Monday, July 30, 2012

10 Things that Inspired Me to Unschool

1. John Taylor Gatto

I will always remember the first book that was given to me about the problems with public school. It was 'Dumbing Us Down' by John Taylor Gatto, and it opened my eyes to the real intentions and issues that have been going on within our public school system from the very beginning.

Even though I was already against much of what was going on in schools, it was reading this book that made me realize that we cannot reform a school system that was founded on misguided principals and underlying governmental agendas.

2. My Sister

Since before my own children were old enough for me to worry about school, I have quietly observed my own sister's adventures in homeschooling her oldest daughter. She has experienced the whole range of homeschooling methods, and by the time I began thinking about my oldests' education, her family settled into a very relaxed rhythm of learning.

At about the same time, she was also extensively researching many forms of alternative education, and passed much of this information on to me. I was (and still am) fascinated with her knowledge of alternative educational resources, especially democratic free schools such as the Sudbury Valley School.

Visit her blog at

3. My Own Educational Experiences

School was a very miserable experience for me. Not because it was hard, but because of the environment. I didn't fit the typical educational mold.

I asked too many question, pointed out too many flaws, and was generally too "rebellious" for the school model. I spent more time hating the system than I did actually learning in it.

Read: 5 Things I Had to Unlearn from High School

4. My Own Passion for Learning

My true passions and interests were not those generally supported in school. Some of my interests were far too "advanced" for the rest of the class, and therefore I was told that they could not belong in our classroom.

Even if I was passionate about something in school, there was never enough time within the school model to explore it, or learn what I actually wanted to learn about it.

I want more for my kids. I want to give them as much freedom as I possibly can to explore their passions and interests, and develop them with as much time and resources as we can afford.

5. John Holt

How could I forget the founder of the term "unschooling" in my list of influences on my choices. His book 'Teach Your Own', co-authored with Pat Farenga, was also among the first of my homeschooling library.

Though many today try to pin down a definition of the word unschooling, John Holt knew that it needed to be used broadly; That unschooling would look different for every family and every child, and that new ways of thinking about learning are more important than forming new methods.

All issues of Holt's magazine 'Growing Without Schooling' are now available for free online.

6. The Bible

As I began to embrace the idea of unschooling, I realized that it fit perfectly with how God calls me to raise my children.

Nowhere in the bible does it instruct me to be rigid with my children's learning, but to teach them through personal life instruction, by allowing them to live alongside me in my daily life, teaching them about God and our faith at every opportunity along the way.

7. My Love of Freedom

Some may call it a rebellious spirit, but I have learned to question everything. True learning happens when we are free to ask any and all questions about life; When we are free to challenge authority without disrespecting it.
“Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself.”
Timothy Leary

8. Respect for the Equality of All Learning Experiences

Our society (and most others around the world) have a tendency to put higher emphasis on certain aspects of learning than others. For those who have interests that are entirely different from the norm, public school and even homeschool can be a difficult journey, as they must learn to stuff the interests that they value most in order to make time for the more "respectable" ones.

I want my children to know that all of their passions and interests are worthy of time and attention, both by them and by others. In this way, they can bring their uniqueness into the world, instead of having the world dictate it.

9.  Alfie Kohn

Though he focuses mostly on educational reform in schools, Alfie understands at the very core that children learn best without coercion.

He even writes about the effects on children of forcing them to learn how to read before they are ready, something not readily talked about by educational reformers. Look for his article 'How to Create Nonreaders'.

10. Astra Taylor

Of course I worried about our choice to unschool. Would my kids really learn what they need to know to be happy, healthy, AND productive adults? Would they feel that I equipped them for life in the "real world"?

And, just when I was searching for stories of unschooled adults and getting down to the really tough questions, I happened upon a presentation by Astra Taylor. She is an inspiring woman who grew up in an unschooling family. Her and her siblings were given complete educational choice.

Even if you are not unschooling, I encourage you to watch her presentation in the video below. Her life is a wonderful illustration of passion and interest-based learning.


What things inspired your educational choices?


  1. This is wonderful! I admire you for unschooling. I myself, are much more structured with my homeschooling. But I do secretly wish I could go the whole way and not plan anything:) However...that would not work for my kids so caution keeps me in line, lol. Lots of things inspire me. Early on Charlotte Mason has been a big one. Great post!
    Stephanie @

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing Stephanie. From what I have heard, Charlotte Mason can be a very relaxed homeschooling method.

  2. Hey, where's the like button! :)

  3. She lost me at, "We slept as late as we wanted and never knew what day of the week it was."
    For some children, this certainly would not prepare them for a responsible adulthood.

    1. Well, it helps if you watch the whole thing and listen to her explain how her and her adult siblings live now. They are very obviously prepared for adulthood, and creative and entrepreneurial at that.