What is Unschooling and Unschooling Resources

I am often asked how we started Unschooling, what Unschooling is, and how one can get started with Unschooling. It’s a complex question with a reaaaallllly long answer. It has taken me years to get to a place where I feel like we are Unschooling well. It has taken reading, watching, listening, trying, and debunking a lot of things that cause parents fear. It has taken getting over defensiveness, thinking I know about learning, and making myself a better person. It has taken a lot more, too.

So when someone asks me what Unschooling is or how to get started I am not sure how to respond. I could tell them that it is a way of learning out in the real world instead of in a classroom. I could tell them it is about creating a peaceful environment so that my kids can learn contextually at whatever hour of the days they feel the desire.

I could tell them that it is removing arbitrary fear about the things we parents have been implored to fear. I could tell them that for the sake of my children, and their learning, I have learned to think critically.

I could tell them that Unschooling is allowing kids to learn – really learn- in ways that stick. In ways that make sense. That my role in all of this is to be sure my kids have all the resources they need to pursue whatever fascinates them at the moment. My role is to be okay with them quitting, giving up, and trying three million new things. It is to be okay letting that guitar go untouched. Being okay with not taking lessons opting instead to learn on their own.

I could tell them that Unschooling means getting to know my kids in a way I would not be able to otherwise- that there is a depth, connection, and intimacy that comes from living this way- that cannot come with any other way of living. I could tell them that getting to know my kids for who they really are, rather than who I mold them to be, is a gift beyond measure and that living this way has healed parts of me that were buried a long time ago.

I could tell them that people will think they are lying, or showing off, when they don’t complain about their kids and instead talk about how happy, not perfect, life is. Or that they are full of bullshit when they, when pressed, share that their kids help out around the house without being asked, even though they have never had a chore.

I could tell them that learning to Unschool well has nothing to do with my kids and everything to do with me. That I had to get better, get over it, up my emotional intelligence and allow myself to be seen for who I really am, too.

I could tell them this and so much more. Ultimately though, none of that really matters. I have learned that those who are looking to live this way will find a way and that those who say they want to live this way (but for whatever reason don’t really)  will dismiss everything I have shared.

I have learned that the best response I can give to people who are looking to live the Unschooling Life with their children is to guide them toward the best resources to help. While there are a whole lotta people pretending to Unschool (friends, there is no membership card! Only you and your kids will know if you have done a good job) there are only a few that can really help get us there. Here is what I recommend after loads and loads of research, personal experience, and no personal gain from recommending -or not recommending- anyone.

Unschooling Resources:

There are two Facebook groups you should join right away. Be SURE to read the pinned posts and FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. These groups are full of volunteers who run excellent, helpful, and laser focused groups to help us learn to Unschool well. PLEASE NOTE: I recommend that you find these group by clicking the linked words here. There are other groups, with similar names, that lead families astray.

Radical Unschooling Info 

Unschooling Q and A

How I use the above groups: I pick a thread or search for a topic and read the entire thread top to bottom. There are no quick answers when it comes to learning to Unschool well. These groups provide wisdom and insight from experienced unschoolers. Word choice is dissected. Conventional beliefs are debunked. Fears are addressed. Critical thinking is modeled. It was years of reading through Radical Unschooling Info- all the backs and forths and ups and downs- that helped me to learn to Unschool well. Read as often as you can and be patient!

What is Unschooling and Unschooling Resources
What is Unschooling and Unschooling Resources

Jen McGrail is an incredible resource. She writes about all sorts of pertinent subjects and most of all about Unschooling. Jen and her family own and run an Unschooling Conference every year in Phoenix. If you really want to get a sense for how Unschooling families live, I can personally recommend Free to Be Conference. Click here for Jen’s website, The Path Less Taken.

While her no-nonsense approach can be a transition for those of us not used to it, Sandra Dodd’s approach is what I mostly credit for my family learning to live so peacefully and to be able to learn all the time. In addition to the group above, Sandra has excellent books (including a reprint of The Big Book of Unschooling!) and a website. Click here to find both. 

Pam Larrichia has written books, blogs and hosts a Podcast all to help families understand Unschooling and learn to Unschool well. Her work and interviews are wonderful resources and are ones I personally recommend and have used. Click here for Living Joyfully with Unschooling.

Joyce Fetterol offers not only her writing, but a wonderful Tool Box you can order to help you stay focused on keeping your family relationships front and center so that you can Unschool well. Click here for Joyfully Rejoycing.

For now, these are the resources I can personally recommend. If you have others that you think I should include please e-mail me and I will check them out. Please do not leave them in the comment section as they will be deleted.

With just the resources above you can get to the Unschooling Life with your family, but only if you are willing to do the work.

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Aging? Who, Me?

Aging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

smiling woman, author, with text "aging? Who, me?"I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.

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Play: It All Starts with Yes!

it all starts wtih saying yesIt starts with saying yes.

Yes to jumping on the trampoline even though everything jiggles.

Yes to the zip line even though the harness accentuates all the “wrong” places.

Yes to putting on a suit and going for that swim. Even though our self-talk is telling us that we are a beached whale.

Yes to shooting hoops even though our belly adds a new element.

Yes to thinking it might be okay to stop thinking about how “fat” we are.

Yes to thinking it might not matter what shape our body is or how much weight we have gained since high school.

Yes to letting ourselves go for 60 seconds without reminding ourselves of how lazy we must be for “letting ourself get here.”

Yes to walking into an event excited about meeting new people instead of standing in a way that best camouflages our upper arms.

Yes to being okay that a whole day has gone by without thinking about the number on our clothing tag.

