With So Much Freedom, Will an Unschooler Choose to be Lazy?

If a child is given the freedom to choose what she wants to do every day, isn’t there a risk she will choose to be lazy and not do anything at all? Or maybe she will decide to do what is easy, rather than what is challenging…

While we were driving to town this morning, I asked the girls if they’d brought along some books they could read, while waiting their turn to have their piano lessons.

“I’ve got Les Miserables,” said fifteen year old Charlotte.

“Are you still reading that?” I asked.

“I know I’m going slowly but I’m making progress. I’m definitely going to finish it.” Then Charlotte added, “But I can’t say it’s one of my favourite books. The action keeps getting interrupted by long passages of history. I have read so much about the French Revolution.”

“It sounds like Les Mis is the ultimate info-dump novel,” observed Imogen.

“Info-dump?” I asked.

“In novel writing, information can be given as part of the story, or it can be dumped in large chunks between passages of action.”

“All that French Revolution stuff sure slows down the pace of the novel. I guess it’s a good way to learn history but I decided to read
the book for the story,” said Charlotte. “It really is hard work persisting sometimes.”

“Are you tempted to give up?” I asked.

“No. I chose to read the book and I’m going to finish what I started. I want to say, ‘I read Les Miserables,’” said Charlotte. “I’ve also promised myself that when I get to the end of the novel, I will watch the film version. I’m looking forward to that.”

“And the stage version,” said Imogen. “That should be good as well.”

I told the girls that Victor Hugo also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I couldn’t tempt Charlotte with this novel, at least not in the near future. “I think I will read something different next. How about another Charles Dickens, Immy?”

“That sounds good. Which one? Nicholas Nickleby?”

The girls have set themselves the goal to read every single Charles Dickens novel. I guess they will.

I have never read any of Victor Hugo’s novels. I did start The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but after a chapter or two, I lost interest. I have never even considered reading Les Miserables,  unlike Charlotte. The girls are doing much better than me with Charles Dickens too. I’ve been reading Bleak House for what seems like years (but I’m going to finish it!) Imogen and Charlotte finished that novel a long time ago. Just imagine if we adults had to do everything we’d like our children to do… Would I be able to keep up? I doubt it very much.

It seems to me that if unschoolers were lazy they wouldn’t voluntarily attempt to read such challenging literature as Les Miserables. And sometimes they even choose to persevere when the going gets tough.

Now I know not all unschoolers enjoy literature. This is only an example. Callum, a former unschooler, isn’t doing any reading at the moment except car manuals. But you should see him under the bonnet of a car, working out how to fix various problems. In his spare time, he isn’t sitting back doing nothing. He is busy learning new things. His energy, and determination and ability to work things out, impress me. He definitely enjoys a challenge, which is just as well because as he solves one problem, he discovers another, and another…

I have just remembered: Callum did choose to read a number of classic novels. Amongst other books, he decided to read a number of Alexandre Dumas novels a few years ago, and he enjoyed them…

Do unschoolers choose to be lazy? Are they inclined to take the easy option rather than the challenging? Not in my experience.

I don’t think my children are unique. I’m sure you all have similar stories to tell.

Has anyone seen either the film or stage version of Les Miserables? Did you read the book version first? Or maybe you’re inspired to read it now. It’s available as a free ebook if anyone feels like taking up the challenge!

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  1. Reply

    You are a great example of unschooling at its very best, Sue:-)

    It's so good that you share how you do it because I think that people often think that unstructured means doing nothing and being lazy, but unschooling is much more proactive than that, isn't it?

    Thanks for another inspiring post – I've been wanting to read Charles Dickens for so long now but I've been too lazy!

    God bless:-)

    1. Reply


      Yes, unschooling is wrongly perceived by many to be the lazy way of homeschooling. Maybe that is why many unschoolers don't even want to admit they are homeschooling in this manner. They might want to avoid possible criticism. I have read quite a few articles online warning parents against unschooling. But the warnings are not needed at all. As you said, unschooling is proactive, not passive. I think both parents and children work very hard.

      I have been thinking about an unschooler's motivation to work. Could a love of learning account for that?

      I love Charles Dickens! But I find I need to concentrate carefully when I read his novels otherwise I miss the richness of his language and all the complicated plot details. Perhaps you are not lazy at all, but rather you haven't enough of the long stretches of quiet time needed to read these books properly. Now if we are talking about me… that's different. I have lots of opportunity but sadly I don't make persistent effort! Now if only I had been unschooled as a child…

      God bless!

    • Fliq
    • March 5, 2013

    Hi Mum!

    I've been reading your blogs regularly, and I realised I never comment. I don't know if that's good or bad. Maybe you don't want your opinionated guinea pig girl disturbing your conversations with experienced bloggers and mums!

    This is terrible, but I would like to derail your comments for a moment to ask which one of my gorgeous sisters drew your new header? It is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and funniest things I have ever seen, and I keep coming back to your page just to take in more details!

    I was wondering if my sister-artist would mind if I put her artwork on my Facebook for my friends to admire – I don't mind if she isn't ok with that, but I did want her to know how much I love her art!

    I love you too, Mum! I will ring soon. xx

  2. Reply


    It is wonderful to see your comment! You are always welcome to stop and say hello and add your opinion!

    Sophie drew the header picture. I'm glad you like it. Do you like the boxes and stool? You can see them in the picture at the bottom of my post. I am sure Sophie won't mind if you share her picture. Post away!
    I love you too! xx

  3. Reply

    I haven't really talked about literary terms too often with my children. Then one day, my thirteen year old son says, "This book I am currently reading was written in the first person – I like that better. Often, science fiction is written in the third person." I was surprised to say the least!

    I do worry about my thirteen year old not keeping busy. I think it is a perception issue. He reads all day long – books and magazines. However, the magazines are sometimes the more popular types. However, I think he learns a lot from them. He reads Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Wired, and Nuts and Volts. I think these are his textbooks in a way like your son's car manuals are his textbooks 🙂


    1. Reply


      Don't you just love those moments? Children learn so much without us realising. I think when they pick up facts like this, they mean more because they are relating them to their own experience.

      I bet your son knows so much! I love seeing children immersed in their passions. It's really exciting seeing them learning something they enjoy. And seeing them learn things I have no idea about!

      It sounds like your son is doing lots of reading. Science fiction, all those science magazines… the book written in the 1st person… If children are reading, they are learning.

      Thank you for your comment!

  4. Reply


    I haven't read the book Les Miserables, but I have watched the movie musical and I think it was absolutely beautiful! The singing was so magical I just burst into a flood of tears! There are some scenes in the movie that are not be suitable for younger children, but I highly recommend it for more mature audiences.

    God Bless,

    1. Reply


      We have the musical version of Les Mis but we haven't viewed it yet. After your recommendation, I think it's time we hunted our copy out and watch it! Sounds wonderful. I'll watch out for those mature scenes! Thank you for your comment.

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