A while back, a member from an unschooling email list I belong to, asked some questions and was looking for encouragement. Her questions are followed by my answers.
1- How old were your children when you took them out of school?
I have three kids that I removed in 2004. They were in the first, fourth and repeating the fifth grade when I removed them and were 6, 9 & 12.
2- Do you develop activities/projects for them (with their help, or on your own, etc.), and, if so, how do they take to this?
We all think up ideas for various activities and projects. Sometimes I suggest something, other times one of them will. My two daughters are very into creating things and experimenting with stuff (especially my 9-year-old) and they’re usually up for anything.
3- Do you make them learn about certain things, or do you completely let them follow their own interests?
No, I don’t make them learn certain things. That would go against everything that I know about unschooling. I think what would help the most is to spend more time deschooling yourself. Following your interests is a good place to start. It leads to so much more.
4- Do you try to expose your children to new ideas/concepts/activities, and, if so, how do you do so?
Yes, we do this by just trying to live an interesting life. They expose me to lots of new stuff also. A museum near us had an exhibit of dresses that belonged to Princess Diana and my daughters asked if we could go. It was a fun day and we found out a lot about her that we didn’t know. If it wasn’t for my daughters suggesting it, I probably wouldn’t have gone.
5- Are your children resistant when you try to expose them to new ideas/concepts/activities, and if they are, how do you deal with it?
Sometimes, but I have found my kids enjoy trying new stuff so they’re pretty much open to new ideas. When they don’t want to do something I suggested, I try very hard not to take it personally, or at least not to let it show. That’s been tough for me but I’m better at it than I was.
6- Are your relatives supportive, and if not, how do you deal with them?
My mother was very supportive. She thought homeschooling and unschooling were fantastic. As far as other relatives, it doesn’t come up much but they’re kind of used to me and my off-the-beaten-path ideas.
7- If you have a shy child, do social interactions, or lack thereof, concern you? What do you do to help your child overcome his or her shyness, or do you feel that he or she will simply outgrow it?
Can’t help you there. All three of my kids are quite outgoing and are usually the first ones to introduce themselves to other kids and start playing with them.
I don’t think being shy is something you should help your child overcome or hope they grow out of it. It’s part of who they are right now. That needs to be respected, not changed. People change on their own and evolve over time so she may well end up a more outgoing person later on in life but honor her for who she is right now. If she wants help with making new friends or starting a conversation, then by all means, help her. But if she’s fine with it and it’s not getting in the way of her being happy, I’d leave it alone.
8- If you have an anxious child, how do you help your child to deal with the anxiousness?
My middle daughter has had anxiety issues since she moved in with us. (We adopted her when she was 8 years old) and will worry and become overly anxious about things. It was hard in the beginning because the anxiousness was mixed in with a lot of anger. As the anger subsided, so did a lot of her fears (weather was a big trigger for her) but I have found that two things helped her the most. One is talking to her about things before they happen. The other is giving her the tools to calm herself down.
9- Any help or advice that you could give me would be appreciated – right now, I need all the help I can get!
Just what you’re doing is great. Asking questions and reading about
unschooling is a step in the right direction.
The best advice I can give someone who is just starting to unschool their kids is to keep your worry to yourself. Don’t project that onto your kids. Spend time reading about ‘deschooling’….for yourself, not your kids. Once you start to change your own ideas about what education and learning are (not what the school system wants you to think it is), a lot of your fears will subside and that, in turn, will help your kids.
It takes time though, so in the meanwhile, just be with your kids.
Have fun with them.
Don’t turn every fun moment into a “teaching” moment. That’s what school does – they suck the fun out of everything.
Have some patience and practice taking deep breathes.
Everything will be fine.
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 Jan 17, 2009.