8 Years Unschooling to the First Day of Public High School

This is a really overdue blog post. The whole transition of unschooler-to-public-schooler actually started almost 2 years ago. So excuse me while I quite possibly make this the longest blog post I’ve ever written (or in case it takes you two years to read it). Because I’m sure many of you can understand, there’s a lot that goes into a story like this. Continue reading “8 Years Unschooling to the First Day of Public High School”

Six (Wide Sky) Days Together

#wideskydays #sunset #bokeh #ocean #beach #cliffs

Awake before the world. Reveling in the quiet spaces in between. #wideskydays

In case you didn’t see from my Instagram stream, we spent 6 entire days at the Wide Sky Days conference in San Diego. (WSD is an unschooling conference: a long weekend to gather with other “crazy unschoolers” and play, laugh, connect, ask, answer, realign, inspire, support, and laugh with one another.)

What you probably noticed from said Instagram stream is an almost total lack of photos including children.

Fun times #afterparty #wideskydays @heathermattern @melimae79

Zeb spent most of his time in the game room and prefers not to have his picture taken much anyway, but I did manage to nab one photo of him:

Zeb had a lot of this sorta fun all weekend #wideskydays

We got to see him find his own comfort level with meeting new people and balance it with plenty of quiet time to himself. (Yes, he’s still in his Caveman phase, and it’s so wonderful to be around other teens and adults who have “been there, done that” and meet him where he is with love and acceptance and trust.)

But let’s be real: These conferences are just as much – if not more so – for the adults.

Parents whose children are way too tiny to acknowledge the room come. Parents whose children are grown and gone still come. Adults who don’t have children come, too.

Because we need these convergences like we need air.

#wideskydays #beach #ocean

We – as mindful, organic, radically unconventional, and sometimes freak-others-out people – need our people. We need to breathe in the environment that we breathe out into our homes. We need to replenish ourselves, realign ourselves.

We need community.

Especially community not afraid to play.

Thai dinner with @freeplaylife and @livelightly  #wideskydays

#juggling #wideskydays

Drinks with my sistahs @freeplaylife @heathermattern @livelightly  #margarita #wideskydays

Rainbow Bright does #hooping @freeplaylife #wideskydays

Justin and I hardly attended a single discussion, workshop/funshop, or circle the entire weekend.

The things we didn’t miss:

  • SSUM’s (Secret Society of Unschooling Moms): Connecting with other moms about our relationships to ourselves and our partners. What happens in SSUM’s stays in SSUM’s.
  • Justin’s juggling funshop: he taught about a dozen or so adults and kids to juggle!
  • Filling Your Cup: This one was my very own circle to facilitate! More on that soon!
  • SSUD’s (Secret Society of Unschooling Dads): Dads connecting with other dads about who knows what (same thing: what’s discussed there stays there).
  • Firepit conversations, hula hooping with friends, shopping trips, playing at the beach, more firepit conversations, cocktails, good food together, more good conversations around the fire, lots of laughter, and giant hugs.


Late night circles at #wideskydays

Sunset on the pacific. #wideskydays #sunset #sun #horizon #ocean #reflection

#wideskydays #beach #ocean #pacific #sandiego #california

For us, we’re not going to learn more about unschooling.

The talks are always wonderful, but that’s not our need anymore.

For us it’s about culture immersion: surrounding ourselves in the one environment that is so full of love, acceptance, support, and a shared view of the world that your heart goes all pitter-patter as you celebrate life and family and love…simply by living it together.

I can’t get that in the world at large. Yes, we have our caravan. Yes, we connect with amazing people on the road.

But to be IMMERSED in a lifestyle of mindfully creating joy, connection, peace, passion, fun, laughter…a lifestyle that embraces you and your family as wonderful and whole and worthy of trust…a community that nudges you toward your own highest good (while simultaneously passing the margaritas)…a tribe of all ages, all backgrounds, all creeds, all preferences that meets you where you are, embraces you and helps you laugh…

Where else does this exist?

That’s why we go to these conferences (at least once a year, although we’re feeling the pull to make it a bigger part of our life).

We need to fill our hearts with these kinds of interactions to counter all the craziness that can happen in the conventional world.

We need love like this in the same way that we need air.

