I recently had the opportunity to attend a free talk about unschooling by Barb Lundgren, a mother to three (now) adult unschoolers. Barb is also the founder of the Rethinking Everything Conference and the editor of Home Education Magazine, devoted entirely to unschooling.
The talk was at the co-housing community of Nyland in Lafayette, Colo., and was facilitated by Leslie Potter of Pure Joy Parenting.
I took some notes and would like to share a little bit about what I took away from the evening. It may seem a little disjointed, but I just wanted to put these thoughts “out there” for anyone who is interested in learning more about unschooling and/or how children raised with unschooling might “turn out.” Some of my thoughts which expand on Barb’s may be interspersed.
Regarding whether kids need to learn to do X, Y, or Z at a certain age
Traditional parenting assumes there is a certain time for each thing to happen in a child’s life. Unschooling, on the other hand, relies heavily on TRUST. You have to trust that your children will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.
- It’s not uncommon for unschooled kids to learn to read later than kids who go to school. One of Barb’s sons didn’t learn to read until he was a teen. Once he did, however, he read the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice in about six weeks.
- A boy attended a Sudbury School, where children are allowed do pursue whatever interests them. This boy was very interested in fishing and spent all of his time fishing and learning about fishing until he was 17. At age 17, his interests shifted. He left fishing behind and moved onto computers. He started his own computer software business and by age 21 sold it for $1 million.
- John Holt, an educator and author who coined the term “unschooling” was asked, What do ALL kids need to know (in terms of academic measure)? His answer: Nothing.
- This isn’t about academics, but is one of my own examples of kids learning to do something when they are ready. My kids were never interested in learning how to ride bikes. While many kids are on two wheels by age 5 or 6 or even 3 or 4, mine had no such interest. They rode their scooters and were plenty happy with them. Then all of a sudden this summer (at ages 7 and almost 10) they decided they wanted to learn to ride bikes. We got them each a bike (because they’d long outgrown the ones we got when we *thought* they’d learn to ride) and within about 5 minutes of my husband running up and down the street with them, they were doing it on their own. We’ve since gone for many a family bike ride.
Like I said previously, unschooling is based on trust. It is about living life on our own terms. Barb said, “You have to believe your child is here to enjoy his life.”
Being free leads to responsibility and accountability.
On Control and Anger
The number one reason people experience anger is that they feel like they are being controlled. This applies to children as well as adults. Think about it this way: If someone (your spouse, for example) told you it was time to get off your computer and go to bed and you were in the middle of something that was important to you, how would that make you feel? You would want your spouse to support you, not tell you what to do when and how to live your life. Your child probably feels similarly. Try to put yourself in your child’s position. Think about how you would want to be treated. Perhaps there’s a way to talk about it kindly without demanding they follow your orders ASAP.
Irritation opens the door for communication. If one member of the family is doing something that bothers another, have a family meeting. Involve everybody. Discuss it. Come to consensual solutions.
On Video Games
Video gaming used to stress Barb when her children first started playing them, but then she made it into a challenge of sorts. Could she do better than the video game? She’d ask her kids questions like, “Who wants to go camping?” or say, “Let’s have a party.” That way she was still getting quality time with her kids.
If you miss your child because they are spending so much time on their computer, Xbox, etc., let them know. The next time they aren’t playing a game, tell them you miss them.
It may be reassuring to some parents that Barb’s kids no longer play video games or watch TV as adults, but they watched a lot of TV as teens. Of course that’s not to say that all kids will stop playing games or watching TV as adults.
Because there is so much information available on the internet — between Google and YouTube, one can find the answer to most anything — the only reason college would be absolutely necessary is to become a traditional physician, an engineer or a lawyer.
Many unschoolers seek out entrepreneurial opportunities.
How Do Unschooled Kids Turn Out?
As mentioned previously, many unschoolers choose to forego college in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities.
In Barb’s case, one of her children is now a business owner, one is an organic farmer and one is the founder of a sustainable community. Barb pointed out to me, however, that it’s impossible to duplicate another’s unschooling experience. She said, “Unschooling is successful and deeply satisfying when deeply listening and connecting to one another. That will produce radically different experiences for each.”
Interested in learning about what other grown unschoolers are doing? The blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write has a page called Unschooling Grows Up: A Collection of Interviews by grown unschoolers.
Unschooling is based on TRUST. I can’t emphasize that enough.
You don’t have to feel secure in unschooling. You just need to “feel secure in loving your child.”
Barb’s book and website recommendations
- Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo
- Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently–Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Kyle Pruett, MD and Marsha Pruett, MD
- Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill
- Enjoy Parenting by Scott Noelle
More thoughts from Barb can be found here:
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