School Held Me Back

I don’t mean I was held back a grade. Quite the contrary, I was a good student. I never skipped and was rarely tardy. I didn’t make trouble and my teachers loved me. I handed in my assignments complete and on time. I participated in class and generally knew what was going on rather than zoning out.

In point of fact, I mostly made As in my classes. I was a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. I scored in the 99th percentile on the ASVAB (the recruiter lamented that I was a girl; apparently I would have been great in field artillery). I received scholarships for both my ACT and SAT scores. Continue Reading

I Grew Up on a Farm, and I Almost Failed Ag Class

I remember the year I started to understand how innately artificial school was compared to real life experience. All through school I was a bright student. I loved learning, and at times I even loved school.

But school confused me. When I was at the peak of curiosity about a topic, engaged and attentive, it was time to switch activities. Or I was called a teacher’s pet. Sometimes the teacher would reprimand me for being too enthusiastic, for doing the work too quickly, or for helping others.

Nothing would crush my spirits, however, as much as eighth grade did. Continue Reading

Walking in Dad’s Shoes: Biblical Unschooling

What wisdom does the Bible offer on how we should teach our children?

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Continue Reading

Unschooling, Shakespeare, and Geeking Out

“What’s this, Mama?” my oldest daughter asked. She held out a lavishly illustrated fairy tale we’d just gotten from the library.

“You want me to read it?” I asked.

“Yeah!” she said, jumping up and down. She settled into my lap and I opened to the first page.

None of this was at all atypical. Except my heart was beating fast. Continue Reading

Unschooling Prepares Kids For Life

One of my biggest concerns upon starting out on this unschooling path was that a relaxed, unstructured learning lifestyle couldn’t possibly prepare my child for real life. My rationale went something like this:

The vast majority of the adults in this country went to a traditional school, studied traditional subjects, and did so in the traditional way. Those people are living real lives. Therefore, to be able to live a real life, one must follow the traditional path.

And it’s certainly true that the traditional educational path works for a lot of people. It worked for me, so I’m not knocking it.

But it’s also true that it’s not the only path. Or necessarily the best path. Continue Reading

How Will They Learn the Basics?

Making the decision to begin unschooling can be scary for many parents who have been taught to believe that learning the “boring” subjects is something that children must be forced to do.

Though I had my own small fears about unschooling, my husband carried most of the skepticism. He worried mostly about how our children would learn the basics. By default, he believed that structure was needed for children to learn the skills essential for adult life.

He didn’t doubt that they would learn, but he did doubt that they would learn enough to function well as adults. I and most other parents can sympathize with his concerns. None of us want to see our children grow up and struggle with life because of the decisions that we made (or let them make). Continue Reading

Unschooling Hopes

What I hoped to see happen in unschooling my children was simple. I wanted a life where school simply wasn’t. I wanted my kids to fully experience life–not a different kind of schooling, not school at home, not superior curriculum. I wanted to continue raising kids that love life and love learning about all kinds of things this spectacular world has to offer.

One of the first ‘a-ha’ moments, if you will, happened one warm September afternoon when we were all just hanging about outside. The kids, around six and eight years old (if I’m remembering correctly) were looking at various things under the microscope my husband had set up on the picnic table. They were bringing us all kinds of things to look at–water from a puddle, grass, toenails, bugs both dead and alive, hairs both human and dog/cat/critter…you name it, they wanted to put it under the microscope. We’d been at this for awhile on that evening, the four of us enjoying our time together outside and exploring the microscopic world. Continue Reading

The Reluctant Unschooler

We didn’t intend to homeschool.

Our son attended pre-k and kindergarten in public school. I had the typical my baby’s going to school all day pangs, but that was the norm, so I dealt with it. Pre-k was fairly smooth, but things started getting bumpy in kindergarten.

One day my little guy came home from school and said, “Mom, would you please homeschool me? School is chaos!” Tears became part of our bedtime routine, crowding out our stories and prayers. I was at a loss. I’d loved school as a child. I couldn’t understand what was causing our son so much anxiety. Continue Reading

Less is More: An Unschooling Journey

I was raised in a very schooly family. My mom was a high school history and English teacher. My older sister worked her way from elementary teacher to elementary principal in a huge school district. My other sister is a school board member. You could say public education is in my blood. Being the black sheep of the family didn’t fully release me from the hold of public education although it did give me a healthy skepticism.

My husband attended a tiny rural school. He insists that he flourished in that environment. But he, too, has a healthy skepticism of public education in general. Continue Reading

Unschooling Myths and Misconceptions: Gaps in Education

Gaps in Education for Unschoolers. It’s what all the Charlie Brown teachers want to stress and argue about.

What I don’t like most about this argument, is that it’s spoken with the premise that traditionally schooled children don’t have gaps in education. And, frankly, I think that’s a load of hogwash. (Woah, did you see the southern seep out of me just then? Weird.)

From everything I’ve read and experienced, I actually think (typically) that unschooled kids probably have less gaps than traditionally schooled kids. Plus they truly understand what they do know, and understand how it relates to real life. If anything, their gaps are things like, “I’ve never eaten in a cafeteria” and “I’ve never been bullied on a school bus.” Continue Reading