If you haven’t been to an unschooling conference…can I make a strong recommendation towards it? Whether you’re new to unschooling or a veteran, or just considering it, nothing changes you like immersion in an environment of love, peace, joy, acceptance, and trust. Nothing.

The Organic Parenting E-Course Starts Monday, Sept 17th!

Are you in it? ๐Ÿ˜€

We’ve got so any participants, some DIYers and many, many more joining through the Tribe to get it on the small and large group calls and the forum goodness.

The first module starts Monday, but the Getting started goodies are available immediately!

I hope you’ll join us!

Click here to check it out!

Meet Peter Gray, PhD: Psychologist AND Organic Parenting Contributor! Eeeeee!

I just got off Skype with Peter Gray! I got to talk with Peter Gray! Weeee! #organicparenting

The nerd in me (okay, that IS me) pretty much fell in love with Peter Gray when I found his articles on Psychology Today a few years back.

He’s an evolutionary developmental psychologist and research professor of psychology at Boston College with an interest in alternative approaches to education with an emphasis on autonomous play. (Human nature + asking good questions + alternative anything + autonomy + play? You can see my fascination.)

And then my heart really went all pitter-patter when he replied to my invitation to join the Organic Parenting e-course with “How could I refuse!” โ™ฅ

I’d like to introduce him in two different ways:

  1. By sharing snips from our interview, which comes as part of the e-course, and
  2. By sharing some of my favorite articles of his so you can get to know his message.

Let’s start with my favorite articles:

And without further ado, some scenes from our interview in the Organic Parenting e-course:

Have you joined the Organic Parenting e-course?

Mindful. Gentle. Empathetic. Patient. Respectful. Conscious. Centered. Playful. Connected. Cooperative. Wonderful. Authentic. Responsive. Energetic. Deep. Warm. Interest-Led. Autonomous. Engaged. Enjoyable. Challenging (the good kind). Grounded. Friendly. Spiritual. Trusting. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Flowing. Confident. Silly. Shining. Supportive. Supported.

Are these the words that resonate parenting for you?

Do you want them to be?

Click here to learn more about the e-course beginning on September 17th!

Our 4th Unschooling Anniversary (And Growth)

Getting Ready

Swing High

Flying Boy

I love unschooling. I know that probably goes without saying, but it’s good for me to be reminded sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday was our fourth unschooling anniversary. Four years ago we made one choice that changed our world. And today I’m reminded just how phenomenal and empowering a choice it was. See, I don’t love unschooling because of its “results.”

I love unschooling because of what it gives us: freedom, space to heal and the courage to live passionately.

Four years ago, I stood before a child that was angry and sad. I stood before him with questions about how to help him and how to ignite the interests he once had. I was worried that he no longer loved to read or wanted to play with numbers or patterns.

Our life was anxious and nervous and uncertain.

In school he felt a lot of pressure to perform, took to heart anything that sounded like criticism, and became paralyzed by fear of failure. Even things he enjoyed and excelled in were avoided.

Reading was one of those things.

Although we had been reading since he was an infant, although he was excited to learn to do it on his own, and although he picked up on it quickly and easily, he was before me declaring his hatred for books. With pressure, judgment and limitations placed on him his loved for books suffered.

But unschooling changes those things.

Living outside school gave us the freedom to be ourselves, the space to heal our wounds and the courage to live passionately.

As I type this today, four years later, I’m sitting beside my 11 year old as he writes his first novel. And it’s not just any novel; he’s writing an epic fantasy novel.

My heart is so big and happy right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish there was a smiley with it’s eyes closed and it’s face basking in the sun. Because that’s how I feel, as though I’m basking in the glow of a beautiful life.

My son is writing a novel. And I’m not concerned with any of the details, the grammar or spelling or “doing it right”. I’m not even concerned if he doesn’t make it past the second chapter (because he’s already finished the first…and it was Oh.So.Good).

I’m concerned with feeding his passion and his desire to want to do something So Big, so outside his usual comfort zone.

I’m concerned with supporting his sense of empowerment, as he chooses to do something that conventional wisdom wouldn’t expect from him.

I’m concerned with helping him feel the potential within him, to know he CAN, even if he chooses not to.

I’m concerned with his sense of freedom, giving him the space to grow and feeding his courage to live passionately.

