Continuing with our series of posts in which we ask veteran unschoolers to share their experience and wisdom, we asked:
Was your spouse on board with the decision to unschool? If not, is your spouse on board now, and what changed your spouse’s position?
TSM — My spouse, God love him, entrusts me with all things child-related. For a period of time, he’d make derisive comments like, “They don’t even do anything all day.” But when I listed what I’d seen them do and what they learned from it, those comments gradually faded away. And the proof has truly been in the pudding! He sees our youngest (never schooled) speaking with a vocabulary and comprehending ideas which would blow most 2nd graders out of the water. He sees their projects and crafts. So while he wasn’t on board, he didn’t stop us from getting on board.
Cathi D — No, he wasn’t. He didn’t understand it at all. It was harder in the early years for him to consider, because like many people he was worried about foundational knowledge. At the time, I kept a blog where I took photos of their projects and categorized things by subjects. Which was hard, because they were usually covering three or four subject areas in any given project. <
One of the things that changed and shifted us from eclectic/relaxed more to unschooling was when he began a shift work job. I absolutely couldn’t keep a schedule with him coming and going every two days, alternating days and nights. The reason: He would come home and throw “the schedule” out the window with his desire to spend time having fun with the kids!
So I gave up on that and we rolled with the flow. He’s taught them so much hands-on practical math, physics, chemistry at an earlier age than a school approach would. He built an ice boat with them in my living room. Taught them vectors, sewing, meteorology, and history with his newly-discovered love of sail-boats about 6 years ago. Taught them carpentry and construction methods by involving them in fixing up our house.
He still sometimes wants them to sit down and do something schoolish, but we don’t have the “start-over” problems of full-on deschooling because we haven’t been full-on schooled with all the pressure and arbitrary standards that ingrains into a kid’s attitude.
Heather Y —My husband wasn’t initially on board. My husband was against homeschooling when I started (I am a former teacher). After 6 weeks weeks in the classroom and deciding never to go into the teachers lounge again after consistent making fun of my special ed students by my own former teachers I came home and said our children were never setting foot in that school. (I was pregnant with our first- never went back). I spent time researching, praying, and God brought homeschooling (now I know they were unschooling) families into our lives.
Every year my husband would say, we can do this until ___grade (started out 1st grade, and then gradually moved further and further out), but then they need to go to to school. By the time they reached 4th grade God had completely changed his heart about elementary and high school. By the time they hit 6th He had changed his heart about the necessity of college and about unschooling. He even wrote about his own experiences as an autodidactic on his blog (then turned it into an autobiographical book). http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=12687
While he was still in that place I would journal/take pictures/keep evidence that they know that stuff. Pretty soon he stopped panicking. Documenting so he sees what is happening when he is gone really helps. Blogging really helped, so did the kids spontaneously sharing all the cool stuff they learned. A little bit of sharing articles, a little bit of talking about what they were doing and learning, a little bit of showing; it all added up to him fully getting it.
Traci G — My spouse also entrusts me with all things child related…bless his heart! Our switch from homeschooling to unschooling was so gradual, I don’t think he really saw it coming, until I actually started calling it unschooling. It took him awhile to understand the difference, and he still has occasional issues with all the computer time, but once I remind him that our 12 year old, the one that is on the computer a lot, is working on her animation program, or reading fan fiction or researching her latest interests, he drops the concern.
