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Kimi & Shaun - On Top of the World!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving - Virtually!

We are very pleased to announce that we have moved all of our blogs, Living the Unschooling Life (blogger version), Unschoolers on the Road & Unschooling Always (Chrysalis) into one comprehensive blog, now found at:

We hope this makes our writings easier to find.  So please, come on over to our new site!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Labels are useful - they help us categorize & systemize.  They allow for a quick understanding of what something is.  When I go to the bookstore, I follow the labels to find the book I'm looking for.  When I'm researching for something online, I use keywords, another form of labeling, to get to what I need quickly.  Labels are useful.

Labels can also hinder.  When something is more complicated it becomes harder fully capture it within a label.  Go ahead - use a political party label to describe two different person's ideologies & see if they are really identical.

In the microcosm of radical unschooling, not everyone agrees.  Shocking, I know!  Most people seem to agree upon a very basic description - that it is self-determined life-long learning utilizing many resources & means to achieve knowledge.  Yet read postings on online unschooling groups & one quickly sees that how this plays out in real day-to-day life within families is different.  People who consider themselves unschoolers hate being told by someone else that they are not "real" unschoolers.  At the same time, whenever an unschooler witnesses or hears about behavior that they deem "not unschooling" it can be hard not to judge.  After all, we are still struggling to be understood by those not familiar with our philosophy - we don't want it to be further muddied by behaviors that don't support the philosophy.
"I unschool my kids, except for math." "We unschool for eduction but not for parenting." "That family doesn't represent all unschoolers"  "If you didn't unschool right from the start, you're not a true unschooler"  "If your kids wants to go to school, you're not a true unschooler" "That's really just unparenting, not unschooling"
Which of these statements are valid, which are not?  This can get very subjective - I have my own opinion, but it might not be the same as yours. What complicates this even more is that there are times when my behavior does not reflect my radical unschooling beliefs. They are not my proudest moments - moments when I don't have the patience or the time or the connection with my family that I strive to have.  There have been times when I absolutely didn't look like a radical unschooling mom.

So, is the radical unschooling label really subjective?  Absolutely not!  There is still some core principles that need to be present for someone to be a radical unschooler:

  • Respect your child as a person
  • Value the opinion & needs of everyone in the family
  • Be present in your children's lives - help them explore when they are active, engaged & curious and to retreat into themselves when they need to cocoon
  • Never shame, never hit!
  • Value what they value - you don't have to play World of Warcraft but you should know what characters they play & what level they are at; you don't have to know all the constellations, but you should be engaged in helping them find out more about the cosmos.
  • Use logic, not fear, to inform your decisions and behaviors
  • Recognize that your value system, be it about religion, food, politics, or entertainment, is not your child's value system.  If you disagree with anything your parents believe, then you should be able to recognize your child's right to disagree with you.  Don't take it personally - just because they have their own opinions or values doesn't mean they don't love you.
So, when I see that I'm not living up to my radical unschooling principles what do I do?  I learn from it - I think carefully about what got in the way & I resolve to handle things better.  I don't act like a radical unschooler, I am a radical unschooler & the only way for that to be true is if I keep pushing myself to live a life that follows these principles.  After all, I want to be the parent my children need so that they will be the parent their children will need.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Personal vs. Political: Choosing my Children Over Public Education

I was educated in the public school system.  There was no way my parents could afford any kind of private schooling.  Throughout my youth, my parents urged me to do well enough in school that I could get a scholarship to go to UMASS, the cheapest 4-year college they knew of.  It was their hope that I would be able to live a more prosperous life than they ever had - & a good education was the key to achieving that goal.

I did do well enough to qualify for scholarships but I didn't go to UMASS.  It turns out that more competitive colleges & universities will give financial aid to students who have the ability but not the funds.  So, doing well in school led me to being able to attend a prestigious college. which led to graduate school, which led to starting my career as a child therapist living in New York City.  I had achieved my parents' & my goal.

Phil also found public education to be his ticket out of a hard life.  His mother was not capable of providing proper care to him & his brothers - the schools he attended were his sanctuaries, providing a safe place to be & two hot meals five times a week.  He earned admission to one of the exam high schools - public schools that accepted students via exams.  His high grades here led him to be able to attend a prestigious college, with the help of financial aid & scholarships.  This led to his starting his career in high tech business living in New York City.  He had achieved his goal.

Now, in another post, we'll discuss whether these goals turned out to be the best goals to set for ourselves.  For the purpose of this post, however, I'll continue to simply focus on understanding that at a certain point in our lives, we both believed that job & financial security were extremely important & we credited our experiences with public education as helping us get there.

Compared to our upbringings, we were living a prosperous life together.  Even as a single-income family, we were in a high income bracket that many aspire to reach.  We explored sending our kids to private school - Montessori schooling seemed particularly attractive, as it seemed more child-centered - but we were reluctant to send our children to private schools when we valued publicly-funded, accessible to all schools.  After all, we benefited from public education, right?  So, we made a conscious decision to support our public schools as much as possible.

We bought all the various fundraising who-zits & what-zits to support the PTO.  I volunteered several times a month in both kids' classes - providing support for the teaching staff.  We donated classroom supplies, I chaperoned field trips.  Above all else, we sent our kids to school.

You all know we ended up not only homeschooling but unschooling - the details of that decision having been described in other posts.  Most of our friends & family have been very supportive of our decision - and even if they don't think this choice is right for them, they believe that we ultimately should have the ability to make this decision.  There were some dissenters, however, & one of the most vehement one was someone who could not understand why I would not continue to support the public school system.  To him, choosing my children over "all" children was socially & morally selfish.  AFter our interviews in various media, I saw a few people mention this, too.  Why not fix the problems from within rather than remove ourselves from it, in part because we could afford to leave?

I recently watched Herbert Kohl's keynote address from the 7th annual AERO conference.  One of his points was that choosing alternative education, be it charter schools, private schools or homeschooling, does society a disservice.  He looks at public education as a means toward social justice.  It's a challenging thought - particularly since it was a belief Phil & I held for most of our lives. 

We are all too aware that there are children out there who not only won't be unschooled but would be harmed by unschooling.  Without a committed engaged parent or parents working with the child to learn and explore the world around them, the child is unlikely to flourish.  When neglect or abuse is present, the parent is not the child's advocate.  Yet, I'm uncomfortable with the stance that since some parents, well, suck, then we should create social systems that assume all parents will behave badly.  So, how do we help the vulnerable children while avoiding the numerous negatives that currently embody the public school system?

