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.
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.
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!
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.