Because those are the things that nurture a personal definition of success.

Those are the things that change things.

On Trusting Our Kids (and Their Candy)

Halloween Booty

This is the candy Zeb got from two trunk-or-treat events and one night of trick-or-treating.

Or I should say it’s all the candy he has left.

From Friday through Tuesday he probably ate another grocery bag full. Because of all the sugar in his system he ate little else during that time.

Was I worried? No.

Okay, for a minute there on Tuesday I began to wonder. And we certainly had a discussion or two and offered him plenty of other foods.

But mostly I just waited.

Was it hard? Yes. Even though I trust Zeb to find his own limits and listen to his own body, that little Bad Parent voice tends to chirp up and ask “What will other people think?” I’m pretty proud of how well I told that voice to shut it’s trap.

Because no matter what common parental rules dictate, I know a happy, healthy child will not choose candy forever.

I know my child rarely chooses to eat that much candy. I know all humans will experiment with their own limits. And I know Zeb needed to experiment with his own.

And sure enough Tuesday evening he put his pillowcase of candy away and hasn’t touched it since.

He has instead requested and had all the food his body thrives on:

  • salmon
  • cod
  • nearly a gallon of grass-fed raw milk
  • tomatoes with sea salt
  • lots of water
  • oatmeal
  • green smoothies
  • grass-fed beef
  • (Oh, he also bought himself a hot dog at the park, but said it didn’t really hit the spot.)

Halloween is fun. Candy is fun. Sugar is fun.

And our kids should have fun.

They should also be allowed to decide and learn for themselves their own limits. And we should be okay with those choices, even when they don’t match our own choices.

Our kids don’t have to have our own value system or beliefs. It doesn’t always need to make sense to us. We don’t even need to be comfortable with all their choices.

We just need to trust that they will do what makes sense to them.

Because they always will.

What’s been your experience with Halloween candy?

Unjobbing: What It Is and What It Isn’t

I’ve thrown the word “unjobbing” around here a few times. Like unschooling, it’s a word we use that, at first glance, does little to really describe the idea.

Just as unschooling doesn’t mean uneducated (nor is it against school or always done outside of school), unjobbing does not mean unemployed. Nor is it really against jobs or always done outside the presence of a job.

Instead, unjobbing is more about how you do what you do than what you actually do.

Unjobbing is about making a life instead of just a living.

Instead of living for work, we work to live (and to learn and grow and experience). We love what we do; it brings us fulfillment and it enables us to do some pretty wonderful things. But it’s not all we do. It’s not the only focus of our life.

Unjobbing is often used synonymously with entrepreneurship, working for oneself. But I think the greatest downfall of entrepreneurship is the insipid ideas and lessons we learned as children that still linger in our ideas around our work.

Just like deschooling, dejobbing has its place.

Unschooling and Unjobbing (Deschooling and Dejobbing)

If you look at unjobbing like we look at unschooling the definition becomes clearer. It’s obvious to see that the same paradigms linger over us long after the school years are past.

You could say that having a job (or which job you have) is a choice and school isn’t. Except that school is a choice, just one we fail to see.

And like school, we often fail to see our jobs as a choice, too.

Most working adults, just like concerned parents, don’t realize there is another choice: when you’ve been taught a lesson for 13+ years, you come to see it as the only way of doing things.

Adults are just grown kids, continuing to believe the same lessons we learned in our youth:


A sense of obligation to people that don’t even matter to us is taught at a very young age. Extrinsic motivation and meaningless accolades (grades, rewards, punishment, guilt, praise, admonishment) feed our desire for approval and attention and our fear of ostracization. Those lessons linger long after we’re grown and we continue to feel obligated to have “a real job”, to work hard and to be grateful for it.

Hard work and gratitude aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless we’re doing something that is meaningless to us.

Life is not meant to be lived for others.

It’s meant to be fulfilling by our own definition. Obligation doesn’t do that. Loving what we do, knowing our reasons for it and loving those reasons does.


Likewise the environment of competition sets us up to compare ourselves to our peers. Who is “passing” or “failing”? Who has the more expensive designer shoes? Who has the hotter girlfriend? Who’s a nerd, a jock, a punk, a slut? Who has the most friends or the highest or lowest GPA?