Yes to chatting and laughing with our girlfriend as we thoroughly enjoy every last bit of pasta on our plate.

Yes to being excited that we hadn’t realized we never even thought about it.

It all starts with yes, it seems.

Before we know it playing is natural again. Saying yes without considering how our ass/belly/arms/thighs will look is our default.

Before we know it, we are LIVING again, or maybe for the first time.

Before we know it we realize that the people classifying our legs as thunder thighs are not our people anyway.

Before we know it we realize how many minutes, hours, years, and decades we have WASTED not saying yes.

Before we know it, we commit to breaking this cycle. So that our daughters never have to waste a minute not saying yes.

So that our sons see what women look like. That we move and jiggle and eat and laugh and play.

So that our sons see that we are people.

Saying yes may not be easy at first. It might be really uncomfortable, in fact.

It’s worth it though. I promise, it’s worth it.

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Got Moxie?

Sometimes you sit in your car wondering if you should go in. You’re late. You know nobody. You’ve never been to an event with this group. You’re sure you’ll *not* go in. But before you turn the car back on to leave you decide to use a text-a-friend.

You can either text the friend who will tell you it’s too late to go in and affirm your reasons for leaving, or you text someone else. Who you text right then is a choice.

Then you are sitting in the event and hear not only an inspiring comedian, but realize you are surrounded by a hundred women who get it. For the first time -maybe ever- but certainly since this shift.

And they talk about Oprah. Positively. They cheer her. And they say fuck. And an attorney gets up to talk about how improving life for women means improving Colorado- and she puts her money and time into achieving it. And the speakers mess up their words and don’t apologize. They just keep going.

Moxie 1

And when the event is over and you drive around the city for a while blasting P!NK, you realize that even though life’s taken a different path it’s never too late to write your own ending.

Moxie 2

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This Year My Focus is Healing

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. Each year I choose a word- something to keep in my mind that will improve my life. In the past I’ve chosen words like fun, community, and travel. This year the word I’ve chosen is kind.

In my quest to recover from being a people pleaser I’ve lost some of my kindness. I’m okay with that. It needed to happen so I could learn to be authentic. But it’s time to keep it in my mind again.

This year, in addition to my word, I have a focus. It sounds kind of corny or desperate or something, but it is neither of those things. The focus I have for 2018 is healing.

focus is healing

I think we all have stuff we haven’t healed from. I’ve come to understand the importance of healing in creating the life I want.

I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I never took the time or steps to heal from the trauma that’s caused. I’ve never practiced healing from my traumatic pregnancy/cancer diagnosis with Owen 10 years ago or from job loss, or from a having a partner who had to travel so much with two babies at home, or from our move cross-country or from lost friendships or smear campaigns. I haven’t taken the time or actions that are necessary to heal from these things. I haven’t ignored these realities, I just haven’t taken the steps to heal. Without healing, how can I really move forward?

Having an anxiety disorder and choosing to focus on healing this year does not make me weak. Not dealing with them does.

I have watched friends like TaraAngie, and Jennifer share their journeys publicly. Watching their journeys has had a significant impact on my life. Their journeys have changed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to learn about self compassion.

Sharing something this personal is way out of my comfort zone. But I know the gift I was given by the three women above who chose to share their journeys, so this year I’ll share some of mine. I’ve been told appropriately sharing helps with healing too.

I’m evaluating where I spend my time, which endeavors I continue, and what things bring me peace and joy. I’m taking up new hobbies and bringing back some of my favorites- like reading, writing, and listening to music. I’m moving past my anxiety to connect with people because that fills my soul most of all.

It sounds cheesy, I know. It’s also real.

I know what I’ve achieved in my life before healing. It’s fun to imagine what I’ll achieve after ❤️

Any resources or insights you are willing to share are welcome! Here’s to a year of kindness and healing!

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Turning 40? I’m Not Glum Because I am Finally Turning 40!

We should celebrate the wisdom, growth, and experiences that we gain each year. I am not dreading turning 40, I am finally turning 40!

Do you ever have those moments when you look in the mirror and do not  recognize the person looking back at you? I had one the other day. I have had them before, and they usually scare me. The person in the mirror looks older, unfamiliar. The woman who stares back at me is somebody I do not know.

The other day though, it was different. As I stood at the bathroom counter drying my hair, I knew exactly who was standing there in front of me. I had been getting to know her for a couple of years, intentionally. I had been paying attention to what she thinks, what she believes.  I had started listening to her, instead of everybody else.

finally turning 40This has uncovered a confidence in me that I had not before had- one that allows me to chat with abandon, and worry less about whether my stomach is properly disguised. It permits me to move through life as myself.  This is different. It is beautiful and authentic. It has been a transformation.

Turning 40 is a Gift

As I found my eyes in the mirror on a random Thursday morning, I realized; this year I turn forty. Forty. It is an age dreaded by many, it seems- at least according to party decor and magazine headlines. For me though, it is an age that has finally come; one that means confidence and self assurance, a time to be celebrated for its self knowledge.

My life has transformed; from anxiety ridden aplogizer to authentic embracer of life. My body is transforming from lethargic, difficult to move and aging, to energetic and healing.

I reflected on this as I moved the brush through my hair, and the realization was undeniable; I am entering my 40th year happier and healthier than I have ever been. In my whole life. I suspect that many of us are, or would be if we were not told to expect otherwise.

This is not the end of a transformation, rather I have prepped and fueled my body and mind for what comes next- for all the  thought, beauty, exploration, and acceptance that turning 40 brings. Now I am ready to receive it, to embrace it, to celebrate it.

I am not dreading turning forty. I am finally turning forty

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