The Uproar Over Unschooling

In case you didn’t know, our family are unschoolers. And in case you’ve been out of the media loop (lucky you), there has been quite an uproar over unschooling in the media the past few days.

It begin when a wonderful unschooling family was very poorly portrayed (through biased editing, condescension and lack of time) on a Good Morning America segment Monday morning. Such a backlash was received (from both the unschooling community over the obvious bias and the community at large over the perceived “hands-off” approach) that GMA invited the family back the next day for a mere 6 minutes of explanation.

Too little, too late on GMA’s part.

The damage had been done Monday morning and the media and public are steaming over something they have barely bothered to understand. (Some examples of both sides of the reactions here and here and here and here and here and here.)

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the media coverage.

For one thing, we have nothing to hide. My son is intelligent, sociable and well-rounded. My state of residence covers my right to unschool, as well as my parental right to raise my child as I see fit. And the more publicity unschooling sees, presumably the more people may become aware of alternatives to what might not be working for them.

On the other hand, there is a lot of fear that such blatant misinformation can lead to serious outcry and a diminishing of rights as lawmakers seek to regulate the crap out of us. That is not something I would want to see, nor something our family would take lying down. We’ll fight tooth and nail to live our life free of oversight, just as we would support anyone else to do the same. After all, you can’t expect to maintain your own rights without also maintaining the rights of others. Most people understand and agree with this.

So, why – in a presumably free country – do so many people freak the hell out when they hear about people observing their right to learn without school?

It has nothing to do with our rights, our children or with what is legal.

It’s more personal than that.

Every time I tell a person that my son is learning without school or that I learned without high school, it rubs against everything they’ve been told as children about the necessity of school.

And, for some people, to admit that school may not have been necessary to be successful in life requires them to admit several things:

  1. That an enormous amount of time was wasted doing something they didn’t enjoy simply because someone wanted them to do it.
  2. If it wasn’t necessary, those forcing them to do it were either lying to them or uneducated themselves. And being educated by an uneducated person can make a person feel pretty uneducated. To admit they were lied to is to admit ulterior motives were in play. And no one wants to even consider those points.
  3. They could have enjoyed every day of their life doing what they love. And they could have learned to define success by happiness.
  4. They will see everything in life is a choice; whether it’s a choice to go to work because you want a paycheck or a choice to follow the law because you want to stay out of jail, it’s still a choice. And sometimes it’s easier to not take responsibility for your own life.
  5. They have to admit that children are not second-rate citizens, that they should not be treated as inconveniences, that their opinions matter and should be taken into consideration and that they are indeed an oppressed group.
  6. And to admit #5 means to admit they were once treated in this manner, too. And who wants to remember the times they were talked down to, told their interests were not important, forced against their will to submit to disrespect, shamed or ridiculed, made to feel a burden or punished for honest mistakes?

Unschooling and non-traditional parenting is a threat to society, indeed. It threatens to awaken us to the injustice happening right beneath our noses. It threatens to shake our culture into a new era of ingenuity over conformity. It threatens to force us to treat all human beings – even smaller ones – as people with rights and respect them as such.

Our family is proof that it works. Our friends are proof that this works. And there is a huge, wide community out there to back us up.

So, what about you? As an unschooling family, how do you feel about this media coverage: good or damaging? As a non-unschooling family, how do you feel about our treatment of children in our society?


New to these ideas? Check out these books, which all cover an alternative to living and learning with children*:

*These books are affiliate links through Amazon. If you buy any of these books, or anything else through these links, you will be contributing to our family and the continuation of this blog. Thank you for your support!

Want more like this?
Updates + Ebook
Signup to never miss a post and you'll also receive a sweet little ebook, Be Organic: An Invitation to Change Your World, plopped in your inbox.

46 Comments. Leave new

That Crazy Family
April 21, 2010 1:00 pm

We have not been unschooling for very long but I will say that even in this past week the changes that have occurred regarding my children’s curiosity is AMAZING!!! It was as if all of the sudden they are back to asking, why this happens and how can you… I did not realize that us “doing school” had hindered these things until now! I am so thankful for the change! I also feel more attached and in tune to my kiddos though I cant explain why! Our society finds it all wrong and weird because they have failed to give an accurate educated opinion! As unschoolers it does not mean that our kids choose donuts every day for breakfast or watch tv all day!

Well, I must admit I haven’t read much of the negative press regarding this. I don’t think I could handle it very well–makes my blood boil. So, as far as what I’ve paid attention to, which is mostly the good stuff and the fact that unschooling is now “out there”, I like it. I hope more children and parents will start choosing to live in freedom. I hope we will change society to one of ingenuity over conformity. “god” knows it’s what we need right now in this country and around the world!

