering whether the word unschooling could be applied to such learning. And now I guess we are back to how we define that word! I know I am starting to go round in circles, so I'd better stop. More thinking when I am less tired!

  3. Reply

    Oops, I meant respectful, not respectable! 🙂

  4. Reply

    Hmmm, this is interesting. You've pretty much described what I do – mornings are for formal bookwork and afternoons are fairly free apart from chores etc.
    I've seriously considered unschooling but I find that when I relax the kids don't do so well. They would probably say that they don't like having to "do schoolwork" yet without the structure they just aren't as productive and tend towards laziness.
    The mornings are usually stressful – especially trying to keep the younger ones busy while I work with the older ones but I really do feel that there are things they need to learn that they won't learn without that structure.

    1. Reply


      Maybe kids need time to adjust when a new way of homeschooling is tried. It could be like when children are taken out of school and homeschooled. I've heard that they need a period of deschooling. I am only speculating as I don't have any experience in this area. My girls can't really remember a time when we weren't unschooling.

      "I really do feel that there are things they need to learn that they won't learn without that structure." I would love to hear what kinds of things you are thinking of here. I wonder if there are some things my kids aren't learning but should, because we don't have that kind of structure. I can't think of anything they are missing but I am open to considering this!

      I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Thank you!

    2. Reply

      I'm thinking specifically of maths, grammar, catechism in depth. But especially maths. My 12 year old is really struggling with maths at the moment and I have always been poor at anything that isn't basic maths. Would love your thoughts on this too.

  5. Reply

    Sue, interesting post. I have to say that in the past I have been so "type-A" about homeschooling. My older boys followed very rigid and rigorous schedules given to us by our correspondence program. Now that my older boys are at a traditional school, I have not enrolled Claire in a program and have designed my own with pickings from here and there. I am surprised because it is not really my style but I am enjoying in. When she has shown some interest in certain things, we have followed a rabbit trail a bit. Could I be on my way to complete unschooling? Maybe. We'll see what happens next year. How do you handle math for unschooling in the lower grades? Can you share some on that?

    1. Reply


      You have experience of several different education styles! We tried out a lot of different styles and ideas on our way to unschooling. I think this was good. We learnt a lot along the way. We can have opinions but we can't really know how something will work unless it is put into action, and experienced.

      I like this quote from A Little Way of Homeschooling:

      "…Spend time listening to Him, and let Him tell you what He desires for your family. It may be unschooling… Whatever it is, you will recognise it by the peace it brings to you and your children. Do not settle for anything else."

      We need to homeschool in a manner that brings our families that peace. For us, that's unschooling. I can't describe the joy we feel. I just know it is right for us. But everyone else? Maybe but maybe not!

      Thank you for your comment, Stephanie!

      God bless!

      PS I just realised I didn't mention maths. Someone else asked that question yesterday. Perhaps I can share something soon, though I don't think I have all the answers!

    • Kari
    • March 13, 2013

    I have such strong emotions in response to this post. I actually sat down this morning and typed them all out but as soon as I hit "publish" it all just disappeared. I am not sure what to think of that. Does it mean the Holy Spirit wanted me to keep quiet about it all?!?!?!?!?!

    Basically, my thoughts were similar to many of Vicky's in her response. Unschooling can mean different things to different people. I look at it as "learning through real life experiences" as much as "child directed learning" but either way I think it can be incorporated into a life that also includes more formal school work as well. I also think the benefits are just as great, if not greater, when "learning through real life" is balanced by more "formal" lessons.

    I also think there is much truth to your statements about unschooling being based on trusting our children. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never embrace a full unschooling approach exactly for that reason.

    The truth is– I don't fully trust my children. And I am okay with that. I don't trust that my children are ready to move out on their own and support themselves. I don't trust that they are morally or financially mature enough to be in charge of all their own decisions. And though they surely know their own passions and interests- I do not trust them fully to direct their own education either. They are still children and, as such, I believe they still need the guidance and direction of their father and mother.

    I think I said it all so much better in my first response.

    I still respect unschooling and am glad it works for some families. But the decision to incorporate some real life learning and child directed activities in the afternoons after completing a little formalized work in the morning is what works for us. I allow my children some say but I also maintain parental authority in terms of their educational choices. I personally do not use the term "unschooling" for our approach- but I think the label is a flexible one. And like any and all home schooling it will take different forms and mean different things to different people.

