How to not Screw Up when Unschooling your Kids

Is unschooling just for younger kids?

It might seem that way to some folks.. There’s lots of people I meet who have a toddler and an infant, or perhaps a 3.5 yr old child, who are interested in unschooling–which is fantastic!

I’m always really glad to see parents of younger kids who are already questioning the status quo.

Maybe they’re even ruffling a few feathers in their social circles because their kiddo’s not on a waitlist for daycare, or registered for soccer, ballet, and three other kinds of lessons/classes/activities.

I think many folks approach unschooling from the attachment parenting perspective, where you’re listening to your child’s cues and looking for opportunities to invite them to try new things, instead of forcing independence on them like a shoe that doesn’t quite fit yet.

I’ve seen parents of 18-month olds saying, we’re unschooling!

Which on one hand is great, because they’re read stuff and they’re educating themselves, and they think they “get it”. But on the other hand, it’s not so great…because school is not the default for an 18-month old, so honestly, they don’t “get it”.

At least, not yet. 

I’d love to revisit how thing are going when their kiddo is 6, and the rest of the crowd is swept up in Back To School! stuff in the fall, and there’s Qs left and right about Kindergarden and so on.

I’d love to revisit w those families when their kid is 9 and suuuuper into Minecraft, and so not into reading books yet.

Or when they’re feeling alone and “weird” in a rural town where homeschooling means desks in the living room and social isolation.

How’s it going, really?

How are those parents feeling about the whole thing? Where are their trust levels at?

Trust that this is working, that their kid is “okay” and thriving and happy….and truly, really believing that he or she is better off, than if she were being sent to school.

–Unschooling as a concept is really freaking cool, and so inspiring. It can make many idealistic parents who want the absolute best for their kids misty-eyed and full of all the loving-parent feels. 

–Unschooling as a practical matter Doesn’t Always Feel That Way–and I’m here to remind you, that is totally, 100% OK. 

You’re not a failure if you don’t love being with your child and answering his questions 100% of the time.

You’re not wrecking your child’s life if he spends a lot of time playing video games.

You don’t need to be ashamed of yourself if sometimes dinner isn’t a sit-at-the-table affair, and sometimes you’d very much prefer to scroll thru Facebook on your phone than read to your kids.

Unschooling is kind of like LIFE–in that, even if you eff it up a little, or a lot, some of the time…it’s still okay.

YOU are still okay. Being a parent is hard, and being an unschooling parent is a whole ‘nother level of Commitment.

So if you’re trying to full-throttle this whole Life Learning thing 99.9% of the time, don’t be surprised if you’re suffering from resentment, exhaustion, burnout (and possibly intimacy/relationship issues too) after 5-10 years solid of it.

Your family needs (deserves) regular reassessments of not only the kids’ needs, but also YOUR needs as an unschooling parent…as a Human Being, with needs, preferences, feelings, and ideas of your own.

Unschooling is not sustainable when it’s hyper-focused on just the kids, indefinitely.

Keeping your station tuned to All Kids, All The Time, is a recipe for parental breakdown, which leads to….yep, you guessed it–putting the kids in school.

Also things like divorce, but I digress..

My point is, take it easy on yourself. Don’t let things get so bent out of shape that the most reasonable course of action becomes a drastic change in your lifestyle.

If you’re having problems, and you’re unschooling–school is NOT the guaranteed solution.