Just putting that many similarly-aged and -interested people in one room creates an environment of judging, competing and comparing.

In order to stand out amongst the crowd you have to either do better than the others or act out against it. Both are a form of competing for attention.

That competition plays out in our adult life as we try to keep up with the Joneses’. Most of us get stuck always trying to get ahead, get a raise, get a bigger house. (The rest tend to resort to drugs or alcohol abuse, complete disregard for others or a total withdrawal from society.)

We compare and base our value off our neighbor’s value – or what we perceive it to be.

Sadly, while we compare what another family may have we rarely compare what they don’t have. We may see the bigger house and nicer car, but we rarely take into account the extra work, the disconnection, the dissatisfaction.

So as we run to keep up we find ourselves overworked, disconnected and dissatisfied and can’t understand why.


Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, our sense of worthiness is so strongly tied to our salary it’s a wonder Big Pharma hasn’t created a disorder for it and patented a drug already.

Our sense of self-worth strongly relates to the words used to describe us (or other children around us).

A lack of compassion or attention, an unfulfilled need for validation, even things like “good boy” or “bad boy,” “that’s not nice of you”ย  or “she should be ashamed of herself” and so on, all plant seeds in our young minds that germinates into self-doubt and fear.

Only if a Superior deems our actions as okay are we to be considered worthy.

And thus we become performers, doing something that doesn’t resonate with us, all for the external validation we crave.

And it’s not just those that have a job that are affected. In fact I’d bet just as many entrepreneurs suffer from these hurtful lessons than anyone else.

Unjobbing vs Entrepreneuring

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 19 years old. For seven years I owned my own mobile massage therapy company, contracting upwards of 20 or more massage therapists, yoga instructors, estheticians and nail techs for bodywork and treatments in homes, hotels and at conventions. I made good money, enjoyed what I did and had big goals for the future.

And I was miserable – we were all miserable.

It took several years to realize that no amount of money, power or job satisfaction alone can fulfill me. I worked for myself, but that didn’t keep me from being overworked, disconnected and dissatisfied.

Many entrepreneurs mistakenly think the key to happiness is the freedom to work for oneself.

But no amount of independence can make you free when your mind is still shackled to the same ideas passed around Corporate America or Corporate Education.

And that’s what happens to a lot of entrepreneurs: we’re driven by the same sense of obligation, the same competitiveness and sometimes a whole lot more of need to prove ourselves. We carry forward those same lessons of our youth, except now funneling it into making a lot of money.

Don’t get me wrong – making good money is not a bad thing.

But I’ve met too many entrepreneurs (*raising my hand*) who become consumed with their businesses and forget why they work for themselves to begin with.

Will The Real Unjobbing Please Stand Up?

Which leads me to unjobbing, what it is and what it isn’t:

Unjobbing is not about loving your work, although that should probably be a piece of the puzzle.

Unjobbing is not about working for yourself, although most unjobbers do.

I’d argue that unjobbing isn’t even about making a life instead of a living, although it’s certainly an important part.

Unjobbing is about changing the way we think of and view our world.

Unjobbing is about letting go of the obligation, losing the competitive drive and determining our own self-worth.

It about questioning what we take for granted, finding truth among the bullshit and deciding for ourselves what has value in our lives.

It’s about deschooling our adult minds and living outside the status quo, giving ourselves the same freedom we give our unschooling children.

It’s not job satisfaction, it’s life satisfaction.

It’s purpose and passion and following our interests.

Our work either becomes our soulful purpose and contribution to the world, something we feel passionately about and something we feel drawn to do.

Or our work is something that provides what we need to do the thing(s) we feel is our soulful purpose and contribution to the world, enabling us to continue something we feel passionately about or drawn to do.

Either way it’s not a “job”. It should never be something we loathe or put up with for a paycheck. It’s one aspect – perhaps the biggest or the smallest – of one entire life.

Our Unjobbing Journey

Even though I’ve worked for myself for the past decade, I still had a lot of dejobbing to do. Most of it was done around the time that we took Zeb out of school and I began unschooling my life right along side him.

