In 2005 I created An Unschooling Life, a blog detailing our unschooling experience after adopting our three children. Over time, An Unschooling Life became a hub for unschooling support and advice. The blog has been featured in print and digital media and was home to the popular Unschooling Carnival. I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog where they will be housed under the An Unschooling Life section. This post was originally published on March 18, 2011.
I’m thrilled to welcome my good friend Kim as a writer to An Unschooling Life. She’ll be writing a monthly article on a variety of unschooling topics. In her first article, she writes about her families journey to unschooling.
When my family sat down in 2006 to discuss the possibility of homeschooling the first method of learning we all agreed on was called Natural Learning, Child-led Learning, or better referred to as Unschooling. The choice to home educate was very scary for all of us to make, not because we doubted our capabilities, but because we did not know anyone who lived an unschooling life. The majority of the people we were coming in contact with followed some form of curriculum or structured schedule based on control. In the end, our final decision to unschool has been an exciting journey of love, warmth and unimaginable closeness.
Along with unschooling, being a peaceful parent were terms I had never heard or used for that matter. Up until six years ago when my youngest daughter, Chloe, then 6, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we would never have considered home educating our children. Kids went to a place called school and that was that. Well, little did we know at the time, that along with learning to administer insulin doses, control carbs and change a ton of our habits, we were about to embark on a whole other way of existence called unschooling.
Although we were not strict disciplinary parents, we did have bedtimes, reading schedules and we also assigned chores for each child. I still remember both children asking me to buy them curriculum and tell them what to do each day. In public school, every choice about what to learn had been assigned. They were not given the ability to decide what they felt was interesting or important. I supported their needs as best I could by purchasing curriculum and giving them “school” assignments. However, it did not take long for the kids and I to realize that they could teach themselves, choose their interest without me leading or forcing them. They had inner gifts that they would soon discover just by being left alone.
Autumn, my daughter who will turn 18 this November has enrolled in a technical school/college credit course. She scored so high on her entrance exam that she was awarded free tuition. She recently has discovered that she enjoys painting with oils and has decided to start her own business by selling her work at local art gatherings. My youngest daughter Chloe has such an enormous love for animals and science that she has created her own youtube channel where she shares videos with those who are interested in learning about the care of small animals. Her goal as of today is to become a vet with her own television show.
Instinctively we all want to learn, some at different stages in one’s development. Since allowing my children to express themselves without judgment, they are discovering inner gifts that they probably would not have embarked on if they had been left in the school system.
I’m not anti-school, anti-rules, or anti-choice, but I have learned to be more trusting, less controlling and more loving, caring and compassionate with my children. A lot of this I owe to our discussion to lead an unschooling life.
Marle Theron says
I know this is an older post, but maybe I’ll get lucky with a reply! I’m homeschoolingy 4 kiddos, ages 8, 6, 3 and 10weeks. 95% of our schooling is unschooled(maths being the exception), but I’m curious how you juggled multiple kids and following each one’s interest based learning. Between house work and school work, I don’t know how I’ll find the hands-on time to facilitate each one of their interests. Any tips?
Joanne Greco says
Short answer – I didn’t. lol There was always something more to do and after I while I realized I had to get off the hamster wheel and let some things go.
But, it wasn’t easy. And sometimes I get stressed over it. But I try to lighten my load and lower some of my expectations.
Thank you for your question. It was a good one!
Angie Hall says
Wow, I imagine there are not too many Parents of Type 1 kiddos who are unschooling. I was excited to see that combo here, as it flows through our home too. Honestly, I am still navigating my way through allowing unschooling to happen, and cling to some old curricular ways… but I drop a little more each day. Thank you for your inspiration.
Kimberly Sharpe says
Thanks for the comments and kind words. Opening up my mind and sharing our experiences is something that I am so excited about. I look forward to writing these articles each month! Absolute love, compassion and trust seems to be what works best for our family.
Any ideas for articles are greatly appreciated!
Kim Karko says
I hope your little girl is managing well with her diabetes. I have a little girl with verbal apraxia. Maybe you’d like to consider creating an article on Unschooling kids with special needs, developmental delays, etc. We could all use some creative ideas! I have some to share!
In our case, we’re a mixed family: second marriage for each, two kids apiece, we agreed four were plenty, and we didn’t want more, except: Little Mister Honeymoon Surprise came along 9 months and 1 day after the wedding.
The next youngest was 7 years older, and the others ranged up to 15 years older. Literally every day of JD’s young life, someone (usually several someones) read to him while he sat in their lap. Before he was 3, he knew the alphabet. By 4, he was reading on his own. No, there was no curriculum or study plan: this was the natural consequence of a young child in a family of readers who all loved learning.
Even though the older four had all gone to public school (with a mix of private and home-schooling, to deal with one particular learning disorder), when JD approached kindergarten age we knew we had to make a decision. And we knew there was no way he could thrive or reach his potential in a traditional school setting, whether public or private.
And so, we launched into our own haphazard discovery of unschooling. We drop hints; we gently guide; we use some parental psychology to pique his curiosity in matters he might ignore if not prompted. Mostly, we try to stay out of his way and not get bulldozed aside as he plows through knowledge and learning at an alarming rate, and struggle to keep him supplied with books.
Results? He recently turned eight, and just finished the sixth Harry Potter book. My college textbooks from German 101 & 201 are among his favorites, even if his exaggerated pronunciation is hilarious. He’s hungry for more Spanish than my workplace pidgin can satisfy. At the age of 5, he looked at the inscription on a Greek bust and asked, “What’s that word that starts with the letter Theta?” (Between us, we sounded it out and came up with a reasonable translation; I never thought my beer-hazed fraternity days would pay off so well!)
Unschooling isn’t for everyone, but I truly believe it’s the best and most natural way for children to learn. My late father argued that “All children are home-schooled, whether they learn anything in public school or not.” Ironically, this was his argument against home-schooling, which was a radical concept in Arkansas in the 1970s, and we only knew one family who tried it (using an “approved” distance learning curriculum from the Calvert School).
Had he lived to see his youngest grandson at work, I believe Dad would have changed his mind.
I think one of the best parts of this whole process is reading accounts of what education looks like for different families, and seeing how it takes a different path for everyone!
Great post, Kim – I look forward to reading more from you in the future!
So interesting to read a different perspective. I just went to my 2nd Homeschooling Convention (woo-hoo) and met all types of homeschoolers. Thanks for the insights!
What a wonderful story of your journey on becoming an unschooling family! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to read your upcoming posts. Stay blessed!