Because GMA had the couple back to further explain what unschooling is, I am willing to (sort of) forgive them for the crappy, biased presentation they gave unschooling the first time around. Unfortunately, many people will form their opinion based only on the first interview/video and not go back for more. But, Joy Behar’s interview was better and I think maybe there will be more. I don’t mind it, and like you will fight for my continued freedoms to unschool.

Sarah Hubbard
April 21, 2010 1:19 pm

We are not unschoolers per se my children made the request for “school work” and assignments, so we do that, but I definitely think unschooling is so much more effective and rewarding for both parents and children not to mention the bonding the families get through homeschooling period. We are such a programmed society that to be outside of that box is scary for people. The idea that what we have been doing all these years may not be working any longer frightens most people. Our school systems are failing our children – not just in their education, but also in their social lives and social skills and worst of all their hands on education like learning where their FOOD COMES FROM really – like getting their hands dirty planting potatoes and then a few months later digging them up. What really bugs me about ANY media coverage of homeschooling is how it always instills more fear and stigma about it. We are not all fundamentalist psycho’s who shelter our children to keep them away from what society does or radial parents who don’t make their children brush their teeth because they don’t want to (this argument always gripes me – not because I disagree with it, but because it is the one you hear the most). Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We homeschool because we want to be connected to our children and what they are doing which is the role of a parent. We homeschool because we believe we can provide them with the tools they need (however we do it) to survive well in this world. My children are some of the best children I know (obviously I am biased), but they can interact and have a conversation with anyone about anything and they WANT to learn, they WANT to read books and make art and play outside. They aren’t worried about grades and homework and what their friends are saying about them and they are plenty socialized. They have already learned nonviolent communication and can use it with their peers and they have busier social schedules than I do as an adult. Homeschoolers genreally aren’t sitting in a desk bored all day waiting to get home to experience life. Every moment is life and every moment is learning.

I obviously live in some sort of a bubble because I was shocked by the new reporters reactions. In my opinion, to be an informed and successful human in society (as they appear) would require an open mindedness to different approaches.

Also, the whole “and this is LEGAL???”. Are you kidding? Is the government going to tell me I must compulsory school my children? What an unenlightened and scary world that would be.

And the questions…oh geesh. “Isn’t it parents jobs to teach them things they don’t want to learn?”

If that had been in the manual I might not have signed up for this whole parenting thing ;)

Thanks for your post. When I first started seriously looking into unschooling, it was a big deal to look at my past public school experience and realize that it was a waste of time. Even though I didn’t have a particularly negative experience, I realized that what it taught me was to study for the test, get the good grade, and move on. I didn’t get to learn about subjects I was interested in, and I certainly don’t remember calculus or chemistry or the other subjects I took because it was what would look good on my college applications. And college? Yeah, I only went to college because that’s what you do after high school. Four years and a helluva lot of money later I realized that it was also a waste of my time (aside from one amazing friendship and some valuable life experiences not directly related to my coursework).

It’s hard because I think sometimes people take our choice to unschool as a criticism of either their public school experience or their choice to put their children in school. It is certainly not about that, but at the same time I do feel like I want something better than what I had for my children. I still remember when I first stopped reading for pleasure–as soon as mandatory reading lists were introduced in highschool. It wasn’t until my last year of college that I started ignoring my textbooks and reading for fun again—how sad is that, 8 years of reading gone to waste! I was the kid who checked out stacks of books at a time, but by high school it was dragging my feet just to get through one novel a semester.

Thankfully it is not something that has to be lost forever, and ever since my formal education ended I have found that my love for learning has returned. I find myself interested in subjects that bored me in school, and now I seek out information on them. That’s what I want for my kids, just to love learning, love life, and to explore where they feel led. And I do feel like trying to do so from within the school system is a battle, a battle I don’t want my kids to have to fight!

As far as the media coverage, I don’t know. I also have those fears about increased regulation, but then part of me also knows that some people will take a second look and maybe find the joy and wonder in learning again, for themselves and their children.

I did not see the segment until today although my mum brought it up to me the day of the airing. I personally think the media went in very biased. After reading your blog I was very open to the concept but do not feel it would work for our family. That said I do not think that others should be detered or ridiculed for making that choice. Why are Americans so offended by what others say and do? Isnt the choices we make the ones that should matter to ourselves? I wake up every morning in my own world as does everyone else. Let them live their lives while you live yours and be done with it.