I reevaluated my business and quickly found the meaning and the meaninglessness. It didn’t take much time to decide to sell the company. I worked for another year in my own private practice, seeing clients 5-10 hours a week. (The paradox became that I was working less, making more money and finding fulfillment in new areas of my life.)

Justin’s dejobbing/unjobbing journey has been drastically different. So much of a man’s value is tied up in his ability to provide for his family that even when Justin is providing for our needs (not just monetarily, but our need for time with him as well) he still worries that it’s not enough if his work doesn’t consume 40-80 hours of his week.

He’s written privately about his process over the past year of losing his job and transitioning into working for himself. It’s been a challenge, albeit a fascinating one. Perhaps someday soon he’ll revive his blog and share it with you.

The past year has brought us to a very different perspective.

We don’t want to work hard through our best years only to retire, exhausted and physically incapable, decades from now.

Nor do we see retirement as something we’re likely to ever do. We love what we do and we plan to continue doing the things we enjoy our entire lives, expanding it or changing it organically.

We don’t view work as a necessary evil either. Nor do we think we need to stick to one thing.

We’ve found doing several things – like writing this blog, running the new website, and offering our mobile services – to be much more enjoyable. We can follow our own inspiration, our own passions and we can allow them to evolve as we do. No more stagnancy. No more boredom.

Our work reflects the evolution of our minds and our lives.

We’re entrepreneurs. We’re unjobbing. We’re unschooling our whole lives.

Want some more reading on unjobbing?

This is obviously just one person’s perspective on what works for us. There is plenty more out there to draw inspiration from. A few favorites:

So…what do you think about unjobbing?

This is obviously a big subject and one I’ve barely even skimmed the surface of, so stay tuned for more posts on the topic in the coming months. And feel free to ask questions in the comments below or send me a question directly: theorganicsister at gmail dot com.

Unlock. Unleash. Unschool!

The past several months of offering coaching for unschooling and mindful parenting have been amazing. I’ve connected with so many parents, learned a lot about the common challenges people face (and the diversity within each experience) and so enjoyed inspiring parents to tap into their own unconditional love.

I’ve spoken with unschoolers, homeschoolers and public and private schoolers, all amazing parents undergoing some pretty amazing transformations and needing a bit of support.

Something else I’ve discovered, though: 30 minutes is not quite long enough and 60 minutes is sometimes too long. A little like Baby Bear, 45 minutes seems to be just right.

So I made some changes:

  • For starters, I changed my button. For some of you it may have updated on its own. For others you may need to grab the code again from this page. Or keep the old one if you prefer. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • I’m now only offering one session length and one package of four calls, each 45 minutes, each still with email support. This has changed the pricing a bit (which won’t affect those of you who have already scheduled). But…
  • I’m also offering the Honor System via the Paypal Donations button found to the right. If you need support and your budget doesn’t allow it, just email me. You can pay whatever you can afford (even if that means nothing). Likewise, if you can afford to pay a bit more it will go towards someone else’s session. Again, this is on the honor system. My time is important to my family, too, so hopefully this will work out for everyone involved.

Why am I offering this? Because it’s needed. Talking to a friend on the phone, someone who will meet you where you are and help you get where you want to be, is important. And not everyone has that.

And I’m offering it because I trust that our needs are always met when we meet the needs of others. I was lamenting my inability to volunteer my time in some capacity while traveling when I realized just how silly that was.

I do have time to volunteer. Granted it might be slightly more interrupted, or it might be while we driving down the road, or maybe while I’m making dinner. But I do have time when I remember to make time for what matters.

Unschooling matters. Mindful parenting matters. Inspiring others matters.

This isn’t a handout. It’s the offer of support. Something we all need. And something we all need to do more of.

Overachievers, Vilifying Interests and Owning It

Running For His Badge

Zeb took a serious interest in the Jr Ranger Program offered through our National Parks while we were in Indiana. Our first park and his first badge has come from Lincoln National Park in Southern Indiana. According to his age, he was required to finish five pages of the program and a list of tasks that included hikes, visiting the living memorials of Lincoln’s Boy Hood Memorial and watching a short film.

We were excited to see him so eagerly embrace and accomplish something that not long ago would have caused him to panic, bringing up negative memories of school papers and the pressure to perform. He was gung-ho passionate and an unstoppable answer-figuring machine.