    It has taken me a while to come to terms with my own personal stance on this but I have finally found peace with our approach. I don't consider it part-time unschooling but rather, a healthy balance of child and mom working together.

    Just my two cents….

    God Bless!

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for taking the time to rewrite your comment. It can be so frustrating when comments disappear.

      I can see my post has caused you some upset feelings. I'm sorry. Maybe I didn't express myself properly in the post. I didn't intend to argue the case for unschooling as compared with other methods such as a more relaxed but also mother-planned approach. I was exploring this idea… Are homeschoolers who say they are unschooling part-time really unschooling? Of course, we have determined the answer depends on the definition of unschooling. Some people may disagree with mine. I think you do. But really, we are talking more about the philosophy of unschooling, rather than a label. Do we share similar principles?

      I can see you do not regard your family as part time unschoolers. "I don't consider it part-time unschooling but rather, a healthy balance of child and mom working together." I respect your way of homeschooling and I can see it works for you, so I don't see we have a problem as far as what I wrote went.

      I think from your words: "I also think the benefits are just as great, if not greater, when "learning through real life" is balanced by more "formal" lessons," you might be questioning my sentence, "They won’t receive the full benefits of an unschooling way of life." This sentence was directed to those who want to unschool (according to my definition). I don't feel the full benefits of anything are received unless something is done whole heartedly. Sometimes dipping one's toes into the water isn't enough. But that's for those who want to be unschoolers. It's not for everyone.

      My post wasn't written as a defence of unschooling, so there was no room to expand on such things as trust. I really don't think some of my children are ready to move out of home, and are morally or financially mature to make all their own decisions either. But they know this. They are aware of their needs, and at the moment they need the guidance of their parents. I agree that children do need guidance. My children have never wanted to go off and do something that is wrong for them, when they aren't mature enough to make the right decision. I do trust they won't.

      Passions and interests? Each of our children are individuals with their own talents. When I say I let them follow these interests, what I'm saying is I want them to become who they are meant to be. I don't want to impose upon them, my ideas of what I think they should become. I had enough of this growing up. I wasn't trusted to know who I was and what I needed. It's taken me a long time to find out who I am.

      Rereading that paragraph, I am thinking some readers will say that their aims are the same as mine, but they aren't unschooling. They can do this another way. This subject has such potential for arguement! So I will just say, we do whatever we feel works the best, and unschooling seems to be working fine for our family, in achieving this goal.

      Kari, this topic is so big and is one where we all have strong opinions. My comment will turn into another post soon, and I feel I haven't really answered your comment fully! I will just finish by saying my post wasn't meant as an attack on those who are not unschooling. I do respect other people's choices, including your own. "Just my two cents…." Your opinion is more than worth 2 cents. It's important and I'm glad you shared it.

      God bless!

      • Kari
      • March 14, 2013


      I really wondered after I had "published" my comment if I should have done so. I feared it would come across as disrespectful or defensive. Maybe it did. I didn't mean it to be that way but I guess I WAS very upset by this post. I was upset because usually when I read your posts I feel like you do such a fabulous job of putting into words many of my own feelings and I can relate to most of what you write about.

      But even more so, because as I read (and re-read and re-read)this one so much of it came across negatively. I feel like I know you fairly well and kept telling myself that it was not your way to ever want to hurt others through your blog but the part of the post that says:

      "If I said to my children, “You may unschool every afternoon,” or “You may unschool for the last part of the year,” what messages would they receive?

      You may do what you like, after you have completed the work I’d like you to do.

      My ideas are more important than your ideas.

      I don't think your interests are valuable.

      I don’t trust you will learn everything you need to know while you are unschooling, so I’d like you to fulfil my requirements first.

      What you think you need to know, isn't what I think you need to know."

      Did upset me. I just don't agree that my children- or any others who may be allowed a little more freedom in the afternoons than the mornings- are be made to feel unimportant or made to feel that their ideas are not valued. At least, I hope not!