Gail P — My husband and I are very much ingrained in the traditional school…all the way way through an MA and almost a PhD. A year and a half ago I wasn’t on board with unschooling. We both supported homeschooling completely. When I first started learning about unschooling, it made so much sense. My husband still needs more deschooling, but that is hard to do when you are in the trenches getting a PhD and grading student papers at the college level every week. He sees a lot of badly written work and people who can’t seem to read a syllabus. And he likes seeing something that shows progress. I think one thing that helped recently was seeing him read a whole chapter from a chapter book not making any mistakes. He worries that ds is not thinking about how to do things like spelling, but I guess I know how to ask the right way. And he worries about his writing being weak. But dh reads my blog which may have given him some insight and patience to see things through for awhile. And he believes in learning what interests a person. So he is mostly on board and is just trusting me for now. In fact he only questions things once every 3-4 months. I share articles that address whatever pressing concerns he has, and I share ds’s “school type” successes so he feels like something is happening. The hardest thing for him to do is take ds where he is at instead of where dh wants him to be. I think he will also be more surprised when the PhD is done, and he gets to spend more time with ds and showing ds the things he knows about wood working, gardening, music, playing chess, history, etc. And he will also get to see more times ds learns organically through following his curiosity. So, for now, we are good, and hopefully ds will continue to want to learn new things so we won’t feel the need to do something different in a few years.
Cyndel J — My husband was not on board at first, nor is he on board in the long term. But currently, as my son has an unusual learning style and is only in Kindergarten he is content to see how it goes.
I’m hoping through discussion and him seeing Gabriel’s progress that he’ll learn to trust the process. But I’m seeing some compromise in the future. I truly hope I can avoid it.
Jessie L — We had several years of Homeschool under our belt when I asked to venture into us, he was on board because he trusts my judgement with the kids & understood the process.
Traci P — It was actually my husband’s leading to keep our kids home for their education but we unschool because of my style of learning and life. I am the sort who fails miserably at following a curriculum because my kids have needs, interests, and strengths that are not included in some stranger’s lesson plans. He understands this so he was supportive of a very relaxed atmosphere of learning. We have always learned organically and he has witnessed it working. He’s become even more supportive after meeting other unschoolers and seeing the fruits of their methods, as well as observing our own successes compared to some of the educational struggles of others.
Leigh K — I have been blessed with an extremely laid back husband who trusts my judgment 100%. He was divorced with 2 kids when we met, and his kids have never gone to school. In fact, they were pretty much unschooled for the most part. When they would come for visits, I was blown away at how amazing they were. I had never seen such well behaved, kind, gentle children in my life. They were a huge testimony to the power of raising children in a Christian, homeschooling environment. And I was practically an atheist for the first 10 years we were together! So, even though my husband went along with my decision to send our first off to kindergarten, it was by the end of that year I was convinced none of my children would ever again be enrolled in a school environment. And since I am incapable of following a schedule or curriculum of any kind, unschooling is just how we did it. My incredibly grace-filled husband has never said one negative word about the way our children learn, and is constantly amazed at how much they DO learn all on their own. That man has a faith and trust in God for his children that puts me in awe!
Mariellen M — My hubs wasn’t really on board at first. He was willing to give it a shot. With caveats. Like “You can unschool everything but history, science, and math. Because they might not learn those any other way.” So for a little while we played along with the charade and made half-hearted attempts at doing “formal” history, science, and math. The first to go was history. My goodness was that used history textbook boring. It was Texas history, for pete’s sake. We LIVE in Texas. We’re PASSIONATE about Texas history because we’re Texans. This stuff should come alive but instead I watched my kids’ eyes glaze over whenever we started talking about Texas. Luckily the hubs noticed too and soon history was, well, history.
Science was the next to bite the dust. We tried doing science experiments we found online. But rather than learn the appointed lessons they were having too much fun watching Peeps joust before exploding all over the microwave. Then they wanted to talk about the smell of burned sugar instead of “So what did we just witness here?” Maybe it was disloyal but the hubs wasn’t around to redirect us so I rolled with Peeps jousting and burned sugar. That’s what we talked about and learned about instead. By the time the hubs realised my subversiveness he also saw the fruits of them – kids who could talk about the chemical reactions sugar went through when heated with the expertise of veteran candy makers. Maybe they still don’t know Boyle’s law but this seems more useful in day-to-day life anyway, right? I’m thinking caramel and creme brulee are probably more common than Boyle’s law anyway. Also I’m probably using Boyle’s law wrong here because MY eyes glazed over on the science parts of these science experiments.