I think you hit the nail on the head with #1 and #1 particularly! It’s amazing how people get so bent out of shape about something they simply do not understand and feel threatened by. I’m not a parent yet – 7.5 months pregnant with my first – and I have to say, the thought of unschooling really appeals to me. I haven’t done enough research on it to really make a decision, but thankfully I have some time. I really appreciate everything you and Sara from Walk Slowly Live Wildly have put out there so people can get firsthand accounts of what it’s really all about rather than listening to the media which is incredibly biased.

I have some really wonderful memories from public school – I was one of the people who actually loved all my years in public school. But that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sold on “organized” school for my children.

Thanks again for all the info!

Oops in my last comment that was supposed to be #1 and #3 particularly! :)

Juliana Crespo
April 21, 2010 2:18 pm

Wow, so interesting that this is all happening just as I begin researching unschooling (an option I’m seriously considering for my daughter, Luna). Though I’m pursuing a graduate degree at IU right now (which I’m considering not completing) and though I teach creative writing courses, I’ve determined that the university system is largely based off an unhealthy capitalist system. This semester I have been teaching two classes, one which I lead, and one which I am the associate instructor for a professor (My duties are leading discussions twice a week and grading, though I make it much more fun than that). They are both classes on creative writing. The professor I’ve been working for emailed me several weeks ago and told me I gave my students too many A’s. He told me that I needed to “rank” them and assign them new grades. I absolutely refused and was ready to quit. He told me he couldn’t go to sleep at night knowing that so many students had received A’s. His thing was that the other associate instructors were grading according to such a ranking system, and so should I. Anyway, it’s been such an ordeal, but I didn’t quit because I love these kids. In my classroom, they learn and they love it. They tell me that the classroom is special because we are a community of individuals who respect each other. We all know this. The head of the department who recently visited my classroom told me that the class is extraordinary. And it is. But, I’m still dealing with this other professor … he’s currently going over a set of exams I just graded and told me that he will issue them a new grade where necessary. My concern and anger revolves around this: if we are so willing to depersonalize the classroom, if we’re so willing to encourage our students as failures, as having to compete, then where the hell are we headed as a society? Of course, these words typically fall on deaf ears. They do not care; what they do care about is making sure that competition thrives, and that even those students who are trying damn hard and still not quite getting it should get B’s or C’s.

i’m used to people (and press) not getting me, i do digital scrapbooking! :) people told me all the time i couldn’t do that and it wasn’t “real”. k, thanks. now the people (and press) are all about digital, whoo look at this awesome idea. k, thanks. i figure this will be the same and ignore the bad and appreciate the good! :)

One Love Mama
April 21, 2010 2:22 pm

I think what it comes down to is that, parents like to criticize other parenting styles to ease their own insecurities. That and they’re scared of what they don’t understand.

How do I feel about the coverage? Mixed.

On one hand, it’s aggravating, because it brings a spotlight onto our lives from friends and family saying “You aren’t like this family are you?” in scared tones. Yes. We are like that family. They’re an amazing family and we’re ok with being ‘like them’. I think a big problem with unschooling – especially ‘radical’ unschooling – is that what is common sense to those of us who have worked through the theory is just scary and appalling to those who haven’t worked through it yet. That’s not something you can do in a short segment, even with generous, kind editing. And that editing was neither.

On the other hand, if it’s getting covered, that means that the movement is growing enough to be noticed. Also, in the middle of all of the ‘these people are crazy and should have their kids removed’ comments, I saw several “This sounds like it’s just what we’ve been looking for” or “I’ll be looking into this more, it’s intriguing” or “My 15 year old has been so depressed for several years due to school and this sounds like a good option for our family.” So that’s a bright spot.

Also, I’d add Frank Smith’s The Book Of Learning And Forgetting to your alternative education book list. It’s really good.

Wow. Those reporters were snarky. I was happy to see so many of the comments on the GMA website were positive towards unschooling. It looks like a lot of unschoolers rallied to support their cause.

We’re not unschoolers yet, but we probably will be in a few years when our son reaches school age. When I talk to friends and family about it, most people are supportive but others are viscerally offended that we would even consider it. The idea of parents being children’s primary educators really rankles some people. They say that parents aren’t trained, which is silly because a lot of elementary school teachers I know are dumber than rocks. Most of the “training” teachers get has to do with the latest fad in education. Yeah, because we need more of those. There is a LOT of research that indicates that the unschooling approach seriously works best for most children.

I loved this post. You really nailed it. I think the public school system is so integrated into our society that people can’t imagine life without it. People are afraid to consider the possibility that it’s inherently an anti-child system.

