Not thinking about unschooling

Other than responding to a few comments on my blog, I didn’t think about unschooling at all today.

Or yesterday.

Or the day before that.

Instead, over the last few days, we did things like going to see Marina & the Diamonds in concert, watching some Broadway League softball in Central Park and watching “Matilda” on Broadway.

Instead I went out with Joshua on Saturday to see “The Great Gatsby”.

Instead we visited with friends and celebrated Maya’s birthday and laughed about a bunch of silly stuff.

In other words, we just lived our lives.

Some books were read.  Journals written. Photos taken.

I didn’t keep track of things my kids might have learned.  I didn’t throw any particularly “educational” media or information their way.

I mostly left their daily schedule up to them and trusted they would choose well.

This is both the joy and trickery of unschooling.  It looks like “nothing”.  It looks like life as a whole, fluid, organic thing and not compartmentalized into subjects and education as something separate.

It makes people uneasy, sometimes, when they are looking in from the outside.   They don’t get what’s going on. (Because to them it looks like the nothing I mentioned above.)

Unschooling is a kind of leap of faith that incorporates a willingness to go forge your own path with a willingness to experiment and fail and try again.

At first you tend to think about it all the time.  You think about letting go and trusting and forging the path.

Until you get to the point where you don’t think about it much at all.   You are just in it and it is your life.

And that’s a good place to be.

8 comments on “Not thinking about unschooling

  1. Cindy says:

    Since *my* interest is unschooling and education and other collaborative learning models, I talk about it a lot, and study it, and write about it, etc. But, my children had other interests growing up. They had no clue their life they lived had a “name.” It was life. It was interesting to see them discover my interest once they became adults, and thus, then realize what they knew as life was of great interest and debate to others.

    • Cathy says:

      Cindy, that’s exactly what happened for me: my kids didn’t think about or really know the label “unschooling,” although everybody asked where they went to school, so they did know the concept and term “homeschool.”

      And, yes, now that they are adults they have come to think about it more, in a retrospective way. This has happened partly because, as adults, they are more surrounded by people who went to school, even, than they were as kids (we had a large homeschool support group, so many of their friends growing up were homeschoolers)–and most people who went to school assume that all homeschoolers did pretty much what they did at school, but at home. Running into that incorrect assumption over and over again has made an impact on my kids, has made them realize just how incomprehensible to others their “normal” is.

  2. Cindy says:

    It’s true, Cathy, that not only did my children just use the word “homeschool” to answer any questions about school, but they didn’t realize that most people assumed they were doing the same as school. It was like how your daughter described it for them.

    The most interesting stories have come from my daughter after attending college. One new friend asked her, “How did you do your transcripts?” and her reply was, “We made it up.” Right after saying it and seeing the shocked reaction, she realized that the person couldn’t understand what that really meant. Haha! Individualized learning at work.

    Another fun story was her being in biology. She had never taken a “biology course,” and she was finding it very interesting and commented, “This is SO interesting.” The person next to her incredulously asked, “Have you never taken biology?!” And her reply was, “No, but it’s very interesting!” She got a 4.0 :-) Love of learning at work.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, my kids loved most of their college classes, too, and earned top grades, and the oldest two graduated with honors. (The youngest one has done some college but is so busy pursuing a career as a professional dancer that she is not working toward a degree at the moment.)

      One of my daughters said mid-way through her second semester of her senior year of college, “I’m getting sick of reading a book and then having to write a paper to prove that I read the book. I just want to read the book!”

      I said, “I’m so happy that you are burning out a month away from graduating from college, instead of burning out in grade 3!”

      I feel that, even though college is non-compulsory, so many kids have no real choice about going and are so used to marching along through their schooling in lock-step, often with no chance to discover their passions and make their own choices–so my kids’ much greater self-knowledge and empowerment in their own life made a huge difference in college.

      OTOH, a lot of young people make it through all those years of forced schooling still loving life, still creative and interesting and quirky. It is a great testament to the human spirit that they do so!

  3. Al says:

    Thanks, Amy & all –

    I really enjoy reading your blog and the comments. We took our two girls out of their school last holiday season and are still floundering a bit about how to keep it going. Your comments help clarify. Most recently my thought towards the school was, “These are MY kids. They are not YOUR kids.” (I know they are their own selves, btw – just young enough to need an adult advocate.)

    Can one of you help me understand what to do about legalities and reports to the school? When we made the change we filled out some planning forms as best we could, but since then have moved from the homeschooling concept towards the unschooling concept. We are supposed to report our progress and success back to the school. I have not been able to find much about the legalities of unschooling. Can you help?

    We are in Cold Spring, Putnam County, NY.


  4. […] Not thinking about unschooling: Amy Milstein at Unschooling NYC shares her family’s life during a week when they weren’t thinking about unschooling. […]

  5. Open says:

    so why don’t you simply push them to do thngis?Seriously sometimes children say no to thngis simply because they don’t realize the benefits it has for them.So push them to do girl scouts.. just for one season. Or try soccer.. just for one season. They may (since they pushed to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone) be willing to give it a go and decide that it’s something they actually like.It’s not a bad thing to push them beyond themselves and I have a hard time not seeing it as an unschooling thing. Because unschooling doesn’t mean not ever presenting your children with challenges beyond themselves, OR only offering them what they are used to and comfortable with it’s presenting opportunities.. and for some children just talking about it doesn’t work.. you actually have to push them into before they can really see what the benefit might be to them. I am not an unschooler (as I can’t quite grasp it well enough), but I can see some of the benefits of it. I’m more of a take life as it is schooler and pursue interests and push ideas if I can type of person.

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