Perhaps community learning centers are a solution.  These would be similar to "free" or democratic schools.  One example of how they work is Sudbury Valley Schools:

At Sudbury Valley School, students from preschool through high school age explore the world freely, at their own pace and in their own unique ways. They learn to think for themselves, and learn to use Information Age tools to unearth the knowledge they need from multiple sources. They develop the ability to make clear logical arguments, and deal with complex ethical issues. Through self-initiated activities, they pick up the basics; as they direct their lives, they take responsibility for outcomes, set priorities, allocate resources, and work with others in a vibrant community.
Trust and respect are the keys to the school’s success. Students enjoy total intellectual freedom, and unfettered interaction with other students and adults. Through being responsible for themselves and for the school’s operation, they gain the internal resources needed to lead effective lives.
My proposal, however, doesn't limit the learning opportunities to students up to age 18.  Imagine a learning center where:

  • All ages are present, since we never stop learning.
  • The knowledge & experience of older citizens can be shared with the knowledge & experience of youth.
  • Study groups and other collaborative learning groups are formed based on the participants' interests and abilities.  
  • People can explore an interest as deeply as they wish or move on as the interest leads to other interests.
  • "Teachers" are facilitators, becoming mentors or guides based upon their personal knowledge & skills.
  • True community can be created, since the community uses the space collectively.  The children are no longer artificially removed from the rest of their community.  Neighbors will actually know neighbors!
  • Self-reliance skills, be it growing/raising/preserving food or do-it-yourself projects, can be rediscovered - reducing the waste & dependence upon manufactured products & even manufactured food our society has become accustomed.
Is it possible to change the way we think about what education is all about?  Is it possible to change the priorities that our highly commercialized society tells us we should value - the ability to buy lots of "necessary" stuff.  Can those of us who value the principles of unschooling believe that these principles can be present within a publicly funded education system?  Is the current system ripe for radical change in what education really means or is it "too big to fail", not realizing that it already is failing?

What do you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day

Most of my friends are fairly progressive in their belief systems.  Most of my friends are not only "tolerant" of gays and lesbians, but, in fact, believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and transgender people are, above all else, people.  People who deserve the same rights as currently held by heterosexual people.

So it has been a horrible reminder nearly each morning when I open up my newspaper & read yet another example of people being hurt, physically & emotionally, simply because of their sexual orientation.  The rage and hate that is being expressed by the perpetrators is shocking because these people completely forget that they are attacking another human being.  They no longer recognize the humanity in their victim, & truly, in themselves.

I am not so naive as to think that some day everyone, across the planet, will live in total peace and harmony.  There will always be forces in place in our societies that create feelings of envy, fear, oppression & inequality.  Just as bullying occurs within a microcosm society, such as school, in part as a result of feeling a lack of control over one's life/experiences within that society, bigotry & oppression occurs when one feels a need to blame someone else for the troubles in one's life.

And they feel justified: How dare those gays make me feel uncomfortable!  How dare they want to marry, raise children, kiss in public, work next to me, teach children, fight wars, play sports - normalizing their lifestyle & spreading their gay agenda!

I don't understand their fear.  I don't understand their anger.  And I absolutely don't understand their raging attacks.  Where did they learn to hate?  How did they get to this place where attacking others is OK?  Why do they think teasing, bullying & mocking people is normal, but the person they are targeting is not normal.

I want to believe that society is changing - that attitudes about sexual behavior between consenting adults is no longer a trigger for hate crimes.  I want to believe that the people I care about won't be hurt by someone else just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or transgendered.  I want to believe that the people I don't even know won't be hurt by someone else just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or transgendered.

Before you judge a person for their sexual orientation, please remember:  they are a person.  They are someone's child, sibling, cousin, parent, spouse, loved one, friend, neighbor, co-worker.  They are as worthy of love & respect as you.

Stop the hate.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Unschooling - a view from the corporate office

I had the honor and privilege to speak at the Northeast Unschooling Conference (NEUC) in Wakefield, MA, last weekend. Below is a segment of the talk (it was 45 minutes, so it seems a little long to blog the whole talk). The talk was targeted at unschooling Dads; however, it's really relevant for the breadwinner in the family, regardless of gender. It speaks of my early experiences as unschooling Dad. In it, I speak of my wife, Christine, who led me into unschooling; my daughter, Kimi, 15, whose experience in school encouraged the decision; and my son Shaun, 13, who has grown and prospered as an unschooler despite my initial reaction that he should remain in school. The story focuses on the consequences of the fact that I've been in corporate jobs from the time Christine and I got married through today; this has remained constant from the time we sent the kids to school throughout our unschooling experience.


I am celebrating 6 years as a radical unschooling Dad. Christine and I had a few opportunities earlier this year to really speak out publicly about our thoughts and feelings towards unschooling, and I’m proud to say that I had no question in my conviction on the unschooling way of life. I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past few years talking with many people outside of the unschooling community, explaining and, at some level, defending unschooling, which I think has helped me tremendously. I’ve been to at least a dozen different SSUDs sessions at conferences around the country listening to the questions and concerns of Dads, and hopefully contributing some answers. How did I get from that Dad who was struggling to one who is a strong proponent of unschooling? I think I can finally articulate the challenges that I faced in the first couple of years and how we as a family got around them. I think that these challenges are shared by other Dads who have come to unschooling in the same manner I did, and maybe our resolutions to them may help those Dads and their families.

One challenge was that while our family life changed, my life didn’t change very much. Another was that while Christine’s and the kids’ lives changed, some of their expectations about our financial situation didn’t change. Yet another was that for a while, our lives diverged – we grew further apart instead of closer together. And last – well, I’m a guy, and that means I have some challenges that are endemic to my gender. Let me explain these a little more.

My work days, and so much of my life, didn’t change drastically from when we had the kids in school. I do feel like I was enlightened by this unschooling path, but I couldn’t see the full picture. My life was still rooted in that corporate world, and I was doing pretty well. And while Christine and the kids were leading this unschooling life, they didn’t change their expectations around what we could do and afford. We had a pretty nice home in a nice town with some nice things, and now there were more opportunities to travel, take field trips, eat out, shop, and explore their passions. This included purchasing books, and craft materials, and toys, and video games, and iPods, and – well you get it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to point out a flaw; let’s face it, we were living in suburban Boston, and I had a nice job in a high tech company, and we had a house we liked in a town we liked, and we could afford to do some things we wanted. But when you put these together, you could see that the pressure on me as the breadwinner didn’t change. It didn’t really occur to me to ask them to change their expectations – the reality is that only a pretty drastic change was going to make a real difference, and none of us were in a frame of mind where we could just up and move, I don’t know, to somewhere like Asheville, NC, and start over again. Our lives were in Massachusetts, and we were quite happy with that.

