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Unschooling: Letting your child lead

February 12, 2016


I don’t love this term as it often is seen as not schooling, even by those that practice it.

Unschooling is a home school philosophy where you allow your children’s interests to lead the curriculum and use the world as your classroom. This way of educating tries to move against the idea that children are passive participants in their education and give the child a say in the focus of his or her learning.

Unschooling is not “no schooling.” The parent is still the parent and has to make decisions based on what is best for the child. Playing video games all day may be what the child’s interest is that day, but it may not be the healthiest choice and parents should have boundaries. As a busy working mom, it can be tempting also to do “no schooling” because following your child’s interests takes a lot of time. Unschooling takes time. Unschooling is schooling. Unschooling is child led education with parent facilitation.

My homeschool adventure has been led by an unschooling philosophy laid out by my parents, who homeschooled me and my 6 siblings. My parents had us do “school” everyday. We did have curriculum, although it was super basic. We each had one of those “Everything You Need to Learn in ___ Grade” books and we had the library once a week and we had the world to explore. I loved learning. Home schooling was good for me.

But at some point, I needed more and my parents always left the choice up to us on when we were ready to go back to regular school.

Child led education.

So when my mom couldn’t teach me Algebra, I went back to regular school, but home schooling has always been and will always be an important part of who I am.

Now, I face a bit of a dilemma as I evaluate my own role as a home schooling  mom and my deep seated belief that education should be child led whenever possible.

There is an opportunity for my kids to go to a Montessori school. They would be at school 8:30-2:30 four days a week. This would be essentially giving up home schooling for me. They want to go. My children are leading their education away from home schooling.

And I am having an identity crisis because of it.

Home schooling is a defining role for me. I work in a charter school for home schoolers, I hang out with other home schooling moms, and my day revolves around home schooling. I love that my kids give me the excuse to skateboard early in the morning and do long beach days or museum days. I love being with them.

However, I know that I don’t serve them as well as they need. I work. I am dragging them around often to meetings and having to push their needs aside while I answer emails and do reports. They need more than I can give them right now.

I feel insufficient.

Letting them go to a Montessori school feels like I am a failure and also feels like a scary lifestyle change for me. The reasons not to do it are all about me. But home schooling was never meant to be about me. It HAS to be about them. My children are not my security blanket or my identity.

Unschooling means child led education. My children get to choose their path in life. My job is to guide and facilitate that.

So this is the thing that applies to all of us as parents, not just the homeschooling ones: Your children are unique people who will eventually outgrow you. They should move on. You are there to help them grow into who they are; not who you want or need them to be. Give them boundaries, help them say no to things that are bad for them, guide them….but in the end, they will have to go out into this big, beautiful world and you will have to let go.  Listen to your kids. They have a say in how they are raised. This is their life, so get your own needs and wants out of the way, listen, and seek what is best for your child.

A child who has a say in his or her education is an empowered child who will grow into an empowered adult, able to stand strong in who he or she is instead of going with the expectations of others (including yours). I want my kids to be strong, empowered adults, so I need to step back.

My hope and prayer is that my kids will outgrow me and head out into the world, independent and strong, to follow the destinies that God laid out for them.

I’ll just have to get out of the way so that can happen.IMG_9921








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One Comment
  1. Hollie Prussack permalink

    Again, Amy your words resonate with me. Thank you for the perspective.

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