When Unschooling Spills Over into Parenting

Some random thoughts about unschooling and parenting…

Sometimes I get the feeling most of the world thinks I’m a little strange. Whenever I post a parenting story I wonder if there are people out there thinking, “Wow! She’s a bit weird. She’s wrong too. Parenting like that would never work.”

I admit it. I’m weird. I know I have drifted into dangerous waters. It was quite okay when we were only unschooling as a method of education. That was weird enough. But should I have let our whole lives get taken over by the unschooling philosophy? Wouldn’t it have been easier to stay with the majority and do things like everyone else?

Yes, I think it would, but I can’t. The more I ponder unschooling, the more I realise it is a way of life, not a method of education. It’s not something we do because ‘it works’ and will give my children the best chance to get into university. No, unschooling is more than that. It’s about helping our children and ourselves become who we are intended to be, regardless of any university entrance requirement. It’s not something that is over and done with by the age of 18. Unschooling lasts a life time. It lasts all day, every day. And so of course, it spills over into parenting.

Who we are meant to be… I think that’s a key point. Normally homeschooling refers to the children. They are the ones who are getting an education. With unschooling, I have found I need to be willing to do everything I want my children to do. I have to be an example. I have to try to become the person I was designed by God to be. I know most people are doing this. But what does this mean for me? It means I have to continue my own education by learning alongside my kids, as well as following my own passions. I must exercise and help with the chores, ask for forgiveness, and be forgiving… So many other things too. Sometimes I have to be willing to do things that are hard, that I don’t particularly want to do. That’s not always easy. It’s also not lazy.

Of course unschooling isn’t understood by many people. I found it difficult to understand it myself for a long time. Maybe it’s something that needs to be experienced. And even then it’s a continual learning process. If you read my posts in order you will notice the steps in my thinking, the changes in our way of life.

Children will learn what they need to know when they need to know it.

I’m sure if you’re familiar with unschooling, you’ll have heard that before. I think it’s absolutely true whether we are talking about what
most people refer to as ‘education’ or anything else in a child’s life.  I know many people would disagree. But that’s okay. I can live with that. I live with unschooled children. I have observed them.  I know them very well.

Trust, respect, unconditional love… the essential ingredients… Wouldn’t we all like to have these? But we are adults. Is it different for children? We love but can we afford to trust and respect? Maybe children aren’t capable of being trusted and respected. I think they are. But not everyone is like me. Some people aren’t able to let go enough to unschool. It’s not for them.

Unschooling is a different way of looking at things. But is different wrong? Are my parenting posts really full of strange ideas? Have my
children turned out weird?

Yes, I admit it: they are weird. They’re not normal at all. They are themselves. And that’s just the way they are meant to be.

Image: A bunch of weird unschoolers
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  1. Reply

    Don't forget, you're Catholic as well. Totally weird. Then you're a woman with a university degree but no career. Bizarre! And to top it all off you let your kids run wild all day long. So strange.

    I know you realise this is all tongue in cheek, but my point is that others will always find others way's strange. My measure of how we are doing is – Are we doing what is good? Are we doing what is right? Is this what God wants of us? If I can say yes to all those, then everything is just fine, regardless of what everyone else thinks 🙂

    1. Reply


      You are so funny…. and right! Yes, we were already weird long before we thought about unschooling. Unschooling fits us perfectly!

      Oh I like your questions. Yes, what everyone else thinks is not important if we are doing what God wants us to do.

      Being weird is good for kids. Mine know they are different but they have confidence and are strong in their beliefs. I don't think they will have many problems with peer pressure. They are quite happy being who they are even if if they aren't the same as everyone else.

      Better go and chase up those wild kids of mine…

    • Dawn
    • December 17, 2013

    We are brand new to unschooling…and wow. I'm so lost! I read your posts, but I just see my kids only either playing on the computer, watching TV, or literally just sitting! I have tried leaving out interesting things, but they just really don't want to do anything besides the above. They are older, so I realize we have some deschooling to do, but ugh this is maddening. ;p

    1. Reply


      I have never had kids in school (or have you been doing school-at-home?) so I imagine it is a lot harder for you than it is for me. Yes, I've heard that kids need a period of deschooling. I guess it's a big adjustment for everyone. A frustrating time too maybe?