I would love to see a study done on how many children in public vs. homeschool/ unschooling situations require medication for anxiety and depression.

Jeanie Butera
April 21, 2010 3:06 pm

When I discovered your site, I had never heard of unschooling, only homeschooling. I thought it was pretty much the same until I read more into your blog. The way GMA presented that unschooling family was very biased. While my daughter is in traditional school(finishing up Kindergarten) I dont think homeschooling or unschooling would be for us. I am not against any of it, especially with more and more instances of bullying going on as well as much of the curriculum not really all that great. I dont think that if I were to unschool that I wouldnt still be teaching the basics, and important things that I think my child would need to know, but I also think that if there are things that they are truly interested in, that should not be stifled. I do think there still need to be rules and structure, especially for the younger kids. I commend you for your decision for unschooling, and wish you all the best!

In my experience people in society these days tend to immediately dislike what they do not understand. As you said a scant 6 minutes is not near enough time to educate people about unschooling or the benefits. Nor is it enough to tell all the amazing stories of those of us who have unschooled for many years and have the coolest adult children on the planet. (that was not biased at all ha?)
I get upset every time that I see a reaction like the one the lady gave to the teenage boy, “you were 7 what did you know?” A perfect example of disrespecting the children there and maybe a perfect explanation of why they do not even try to understand.
Also in my experience for some weird reason people feel really guilty when you tell them you spend every day with your children and you love it. I truly love the person I meet who says outright, you are crazy and I would never want to do that. Rather than the ones who immediately begin making excuses of why they could never do it. When you tell them you are vegetarian, don’t have a t.v., live an expat life, anything out of the norm they get really defensive.
There was a post on another blog recently talking about unschooling. One lady was very adamantly against it. She had tons of reasons. Toward the end of the discussion I finally noticed she admitted that if she did not have to work to provide
for her family and could stay home she would love to unschool.
So maybe a little resentment towards those who have made the decision and live it rather than just talking about it.
Don’t know, never can really figure out haters.

Nicole Marie
April 21, 2010 3:11 pm

Your family is a beautiful example of unschooling/life learning. I’m short on time and short on words while taking care of a sick little boy, but thank you for sharing your perspective. You are so open minded. xo

I have never experienced unschooling. My parents were in public school their whole lives. I have been as well, I’m in my freshman year of college now. My brother is 15 and about to enter high school.

Actually, the idea of even homeschooling was always depressing for me. I wasn’t always that fond of school, but I hated the idea of being away from my friends.

But the big picture here is: what works for some does not always work for others.

I know people who have been in homeschool their entire life and love it.

I’ve never known any unschoolers, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t think anything of it.

The media will do whatever they want. Broadcast media is especially known for this. What is said on the television is honestly to be taken with a grain of salt.
Though there are those who don’t, that is their own problem.

I am an aspiring journalist. A print journalist. Maybe one day I can write on unschooling and help people understand it better.

But no matter what the media had portrayed about the family/unschoolers in general, the public will take it and bend it any way they want.

It’s a sad reality we have to live with.

I’m sorry that unschooling is getting a bad rep right now. But it’ll blow over. It always does.

I only object to parents that shake their babies, or get their 5 yr olds diagnosed with adhd and then sell the ritalin, or sell their kids innocence for drug money.
As long as a parent loves and cares for their child, I’m not too worried about which education they choose.

And along with all the points you mentioned goes the fact that we are then in turn forcing our own children to endure such things (if sending them to public school). Not something people want to take responsibility for. It’s easier to say it’s in the child’s best interest.

I get nervous with all the media attention. I hope that the backlash doesn’t make it harder to unschool.

It’s funny timing, this GMA stuff. We used to totally unschool, then we started doing a bit of sit down at the table schooling. In the past weeks we’re back to unschooling, and I’ve been reinspired by your blog, and others that talk about it. The media attention GMA brought to unschooling galvanized my belief in unschooling’s merit. Not the effect they meant to have.

I honestly don’t give a flip what some reporter on Good Morning America (or anywhere else ) has to say. I know we’ve got a good thing going here and I’m not about to change. I just think it is a shame that some people cannot respect another person’s chosen way of life but have to see everything different as a challenge or threat. It really doesn’t have to be this way.

A Green Spell
April 21, 2010 3:54 pm

After earning my MAT and substitute teaching for two years (both long term and short term), I will probably be “unschooling” my kids (if I have any) someday. It’s a personal choice for everyone, as you said, but for me…I’m out! I truly believe in unschooling as a wonderful, viable adventure in life and learning.