That’s likely why I was taken aback when the ranger called him an “overachiever” because of his finishing more pages than necessary for his age group.

The term “overachiever” has such a negative connotation to it. Despite knowing it was only a playful conversation on the ranger’s part and in no means meant offensively, it set my thoughts swirling anyway. Because let’s face it, overachiever is not much of a compliment. And here was my son, excitedly devouring something of interest to him and being labeled for it.

The True Definition of an Overachiever

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of “overachiever” is a simple one: to perform better than expected.

At first glance it doesn’t seem negative (I won’t even broach my feelings on the word “perform”). But its implications and the manner in which is it generally used certainly does:

  • First, the definition itself implies someone didn’t really expect much from you. This likely means they don’t see you possessing any number of positive qualities: intelligence, motivation, or persistence to see something through, to name a few. This is sometimes a general statement (i.e. many adults don’t really expect much of teens) or it could be related to subject matter (perhaps the material seemed above your capability level). Either way it doesn’t say much for you, if you are the person in question.
  • It can imply the subject matter may not have been interesting in the first place. We simply don’t expect much from a person who is doing something we ourselves think is boring or pointless. And when they do, we’re not going to believe it had to do with passion; we’re going to blame it on pretention. Which leads me to my next point….
  • It smacks of a personal attack. Let’s get real: When the term “overachiever” is used, it’s commonly a way to call a person a brownnoser, a kiss-up, a teacher’s pet or say they are a pretentious show-off or a know-it-all. We tend to put these types of people in the same category as tattle-tales, whiners or liars. Why? Because a passionate pursuit of anything feels really alarming, even threatening, especially when we lack our own passionate pursuit. Which is why….
  • It’s too easily used to vilify a person or their passions. Every person I’ve heard called an overachiever was simply a truly interested person. They loved the information they were acquiring and they ate up anything they could find on the matter. They went above and beyond what they were required to do because unlike others, they actually loved what they were doing. This is why overachievers are seen as threatening. Passion sets a pretty high bar and for someone uninterested, who the hell wants to rise to a challenge they dislike? Who wants to do more of something that bores them, or that they downright hate? And who wants to be reminded of the fact they are doing it in the first place?

Badge and Cert

Vilifying Interests

We, as a culture, tend to vilify interests. We tell bookworms to get their nose out of a book and jocks to pick one up. We tell nerds to get off the computer and dinosaurs to get with the times.

We label energetic kids as ADD but don’t allow them to focus on the video game that is holding their attention. We call interested kids overachievers then get upset when they aren’t achieving the goals we set for them.

We pull them away from their games, their friends, their activities, and their interests because we feel they’ve had enough, done too much or need to do something else.

We don’t allow them to specialize; we only allow for superficial dabbling. Not too much of anything, just a little bit of everything. A sampling, a smattering, but let’s not get greedy over any one thing.

The honest truth: We don’t like passion. It scares us. Plain and simple.

Passion is a threat to our carefully contrived societies that rely on the mindless droning on of things we loathe. We insist on insisting that life is meant to be hard. That we were meant to work, not play; dread, not enjoy.

And as adults we keep ourselves stuck there, feeling guilty when we have wild, hilarious fun doing what we love.

It’s a Suffer vs Laughter mentality and it’s a lie.

We know a passionate person will continue to seek passion. But we’ve been told passion leads to self-absorption, laziness, pride, selfishness, and that doing what you love means neglecting all else. And things like that lead to murder, rape, theft…a complete breakdown of our social fabric.

Do you get it? We’re told to disregard our passions, even dislike life, for the betterment of society.

We’re told to be miserable so that we can all be happy.

But passions don’t break us down; they fill us up. They fill us with joy and when our hearts are full our cup overflows with generosity.

We simply cannot give what we do not have. Without a true passion of our own, we can’t support the passion (or heartache) of others. We can’t give freely of ourselves when we have nothing worth giving. We can’t convince the depressed there is reason to live without first seeing it ourselves.

Without a fulfilling passion, we can’t create a social fabric free from the fear of torn edges. Without the passionate pursuit of life, we simply can’t justify its purpose.

First Jr Ranger Badge

Owning the Overachiever

Oh, yes I’ve been called an overachiever. I’ve even owned a little shirt with a gold star on the front that proudly proclaimed Overachiever across my chest. And I couldn’t be more pleased that my son is seen as an overachiever as well.

