Unschooling: Too Good To Be True?

I have heard a few times now that unschooling, as projected by I guess the more vocal within the community (including myself here), is intimidating in its grandeur.

The lives are too peaceful, the children too incredible, the parents too calm — from the outside perspective; it is unrealistic, it is unrelatable, it is unachievable. It is unfair.

It feels so far removed from the person’s own reality that they discount it as an option even if they are slightly curious and intrigued. As a family who has found and is enjoying this lifestyle, I don’t actively seek to convert others but if somebody is interested or in need then I do hope to (even slightly) help them realise it’s potential by sharing what it means for our family.

Intimidation isn’t exactly what I’m aiming for.


I just can’t bring myself to take responsibility for those feelings and it would not be fair to you for me to either.

This intimidation is not externally derived.  It doesn’t come directly from the unschooling narrative, most likely it comes from wanting that story and feeling it is so far from reach or even stronger — not possible for you at all. This is not entirely accurate though, it is an act of self preservation to project something into the unattainable; it is easier to think something not an option than to know that it is and not do everything in your power to chase it when you feel perhaps you should.

It is the act of transferring the responsibility and fault away from yourself and onto the situation so as to protect things as they are. When something challenges the truth of your reality, it is uncomfortable and you are faced with two options: ignore the new information, this might involve justifying it by altering or including new conditions and restrictions OR change your reality to align with the newly discovered ideals. To stagnate or to grow.

I’m not necessarily suggesting unschooling (or any of my reality) is the ultimate option that we will all evolve to choose. These words are not for those who see unschooling and know it is not for them, who feel secure in their current choices. This is a suggestion that if unschooling’s very presence and premise brings confliction to your soul, to your story than it might be time to hear that feeling out, to explore it.

For me to stay quiet, to let a person live ignorant of the possibility would be more unfair than to introduce them to the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. It would be to not trust that person’s ability to make an informed choice, it would be robbing them of the chance to. Maybe they are not ready to hear these words but that is not for me to judge or decide. I release my messages into the world knowing full well it becomes the prerogative of those that catch them to choose what to do with them no matter my hopes as I piece them together.

I will say that the truth isn’t accurately observable from the outside, if you’re still encased in schooled culture, you are asking very different questions. Unschoolers are generally celebrated in a very different way. It is not about what they achieve but the fact that they have the autonomy to do that which makes most sense to them and their intentions.

And they are afforded abundant time to develop that and follow their internal motivation — it is a different playing field and one where competition is unnecessary. You can’t really understand what your child might be like when you’re still viewing them through a filter of expectations that a schooled life creates. You can’t know that it wouldn’t work for them until you’ve actually removed school from the equation entirely and that takes more than simply forgoing it, it’s also an internal process you both need to detach from.

You don’t want to believe in the possibility because to face the prospect of big changes is scary and it is harder and harder not to believe when there are people around you demonstrating it is possible. Maybe it would be easier if we all stopped talking about it.

But this is my life, this is my truth and something I feel very strongly about is this: people should share honestly, whatever that looks like – they should feel like they can tell their stories without the weight of all the lives other people aren’t living on their shoulders.

It can be a far trek from where you are at to where you want to be and I can’t help you carry the fear or the guilt and I won’t pretend it isn’t there when it is but I will try my very best, always, to help you shed it when and if you are ready. Because it is achievable and it is worth reaching for.

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  1. I felt this way for a long time; that unschooling would just never work for us – I have an autistic child after all and he needed structure and behaviour intervention! (or so everyone including myself kept saying) – but still the idea of surrendering to unschooling just wouldn’t leave my mind. Letting go of everything I thought I knew about learning, about parenting, about relationships and life was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You can’t just stop using a curriculum or planning learning activities, you need to give up all control over your children’s lives. That was hard to do. But I realised that when you give up control you welcome in connection and joyful living. It’s a completely different reality that we are living now, one that I was sure was not possible

    1. Oh wow, powerful. I’m so excited to hear from you and about this! I’d love to know more about how this has been playing out for you <3

  2. Oh this is so me. Actually, my husband. I have always- since I was about 12!- wanted to homeschool. No idea where it came from (along with honebirth, no waste etc etc), sure as heck wasn’t my family and I wasn’t ever exposed to it growing up. I feel like I’ve sold out sending my kids to school but not sure how to wiggle out if it. My husband is super concerned financially (I’ve been home since the second was born) and I understand the weight of being the sole breadwinner and right now we have nothing at all saved. I am currently looking for location independent work so we might have the freedom to make that choice soon without it being a financial issue. We also opted for school with my oldest (8) because of some social/emotional/behavioral issues and I will say that the school is amazingly supportive, but I also think it may not have been as beneficial as we’d imagined (I don’t buy the ‘you need to go to school to get socialized’ crap, but it was so stressful for me to have him in peer/social settings that I couldn’t see how to do it all. Anyway, I’m rambling… good food for thought as I think about our next steps.

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