I was still away from home up to 12 hours per day just as I was when the kids were in school, but now that Christine and the kids were together most of the time I was away, I was really the odd one out. When you’re together in the moment, you can see things happen – you can see the kids watching TV for a full day and appreciate how positive it was for them. But it was more difficult to hear about it and easily come to that same conclusion – not while your mind is clouded by the realities of your own life. It didn’t take long for the ‘inside jokes’ to appear – lines from movies, or TV shows, or from funny events of the day. I didn’t like not being on the inside. Then there were times when I would come home while they were in the middle of something, and they couldn’t tear themselves away. So I ended up eating dinner on my own, sometimes because they ate 3 hours ago when they were hungry and on their own schedule. I’m not on that schedule, but instead I’m still on the old schedule where I eat dinner when I get home.

Let’s not forget that the kids are ‘deschooling’ at this time – and the right thing to do is to let them handle things in the way that was best for them at their own pace. This was all new to us – we had never seen deschooling that up close and personal. Here are some of the natural consequences for me to all this – I’m staying close to my comfort zone to make things simpler; I’m struggling with this huge change in one part of my life, but not the rest of my life; I don’t have the same common ground with the kids, where previously at least I had the common experience of having gone to school, and I could remember some of the math or history or other facts that they were learning at the time. So, for a while, we started growing apart, living our separate lives, each ‘side’ not fully understanding what was going on in the other side’s life. Now, add to this fact that I’m a guy – and I’m generalizing here, so no offense intended – so I’m not searching out support groups, I’m not reading the message boards, I’m not getting books and magazines, and I’m not always sharing my feelings. At this point, I can only attend one conference per year – I can’t take as much time off work as I want to, after all – so my opportunities for outside guidance and help are limited. At the same time I’m trying to have a life. There are football games on Sunday, and racquetball matches on Saturday, and lots to do around the house and yard.

Oh, and add to this one other little fact – as I mentioned earlier, it was Christine who discovered and researched unschooling, and who was passionate about it. So I’m starting out a year behind her, and she’s moving faster than I am. So every day I’m falling just a little further behind.

As radical unschoolers, we had the extra effect of the changes in our lives being not only around the educational philosophy for the kids, but also for the way we lived our lives.

As an new unschooling Dad, based on where I came from, and where I was spending most of my time, and where the rest of the family was at this time, I hope you can see that this can be a little overwhelming. Dual lifestyles, conflicting priorities, unanswered questions, and general upheaval in my life – these can all cause a bit of stress in one’s life.

Some of you who have been at this for a while now are probably thinking, hey, there are solutions for these issues you bring up. Get out of the corporate life! Get more involved in the kids’ lives! Change your financial lifestyle – downsize! Get involved in the Yahoo! groups and learn! Yep – I know that now. And so does the family. But to go from where we were at the start and to do all those things – wow! Huge changes! And we didn’t consider all of them at the time, and we weren’t ready for them either. Some of you got my comment about Asheville earlier – we’re planning to make the move down there sometime really soon now, and it’s been more than a year in the making, with a final decision made a month or two ago. I’m ready to dive headfirst into the unschooling lifestyle for myself – I want to find something that I’m passionate about, something that doesn’t require me to work 50-60 hours per week and travel enough to achieve Gold status on an airline and a hotel chain, along with enough miles for a free ticket on 3 other airlines. But that has not been an easy decision for the whole family, as we all need to make different sacrifices.

I ended up doing a bit of soul searching during this time. I ended up taking a couple different approaches to find answers. One approach was reaching out to others in the unschooling community, especially the Dads. It was powerful to talk to someone who was able to say, “I’m in a situation similar to yours; I had the same concerns and questions; here’s what I’ve learned and realized over the years to see how unschooling works.” Additionally, talking to a variety of Moms, kids, and young adults, and getting their viewpoints and sharing their experiences, helped a lot. There were a lot of one-on-one conversations where I could share my concerns. There were also talks with others who were just starting out, and trying to assuage their concerns about unschooling helped me to realize the ways in which it was working for us.

Let me highlight some of the help that I received from my unschooling friends. During a couple of the early conferences, I was bugged by answers I heard from other parents to a couple of the questions that I think many Dads share. The first question was about the change in the lifestyle. In its simplest form, the issue was around cleaning the house – it used to get cleaned, and now it doesn’t. So I get home, after a long day at work, and the kids have been doing “whatever” and there’s a mess on the kitchen table and the living room looks like a toy box exploded, and the dishes are piled up in the sink. What to do? The answer I often heard from the other radical unschooling parents at conferences, and hated, was “You just need to get over it, and move on. If having a clean house is important to you, then you clean it.” Sometimes, the answer was “Let go of your pre-conceived notions of what family life is supposed to be – change your priorities.” Huh? What does that mean? I felt that was a brush off answer, and when I heard that answer in Dad-oriented gatherings (especially the SSUDs sessions) I could see the eyes rolling back in the heads of the newer Dads, or the ones who really had that question. It took me a couple of years to really get to the bottom of this one. You see, what I was really feeling was a couple of things – first, I was being left out of the amazing new lifestyle; second, I felt that I was now not a full member of the family. My needs were not being respected or met! So, as we were trying to follow this new lifestyle, allowing everyone to follow their passions, and not forcing any unnecessary rules on people, we needed to do this as a full family. I needed to find ways to participate in the lives of my family, and just as importantly – I can’t stress that enough – my family had to count me in as an equal, and my needs had to be just as important as theirs. Once this became clear to us all, we were able to get past it – because, you see, if it *is* important to me that there be some cleanliness to the house, then this need should be respected just as any other need. Just because it seems to cling to the ‘old’ way of life doesn’t make it less valid; after all, my life, by mutual choice of the entire family, is still dominated by this ‘old’ way of life. It took a little bit of time, but we got together as a family and talked. We gained a greater understanding of respect for each other. We focused on what was important to the others in the family – not questioning why, but acknowledging the identification - and then we worked to honor those needs. This helped all of us – not only did I find more of my needs being met, but we were all able to better meet the needs of the others in the family. It allowed us to be open and honest with each other. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re really good, and no one is ashamed to tell the others what their needs are and we expect that the others will do what they can to accommodate. This has allowed me to stop feeling left out (although I still don’t get all the inside jokes), and enjoy my time with the family more when we’re together.

