Why We Unschool

[long post][homeschooling]
There are so many different ways I could answer this question. I could tell you the progression that brought us from being excited and preparing for Aria's first day of kindergarten to completely rejecting a school model. I could make a list of all the ways that my children's learning and our relationships have improved since we started our journey toward unschooling. I could tell you about the process of elimination that brought us to the conclusion that unschooling is the only method that will give our children the best education. Actually, I will write about those if enough people ask, but, today, I want to try something else. I'm gonna write a letter to my past self about my decision to unschool.

[The outside of the envelope reads: "Andrea, do not open until January 2015."]

Dear Andrea,

You recently decided to unschool your daughter. Forgive the cheesy cliche but ... this is one of those decisions that will change the trajectory of your life. You've made a lot of mistakes as a parent but the decision to homeschool and, now, unschool Aria is NOT one of them. (Don't get hung up on me saying you've made a lot of mistakes. You're gonna keep making them, but you're eventually going to make less and less of them as you live and learn. We all do. You're also gonna learn to stop expecting perfection out of yourself. But I digress.)

I know that, especially since you started homeschooling, you've yelled at Aria. I know you've wasted money on curriculum and workbooks that you and Aria have cried over. I know you're scared that Aria's going to be behind or even, dare I say, stupid because of your lack of skills and knowledge. I know you're scared of being a bad mom. You're not a bad mom, but you're not a great mom either. But don't worry; I hope it gives you comfort to know that, while it will take you years to get there, you do eventually become a great mom. And the biggest thing holding you back is focusing on your fear of being a bad mom. I digress again, but unschooling/deschooling is one of the pieces of the puzzle that will take you from mediocre to amazing.

Notice, I said deschooling. I know you made a decision to unschool ... since nothing else has worked for you and Aria. Well, maybe I should say you settled on unschooling. Because, let's be honest; that's the truth. You read about unschooling back when you first considered homeschooling last summer. You started doing some research on homeschooling and learned about the many methods. You read a little bit about unschooling, but you didn't want to do it. You wanted to do school-at-home. When that didn't work, you started moving toward relaxed/eclectic homeschooling but that still wasn't working. Every single work sheet, every single book, every single documentary, everything ... was a battle. You couldn't get Aria to do anything you wanted her to do. Homeschooling was worse for her than public school! She was more stressed, you were more stressed, and your relationship was more stressed than ever!

Okay, I know I keep going off on tangents but stick with me. Back to deschooling. So ... you made the decision to unschool, but you actually can't unschool yet. First you gotta deschool, honey! Any foray into unschooling will eventually lead to the introduction of the word "deschooling". I think you've ran into it already (if I have my timing right). You weren't happy to read that deschooling typically takes one month for every year that you spent in school. That means it will take you approximately a year and half to deschool, and you don't like that! You're used to learning things quickly. Well, guess what? You're in for a fun ride, because you actually end up taking TWO AND A HALF YEARS to deschool because you keep getting in your own way! You don't think this is funny but I think it's funny. [stifling laughter] But don't worry, it's your journey and it's what you need. You get there eventually, so don't worry.

To help make the next two and a half years of uncomfortable-but-necessary mind stretching, boundary pushing, and paradigm shifting introspection and exploration feel worth it, let me tell you what finally "getting it" looks like:

Your children feel good about who they are ... because you feel good about who they are, and you feel good about who you are too.

Your kids aren't worried about being smart or good ... because you're not worried about them being smart or good. You know they're intelligent and full of love, and remembering that helps bring it out in them even more.

You and your kids laugh and smile every. single. day. ... I am not exaggerating.

Your kids are capable and confident ... because you treat them like capable human beings, and you help them when they need it - not too much and not too little.

And you? You're not so obsessed with them anymore! You had to be obsessed with your kids in order to overpower your suffocating fear of being a bad mom. It's what kept you from being a horrible and completely selfish mother. Don't like reading that? Well, I don't know what else to say because that looks pretty darn accurate to me. Anyway, no, you're not obsessed with your children anymore; you just love them. You love them. For the first time in your life, you actually love your children unconditionally. I know you think you already love them unconditionally but you don't. You won't until you let go of your fear. Don't worry, you'll get there eventually. It's a journey and you and your kids will be totally okay; I promise.

With love,

Someone who knows you better than you do and loves you and your kids very much
[I can't put my real name! That would have literally blown my mind and I would have spent the next two and a half years figuring out how future-me wrote me a letter.]

P.S. And now, I would like to list some of the embarrassing things you will do in the coming months:

  • Stand in your kitchen unable to do anything except resist the urge to check on your kids every five minutes as they play in the treehouse where you don't have a direct line of sight to them!
  • Waste your time suggesting things you want Aria to want to do and places you want Aria to want to go
  • Be really nervous and self-conscious about how late your kids go to bed and wake up. Also think about and talk about this a lot with others - like way more than necessary.
  • Say yes too much and then not enough and then too much and then not enough because you have no idea what you're doing
  • (okay, this one's actually kind of cute) Listen to unschooling podcasts, watch unschooling videos, talk about unschooling, and read about unschooling for practically every waking minute because you are just so determined to make this work and because you know that for unschooling to work you have to change how and what you think
[End of letter]

I haven't reached my destination yet. I'm still moving toward radical unschooling. I didn't even realize I was "done" deschooling until I read this web page about a month before writing this. I look forward to seeing how this whole thing turns out - I know it's gonna be good. But right now, I'm enjoying each moment as it greets me and I am so grateful for all the moments that have led me to this one.

Do you unschool? Are you trying to? Do you remember making a decision to unschool? How long have you been deschooling? unschooling? Do have any embarassing memories from when you were trying to wrap your head around this way of life? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


  1. "I know you think you already love them unconditionally but you don't. You won't until you let go of your fear." This is my favorite part. FEAR! So true. Now that I Unschool I can love my children unconditionally because I am not FEARFUL that they are not living up to who they are "supposed" to be. They can be who they are and I can be there to support who/whatever that is. I don't have to worry about them meeting expectations or milestones, they will when they want or can.

    1. Your comment brought a huge smile to my face! This is probably the best way unschooling has changed our lives. ❤️

  2. I love the way you wrote yourself a letter!!! Andrea I am so inspired. I can relate to so many things you wrote in this post๐Ÿ’–

    1. I'm so glad you could relate! I think we probably have a lot in common! ❤️

  3. Aw, this is so sweet! We struggled for years with unschooling; either I would panic they weren't learning enough or my boys would come to me begging me to plan something because they were bored... I wanted to unschool so badly and kept trying to force us into the box of unschoolers. We finally settled on an hour or so of schoolwork a day (keep in mind my kids are in middle school so an hour isn't much) and decided to call ourselves "mostly unschoolers". Once our daily work is done we're free to do whatever we want and we still take lots of days away from our books completely to learn from the outside world. It works for us and I would bet it took us a good 3 years to discover that... it seems like it takes most of us homeschoolers a remarkable amount of time to find what works, to stop listening to those outside voices, to stop trying what is working for all the families around us, and to start believing in ourselves. Thanks so much for linking up with us at Love to Learn. Pinned.

    1. Wow! What a lovely addition to this blog post. This is what comment sections were made for! ๐Ÿ˜€ I'm glad you found what works for YOU and YOURS. I feel like the pressure to do things the way we THINK we're supposed to and the lack of trust in ourselves and our children is the main reason why many homeschoolers quit. Thank you for doing what you do with your children and with your online presence! ❤️

  4. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it. right here