And your post was perfectly worded. You got right to the heart of it and I couldn’t agree more!

I follow along with your blog and several other blogging families who unschool and I really do think you all have something going, something that is wonderful and exciting and amazing. You are choosing to live your lives differently, out of the box and know that you are teaching your child about life as you go. I see unschooling families as having way more “Exposure” to things than those students and families stuck at a desk all day! so silly how that part was portrayed in the bit.

we are not at the age of school our child yet, although he is in daycare 3 days out of the week and with my mom 2 days out of the week because we both work full time jobs. I hope that I will be able to find a good balance between traditional schooling and ‘home schooling’ now and when my son reaches school age. Finding a balance that works for us and our lives. Teaching our children as we go about the world around us. And to have them know that we will love them unconditionally, because they are part of us-

I don’t have an issue with unschooling but I personally think that those parents were ignorant not misrepresented at all just severely misinformed themselves and should make unschoolers angry for making all unschoolers look like awful parents

I think the media coverage is good, even if it didn’t tell the full story about how we live and THAT OUR KIDS ARE JUST FINE! :) It totally bites. BUT, I think this is where all new ideas start. The media and main stream thinking will always react and will always make the new ideas seem wrong. But, as more and more unschoolers are out there sharing who we are, what our live is about and the awesomeness of this life choice, then more and more the world out there will find some room in their hearts to discover something about a lifestyle they didn’t even know about before.

It take courage to walk a different path, but doing so, opens up the road for others to do the same. Even if the new path THEY take is different. But when people see others doing something true to themselves and being successful because of it, then they just might find it within themselves to do the same thing.

Each person is responsible for their own education, in the classroom or out of it.

I left a longer comment at Sara’s ‘Walk Slowly Live Wildly’ and my own blog so I will condense it here. I was only unschooled on nights, weekends, and the summers. I also wised up in the 7th grade and started taking advantage of the classes offered to control my own education to reach the goal I set out for and have reached. I am now an engineer with a Masters in Human Factors working a corporate job.

There is proof in my past and with my daughter at 5 that unschooling is an excellent way to learn. Learning should not end at graduation. The quote “you will be the same person you are except for the books you read and the people you meet.” is often cited on the Dave Ramsey Show. That quote is unschooling for adults.

Yet, our child is going to go to public school in the fall.

April 21, 2010 5:56 pm

@Delma, I actually know a bit about that family. They are both highly educated (the mom in fact has several degrees in psychology, child psychology and education, too I believe) and very well-spoken. Their kids are interested in a myriad of subjects and have done some really amazing things in their short lives, such as traveling the world (not to mention read, write and do math proficiently).

What you saw is what GMA wanted to show. And anyone, no matter how intelligent of well-spoken can be edited to look like a fool.

First of all just let me say that I love you, Tara, for posting this. Every point you made is one that my husband and I have mentioned/talked about numerous times since embarking on our own unschooling lifestyle.

As for the media coverage, I have much the same response as most of the people who have already commented.

On one hand, I am totally disgusted with the way in which GMA presented the topic. In no way were they even trying to be unbiased in their report and it was blatantly obvious that it was strictly there to provoke and shock the public. And even with the return segment, the family still wasn’t allowed enough time to adequately respond to the extremely biased first segment. (They spent the majority of that six minutes recapping the first showing of the story.) So that just left a really bad taste in my mouth. Period.

On the other hand, I am hoping that some good will come of it. Maybe it will open the door to other news outlets that are more open minded and unbiased and that will give more information. Maybe it will spark the interest of a parent sitting at home desperate to find an alternate solution for their child that they have yet to learn about or even know exists. After all, that is how we stumbled onto the whole unschooling thing.

Like you, I don’t want the negative publicity on unschooling. I don’t want to be regulated. I don’t want to fight stupid proposed laws in order to raise/educate my child the way I choose, although I will do it if I have to. But I also think it’s important for more parents to know they have options. If that means that unschooling has to take a couple of hard blows before someone takes the time to give it the attention that it deserves, then maybe it will be worth it. I hope so, anyway.

I have to say that I must be living under a rock. I haven’t heard any coverage on NPR and I haven’t watched any tv or read any newspapers this week. (I’ve been sheltering myself a bit too much lately, perhaps.)

I had not heard of unschooling until I started reading SouleMama well under a year ago. I had already known about home-schooling and was already seriously considering it. I still haven’t quite made a decision, although I’ve been agonizing over what we are going to do for a year or so. I keep telling myself, “I went to public school and I enjoyed it and everything turned out okay.” I think my hesitation has to do with many of the reasons you have in your list. I have doubts either way — sending my daughter off to school or keeping her with me. In the first case, I have doubts in the school system and in the second, I have doubts in myself.