The second question that still nagged me, and as I observed, nagged other Dads, was around the issue of our kids’ future employment. How do I know that my kid is going to be able to support himself as an adult? How would my child support her family? And how would I not have to work through my retirement years to support them? Again, the answer was unsatisfactory – “trust your kids; by pursuing their passion they’ll make a living.” Sorry, but as someone who followed the school-college-corporate job path that isn’t very comforting. I’m thinking that no one is going to hire my son to play video games or hire my daughter to read Harry Potter books. Trust them? I trust them! What does that have to do with them being able to support themselves and their families? I continued searching for answers and I learned several things. A wise unschooling Dad shared some of his wisdom. The first nugget – most unschoolers would not be looking for a corporate job, but would be looking to become entrepreneurs. For that, they needed most importantly to find a passion, and then find a way, through an apprenticeship, or an internship, or a partnership, or self-education, to learn all they can about that passion. Then, they can start their own business, or join an existing small business, to get to do what they want. The second nugget is that out of the respect and love that unschooled young adults share with their parents, they don’t want their parents to have to support them their whole lives – & in fact, they want to be self sufficient. Wow! These were breakthrough ideas for me! On these issues and others like them, the unschooling community really came through for me.

The other approach I took to finding answers to the bigger questions was to make a series of observations of my life. I’ve shared some of the situations I experienced at work – especially as a manager. I started to see significant parallels between unschooling and successful management. I considered how I was treating my staff, and how I was making decisions and providing advice about their advancement, and I saw a huge convergence between my management principles and unschooling principles. Encourage people to follow their passions; provide different ways for people to learn; provide guidance, not lessons; treat people with respect; allow for different perspectives on how someone got right here, right now. All of these principles guided my work life, so how could I not see how they should guide my personal life? I’m not saying that I should treat my family as if they are my staff, but I am saying that I shouldn’t treat my work staff better than I treat my children. I am able to see the different context – I am looking to increase performance at work, but I’m looking to increase happiness at home. Still, the parallels are there.

During the six years we’ve been unschooling, I have seen the development of my children into happy, engaging, respectful, bright young adults. I have the pleasure of being with other unschooled kids, and we have a number of friends and family members who are not unschoolers, and I have seen the development of both sets of kids over the same period of time. I have, in front of my eyes, indisputable proof that unschooling works. I didn’t see all those concerns that I had in the early years materialize. Unschooled kids are just as ready for the adult working world as their schooled peers; in many ways, they are more prepared.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Living with our Unschooling Principles

It's one thing to say "we're radical unschoolers", but how do we live our day-to-day lives with those principles?  It can get tricky - we all have those triggers, those "lines that shall not be crossed" in our minds.  Remembering to use our unschooling principles can get lost in the scripts that run in our heads.

Here's an example from my life.  I prefer to buy organic & locally-grown food whenever possible.  When I first started feeding Kimi solid foods, I either made it myself or purchased organic baby food.  It was extremely important to me that she eat the safest, purest food possible.  And so long as I made the grocery shopping decisions, it was never an issue.  But a funny, & predictable, thing happened on the way to Whole Foods - my kids started to choose their own food that they wanted to buy.  And it very often wasn't organic, or local, or even all that nutritious.  Doritos, Cheez-Its, Yodels & Pop Tarts suddenly graced my pantry shelves.  I didn't like it.  I didn't want them there.  They were polluting my sweet children's bodies with strange chemicals & preservatives.  I really wished the kids didn't want them.

So, I would "subtly" ration them - "let's just get 1 box...we'll get more next time" (& then I would conveniently forget to get more the next time.  And guess what happened - the kids began to value them, hoarding them & fighting over how much each child got.  It wasn't pleasant.

Then, as we learned more & more about radical unschooling, I realized that I had to stop making a big deal out of the food choice our family made.  After all, I sometimes eat "junk" food - & I certainly wouldn't appreciate someone telling me I really shouldn't be eating that.  I started saying "yes" in the grocery aisle more & more.  The kids were free to try different snack foods without judgement or arbitrary limits on quantity.

At first, they had a field day - lots of things got purchased & eaten, yet, they didn't stop eating the healthier foods, too.  They just ate a variety of things.  Sometimes they would binge a bit - eating several candy bars in an afternoon, for example.  But they didn't like the bloated feeling that followed - no more excessive eating of chocolate!

Today, my kids eat a healthy, varied diet that they self-select.  Kimi loves going to the local farmers market with me to pick out local & organic foods.  I continue to fill the fridge, freezer & pantry with lots of healthy yummies.  I also continue to happily buy the ice cream, Doritos & Cheez-Its.  Interestingly, when I buy, say, fresh raspberries they don't last the night, while the boxes & bags of snackie foods last much longer.

When we were interviewed by Good Morning America, Juju Chang expressed disbelief that the kids would choose healthy food if we didn't make them eat it, yet when we were in the Green Room at the studio, Kimi reached right past the chocolate croissants to get some fresh melon.  Look - non-coerced healthy eating!  It really happens!

My kids are healthy teens, rarely sick, & of normal weight.  They don't have any unhealthy attitudes about food or misconceptions about nutrition.  I don't think they would be as knowledgable about their own needs if I had prevented them from exploring food choices for themselves.  Trusting them was the best thing I could have done for them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More on Algebra

There have been a few posts recently about algebra and its relevance in the real world - in particular on the Nightline segment a few days back ( The question seems to be "what if my kids don't learn algebra?" So, I thought, why do we need algebra, and what would we do if we didn't learn it in school? Here are a few examples of algebra in real life:

"How many pies of pizza should we order for dinner tonight?"

x = (n*m)/p

x=number of pies to buy for dinner
n=number of people eating pizza
m=number of slices the average person will eat
p=number of slices of pizza per pie

(or go to "" which I found via Google)

"How long will it take us to drive to our vacation spot?"


d=number of days of driving to get there
m=miles from here to there
n=average number of miles driven each day

(or use MapQuest or Google Maps)

"How much mulch should I buy for the garden?"


m=amount of mulch in cubic feed
l=length of garden in feet
w=width of garden in feet
d=depth of mulch in feet

(or go to "" which I found via Google)

"They sell mulch by the cubic yard. How many cubic yard do I need?"


y=number of cubic yards
f=number of cubic feet

(or go to "" which I found via Google)

I guess I have 2 points:

1. We use algebra regularly without necessarily knowing we're using algebra. I have a problem, I need to solve it, I work on it. Do you think people can learn to solve these kind of real world problems if they don't study algebra as a formal subject? Or, if they didn't study algebra at 12 or 13 years old, can they learn it at 20 or 25 years old?

2. If I don't know algebra, and I need the answer to a question that can be solved with an algebraic equation, I can often just look it up on the Internet. This method is used by my co-workers to solve many technical questions - in fact, it's one of the first things we do when we have a hard question to answer ("Google it....").

