Breathe and Release: Questioning Unschooling

We receive many “but, but” objections and statements from those who are questioning unschooling and not yet ready to make the leap. For those who are just beginning, many of these thoughts may also recur, so here are some responses. When things get scary, the best option is to breathe… and release. We can let go of fears with the help of a little practical thinking.


1. My teenager is going to college. How do I make sure he/she has all the right math/writing/science/whatever requirements if we unschool? Will colleges even accept them if they don’t have those things?


A question like this comes from a place of assumptions. One, that college is the preferred way for the teen to achieve a particular set of adult-world goals, usually something where adults have bought the kool-aid that “there’s no way to do This Thing without college.” Two, that homeschooling is inferior or must compensate for being viewed as inferior through over-achievement.

All of this is going on in the parent’s head. It is not going on in reality. It is not going on in the teen child’s thinking and experiences unless the parent puts it there through their own fears and biases.

Does that seem fair to your child? Would it be an imposition if another adult did that to your happiness, your life goals, your God-given path?

Have you taken time to question why your child is going to college? What if this is about you, not them?


The remedy for Problem One: Read The Teenage Liberation Handbook. Read I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. Read many other things. Investigate “uncollege,” which is hugely popular with young adults who can’t afford or don’t want to jump the specific hoops of formal institutions. Give your teen permission to consider what his/her life goals really are and how many ways there may be of achieving them.

Example: If your teen loves caring for animals, does that require vet school, or simply the daily opportunity to work with animals? How many ways are there to achieve that goal?

The remedy for Problem Two: Yes, of course institutions will take your money regardless of your child’s course qualifications. As with any public schooled student who took biology and chemistry, but not physics, or took business math, but not pre-calculus, there may be a need to test in or take an upgrade course. This is part of the “normal” of the university system, including for public-schooled students. Homeschooling is not even relevant to whether it will happen or not. Communicating with the institution of choice and developing an entry plan that suits them is what’s relevant.


2. We are unschooling part-time. How do other families transition to unschooling fully?


Unschooling isn’t a set of things we do or stop doing, it’s a perspective that informs how we choose what we do. That involves a lot of introspection, much more than working on scheduling, or pushing kids toward their “passions” rather than a curriculum. Interest is not a substitute for a program of books. It’s a fluctuating thing that may persist or fade quickly, may have depth or no depth at all. Many interests are much more passing than adults would like, and a simple answer will do.


What if you declare summer vacation, starting now, and just leave things that way? Are you truly interested in actively pursuing a transformation of your perspective? Can you release the obligation of working on your children and exchange it for the investment of working on yourself?

The answers to these questions will determine whether you really want to unschool at this time.

To view unschooling as something you can do part-time is to miss the point. It will leave you stuck in unstructured relaxed/eclectic mode, trying to figure out what to do with your days because you’ve only substituted the rule that you must not structure things for the rule that you must structure things. That can quickly lead to unparenting, and unhappiness with a destabilized household. When you release the false notion of substituting one set of rules or behaviours for another, you’re truly deschooling.


3. I want validation that I can do this and everything will be okay. [actual wording from a non-unschooler]


Why do you need validation? Who or what taught you it’s important? Step back and consider that. Consider it hard. What’s with the implication that you’re going to crash your family life if left to your own devices? Does that seem like a productive mindset to use in your responsibilities towards your children? Or for your existence in general?


Nobody gets that kind of promise for anything in life. People who are already unschooling don’t. You don’t. I don’t. It’s our own choice whether to get over it and try things anyway, or not.

But I can promise you that no matter what you choose, not everything will be okay, and you will have to release this arbitrary (and false) standard of personal success. We can either release it with intention and peace, or life will force the point.

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