Unschooling Portraits: Robyn

Please introduce yourself.

I am Robyn Parker and I have two sons, ages 17 and 14. I am 45 and I actually was an elementary school teacher from 1989 to 1999. I live in East Tennessee; close to the Smoky Mountains National Park.

I have been at home since October 1999. My oldest went to school grades K-2 and my youngest went to a day school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon when he was 4. Other than that he has never attended school.

What does your typical day look like?

Hmmm… My oldest works at a shop so we don’t see a lot of him during the day unless he has a day off.

Typical day: usually breakfast alone until the boys get up; oldest off to work if he is working morning shift, youngest has been reading Harry Potter lately (he never read them when he was younger because my husband read them aloud to the boys), so he usually reads or plays a video game.

If the weather is nice, he may ride his bike. He may work on merit badge requirements or 4-H activities for his 4-H project portfolio. The oldest is preparing to take the ACT so the youngest may work on ACT prep exercises with his brother.

Lately the oldest has decided to study calculus topics so he has been watching Khan Academy videos on functions. The two of them have started working out of the Year 1 integrated mathematics program textbook.

We have set days for housework but that has changed due to my oldest son’s work shifts. Mondays are typically laundry day for linens and towels. Tuesdays have been housekeeping days (cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, etc). Wednesday more laundry. We do have a sit-down lunch and enjoy our conversations. There may be cooking involved or trips to the library.

I guess we go with the flow.

What does the term “unschool” mean to you?

Living life with my children and helping them with their interests.

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 attended school grades K-2 but our youngest has never attended school except for a day school for 4-year-olds. We started out traditional homeschooling the summer of 2003. I read an article “What Ever Happened to Curiosity?” that was in the Elijah Company catalog and that was the beginning of our unschooling.

We were involved in a homeschool co-op from 2003-2005 but quit and did activities with other homeschool friends. I read John Holt’s Teach Your Own in May of 2007 and that set us on the path to radical unschooling. As of now I identify us as radical unschoolers.

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

My youngest has a passion for cooking and my oldest taught himself guitar and ukulele.

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

We have stronger family ties with each other in that we know each other. The boys know they can speak their minds and we will listen. We enjoy being together.

What are some of the negatives?

Negatives … currently we don’t have friends who are unschoolers. I teach a 4-H robotics project group and the families are traditional homeschoolers but they are accepting of our unschool life so that’s a plus.

The main negative is dealing with my aunt who raised my siblings, and who still tells my boys they need to go to school to get an education and that they are missing the high school experience. She lives a few states away so the last time we dealt with that was this summer.

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

Best days: When my boys are deeply engrossed in whatever “project” they are doing.

Worst days: Not so much as when they were younger. I would worry about if they were learning math, etc.

Thank you, Robyn, for sharing this unschooling portrait with us! 

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