So, are we teaching our kids what they need to thrive in the real world when they are adults? Or teaching them what we thought we needed to know to survive in the real world that existed when we were kids?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Questions I Wish They Had Asked Us

After watching another TV interview with an unschooling family done by the mainstream media, I found myself again reacting to the fact that the interviewer (Juju Chang, who also interviewed us) was asking 'schooling' questions. I thought to myself, why doesn't she ask unschooling questions? Then I thought, well, what are unschooling questions? If I had an opportunity to write the questions, what questions would I write? How do we talk about our lives and our kids "as if school didn't exist"? So, here are some questions I wish they had asked me (and the answers I would have given them):

1. How do you define your lifestyle?

Our lives are focused on our family - we want each person to be happy and successful and to grow as people. We are aware of each others wants and needs, and we help each other accomplish our goals. We tend to make decisions as a family - everyone has a say in the way we live. As parents, our job is to ensure our children (and each other) has the maximum exposure to the world at large. We set goals, go on adventures and to activities, visit family and friends, and pursue our hobbies and interests.

2. What was the most important factor in this decision?

Christine and I started out with a family oriented lifestyle - home birth, extended nursing, attachment parenting. We initially sent the kids to school, but we saw changes in them that saddened us. Our daughter achieved perfect scores on the standardized tests, but she was labeled with problems and was miserable. We ultimately felt that we could do a better job of educating them. Christine did a lot of research into home schooling, and we decided on unschooling after a careful review. The clincher was meeting some unschooling families at a conference - the joy, the love, the wonderful children really convinced us that this was the right path for us.

3. How do you describe your relationship with your children?

While we are clearly their parents, and as such are responsible for their welfare and safety, we have a close relationship built on trust, respect, honesty, and love. We respect them as people - we treat them at least as well as we do other adults. We count on their input and opinions, and we enjoy their company. We're pleased that they would prefer to have us around more often than not.

4. What kinds of things are your kids interested in?

Their interests change pretty often. Right now, Shaun is interested in swordfighting and the associated role playing that accompanies it during his classes at Guard Up; he is an avid World of Warcraft player, and has reached some of the highest levels available; and he reads books geared towards fantasy and mythology (both Greek and Roman) and Japanese Manga. Kimi loves watching and reading about forensic science and police drama, and is also very interested in Japanese Manga. Both kids like to travel - they've been all over the country, as well as outside the US, and look forward to planning trips.

5. What are some of your favorite family activities?

As a family we like to travel, go to movies, have long discussions about all kinds of topics, and watch certain TV shows. We also tend to read a lot of the same books. Christine is involved in Guard Up, where both kids take classes; Kimi and I like to work together on the motorhome and some landscaping, especially when it involves cutting down trees.

6. What kinds of changes have you seen in your children over the past 1-3 years?

I've been proud to have watched them grow into young adults. They continue to be very confident in their decisions. They are able to discuss mature topics, and they have developed important relationships with friends all over the country.

7. What are the biggest disadvantages of unschooling?

While I don't think we lead perfect or idylic lives, I don't see a disadvantage in our lifestyle. We get to spend an incredible amount of time with our children, and we enjoy each other's company. We share so much, and hide so little. Our children will only be young for a little while - I'm happy we can maximize our time with them and watch them develop and grow.

Here are some questions for our kids. I won't answer these :-)
1. What is your favorite activity?
2. What is something that you used to be interested in and now don't find so interesting?
3. What is the most unusual thing you've done in the past year?
4. Is there something you're looking forward to in the next year?

So, if you're out there and you're looking to get some insight into an unschooling family, try to ask these kinds of questions, and you may be quite surprised at how you can appreciate the choice we've made for educating our children.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Talking about unschooling in the workplace

While I don't talk to everyone I know about unschooling, I've never hidden the fact that I unschool my children from people I work with. One of the really positive aspects about the work I've been doing for the past 15 years is that I get to spend time visiting customers around the country (and even around the world - Australia and England, mostly). There's often the opportunity to go out to lunch with the customer, where we try not to just talk about work, and where the questions come up about family. When asked, I usually say that I homeschool my kids, and many people are satisfied with that; some ask questions about things like grades and tests, and that's where I start getting into unschooling. (On a personal note, I find myself wanting to walk that fine line about not being afraid to defend my choices without coming across as someone who tries to convert everyone to my point of view - made all the more important by the fact that these are paying customers who could easily decide that they'd rather pay someone else.) Generally speaking, I'm talking to college educated professionals successfully employed in a corporate environment - perhaps the most difficult environment in which to defend unschooling. Sometimes the discussion at this point gets pretty deep, but often there is some level of skepticism, considering how most of us in the corporate world got where we are (e.g., going through the typical education systems from public school through college).

When the discussion turns to the background of the individual I'm talking with, it's interesting how often their degree (current or original) is in a field much different than what they are working in today, and how the part of their job that they find the most interesting and/or satisfying ties back to something they did outside of school. For example, I was recently talking with a customer during such a lunch. He has a degree in Psychology, but had always tinkered with computers (even building his own computers). He had been unhappy with his work in the field since he graduated, and a friend of his commented about his hobby "if you could find a job doing that all day, you'd be all set." Well, he went back to school and got a degree in computer science, and has been happily engaged in the high tech industry for 15 years. So, as we discussed unschooling a bit more, he came to appreciate that if he had not gone through the standard process, he would have ended up in his current field sooner, and would have saved a lot of money in student loans over the years.

Over the years, I've had many situations where I've remained in touch with customers like this over extended periods of time, and they will often revisit this topic with me. I've found it interesting to know that even though most of them are not prepared to make the change, they've discussed this issue with their spouses, and they've come up with other questions about unschooling. Part of my method for dealing with their questions is to ask them some questions in response. Two of my favorite questions back to them are "what did you learn in school before college that helps you in your job" and "what is it that you learned in school that you couldn't have learned outside of school." I don't often wait for a response, but it sure gets them thinking. Again, I'm not trying to convert them - just make them understand that there might be a different, if not better way, for kids to spend their time preparing for their adult lives.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

If I'm right, are you wrong?

We've been thinking about why so many people respond so negatively to the portrayal of our unschooling lifestyle. Of course, many people just don't take the time to think about it - they react emotionally, and outright reject it without understanding what we're doing (frustrating - there's just no discussion to be had there). But others clearly put some thought into it, and ask some decent questions (very school oriented, but they are loooking for some information and can't ask from our point of view very easily), and still come away very negative. There are probably many reasons for this, but one of them is likely this: if you accept our choice for educating our children, then it invalidates what you are doing for your kids, and would make you wrong. (People don't like to be told, or to find out, that they are wrong.)

I can hear some people saying "yup, it's true - we're right, and they're wrong!" but that's not my perspective. I believe that many of us are really trying to say "we strongly believe that this choice is best for our children; just as we are free to decide what is best for our family, you are free to decide what is best for your family." I also believe that unschooling (especially radical unschooling) is *not* for everyone. I think, for example, that a family could be a good candidate to move to unschooling if they meet the following criteria:

1. The school system is failing your kid(s) in some important way (where 'important' is up to the kids and parents, not from the institution's perspective, e.g. just test scores).
2. At least one parent is willing to devote the time and energy required to unschool.
3. You are prepared to change the way you look at education and how kids think, learn, and behave.