Anyhow, thanks for posting this. I’m going to check out your links and others’ responses.

I just watched the segments. In the first, there was mention that the family has been unschooling for six years, but the focus remained on going to school. I can’t believe there wasn’t any focus on what the children are learning. Where were the questions about what the parents and the children have learned in the last six years? Are they a part of a community of unschoolers? What interests have the children followed? What do they want to pursue when they grow up. I learned tons in school that I don’t need in everyday life (inlcluding much of what I learned in algebra, an area of concern for the interviewer). The tone of this seemed so condescending and I feel that whoever put this story together didn’t really want to learn about unschooling and how it might represent a way of life and a set of values that is different from mainstream views.

“But you were seven! What did you know?!” Ugh. Because seven-year-olds don’t know anything? I don’t pretend that my five-year-old is an adult, but she definitely has a knowledge-base and an experience-base.

I also question how one becomes a “parenting expert.”

The questions asked in the second clip sound like they should have been part of the background research done in putting the segment together in the first place.

Thanks for putting up those screen shots of books you recommend. I haven’t looked at your recommended readings in a bit.

I don’t think I’ll read the responses on ABC, because I’m afraid there will be a lot of venom regarding unschooling and homeschooling and I just don’t want to read it.

(I prefer reading over watching tv. I did as a child, too.)

Sorry my response is all over the place.

It would be great if a good documentary was filmed. Not just a short segment for shock value and ratings. I too worry about laws and regulations threatening our choices. And I think your list of 6 things is spot on!

Juliana Crespo
April 22, 2010 4:53 am

I recently posted a couple of blogs on what it means to be an immigrant student and instructor in this country, with emphasis on how the educational system is failing our children. So far, Part I & II of “I Was Destined Not To Be A Schoolgirl” are up. Anyone is welcome to come by and let me know what they think. I’m learning more about unschooling, and though I was considering it for Luna, I am also now considering it for myself.

Juliana Crespo
April 22, 2010 5:08 am

I just want to say that I watched the segments, too, both of them, and I was surprised by how over the top the first segment was. The reporter seemed to be pushing school onto the children without clearly having an understanding of what unschooling really is. GMA also didn’t make a distinction between unschooling and radical unschooling in the first segment, which was somewhat surprising. It appears that they didn’t do their homework at all, so I have to wonder what schooling has done for these folks. Pardon the sarcasm, but it surprises me that there are so many “educated” folks out there who are assuming A LOT without doing the research … you’d think they know better. The truth is that the educational system has become, in many ways, inhibiting and imprisoning rather than liberating and inspiring. That the general public can make such assumptions without really understanding the concept is proof of this. This is not to say ALL folks who have been educated are like this, but a good number of them are. It saddens me.

I watched the first segment only but was horrified at the way it was portrayed. Unfortunately, as is so often the case to make a “story” and get ratings, the truth was conveniently parked down a side alley and forgotten about. I think one of the problems with unschooling is that it is so vastly different and outside of most people’s experiences it takes an open-mind, a lot of reading, thinking and understanding, a willlingness to be open and someone to vocally and passionately explain what it is (fortunately we have you for that bit!). Then and only then can people make up their minds.

One other thing I think is that some people, through lack of experience/imagination just can’t see beyond the study hard [at school]: get good grades: get good job: earn good money paradigm. My parents being just such people. They’re lovely and wonderful, but the thought of me pulling the kids out of school and unschooling would freak them into next week – because it’s so far from what they know, and because the model (study;work;success) is how they’ve lived their lives so they know no other, and any other would seem to criticise their choices.

What I would add though is that it is so important to get the unschooling message out there – if it hadn’t been for you, Sandra Dodd’s site or Joyfully Rejoycing, I would never have heard of unschooling either. Whilst Chris is still in school for the time being, that’s because it’s his choice and we are seriously considering our options (I’d pull him out in a heartbeat, but he has to be ready) and in the meantime we are practising the unschooling type ideals in our homelife and it has already unriched our lives so much that I can’t begin to put it into words. Like I say, we’d never have had the oppportunity to experience this without blogs like this.