Then we were “unschooling everything but math.” Truthfully, the hubs never officially gave us the ok to drop the math portion of our day. He just…stopped caring or asking so I stopped bothering to tell him little white lies – translating our entirely unschooled days into “what math they encountered today.”
Occasionally he still has panic moments. A month or so ago he told me one night that maybe we should have formal handwriting lessons with the kids because their handwriting was illegible. We talked and I argued a bit but instead of putting up a fuss I just didn’t really put any energy into the fight and bided my time. Last week Shannen (the lefty with the terrible handwriting, whom I suspect is slightly dysgraphic) had cause, on her own, to take some notes about a video game she was playing and after not being able to read her first set of notes an hour later she spent the time copying them neatly. It took her four hours to make a fair copy of a single page of notes but she stuck with it. That night I showed the hubs her fair copy and asked if he still thought she needed “formal” handwriting lessons. I do believe that discussion is over now.
That’s basically what I do now whenever the hubs has a panic attack. I don’t feed his arguments with any energy whatsoever. I listen to him, I respond on an intellectual level but don’t put any feeling into it, and then I wait. Usually if I don’t let it get emotional with him he’ll let it go long enough for me to deliver a coup de grace that crumbles his wall of panic. But if I get stubborn and tell him he’s just panicking or argue unschooling principles it turns into a power struggle between us and I never have the heart to win those.
Not suggesting that this would work for everyone. It works with my husband and I because of who WE are as individuals and how we interact. In the beginning it wouldn’t have even worked in our house. He needed to see for himself how it worked and develop his own sense of trust in the philosophy and the genuine curiosity of our kids. During that initial phase he needed me to respect his fears and concerns by making some efforts to assuage them. It did slow down the deschooling process for the kids but it seemed like the lesser evil at the time. And my kids were old enough to understand on an intellectual level that “This isn’t ideal but we’re going to do it because Dad is still worried and he needs our help to feel comfortable.” Because we do put RELATIONSHIP first in our family.
Shannon S — From the beginning, before we even had kids, he agreed with me that we’d homeschool. But he didn’t have any inkling of unschooling or anything other than textbook learning. So when my oldest was about 6 he asked to see something that resembled what he expected school to look like, so she and I did about an hour of 3Rs work at night, and that made him feel better. Over time, he’d make comments like, “I don’t get this, but it works.” We spent a few years in a relaxed eclectic mode, but often returned to unschooling, and finally when I decided enough was enough, we were just going to unschool – and radically unschool. by that time when I told him, he was totally fine with it. He knew the kids were learning, he was comfortable with the fact that it didn’t look like “school” and never would. But we eased into that… I’d do as little “school-y” work as possible, just enough to make him comfortable – and talk about other things they were doing on their own. Eventually he just didn’t need to see schooly stuff any more. When it wasn’t needed any more. when we moved to radically unschooling, he was completely on board. He doesn’t pretend to understand how it works, but completely trusts that it does, cuz he’s seen the results.
This quote from Mariellen’s post resonates as a key nugget with me:
“In the beginning it wouldn’t have even worked in our house. He needed to see for himself how it worked and develop his own sense of trust in the philosophy and the genuine curiosity of our kids. During that initial phase he needed me to respect his fears and concerns by making some efforts to assuage them.”
while my dh needed to have his own journey to accept and embrace unschooling, I had to make a similar journey on lifting TV/gaming limits. from the beginning he’d have been happy to not have any tv or gaming restrictions, but I had to make a long journey to let go of my concerns/programming. I think that’s part of the deschooling/unschooling journey – based in respect and relationship. We each needed to respect each other’s fears/concerns and allow each of us to make our own journey.