Now, this is just one way to look at it, and I'm not trying to put all unschoolers in the same category. However, many people cannot provide a reasonable environment (and mindset) at home for unschooling; likewise, there are many kids who can handle (and are handling) the school lifestyle and are thriving. It's not my intention to tell someone that if school is working for them, or if they are not ready to devote the time and consider our viewpoint, that they should unschool anyway. I have heard the story from mmany unschooling parents of how they came to embrace unschooling, and in many cases they didn't know all along that they would unschool (it's true for some, but not most); rather, it was a journey that had many challenges for one or both parents. We have no idea how a particular family got to where they are (schooling or otherwise), so we can't say what they should do now in their lives.

So I need to make sure my message comes across as: "I've found a way of educating my kids that works best for us; it's not one that will work for everyone. Looks like you've found a way that works for you - that's great! After all, it's all about making sure our kids are ready for their future, right?" Or something like that. Of course, for those who really want to understand what we do, and to see if it's for them, I'm happy to engage in a deeper, more meaningful conversation.

If people are willing to listen to our core messages, and they are willing to accept that we have the right to make this choice, and they are willing to accept that our decision does not invalidate their decision, then I think we've accomplished a lot.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"But you're missing the point!"

I'm reading (and listening to) more fallout from our TV appearances, and I find myself saying "you're missing this point!" way too much. So, once again I try to go at it from the other side. What's the point? How do I say it more clearly so that others will hear it more clearly?

First, I hear a couple of times that unschooling (and homeschooling) parents are the ones who are more likely to be more involved in their kids' education, rather than less, just by the simple act of making a specific, and uncommon, choice on their education (and I even hear some of the critics agree with that point!). Next, I hear that "no kid will chose to learn algebra" or "how will they learn history" or "they need to get the fundamentals" before making their own choices. Then I hear that kids "don't know what they don't know, and need to be exposed to a lot of things" so that they know what they like and should focus on.

Too many people seem to make the following assumptions:

1. 'Kids make choices' means 'Parents do nothing.'
2. 'No arbitrary rules' means 'Free for all.'
3. 'No school teachers' means 'No learning.'

All of these assumptions must be accompanied by the assumption that the parents do not care about their kids.

So, since I'm a math/logic guy at heart, I ask that at least for a moment we accept the following assumptions:

1. Parents who unschool care about their children's education.
2. Parents who unschool want their kids to succeed.
3. Parents who unschool live in the real world, and are aware of all the concerns about unschooling and are aware of the rules and norms of society.
4. Parents who unschool spend a lot of effort and energy on their kids' education.

Let us then postulate that:

1. Unschooling parents want their kids to be exposed to as much as possible (assumptions #1 #3, and #4). Unschooled kids who are exposed to a lot must see some part of the world, and by extension, have to learn about it.
2. Unschooling parents demonstrate behaviors they want their kids to emulate (assumptions #2, #3, and #4).
3. Unschooling parents will seek out what they believe is the best for their kids, and will take advantage of all forms of learning, including classes, books, lectures, programs, other experts, and whatever else they need to get their kid whatever s/he needs (assumptions #1-4).
4. Unschooling kids who are using many forms of learning, and who are exposed to many things in the real word must live by the rules of society (and the museum, and the movie theater, and the bookstore, and the library, and so on...) (assumptions #1-4).

Is this a stretch? Is the acceptance of my assumptions an unreasonable request? If not, are the results of those assumptions too much to swallow? If not, then is it at least likely (maybe as much as the school system) that the kids will in fact learn the basics, see a lot, get the opportunity to find their passions (even though they may change over time), and that they will be ready to enter the real world as productive adults?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

But how will they learn .......

Based on the feedback we have been getting from our appearance in the media, a few of the big concerns voiced by parents who follow a more traditional education process include:

- Socialization
- Following rules
- Learning how to do things you don't want to do

One interpretation of these concerns:

- 'Socialization' - if you homeschool or unschool your kid, they will spend all of their time at home, and will not meet anyone else who doesn't live with them.

- 'Following rules' - especially if you are a radical unschooling family, then kids will never see any rules, and therefore will never be able to understand and follow rules.

- 'Learning how to do things you don't want to do' - if you unschool, and kids are able to make educational choices, they will never be presented with a situation where they have to do something they don't want to do.

I found that the answers that I gave to these questions didn't seem to satisfy those asking them, so I tried to think about it a little more - from the perspective of the person asking the question. While I don't feel the need to defend the choices we've made for our kids, I do think it would be helpful for others to understand some of what we're living.

1. The socialization aspect of schools that are touted as advantages are "spending time with other kids your own age, learning how to deal with people you don't like, and interacting with a variety of adults." My concern that this definition of socialization is not really applicable to the real world. Specifically:
a) In school, you are forced to spend most of your time with kids who are exactly your age (plus or minus 6 months, except for a small number of kids). In the real world, you don't have to spend your time with people your own age. You can, but you don't have to.
b) In school, you are spending time with a pretty homogeneous set of kids - you're all from the same town or area, which means you already have a lot in common. In the real world, you are rarely with a group of people who have that much in common. Our kids spend a lot of time with other kids (of a variety of ages) in many different settings - classes, activities, gatherings, family get-togethers, etc. They relate well with kids of all ages. For us, that is much better socialization than what they would get in a classroom.
c) In school, all adults are authority figures, and kids have to treat them as such. Note that this is not the same as treating them with respect. In the real world, adults can be peer-like to kids; in other words, they can talk to them about varied topics, and interact with them in many ways, without the fear of punishment. They interact with adults all the time, and have learned to respect them as people; in addition, they have many opportunities to interact with authority figures, and they have easily learned to respect them. In fact, respect is one of the core values that we've imparted on our children.

2. Many of the specific rules (raising your hand to speak; asking for permission to use the bathroom; having no choice about what you'll do each day) are not true in the real world. Now, for some jobs - I'm thinking factory work, as one example - you may find these same conditions; but who amongst us as parents want our kids to strive to work in that kind of job? Most parents imagine their kids as doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, business professionals - all jobs where the you set your own hours (based on criteria that is important to you personally); where you are expected to creatively solve problems or provide goods and services; and where you are expected to 'think outside the box' by, to a large extent, going against the common thinking in order to innovate your way to success. This is not what you learn in a school setting - in fact, it is truly the exact opposite.