@ Delma and Organic Sister. I had really caught on to the fact that the family had been grossly misrepresented. I don’t know if anyone else caught it but there were totes FULL of educational supplies. Chemistry and such. Our family is still working our way into unschooling. We have started to allow our children to follow their educational interests. However, we still have a lot of structure and rules. I grew up in the public school system and with VERY strict parents, so did my husband. So, it is very difficult for us to see the whole aspect of radical unschooling. We have seen how well it works for other families, and would love to just be with our children. Of course, we also have a lot of trauma issues in our older children. I have such a hard time seeing the discipline part. Other than that though, unschooling has been the best thing that has ever happened to our family. Our children started out in public school. We took them out over a year ago. Our oldest hated everything about school, hated to read, hated to write, hated math, and was way behind and failing every subject. Our next oldest son had serious behavior issues in school. He still does at home, but not so much. Now, they love to read. Since I started writing articles for some online companies, my oldest has suddenly become interested in writing. What I find amazing is that you talk about how YOU yourself were unschooled. That makes me want to hang out at your blog all day everyday just to find out what you have to say next! Seriously! Thank you so much for your blog!

I see a bunch of Americans dodging the school system and shipping themselves to Canada to escape the draft! Kind of a 60s backlash thing……I didn’t see any of the schmozzle but have been reading a lot about it. With many people (woofs) going through our home, we get a lot of sceptics that come to see how wonderful, curious, creative and innately intelligent our kids are without school. Even one girl who wants to be a teacher now wants to “homeschool” her kids like I do. And being German, it is illegal – one reason being that the kids won’t be socialized if they don’t go to school…..

i worry tremendously about narrow minded frightened people trying to take away other peoples rights in an effort to “protect” them – w/ homeschooling just like what’s been happening w/ the raw milk situation through this country

i also like that people who may have been searching (albeit unknowingly) for just this path might have seen this mainstream stuff and have now have the opportunity to forge larger lives for themselves

so, as usual, i’m of two minds – this whole being a Scorpio thing can be so darn exhausting :)

btw, i wrote up a post about it in the form of here’s an *un* typical week of unshooling in our lives …

CHOICE…you got to love this country!!!!!

Children are the focus and what is best for them and what works for all of you…what might work for one family…just may not work for another family! I am extremely proud to have friends that are currently homeschooling(unschooling) their kiddos….BUT we are a family that has jumped in with all our feet into public school…it is not perfect…but life is not perfect. My husband is a PUBLIC Middle School Principal & I am a kindergarten teacher…both boys’ are in two different 4th grade classrooms. I think our own boys’ are lucky because they have a family that cares about them, talks with them and actually enjoys things with them…it is all good and it works for our family.

RESPECT each others choices!!!!!

I get extremely annoyed when people PROCLAIM that their way is the only way to live life…it is a bit like politics in the way that we are trying to SELL our way of parenting & educating… and it gives me a yucky taste in my mouth…it just seems to bring all the RAGE out of people…Lets just respect one another and learn from each other…with a positive spin!

Obviously just my opinion…hugs ♥

Unschooling… «
April 23, 2010 8:31 pm

[…] The Organic Sister:  The Uproar Over Unschooling […]

We are not unschoolers. At the moment my daughter goes to a Montessori Kindergarten.

I find unschooling totally fascinating and I am always amazed that when I read about unschoolers what fabulous people they are and how much in terms of value etc I have in common with them.

However, even if I didn’t feel that I still whole-heartedly believe that people have the right to make their own choices in terms of how to educate their children and how to live their live. Just because the next person doesn’t get it, doesn’t make it wrong.

E.g. I don’t get Catholic Church (and I grew up in a Catholic home) but that doesn’t mean that I condemn anyone who is Catholic… ultimately, it’s their choice…

I can understand that is upsetting but in essence I think that “normal” middle-class Americans most likely will never get your lifestyle. But it doesn’t matter. For one there are plenty who get you and for another you do what feels right…

Sending you my thoughts from across the pond.

I couldn’t even listen to the segment for more than a minute or two. That unschooling mother was being bullied the entire time, she couldn’t even answer a question completely without someone yelling at her. How frustrating.

Anyway I went to school K-12, then off to college. I don’t have kids, but even in high school I knew I didn’t ever want to send my kids to public school. After going to college I actively encourage people not to bother going and wasting their time and money unless they know for certain they want to go into a field that requires a college degree. I know there is a lot to learn in school, but I also know there is lot to lose by thinking that going to school means you have an education. All through college I joked with my friends that my education was making me dumber, and it really was. I graduated early just to get out of there and now I’m enjoying my life, and trying to make up for all of those years of lost exploration and adventure.

I had never heard of unschooling until I started reading this blog last year, and I’ve been really struck by it. It’s something I would certainly consider when looking at the educational options for my future children.