      Anyway– to avoid being defensive again, I just want to say– I really do appreciate your responding to my comments and to being very compassionate about my feelings. I still very much respect and admire you and your family and even your way of unschooling. I can see that it means a lot to all of you and has been an incredible blessing for you.

      I will still read this blog if you do decide to continue writing it- as it does give me good ideas and things to ponder. And if there is ever another discussion like this one, I will probably chime in again because I do love a good debate and because all our different perspectives are fascinating.

      But, if you decide not to, I understand that as well. Sometimes- especially when things mean a lot to us- it is better to keep them to ourselves where we can nurture them and not open them to outside opinions.

      Thanks again and God Bless!

      With much admiration, Kari

    2. Reply


      I am sorry I have hurt you through my words in this post. It was never my intention to do that. It seems to me it is very difficult to talk about unschooling philosophy without entering a big debate. It is so radical in many ways. I was writing my thoughts on unschooling, not attacking others.

      Kari, you said, "I feel like you do such a fabulous job of putting into words many of my own feelings and I can relate to most of what you write about." It is great when we read posts that speak to us in some way. But this is an unschooling blog and I know you don't unschool. I think it is inevitable you won't agree with many of my ideas and posts. Maybe if I'd written the post as if it was me considering unschooling part time and then presented my thinking, that led to my conclusion it wasn't possible, maybe it wouldn't have had the same emotive effect on you. I don't know. I still believe what I wrote, but maybe I could have chosen my words better?

      I have read many unschooling blogs and I know unschooling invites debate and high emotions from those who do not agree. I seem to have crossed over the line into that area. I love writing the stories of my family. I don't like defending myself or unschooling. It takes a lot of time and energy, which I think would be better spent unschooling my children. Lively debate is one thing, discussions where emotions are high and unpleasant feelings result is something entirely different. I also don't like to think my words could hurt. Right at this moment, writing more posts does not appeal at all. I'd rather unschool quietly without all the fuss.

      Thank you for always being such a supportive reader of my blog. I do appreciate your interest and comments, and your friendship.

      God bless.

    3. Reply


      I made some modifications to the wording in my post. I don't know if it will make any difference to the message you are picking up.

      God bless!

  6. Reply

    I think a valid point is made when it is said that philosophically, you can't unschool only part-time, and I wrote about that in my own blog, Organic Mothering. At the same time, as a Catholic mother, it is my responsibility and solemn vocation to guide my child in the way she should go, and to trust that when she is old she will not depart from it, as the Bible teaches. I think that ultimately the parent is responsible for the child's education, not the child herself, regardless of what form of schooling is used. That is what our CCC teaches. Within that framework of freedom within limits (a Montessori phrase), I believe that much learning can, and should, be child-led and auto-educative. I also think that unschooling can include formal lessons, classes, etc… My daughter wants to "do school" even though I have discussed with her that learning happens all the time, not just during specific lesson times.
    She wants to use the word "school" even though I have tried to steer away from it. There is no line between life, learning and the Faith–that is what Catholic unschooling means to me. If the child chooses formal lessons, or is at least an interested and willing participant in the schedule I present, then that is still unschooling. I think it's more about the attitude and philosophy at play than about how exactly the learning happens. If she wants to play Monster High dolls with me first thing, or to learn how to text on a cell phone, or to make a painting, I put those things as high on the priority list as reading, math, or writing. So yes, I think some formal lessons in the morning or whenever they happen can certainly be part of the unschooling atmosphere. Just my two cents, and I would love any of you to comment on my blog!!! I so much appreciate Sue taking the time to do that and to encourage me in this new journey.

    1. Reply


      I totally agree that, as a Catholic mother, it is my responsibility and solemn vocation to guide my children in the way they should go. I don't think I am failing in that regard. We live our Faith. We learn about it. Our lives are directed towards God. I guide my children. And they trust and listen to me. Unschooling and the Faith can fit together perfectly, in my experience.

      "I think that ultimately the parent is responsible for the child's education, not the child herself". I am not abdicating my responsibility. I feel unschooling is the best means of ensuring MY children grow up to be who they are meant to be. We have chosen that pathway for a reason. Unschooling is not setting a child loose to bring up and educate themselves. It would take a lot of words to expand this idea further! I think unschooling has a very negative image. It is not always understood fully. I am only coming to a greater understanding of its principles as we live the unschooling lifestyle.