3. I think 'learning how to follow rules' has two aspects to it. First, you have to learn how to do things you don't want to do. In the real world, this seems to translate into the fact that in your job you will have to perform tasks or assignments that you don't like. What seems to follow in this line of thinking is that if there is something that a person likes that there will be no aspect of it that s/he doesn't like. As a simple example, my daughter likes specific foods that are not always available in the grocery stores where we shop. In order to make sure she gets what she wants, she has to come shopping with us. Grocery shopping is not fun - she doesn't enjoy it at all. However, in order to get what she wants (food), she does something she doesn't like (shop). Did she have to learn it? Well, the real world presented her with a situation, and she addressed it. This happens all the time for kids and adults. These kinds of examples are way too numerous to list.

The second aspect of learning how to follow rules is that if you don't have a structured environment that you won't learn how to follow rules. There is an implication that without putting a kid in a structured environment that they will never see any rules. In the real world, there are rules all over the place. We have mentioned several times that we have no arbitrary rules, and that we use some basic principles to guide our behavior. For example, we respect each other. That means, by definition, that one kid can't do something that will upset the other. It should be straightforward to translate that into behavioral guidelines that are the equivalent of rules, without having to list the rules. So, if playing the drums is going to interfere with the person already reading in a room, then drum playing is out right now. What is most interesting about that is that it causes negotiations between the kids so that they are both able to do what they want; this is much more valuable (and useful in the real world) than a simple rule that says no drum playing. With respect to an issue that is of great concern to others: if the kids don't have a set bedtime, and aren't forced to get up at a certain time, how will they ever be able to get up and hold a job? Well, I'm confused as to why someone would have to 'learn' to get up early. However, as a couple of real world situations - first, on a regular basis, our kids or family have activities that require the kids to get up. We don't have a bedtime or a regular wake up time, but if we need to get up early, then we do. Both kids get up at whatever time they need to when it's important for some reason; either something they want to do, or something they need to do. Our favorite example is that the kids both go to a fantastic summer camp called Wizards and Warriors (learn more about it at During the 2 weeks, they have to be in bed by 10pm and get up every morning at 7am. For the week leading up to the camp, the kids get up progressively earlier each day in anticipation of the camp; and for the entire 2 weeks, they get up at 7am with no problem. How do we explain this? It's pretty simple - there is a reason for the early wake up, so they wake up.

The belief that without school, kids cannot possibly be socialized, be able to do tasks that they don't want to do, or follow rules, seems quite unfounded when you look at the way the real world must exist. Now, I will agree, that if we lived in such a way as to keep our kids completely away from society, and have a homestead large enough so that they would never have to interact (and therefore interrupt) each other, and we spent no time whatsoever with the kids to provide them with guidance and values, they could miss out on all of that; why anyone would assume that we did that, or that we could even do that living in the suburbs, is beyond me (especially in light of the fact that we put our kids on TV).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Let my Love Open the Door!

When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I'll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart  

~ Pete Townsend, "Let My Love Open the Door"

As an unschooling parent I want my love to open the door to my kids' hearts & minds.  I want them to feel confident that my love will always be strong, supportive & unconditional.

When we open their lives to the amazing world we live in they have the opportunity to truly grow, learn and explore.  They don't hear "we're not studying that now", or "that's not the way to answer the question on the standardized test".  They explore deeply, they explore widely, & they explore using whatever tools they choose that helps them to understand what they are learning about.  

My love & respect for them tells them every day that I trust in their abilities & potential. 

Let your love open the door...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Are children capable of making 'good' choices?

We've heard many times over the past couple of weeks that, basically, if not forced, kids will always make a choice that is 'easiest' on them (with the implication that 'easiest' means the choice which requires the least amount of work, or is the most fun). The most common one is that kids will always watch TV instead of reading. It caused me to pay attention to some of the choices that my kids have been making (and wonder about how we ended up with so, so many books in the house). Here are some recent examples:

Options: Sleep late or get up early to help take the RV in to get serviced. Choice: go to the RV dealer.
Options: Anything on the menu at Applebee's. Choice: salad.
Options: Chocolate croissant vs. watermelon. Choice: watermelon.
Options: A donut at Dunkin Donuts. Choice: no thanks.
Options: Watch TV or help Mom by washing the dishes. Choice: wash dishes.
Options: Play the Wii or help dig a garden. Choice: dig the garden.

This by no means represents all the choices that my kids had the opportunity to make recently, but it helps to confirm my faith in my children. It's also not meant to assert that our kids make way better choices than any one else - just that they don't have to be forced to make them.

We've also heard the assumption that if kids aren't assigned chores, then they won't do any work around the house. Again, the implication here is that kids are lazy and will always take the easy way out. Some tasks that our kids do that have become the 'norm' even though we don't have chores:

Take out the garbage and recyclables.
Empty the dishwasher.
Put away the groceries.
Go grocery shopping.
Do her own laundry (my daughter).

Now, this isn't meant to be earth shattering information, or for that matter an exhaustive list of what our kids do around the house - it's meant to represent just small points. When we talk to the kids about chores (or more accurately, about helping around the house), it becomes a matter of choices - they understand that if the parents do all the work, then the parents will be tired and will have less time available to spend with the kids. They also understand that helping others feels good - and that helping those you love feels really good. This is something that they are quite able to learn all on their own, with the guidance of their parents.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Children are the center of our universe

'Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and "Good Morning America" contributor, questioned the unusual approach. "This to me is putting way too much power in the hands of the kids, something that we know kids can often find anxiety-producing, and it's also sending a message that they're the center of the universe, which I do not think is healthy for children," she said. '

The above lead in and quote were included during our first segment on GMA on our unschooling lifestyle. I was stunned reading this - I didn't know how to react; it seems so, so wrong. So many questions!

How much power does Ms. Murphy think we're putting in their hands, and at what point in their lives? Does she think that asking the kids to help decide on a location for a vacation at age 7, or to decide where we'll take a field trip at age 9, or what they want for dinner at age 12 is anxiety producing? How about deciding how they want to learn about a topic, or that they want to take a class, or that they want to read yet another book on Greek mythology? Or does she think we are asking them to set the entire family budget at age 5, or decide whether or not to pay the mortgage at age 10? And does she think that in a family where we spend so much of our time focusing on the kids' wants and needs that we can't spot any anxiety if our kids exhibit it? We know what the kids aren't comfortable deciding - they tell us. We don't say "you have to make a decision or else..." - it's so against the unschooling way of life. Perhaps she thinks we force them to make all of the decisions for the family? Like I said, it's a bit mind boggling.

The comment about the kids being the center of the universe was equally stunning. My kids are the center of my universe! (Well, they do share the stage with my wife.) They know it. It empowers them. It gives them confidence, allows them to take chances because they know we're here for them. They have also learned over time that all kids are (or should be) the center of their own parents' lives - so, they have come to understand that while their own family provides them with unconditional love and support, they can't expect the same from the rest of the world. Maybe Ms. Murphy would consider it shocking that the kids continue to learn and develop, and that they mature into understanding the difference between being the center of the whole universe as little children versus being the center of their parents' universe as they get older.

