Unschooling Portraits: Bethany

Please introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m Bethany Fox, wife to Ryan and momma to Cillian, 5 Finnegan, 4 and Emmett, 3. Connecticut native. Maine transplant. Blog momma over at Free Range Foxes.

What does your typical day look like?

Our typical day starts around 8:30ish with breakfast and online devotionals (Keys for Kids). Then the boys will either draw, write, read, pretend, watch a movie, or (weather permitting) we head out into the yard for a few hours. I’m so thankful that all three of my kids still take an afternoon nap – that’s when I am able to get the bulk of the housework accomplished so that it doesn’t take away from my being available to the boys when they need me.

What does the term “unschool” mean to you?

Unschooling to me is a completely normal and organic experience now. I went to private school and the public high school and then on to a public college. I loved every second of it because I was a natural learner. I always loved books. In retrospect I know that being home and leading an unschooled life would have benefited my already voracious nature to discover. I could have avoided many bullying moments, test anxiety, that whole college application whirlwind.

My husband and I are so thankful that we stumbled upon unschooling some years ago through a conversation with a college friend of mine. My first thought was “holy moly! they don’t teach their kids anything?!?!” But, then as I got to know his wife and how she worked alongside their kids, I saw that this is a totally normal childhood.

Unschooling is the freedom for children to be exactly who God intended for them to be without having to fight to fit into a mold that was never meant for them. They are free to follow their passions and desires, to respect themselves and others and to learn at their own needed pace.

Have you always unschooled or did you, like many, gradually move from traditional homeschooling (or public school) towards unschooling? If so, where are you in the process and how did you get there?

Our oldest boy is currently five and this is the first year that I am keeping any record of activity just in case the state wants it and wants to call it “kindergarten.” My husband and I had countless talks over what we were going to do when the boys reached school age. We swayed back and forth and back and forth. We couldn’t make a solid decision without second-guessing ourselves. It went from homeschool to private Christian school to homeschool again to Waldorf to this to that. Then finally God’s great peace settled on my heart. Unschooling it is! Not a moment too soon. I’m talking weeks before the first day of school for our town.

What interests do your kids have that you never would have guessed they would develop?

My eldest boy is OBSESSED with anything China related. He has a friend in his Sunday school class who was adopted from China about five years ago and he is in little-boy love with her and just wants to know absolutely anything and everything about her culture. It’s been a great learning experience for our whole family. And it is showing no sign of slowing down.

What are some of the benefits of unschooling that you have seen?

My boys are all so uniquely themselves. Our five-year-old is high energy and not the focused sort of student that compulsory schooling would prefer. Cillian is able to move from idea to idea and project to project how his heart and mind see fit. And I am always close by to answer any questions or help him look something up online. He needs one on one. He thrives that way. He wouldn’t have that opportunity in school. Nor would his talkativeness and deep need to ask tons of questions be satiated or even so much as tolerated, sadly enough.

Our middle boy is sweet and quiet and highly sensitive. He doesn’t like crowds or noises. He likes to work on things solo. Finn needs his space and downtime. He can get that at home every single day if need be.

What are some of the negatives?

The only negative aspect of unschooling that I have encountered is the times I have, every so often, where I second-guess if we’re doing the right thing. The enemy tries to get in my ear and make me doubt myself. Usually just as fast as that happens, one of the kids comes out with something brilliant and I can’t believe I ever worried about our lifestyle. Other than that I have yet to experience any negativity in our choice thus far.

Tell us about your best day (or your worst).

Our best days are usually when Daddy isn’t at work. He knows things about engines and electronics and technical things that I don’t have immediate answers for. The boys thrive off of daddy time. They hammer things and throw soccer balls and act crazy and share the great male bonding that the four of them love.

Favorite definition of unschooling:

I love when unschooling is called Christ-led learning. It truly is us pursuing whatever the Spirit leads us to and through. Every day is a full pursuit of learning whatever God needs us to know.

Thank you, Bethany, for sharing this unschooling portrait!

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