Why am I so happy over what I clearly just spelled out as being not only defined as but implying a negative?

Because I propose a radical new approach to the term overachiever.

I propose we own it. Take it back. Redefine it.

Overachiever: A person who loves something more than you do.

You can’t get much more simple than that. But it also can’t be more exact. There will always be someone who loves something more than we do. And in no way, shape or form does that mean we should vilify them or their passion.

  • Zeb overachieves on Jr. Ranger programs, Age of Mythology and fart noises made with his knee. He loves it more than some kids do.
  • I overachieve at photography, making people cry happy tears and drawing analogies between crazy experiences. I love it more than some of you do.
  • Justin overachieves at motorcycles, making things with his hands and rolling his boxers up into a thong. He loves it more than most of us do.

The world is made up of a diverse and vastly unique spectrum of people. We’re not meant to all be the same and there is room enough for us all to be different.

It’s time to embrace our pretentious, self-absorbed passions for overachieving in our own area of expertise. It’s time to one-up each other in our radical displays of showing-off.

And when we’re filled up, lit up, seeping with passion and aching from laughter, we’ll have no choice but to pour that overachieving love back into the world.

So tell me, are you an overachiever? And at what do you overachieve?

Whole Life Unschooling: It’s For More Than Just Kids

Always Running Ahead
Zeb: always running ahead for what he loves.

Always Talking to Giraffes
Justin: We watched him watch this giraffe for a full 20 minutes.

Always Reading The Signs
Me: They waited for me while I read every sign in the place.

There are so many definitions to unschooling. You can find them everywhere and they all do a perfectly fine job of explaining unschooling.

And yet, knowing full well how to define unschooling, I’m still not happy explaining it.


Because most definitions describe unschooling as a movement, a form of education or a belief on how we raise children. Our short answer usually sounds a bit like this:

Unschooling is hands-on, experience-based and interest-led learning. The world is our classroom and everything in it our curricula.

Oh, but it’s so much more than that!

That answer really only describes how our child learns. It doesn’t describe how we live, how we view the world around us, how we strive to treat one another or parent organically or what any of this looks like.

Unschooling As A Life Philosophy

We believe in unschooling as a whole life philosophy, not only a method of parenting or a view of the natural learning process.

It’s a method of living; how we view and approach life. We unschool ourselves, our relationships, our jobs…recently I’ve even begun unschooling my body. And it’s radically changed (and still changing) our lives.

To us unschooling is not only about our children, it’s about all of us. It’s about our life.

Unschooling your whole life means…

  • Seeing no division between child and adult, regardless of ability or experience. All should be treated with the same equal respect and consideration.
  • Trusting all people of all ages are natural learners, born with an innate curiosity and an earnest desire to learn, even if it requires a bit of excavating for some of us to rediscover.
  • Knowing that all people are inherently good. A learning curve on societal rules or boundaries, or a personal struggle due to past history does not make them “bad”. We all do the best we can with the tools we have.
  • Thinking all people, regardless of age, have a purpose and that that purpose may seldom, or often, or never, change. And the best determiner of that purpose is the person in question.
  • Believing in the wildly passionate pursuit of interests, supporting those interests wholeheartedly, and trusting when an interest fades.
  • Disbelieving that interests are only valid if they come with monetary or status gain. We do things for the love of what we do and trust how our needs are always met.
  • Not condoning the subjugation, squashing or criticism of individuality or diversity. We allow for difference of opinion, we see the underlying needs of others and we validate their particular experience.
  • Not creating division between various subjects or activities. All of life flows in and out of all of life. The subject of “math” doesn’t exist but we find numbers and patterns in everything.
  • Adamantly disagreeing that life should consist of unenjoyable work, that we should always follow all the rules or do things the same way everyone else does them. Feverishly questioning anything that tells us otherwise.
  • Trusting in ourselves first, each other next and all others last.
  • Respecting the boundaries of others and ourselves.
  • Taking responsibility for our choices and our life. It’s all about authenticity and empowerment.
  • Seeking our own life and not settling for someone else’s. Supporting others who do the same.
  • Building off our individual interests, creating a rich, diverse and engaging environment in which we can all thrive equally.
  • Respecting one another’s personal Truths or choices. But drawing definitive lines where the boundaries of another are being crossed.
  • Standing up for the little guy, especially the one without their own voice.
  • Knowing that life is good. Messy. Imperfect. Wonderful. Sometimes heart-wrenching. And loving it anyway.