      Yes, unschooling can involve formal lessons. That's not a problem. It just depends on whether those lessons fulfil a child's needs, or whether they fulfil what a parent assumes is a child's needs. If your daughter wants to 'do school' maybe that's the way to go. Perhaps her ideas of what 'school' is will change over time though. Given freedom and time to explore, she may not end up wanting to learn this way. Pure speculation of course! You know your daughter, and I don't.

      It is always interesting to talk over ideas. Unschooling can certainly result in some lively discussions!

  7. Reply

    I loved this post, it so got me thinking! At first I though, "oh my goodness Sue, I can't agree with you on this. We do blah, blah, blah, blah on some days or some afternoon" and then after a few hours I realised you are right. I do some unschooling / child led activities (as I am sure many homeschoolers do) but essentially thats what they are, activities that would possibly conform to an unschooling way but that is not my overall philosophy.

    Whilst I love the idea of unschooling or being "natural learners" (seems to be the new lingo) I am not at the point in our (or should I say MY!) learning. I have met grown unschoolers and have seen that the outcome. I don't feel that the outcome is always different to other ways of schooling (although I am sure they have a much more enjoyable time and love of learning). There are some good and some bad in all types and matters of teaching; institutionalised, homeschool (school at home) and unschooling and I think there are so many factors, the parent/teacher, curriculum if used and especially the learner themselves.

    I must say that I am amused at the way some people assume "unschooling" is easy, frankly in a way I think it's a little harder as you need to be more in tune and switched onto your childrens leads and needs. I think I am a bit more target orientated, from years in business meeting deadlines maybe, so I think my problem may lie there.

    Sue I am wondering have you ever felt that this type of schooling has not suited one of your kids as much as the others? You see my eldest can be a bit of a lazy bug and is VERY slow at doing a task (her mind wanders a bit and she gets caught up with the artistic side of things) and until recently she hasn't even enjoyed reading. That I think has been my concern I think with unschooling mine, that if I wasn't there to give her a push (I am always trying to look for ways to make things enthusiastic and fun to learn) or show, both kids for that matter, new hobbies, sports, subjects would they possibly miss something that they may not have ever considered and miss something that they absolutely love.

    Anyway I digress … I just wanted to say great article to think about and I know it wasn't your intention to say unschooling is the be all and end all, but simply that it works so well for your family but it has made me realise that I don't part-time unschool, I just tend to use a different way of teaching the children at times. It has made me thing that unschooling is more of a philosophy than a teaching approach.

    1. Reply


      I am so glad you understood what I was trying to say! I almost deleted this post this morning fearing it would be a further source of hurt to others.

      "There are some good and some bad in all types and matters of teaching; institutionalised, homeschool (school at home) and unschooling and I think there are so many factors, the parent/teacher, curriculum if used and especially the learner themselves." I agree! Every family chooses what they feel is best for their own children. I know many wonderful schoolers too.

      I was interested to hear how your personality affects your way of homeschooling. Yes, we have to be comfortable with what we are doing with our children. Maybe we relax more, the longer we homeschool. I guess we gain in confidence. I think I have changed over the years! But still, we don't all arrive at the same point. Certain ways of doing things still suit us better than others.

      I find that unschooling has suited all my children because it is very individual to each child. Each child can learn in her own way in her own time. Saying that, my girls are very similar in many ways so I don't really have to consider their differences. They like to spend hours writing and reading and playing music, but they have other interests too. Their education seems to be well-balanced. Okay, I will admit Gemma-Rose isn't that keen on maths at the moment! But that might come in time.

      I also think exposing children to different ideas and possibilities is very important! Yes, they could miss something that they may love. That's why I spend a lot of time looking for resources, tempting them with new experiences, modelling new things, inviting them to join me… I love looking on other blogs and sites for interesting ideas. This is why I think we can still share despite our differences in educational philosophy. I keep noting down book titles etc from your blog. Unschooling, like all homeschooling, needs a lot of input from parents!

      Lisa, your last paragraph really could be a summary of what I intended to say in my post. I am sure I didn't write my post very well because not everyone perceived it like you did. I just want to thank you for your comment which has made me feel a little better. I have been reading new comments with trepidation, hoping I haven't spread more hurt.

