Unschooling: As if homeschooling wasn’t whacky enough
To start unschooling was like opening the door to Narnia - a whole wonderland of time, presence, and desire for learning emerged.
A free life without alarm clocks
I teach my three youngest children at home. The oldest has just started first grade, and every day I am responsible for my children’s education. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to explain this life, these responsibilities, and these choices. In this blog, at least.
Because of her, outside the box, here in ‘The Free Life,’ without alarm clocks, schedules, school books; tests, break times, lunch boxes; permittance forms, schoolbags and pencil cases, playgroups, parents’ meetings, school parties, and gym bags, it’s another reality. Out here, the world looks totally different. Sometimes I feel like I am so far away from the fact that I found myself on the outskirts of just five years ago, and I don’t really know where to start.
And now we have chosen to take the first step, not just to homeschool, but to unschool. But that doesn’t make it any easier. When we tell people that we learn at home, many people think that we are receiving systems, schedules, and materials from the municipality and that we might even receive money for doing so. But when they understand that none of this is happening, most people still imagine that we DO HAVE schedules, school books, and lessons at the kitchen table, so our life must be similar to others. The only difference is that it happens at home.
To begin with, if only for a few short moments, I also imagined that. But that was before I did it myself…
Welcome to Homeschool Narnia
Because, oh, boy! When I went through the wardrobe and discovered Homeschool Narnia, the world looked so much different—the Land of Freedom. Our family’s background is very diverse, and it doesn’t really make sense that we decided to unschool, but the fact is that we knew from the very beginning that — for us — it is all about The Good Life. We cannot wait until tomorrow. We are not living for next year or “another time, maybe.” We know that the time is now. We are excited, ignited, living, present, and full of love and enthusiasm; that is what it is all about for us. And in reality, for everyone.
Deschooling adults is a significant, perhaps the most prominent issue: the three youngest children have never been in school. We tried with Storm for a short period, but it never made sense. However, we adults have had to uninstall schooling from our brains somehow. We thought that one should learn to read, quick time! We felt it was essential to practice the timetable. We were scared to fuck up. Scared of being judged. Afraid of being monitored and for the need to document.
But it didn’t last. For a while, it felt like we had fallen into a trap and just had to do some school hullabaloo. Well, to make a really long and tortuous story short, we basically found out that the detours we were taking on our way into a tribe-style family only made our lives worse in every way. So, we looked each other in the eyes, took deep breaths, and began to laugh.
Children’s inherent desire for learning
We, of course, trust in our children’s intrinsic desire to learn. Their first state is that of curiosity, fascination, and enthusiasm, and of course, we adults don’t have a fucking clue about what they could need in thirty years from now. Ultimately, we are not interested in that; they will work it out themselves. They will teach themselves what they need to know if they don’t already know it. We decided we should not have spent hours each day working on something that we had no interest in, for something that didn’t ignite our passion, didn’t keep us engaged, or was not attracted to. Why in the world would we waste precious time on that? It made no sense.
So we stopped! We shared our thoughts and experiences with the children and listened to theirs. We questioned our availability (especially mine, my husband is working a lot of the time), our knowledge, our ability to throw things into books, to go to museums, to call for expert help so we could learn even more.
The children were excited. It no longer involved the sporadic school morning, which harassed and pressured them. That’s precisely why they couldn’t get enough, and neither could I.
It was not because our lives changed so much: I mean, all that school hullabaloo wasn’t something we had previously done systematically or with any enthusiasm. But in any case, our lives became so much more fun in such a short time. There became more space for everything, everything essential and everything necessary. We suddenly had more flexibility in everyday life, became immersed in the most fun things, and started to fool around. A lot!
The Melody of Life
I don’t want to talk about the academic side of things just now. I am aware that the question is hanging in the air, which helps to build suspense. It will come another time. The most vital thing for us is the melody of life: the way we became joyful, found each other, and worked together in new ways. We became ignited, excited, and wild.
The vital thing was not in itself that which is normally called learning because aren’t we always learning? And isn’t learning just a byproduct of a life lived to the fullest with all its fascinations, events, and personalities? There is, of course, nothing that can stop a person in full flow, but true enough, there is also nothing that can destroy the flow as effectively as external coercion, fixed structures, and rigid concepts.
Of course, we are still learning, more and more, again and again, and it is going way better than when we had structure. After a while, themes started to pop up, one after another. First Chinese. Then the minor time’s table. Then some physics. Then the periodic system. Then something about frogs, fishing trips, and artist museums. Arabic fairy tales.
One thing or another. I will not list them here; that would be stupid. When children become free from school bells, structures, and expectations — the idea that everyone should learn the same thing at the same time — and instead get space to make their own decisions, follow their own passions, and create their own meaningfulness, then they learn everything possible.
As an Unschool-Mama, one can hope that of all the many facets and directions the children become fascinated by, talent will follow. Not because one has to, but because the children can do it for themselves. Because it is such a fantastic journey and so much more fun — in relation to the most important people in our lives — to be a part of their lives while having an interest in the things they love.
I see this participation as both a moral and psychological commitment that we all have as parents, but which is especially vital when one chooses to let their children grow up in freedom, with all the childhood days available for exploration, growth, joy, playfulness; development, discovery, and peace. Peace is a short word, and in regard to how vital peace actually is for childhood, I’ll say it one more time: peace.
And participation is not limited to unschooling parents. Participation is vital for all parent-child relationships.
You just need to get moving.
Unschooling is (paradoxical enough) a teaching method, which in all its unabridged simplicity intends NOT to school the child, but instead intends to give freedom to the child to do pretty much whatever is meaningful to them. In that belief, children will learn whatever they have a use or desire for, naturally and without resistance. Because if they are engaged in something, the learning process will anyway be a byproduct
Have you heard the latest podcast episodes?
🎙️New episode out every Thursday 🎙️
#35 Jen Keefe | Unschooling and Mental Health: A Parent's Perspective
Da Ladies #3 - Navigating Social Challenges in the Unschooling Journey
#34 Erika Davis-Pitre | Homeschooling as an Answer to Race-Based Educational Inequalities
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