Pam C — When we married, we had two kids from my previous marriage and he was open and supportive of beginning to homeschool. We went from school at home (with little desks) that lasted maybe 2 months, and then moved gradually and naturally to unschooling by the time or two youngest were compulsory age. He saw all along that letting go and going with the interests and natural bents of each child was working. Our only regret is that we did not come to unschooling in time for the oldest three to have the benefit.
Heather Y — Pam C,. same here. Our biggest regret was not unschooling earlier. In fact, we really regret not getting radical unschooling earlier. So much of the stuff our oldest deals with would have been assuaged had we caught on sooner.
Pam C — Us too Heather Y, had lots of healing to do when we finally got to radical unschooling.
Michelle H– Heather – may I ask some of what your oldest deals with (to see if it is stuff we are dealing with)?
Heather Y — My oldest deals with a lot of anxiety, naturally adverse to advice, a lot of things like that that are a direct result of our style of parenting when she was younger. It took her years before she could do things people deem “educational” for fun. She is always on high alert/high stress, and takes things very personally. When we moved towards radical unschooling, saying yes, demanding less, it took her a long time to work through a lot of stuff and even now at 16 she still is working through things from when she was smaller. She has some neurological stuff that makes it harder but a lot of it was assuaged when we moved to full radical unschooling and stopped “bossing”.
Karla M — My hub was always on board with homeschooling. He needed more info and “proof” for unschooling …….when he changed jobs and started working from home, then he saw UNschooling in action and LOVES IT! He sees them light up and hears the amazing thing things they learn without any intervention and just shakes his head in awe!!! It rocks! W e only had 3 kids via adoption when we began UNschooling and then we adopted 3 more and homeschooling turned to UNschooling really fast!
Pam C– My dd chose to move out at 17 because we were so controlling. We had their best interest at heart but, the reality was we limited our trust in them and their choices out of fear. Fear they would make poor choices (based on what believed to be better choices, rather than understanding that different did not equal poor or bad choices), they would not stay in alignment with our beliefs, that they were or would be in rebellion.
Our ds was making poor choices that got him in legal troubles. Part of this was probably a bipolar cycle that we did not understand/know existed, part was his way of taking freedom for his life choices out of tight grip. We fed into each other and his “rebellious ways” were partly of our unintended making. We created an us against them scenario that we “needed” to win for the sake of their souls. How arrogant is that kind of thinking?!
Our other son tried out different negative attitudes that he mimicked as he naturally did not think that way and with his Asperger’s could not grasp how it was not effective for him, but he was feeling out of control due to our controlling and micro managing.
Once we stepped out from under religious legalism, stepped away from arbitrary rules and limits and really listened to our kids’ heart cries and valid complaints against us, we could do different and did. We apologized and then spent a few years living differently and they came to trust the changes in us. They have seen how we treat their younger siblings differently, and they know we are genuine and now we have mutual trust and respect for each other.
Karla M– I agree Heather! Wish I could erase my “high strung parenting” days. My oldest 2 dealt with a lot more learning stress than my youngest 4!
Mariellen M– And just to punctuate this question in my life, I just posted a link on my timeline about unschooling being scary because it’s unconventional but how amazing it is anyway. Five minutes pass and the hubs shares that link on his own timeline. Where it will be seen by avidly pro-public school relatives and picked to death. But he’s ok with that because he’s that passionate about unschooling now.
Rebecca T– My husband was definitely not excited about the idea. He was uncomfortable with the whole notion of homeschooling and my interest led approach with its lack of stacks of workbooks and textbooks terrified him. He did know that this was the approach my parents took when they homeschooled me and my sister, and I didn’t turn out too terrible.
I found myself labeling different activities and experiences for him to kind of ease him in. Reading together, games, documentaries, “field trips”…for quite some time, I gave these things schoolish looking subject labels. I talked a lot about unit studies, integrated curriculum, literature based and project based learning. Because honestly, if you can see the educational value in any of those approaches…unschooling is just a short little slide away.