      God bless!

    2. Reply

      Hey Sue, these people are seeking unschooled adults (over 18) for help with a study. Just thought I'd pass it on in case any of your young adults may be keen but I am also showing you the link as I thought their definition of what was unschooling for this study was pretty cool.

      Stay lovely xxx

    3. Reply


      I will pass on the link to Immy to see if she is interested. I am interested in reading their definition of unschooling!

      Thank you!

  8. Reply

    Sue, I just recently discovered your lovely blog. Loving it! 🙂 As a second generation unschooler, this particular post rang very true to me. One of the biggest components to unschooling is the mindset – an attitude and a family partnership. You can't really "part-time" that. Even though we may guide, suggest, mentor and even emphasize, that respect and partnership is always there. And the ironic thing is, the more you respect our children's interests, needs and goals…the more they respect when we truly feel something would be of interest, value or necessity to them. Balances out quite nicely. 🙂

    1. Reply


      I'm so pleased you chose this post to comment on. I think I made such a mess of explaining my thoughts, but you understood what I was aiming at. You explained everything much better than I did! Thank you.

      "the more you respect our children's interests, needs and goals…the more they respect when we truly feel something would be of interest, value or necessity to them." Yes!

      In many ways I think unschooling needs to be experienced to understand the philosophy. I am still learning what unschooling is all about, even though we have been homeschooling for many years.

      I'm so interested to hear you're a second generation homeschooler. I guess the way you were educated affects how you educate your own children. Were you an unschooler?

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I noticed you are following it too. Thank you!

    2. Reply

      Sue – after a season of trying out a prepared curriculum in a very relaxed manner, my parents homeschooled both my sister and me using an entirely interest-led, unschooling approach. We went on to college and graduated with degrees in our fields of interest. My sister and I take the same unschooling approach with our own children now. 🙂

      And I think you're right about unschooling needing to be lived and experienced in order to truly understand. Lots of misperceptions out there.

    3. Reply


      Your own experience must give you confidence unschooling your own children. And you share homeschooling with your sister? I've also got a homeschooling sister! We chat and discuss, support and encourage and just enjoy sharing the experience of bringing up and educating our children.

    4. Reply

      I feel pretty relaxed and confident…*most* of the time! And having a sister to share homeschooling experiences with is FANTASTIC.

  9. I loved your post as well as the comments. Agree or disagree we are all growing and learning. Just making the choice to homeschool in any form shows that as parents you are mindful of your child's education and their joy. I have tried many different homeschooling methods or styles over the years we have been homeschooling and I have learned so much about each of my children. What I learned is all of my children are different with different needs and learning styles. Like many homeschool families I started out with a cute school room full of books, desk, and posters on the wall. Over the yrs I have tweaked that , changed this, through that curriculum to the wind all to better suit each child. My oldest who attend public school up until high school was the child I thought would benefit the most from unschooling yet he hated it. I don't know if all those yrs of structured had brainwashed him per say but he wasn't happy unless it was completely structured. I just learned to except that is his way. My daughter who only attended public school up until 2nd grade we started of structured but there was no spark. Even though she retained most of what we covered there was no real enjoyment for her. Now she is my unschooler. I do my best to expose her to as much of the world as I can. I never ever say you have to do this but I find myself often saying hey would you like to learn to make a cake from scratch or would you like to go to this event I think it might be interesting. She is a very visual learner so you will often find her curled up in the arm chair watching animal planet or sitting with her laptop watching how to videos on youtube. I do document what she is doing for state law purposes and she has to be tested every 3 yrs. Her last test she scored two grade levels above where she should be per public school. That leaves my baby boy who has never attended school and who's entire life has been learning by tagging along on his big sister's adventures. He is only 4 and we have not introduced him to any kind of curriculum. He seen a add for abcmouse so I signed him up. He loves it and will often be found playing it off and on through out the day. He loves anything he can move with his hand so we stock the house with manipulatives like blocks. We build a play area outside with tubs full of pvc pipes and connecters where he likes to put together building all kinds of wonderful contraptions. I don't know if we will ever use structured learning with him but I do my best to pay close attention to how he learns . I guess what I am saying is no matter what label we use or don't use the end goal for most of us are happy children who love learning.