      When kids watch TV, play on the computer or just sit we don't generally think of what they are doing as 'educational'. I am sure however they are learning but maybe not in the way you'd like or imagined. I wonder if you could share their TV programs and computer activities. If you sat alongside them, got talking, asked questions, showed an interest in what they're doing, accepted what they're doing without judgement, it would help build the trust between you all. You might see learning opportunities you didn't know were there. You might be able to offer other DVDs, games, computer activities etc your children might enjoy. There are so many wonderful things going on online. How about coding, animation, blogging, game design, maths computer games, strategy games, movie making, photo editing? I could give you some websites to consider if you're interested.

      Anything can start off a discussion and lead to valuable learning. Any movie has potential for learning. There's always something to discuss. It doesn't really matter what you start with. Maybe if you share what your kids want to watch they'll be open to your suggestions later. There's lots of wonderful videos on Youtube you could watch together.

      Sitting… I love sitting with my girls, a cup of coffee in one hand, and just chatting. We talk about anything and everything and all of it is valuable. It contributes to our relationship as well as our store of knowledge.

      Then when your children are ready they might be open to different learning suggestions. You could suggest some outings. Most kids like to go out especially if they don't have to report back on everything they've learnt. You could read books together…

      Doing things together draws families close. It encourages kids to do something they wouldn't have been inclined to do by themselves. We look upon learning as a family experience. Everyone does it. So maybe you could get involved too. Share your passions, try out everything you're strewing for your children instead of just leaving it out for them to notice. And if they reject your ideas, it doesn't really matter. There's always something else.

      Get involved, model a love of learning, share each other's activities, value everything your kids are doing, take time and enjoy each other… maybe these would help.

      Dawn, please feel welcome to comment again. I'm happy to share more of what we do with you if you'd find it helpful. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my posts.

      • Dawn
      • December 18, 2013

      Thank-you!! I think you are right. I have SO much learning to do about this whole way of living. I would truly love any suggestions of websites or of ideas. I back read through all your posts and they have been so helpful. 🙂

    2. Reply


      I will gather together a list of resources you might find useful and post it as soon as I can!

      • Dawn
      • December 19, 2013

      Thank-you! And thank-you again for this blog!

    3. Reply


      I put together a list of interesting stuff children can do on the computer:

      More lists as I think of them. I hope that helps!

    • Gina
    • December 17, 2013

    First I wanted to say that the book Parenting with Grace by the Popcaks says that attachment parenting is a good way to live out our Catholic faith – so you are growing closer to and imitating Jesus by parenting the way you do. Also, I am reading a book I received as a gift called Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer. So there is no normal just permanent press, colors and delicate 🙂

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, attachment parenting. I think unschooling really is just an extension of attachment parenting.

      "… you are growing closer to and imitating Jesus by parenting the way you do…" Your words are perfect. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Thank you!

      I haven't actually read any books by the Popcaks but I've heard they've helped a lot of people. Maybe I should read Parenting with Grace! The other book you mentioned sounds interesting as well.

      Thank you so much for your comment, Gina!

    2. Reply

      I read that one too. In fact, when my 14 year old was 5, my husband pressured me to send him to school. I went along with a broken heart. After the first week, my son became VERY angry with me. Tears, hateful words ~ I had never seen him that way.

      Anyway, I prayed and prayed. I did not want it to be my decision to pull him, but my husbands. Anyway, the words of that book which I read many years prior rang out loudly to my heart from God. "Homeschooling is just an extension of the attachment parenting that you have already incorporated." That very day, I simply repeated that to my husband, and in spite of those "well intended" family members who would scoff at the fact of "not giving it enough of a chance", my husband insisted we pull him out! Now, we have progressed to what I call "unofficial unschooling" and I haven't really spoken fully with my husband about it yet. Time to pray, pray, pray again.

    3. Reply


      How your heart must have ached when you saw the affect school had on your son.

      "not giving it enough of a chance" That reminds me of so many people's advice on such things as controlled crying. I guess kids can get used to anything eventually but at what price?

      I am sure God leads us in stages, teaching us as our children grow. Unofficial unschooling… this is where you have been led. Sometimes the next stage looks frightening and perhaps unobtainable but everything will fall into place if it's God's will. Maybe your husband will be supportive as he was last time, especially if he thinks it will benefit your children.

      God bless you!

  2. Reply

    I just love your philosophy. I am trying to open myself more and more to this way…Thank you for being you and letting your kids be themselves!

    1. Reply


      Thank you. Maybe we can all be weird together! It's so lovely to see you on my blog. Keeping you in my prayers!

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