I saw this the other day and had received a couple emails from education resources I read about this controversial subject. It is quite fascinating. My husband and I have been really challenged in our approach to schooling. In the time it took him to finish two masters degrees, I had just finished my undergrad. I always hated college and once I got past the annoying first two years I thrived because I actually got to take classes in things that I enjoyed and not say texas history or speech. WE both love learning, but learn in different ways. My husband reads books and articles non-stop. He loves writing about what he learns and reads a 300-500 page book in a week or two, where it takes me several months. I regularly go to unschoolers & homeschoolers blogs to inspire me on how I can encourage my two kids to think artfully, and individually. My husband (the reader) is currently reading a leadership book & that is what sparked our conversation. THis book makes the point that the public school forces kids to learn what is required and if they think any differently they are behind. And although we currently have our kids enrolled in a half-day preschool, we are researching classical Christian, montessori & waldorf teaching. I do feel like its a process, and its for the individual… for example, my husband thrives under teachers and classes. He loves going to lectures and will go even when he isn’t pursing further education.

I have to say, that with all the unschooling blogs that I read, I feel that the people are very well educated and purposeful in what they are doing. You have well thought out posts, that are honest and show how deeply you care for your child, your life, and goals.

Hi Tara!

I’ve been loving your blog (and your photos!) and wanted to share my experience as home-schooled kid! You can read it here:

The media coverage was typically fragmented and emotionally inflammatory.

Thank you for staying strong and spreading the good word about home/unschooling!
blessings, Katrina

I was unschooled from 4th grade on… and I LOVE LEARNING! My mom literally pulled books from my hands to get me to do other things. Sounds terrible… it was AWESOME! I have been blessed with the gift of the love of learning. :D And I was a top student at the universities I attended.

I now homeschool my children, and wish that they loved learning as much as I do; perhaps I should do less homeschooling… and more unschooling. Actually, my oldest child is unschooled, and she is brilliant!

Thank you so much for your insightful post.

May 31, 2010 10:16 pm

Interesting idea, unschooling! I stumbled across your blog from a blog mentioned on another blog (oy) and had never heard of unschooling before! If my mother and I had been less likely to kill each other when I was a child, this might have been a good option for us, especially during my middle school years when I was marking time in a classroom doing long division for two years! *groan*

In reading the comments, the one thing I need to point out that all you clever un/home-schoolers will miss is that MOST households aren’t like yours! They aren’t run with a try-it-and-see ideal. They don’t have a creative focus; it’s a consumerism focus based in TV. It’s like describing Earth’s oceans to a Martian. Your creative home environment where children are expected and encouraged to learn and try and grow are so far removed from the “here’s a plastic toy now shut up I’m watching TV” standard that the average American has no frame of reference for it. And since people are always scared of what is different, thinking and exploring are scary when you aren’t used to them.

Kids in these households are often parked in front the the TV or gameboy for hours at a time. The average American child from this environment, if left to their own devices, wouldn’t learn anything at all. Except how to get to the next gameboy level! Even worse, the ‘good’ parents won’t be on your sides because they’re threatened by your successes…it might mean they aren’t doing enough for their kids when they’re already exhausted from PTA meetings, homework help and afterschool sports/music/dance lessons! The very idea of doing more for their kids trips the parent’s overload button. I know unschooling is much more child focused exploration of the topic at hand; but they won’t see that initially.

And lets’ not forget that a vast amount of the American public can’t balance a checkbook, cook a meal from scratch or mend a shirt. Don’t believe me? Come to work with me for a day and discover how many people are unable or unwilling to write down a series of numbers to get the product they want to buy. It’s really sad how dumbed down the American public seems to be these days and I so applaud the growing movements to bring us back to creating our lives instead of consuming them! That means you un/home-schoolers!

Anyway, just my two cents!

Jay Jennings
June 8, 2010 6:12 pm

I’d like to think “any PR is good PR” but in the world we live where politicians seem intent on controlling every aspect of our lives, I think this kind of thing will only hasten the day when unschooling is “outlawed.”

Don’t think that could happen? In many states today there are legal requirements that you test your children, etc. Only about 10 states (my home of Alaska included) have a “hands off” approach to educating your children. But even here there are always people trying to get laws passed to require more oversight for homeschooled kids.

I don’t believe it’s ever going to stop until every state has control over the education of all kids. Mainly because people continue voting imbeciles into office. If we want freedom, we have to vote in people who do NOT want to control everyone (even if it’s “for their own good”).

The Paradox of My Karma
November 25, 2010 12:58 pm

[…] reading TheOrganicSister’s response to a recent kerfuffle about unschooling (about which I was otherwise unaware), I felt again the […]