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much for reading my post. I remember writing this one and the problems I had putting my thoughts into words! Sometimes, even when the words are right, it is difficult to communicate ideas properly when other people are seeing homeschooling from a different perspective. Anyway, the post generated some good discussion. I actually found a post on the same subject where the author said exactly what I wanted to say but in a much better way. I wish I'd bookmarked it!

      I really enjoyed reading your comment and meeting your family. Oh yes, homeschoolings changes according to our children's needs and personalities, and also over time, as we as a family change. Then there is the evolution of ideas and a growth in confidence and trust that allows us to let go more and more. Homeschooling is never static. It's a learning process.

      Trying to direct a child down a pathway he/she doesn't want to go is stressful and unfruitful. My 16 year old daughter has such strong ideas about what she does and doesn't want to do. It's just as well she only needs to fulfil homeschooling requirements for a few more months. Whether it is structured learning or unschooling, I agree we have to allow our children to learn in the way that suits them best.

      Thank you so much for stopping to say hello. I hope we can catch up with each other again another day.

  10. Reply

    You are questioning an entire house of cards in one small essay. The small steps that it takes to tear down false assumptions are numerous. Narrowing your scope may make the discussion more focused and nuanced. Articulating the smaller steps will hone your argument. Feelings also come into play. "I am afraid of what will happen if we don't check off the boxes." Another way to look at it is that unschoolers have different fears, "I'm afraid of what will happen to your curiosity, creativity and self-agency if I tell you what to do rather than you directing yourself." "I'm afraid of making outdated bureaucratic requirements and compliance to those part of our relationship. I believe it will damage our relationship." "I'm afraid that the choices I made for you based on my assumptions will be inferior to the ones you make for yourself." "I'm afraid that the way I learned will not prepare you for a very different future."

    What will happen if you don't check off the boxes? You can post articles and studies about adults who were raised with Unschooling and Sudbury schooling that shows their outcomes.

    You could also focus on the small steps that you took. "I found that learning a rubik's cube taught my children procedural geometry that they couldn't get from a worksheet." "Gaming has taught my children algebra intrinsically because the final points of most games are a result of multiple variables all with coefficients." "Toribash is the equivalent of learning CAD-CAM at age 11." How can worksheets or a lecture compete with such an enriched experience?" The devil is always in the details. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Special Needs Books,

      Thank you for your comment. You are quite right: How can we address all the issues in one small post.

      I have often thought about deleting this post because I don't think it is very helpful for those people who are investigating unschooling. It has been the source of a few heated feelings, and when people get upset we close off the barriers to communication. I prefer a gentle approach to sharing, meeting people where they are, rather than getting them offside with my rigid opinions.

      I also think feelings are important. We have to take them into consideration when discussing unschooling with other people. If you read other articles on my blog you will see I have written about the fears people have. Sometimes it's difficult to let go of fears. Empathy and understanding is very important.

      I also share how my children find alternate ways of learning certain skills.

      I have 5 adult children. I am fortunate they don't mind me sharing their stories so yes, I can tell people they are doing fine despite the fact we didn't tick off all the boxes.

      This post was written 3 years ago and I have written many, many other posts since then. I hope I have already covered your excellent suggestions, but I will keep them in mind.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. It's always good to share ideas especially those that help us share unschooling in a helpful way

  11. Reply

    I agree from studying the philosophy and reading up on it that in order to gain the benefits of unschooling that you kind of have to be "all in"… I'm not an unschooler, but a relaxed home schooler. Each philosophy reaps a different sort of benefit and has different drawbacks. I think you have to decide based on your child's needs, your needs, and the society that you and your child live in what is the best fit.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, until we adopt an 'all-in' way of unschooling we won't gain all the benefits of living this way of life. Saying that, I know most people aren't ready to do this, and so maybe a gentle letting go, a bit at a time, is a better option. Or as you said, perhaps unschooling isn't necessarily the best philosophy for every family. We have to make our own personal decisions and hope that others will be supportive and encouraging and not judgemental. Aren't we so fortunate that there are lots of options and we are free to choose the one that suits us?

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

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