Vanessa P — He was never against homeschooling, but he wasn’t too keen on unschooling. He said it would be okay part of the time but often said things like “Well, I think they need a little bit of structure” and “I think they need something to teach them math and science”, that kind of thing. I must admit, while I KNEW it’s what we as a family were called to do, I still had my reservations and fears. I knew that theoretically they would learn, but I didn’t know how (or if) that would play out practically in real life. I was lucky in that my oldest was still young when we decided to “try it out”, so we really hadn’t done much for homeschooling to begin with. So, we just extended what we were already doing, which was going fun places, learning as a family, and following our interests.
It was when preschool years, kindergarten, first grade all passed by, and I knew that my kids were pretty much “on par” with their peers (not that I was really measuring any more), that both my husband and I were both golden with the idea.
In the meantime, when he still had fears and doubts, I would just point out the things they were learning. He’d come home from work and I’d list off all of the things they had done that day and what they learned from it. Then I started asking him to get involved with their learning on the weekends. Adam loves science, so I’d suggest cool science projects they could do, or I’d encourage him to get the boys alongside him with a DIY project. I think once he realized that it wasn’t about “doing nothing” but more about learning as a family, that he was totally onboard.
Sara R– My husband introduced me to John Holt’s writing, and through that we discovered unschooling. He HATES the term, though, and cautions me never to use it except with people we trust… like it’s a secret. So we aren’t “out” as it were, but we are believers.
Leigh K — Sara R, We’ve been unschooling for 8 years and I never use the term unschooling with anyone…not even my kids and husband. I am just too paranoid of the negative connotations that go with the term, so I avoid it outside of this group. The last thing I need is for one of my kids innocently telling the nosy, judgemental librarian we UNschool! I have heard too many CPS horror stories So I say we are very relaxed homeschoolers with people I feel comfortable with.
Aza D– So it was all my husband. He announced before we had kids that they would not go to daycare or school, and then in 2008 he heard a story on NPR about Unschooling on his way to work, and called me to tell me about it. When researching, it appeared to be a natural fit for our family. Lol! the little were 4 month and 2 yrs. But as they get older, they are now 8 and almost 6, it is clear that this is the right path for all of us.
Aadel B– We started out homeschooling on a 1-year trial. Hubby was unsure about if that would work and had lots of fears about socialization, learning the basics, keeping up with the school kids, etc. Over the years, he began to accept and even embrace our homeschooling lifestyle.
When I began to learn about unschooling he was unsure. But he trusted me and the kids. It was about that time when he actually made the comment that his whole view of education had changed and he no longer even considered public school an option for us anymore. He really wasn’t involved in our homeschooling at that point and so he really just left everything up to me. I brought him ideas and read him little things about the way we learn and letting our kids have more freedom and he tended to see the wisdom in that and agree with me.
Unschooling actually changed the dynamic. Once learning was unchained from the curriculum and schedule, he began to become more involved with the kids and their interests. Learning became a family affair.
He still has doubts sometimes – like about them learning the math they will need. And he worries about me and how stressful it can be for me to stay home and be a single parent 50% of the time. So he can get “drill sergeant” (I can say that since he is a soldier -lol) and go back to wanting the kids to be doing “school” for a couple mornings a week – mostly to provide me with some sanity. So we try to work together and come up with solutions. I’m praying that once we get involved with a homeschool group again and have outside activities for the girls to get away from me 24/7 that it will help.
Monica B — We knew we were homeschooling before we had babies. My husband is self educated in everything he excels at and what he finds for work so stopping traditional homeschooling was easy for him to embrace. He has also read John Taylor Gatto, a great voice from the male/education side of things.
Heather H– Finally after 2 1/2 years of deschooling we are truly embracing unschooling. I have realized that my kids are wise enough to learn what they need to in order to succeed in life. My husband admits that he worries about math and writing skills but acknowledges that the kids could learn that in a few months if necessary. I trust that God will lead them on the path they are meant to be on.