How can you possibly explain all that in one short answer? It’s impossible to describe what this looks like when someone asks. Because unschooling is just life and although you can define life and you can explain it, it’s still something that must be seen and experienced to fully understand.

I Am Not Broken

Posted and Zeb


I had a dream on Monday night that I was explaining to a physical therapist what was hurting by describing the one thing that was not hurting: my toes. I woke up from that dream with stiff, aching toes.

I’ll be honest. I’ve been utterly failing at my attempts for body compassion. For the past week I’ve been in so much pain that I’ve had a difficult time loving this crooked frame. I’ve been angry and exhausted with it. And those old burdens of feeling broken and hopeless have resurfaced. Feeling those aching toes stirred up such bitter resentment. Of course my flipping toes hurt. Because that’s my body for ya.

It rings a bit of parental expectations, those sneaky little thoughts that tell me my kid should be doing this chore, should be playing outside right now, should be quiet when I’m quiet. After all, I do all these wonderful things for him, shouldn’t he reciprocate?

And my body…it should be able to keep up for more than an hour at the zoo without dragging my legs, should be allowing me to hoop outside right now, should quiet its complaints when I’m trying to rest. After all I’ve been feeding it good foods, telling it its beautiful, trying to make things available to it…shouldn’t it reciprocate?

Body expectations: I’m throwing all these things at it for the sole purpose of getting what I want from it.

I’m manipulating it. Bribing it. Placing heavy expectations on it. This is not acceptance. This is not unconditional love. I’m not unschooling my body…apparently I’m deschooling my relationship with it.

Monday night was nearly a breaking point for me. Exhausted from pain, I was being a total bitch. Just downright shitty. I could hear my words and my tone and it broke my heart. I was empty, giving all my energy just to stay upright and I had nothing left to give my family. It was not authentic. It did not feel good. But the very best I could do was to exile myself, get my mouth away from my men.

I was hating myself and Life in that moment, not just for the pain I was experiencing, but for the pain I was inflicting.

The next morning I made a call to a local Egoscue clinic. With Justin’s support, we dropped a large chunk of money on this very particular kind of “physical therapy”.

I had been resisting this for a long time. I was resisting giving my body the only thing I thought might make a difference for two reasons: money and my own feelings of hopelessness. “It’s too expensive and I’m past the point that it can make a difference anyway.” I can’t help but see the correlation between my body resistance and my parental resistance. So many excuses and none of them made sense once I embraced what I feared embracing.

Over and over, the therapist repeated “Your body can heal itself. You’re not broken.” Broken…the very word I flung at myself, the very word I carried through my days, that wore me down with hopelessness. I’m not broken. My body just needs my attention.

Two days of therapy and I’m almost embarrassed to say how good I feel. Embarrassed to admit that I put this off so long.

Embarrassed that part of me is afraid to let this go.

Oof, there’s some radical authenticity for ya. I have for so long had an adversarial relationship with my body. And in two days and slightly under four hours of corrective exercises, I’ve had almost no pain. No stabs slicing through my knees. No dull aching across my lower back. No heaviness in my legs or numbness in my arms. I’ve had practically none of the symptoms that have so long defined my body, and more recently defined my every day.

And without those definitions I have nothing but the my own truth left to see.

And it’s embarrassing. I have to face the disappointment I’ve had with my body, face the way I’ve spoken to it or about it. I have to face treating it as a hopeless case, but also face treating it as if it owes me something. I have to let all that go and I have to have the courage to embrace this body without expectations, without bitterness, and with complete acceptance that it neither defines me, nor can I define it.

Disability can not define my life. It just can’t. I want to see my body’s capabilities as exactly as they should be. And it’s not my job to criticize it. It’s my job to fall in love with it. To praise it. To take it and live out loud with it. Just as it is.

And I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to live without that definition of broken. But I think….oh Gd, I hope…I’m going to learn.