You Can’t Really Unschool Part-Time

We recently bought a yearly pass to a local attraction and it got me thinking.

These sort of purchases are of course worthwhile when you figure out the amount of times you have to visit for it be equal (and then better) value to paying each time and that matches up to your general projected desire to go BUT another hugely important aspect is; when you can come and go as often as you like, it completely changes the dynamic of your visit.

When you know you only have a finite amount of time to enjoy something; you plan to that condition. You get up and there early, you push yourself to squeeze every drop of your time there, if things start to feel too much you squash those feelings down because you only have now, you can rest and recover and process your feelings tomorrow. Except what if tomorrow was school?

Sometimes when you explain how you unschool, it is met with a person saying that oh, we do that too… on weekends and holidays. Sometimes they even throw in the slither of moments left in an afternoon around the expectations of homework and dinner and bedtime.

But unschoolers aren’t just showing up. They have season passes to life. They can show up whenever they want, however they want, for as long as they want and return anytime. There are no conditions.

When you know you have no arbitrary limits to your freedom and time, something inherently changes about your entire interaction.

It just is not enough to be there. To experience something in the way that you would as an unschooled version of yourself, you need to be there without expectation, without rush, without bias. You need to be there with abundance. And when you add schooling to the mix whether that is full time at an actual institution or an amount of required book work at home then it is always going to be different.

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13 Comments

  1. Beautifully said! Our kids are unschooled. I may have been unintentionally unschooled. I did go to public school, but for my entire school career I was allowed to come and go to the library as I pleased, as I got older, I was allowed to hang out in my high school physics lab when I pleased. I still did school work, but it only took a bit of time out of my day. That’s what led us to unschooling rather than public schools, or even the traditional homeschooling that my wife did as a kid.

    1. What tells me that we havea long ways to go is the actual choice of words you use to describe your level of freedom. You say “I was allowed”. I long for a world where self-direction is encouraged and where children are trusted as the wonderful curious engaged learners they really are and can be.

    2. I’m glad you found unschooling! How brilliant for your kids to not have to consider school in their equations <3

  2. It’s funny, because for me that rushing and fitting stuff in happens while my kids are at school. I do good prep, clean, shop, and give myself some time as well as volunteer work and 6 hrs a week paid work. I get the kids lunches made and their clothes laid out while they are in bed at night. This means in the mornings we can have long cuddles and lie in’s discussing dreams or what ever we want. Eventually we make a move and get to school which starts at 9.30am. Usually they want tiger there at 9am to play with their friends. The 6 hrs we have between home time and bed time is far from rushed, as I am completely present to allow the kids to take us on what ever adventure they choose! My daughter usually digs into her craft supplies, chattering the afternoon away, and my so will go out to the park to kick a ball with neighbourhood kids, or we will watch a show he likes, then he loses himself in Lego adventures. We take two 2 week holidays a year where we stay in close quarters and let the days meander as you describe. I did love the preschool days where we would adventure as you describe, but I also love having time to help in the community and give blood and work, all of which I could not do if the kids were sto with me a the time,

    1. I understand from your perspective that sounds wonderful and it is lovely you try to shoulder most of the rush and such yourself but all I keep thinking is; but they could have all of their hours and 6 just doesn’t feel all that impressive when that’s the alternative.

      1. Hi Kim,
        I just wanted to offer you some encouragement as you are talking about your time with your family after school & are reading an unschooling post (so maybe you are considering homeschooling/unschooling). We started off like you and slowly progressed to full time free schooling/natural learning. I was looking for ways to work and study but also being present and ‘unschooling’ as much as possible. We then progressed to taking one child out of school while I still worked 2 jobs. One counselling for a 24 hr service at home (on the phone) and the other, tutoring students face to face at university and bringing my 12 yr old and baby along. Over the next year we had all 4 of our children home, and I managed to transfer all of my work to being online or on the phone, and do it in late afternoon & at night. So we work and home educate. My husband was able to come home, we minimised everything (possessions, expenses…) and started running community work shops, camps, youth groups and seminars together. By that time our big kids were teenagers and they were able to do our community work alongside us. It has been an incredible progression for us. You sound like an extremely organised, determined Mama. With determination there is no limit to what you can do while your kids are at home x💗

        1. I am in this box (maximising time to be together and ‘just be’ after school. But it is extremely scary to make that jump though. There are days i feel absolutely certain and confident but there are days when I would be so overwhelmed by the social pressure and academic pressure that I feel like giving up the intention to do this.

  3. I’ve been thinking about the flip side of this recently. We unschool, and my oldest has had space to meander through life, almost exclusively as a toddler, but still to some extent now as a 10 year old. As great as it’s been for her, she has a really hard time with prioritizing, getting out the door on time, and a sort of delayed gratification – doing this less fun thing now because it’ll mean more fun later. What I’ve been settling on is, I wonder if some short trips to the park, etc where she knows upfront it’s just going to be 20 min or less, if that would act as therapy sort of to jumpstart the part of her brain that prioritizes the relative importance of things.

    1. Nobody is inspired by circumstances they are uncomfortable with. Forced “anything” isn’t actually that trait but survival; they have no other choice! I think the issue you’re having is that you and her have different perspectives on what is important; she is prioritising important things, they just aren’t the same ones that you have. What is important for a 10 year old is different than what is important for an adult, trying to get her to live your truth arbitrarily just isn’t even going to work; it is why schools also fail in this manner.

  4. I love the idea of unschooling. I’m studying teaching right now but I want to probably do further study related to the early years and the impact parents choices have on a child. Big area, will have to narrow it of course. Anyway, I digress. The thing is, the expectation, of course, is that we will send our son to school. He goes to daycare so I can study but I’m increasingly becoming uncomfortable with that. I mean, on one hand, daycare is play based, unstructured and sort of like being a parent, whereas school and kindergarten too, is so much more structured. So while I study, I’m sort of OK with the daycare, but one he reaches 3-4 years old, I’m starting to think to myself, I’m not going to enjoy the presure the system puts on him. HE’S NOT GOING TO ENJOY IT. He has sensory processing disorder, that’s going to make it even more difficult… But then how do I convince my husband, how do I bat off all the comments that will come from family and friends. We even have teachers in the family. Ahh, so many questions yet to be answered.

    1. It can be really uncomfortable and vulnerable choosing something so unexpected. You don’t owe anybody an explanation or have the responsibility to convince them, just protect your boundaries; this is our decision, your opinion of that is none of our business <3

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