Our unschooling philosophy is based our understanding that people continue to learn throughout their entire lives. They learn about traditional school subjects; about interesting topics; and about living in a society. Our philosophy is also based on the parents providing guidance to their children - for example, helping them to understand that they are not the center of the entire universe. After all, our goal is to do our best for our kids, and to help them develop into successful adults. Why would we not teach them this? Why would we do something that would cause them anxiety?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And they sleep all day?

From The National Sleep Foundation:

Teens and Sleep


  • Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.
  • Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence -- meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
  • Teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best (for some, 8 1/2 hours is enough). Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
  • Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.


Not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can:
  • Limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life;
  • Make you more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems;
  • Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or being impatient with your teachers or family members;
  • Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain;
  • Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase use of caffeine and nicotine; and
  • Contribute to illness, not using equipment safely or driving drowsy.
Notice anything?  I sure do!  Everything known about normal sleep requirements for the average teenager is at odds with the typical high school schedule.  Why is this done to teens?  Because the schools' schedule can't adequately accommodate these needs.  One of the recommended solutions is to start school at a later time, but teens do not have a say in when they can attend school.

Unschoolers (& homeschoolers) are able to get the proper rest required for good physical, mental & psychological health when they are able to go to bed when they are tired & waken when they are ready.  

Does this mean they never get up early?  Of course not!  My children get up early when there is a reason - just like most adults.  How many adults get up early on the weekend or during their vacation "just because"?  Few - because unless they are getting up for a particular reason, they will stay asleep until they are naturally ready to waken.  Kids are no different.  So don't judge the night owls & assume laziness on their part - they are only doing what is natural.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What we wish the media shared about us...

We’ve been proactively exposing our kids for years to the many different ideas & things that exist in the world & they do choose to learn about interesting & complicated stuff, such as mythology, forensic science, geography, geology, opera, Shakespeare.  They have been reading since they were little - before school-age - & read every single day from numerous types of literature.
Kimi & Shaun can learn organically or formally - it’s their choice how they get their information.  They didn’t need classes to learn those things already mentioned as well how to swim, ski, hike, climb rock walls, read, figure out math problems, type, spell & write.  Things they have chosen to attend classes for include zoo school, a NASA simulation, sword fighting & historical weapons, gymnastics, Japanese culture, French, creative writing & robotics.  
There are a large number of radical unschoolers who are currently in college or already part of the work force.  They are positively engaged in society, not lost souls who can’t hold a job or take care of themselves.  Most 13 or 15 year olds don’t feel ready for college, no matter how they are being educated, so judging unschoolers differently is hypocritical.  Our kids will pursue whatever form of higher education they want because of specific goals they have set for themselves, not just because that’s what everyone is supposed to do.
There is a huge difference between no rules and no arbitrary rules.  When rules feel arbitrary people of all ages will fight back, sometime subtly, sometimes blatantly.  Our family “rules” are actually principles, with trust, respect & honesty always supporting the decision-making process.  As they internalize these principles, they are armed with the character tools needed to make logical, informed decisions and behave with honor and integrity, no matter how amazing or mundane the task.
Typical day?  Fortunately, unschoolers don't have a monotonous routine 5 days a week, 9 months out of the year!  "Typical" depends on the type of day.  

When we’re traveling, we have places to visit & things to do based upon whether the place is new to us or not.  This could include going to museums, zoos, national parks, cities, beaches, or musical or theatrical events.

When we’re home, the kids have various activities that they are engaged in, which could be done alone, with each other or us, or with a group of friends.  Activities include reading about, researching or exploring something that they are currently interested in, socializing with friends, working on projects, running errands or helping around the house.  Some days they have their classes to go to.  It varies & they are always busy & engaged in some activity.

Our kids are thoroughly engaged in their community - not being in school frees them to interact with many different people, doing different jobs, of different ages & backgrounds.  Their friendships & acquaintances provide them with a wider point of view of life styles that are different from their own.  The issues of bullying, cliques & negative peer pressure are not a part of their lives - they can't imagine why people would treat others that way.

Why can't learning be a joyful thing?  Why do so many people want children to "endure" - what does that say about their own lives?  And why do so many people think so little about the capabilities & work ethic of children, teens & young adults?  If so many are so lazy, well, were they unschooled or schooled - & if they were schooled (which we all know most were) then how can you attack unschoolers instead of the school system that begot these "lazy" adults?

I'm not saying the public school is all bad, even when it doesn't have a 100% success rate.  There are families that are not equipped, for various reasons, to unschool their children.  But the system is far from perfect.  Unschoolers are not perfect, but somehow we are expected to do better than what the school system is able to do.  I hope that those families looking for alternatives can find useful, factual information to help them make decisions that enhance their lives & the lives of their children.

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on

What powerful words from an extremely talented wordsmith!

Live, Love, Learn & Trust!

In Massachusetts, we celebrate Patriots' Day, a yearly holiday that commemorates the Battles of Lexington & Concord on April 19, 1775.  

On April 19, 2010, our family unexpectedly found itself in a different kind of battle - a battle to defend our reputation & the image of radical unschooling.  We had allowed a national news organization, Good Morning America, to film us in and around our home as we explained the educational & parenting philosophies that are encompassed by Radical Unschooling.  Due to some heavy editing & some staged scenarios, as requested by GMA, our family ended up looking like a bunch of lazy uninformed crazies.  The word "crazy" was even used during the intro by George Stephanopoulos.  Their version of our lives didn't resemble what we do at all!

Fortunately, after a huge uproar on their website, they realized that they could have done a better job & had done us a disservice.  We were contacted soon after the segment aired & were invited to fly to NYC to appear on their show the next morning - they wanted to provide us with a do-over.  With more than a little trepidation, we decided to go.

We are so glad we did!  Everyone we met at Good Morning America treated us with respect & kindness.  They had us stay at a nice hotel right next to the studios & comp'ed our meals while in the City.  Juju made a point of talking to all of us before we went on air & was very kind & encouraging.  Meeting George right before the segment, he was warm & self-deprecating.  I have to say, I was impressed that he was willing to figuratively "take it on the chin" for the bias they displayed the previous day.

Even though we only had a few minutes to address so many issues raised by our original segment, we think we were able to get at least some key points out there.  The last thing we want is to make it harder for other unschoolers to be respected & understood as they live their lives & care for their children.

We're hoping that this new media interest will lead to healthy dialogue about learning & education, respectful family relationships, & helping all children find their inner passions and abilities.

Thank you for reading - we hope you join in the discussion with an open heart & an open mind.