A new school year has just begun here in Australia. Photographs of small children with neat hair, new uniforms and grinning faces have become expected on social media. At this time of year, I tend to reflect on the choices of my own family, in our life without any school at all. We live, and have lived for many years now, essentially as though school does not exist. We love, laugh, play and learn in the way other families treat weekends or holidays. We rejected arbitrary limits on media use, food, play, sleep, and all the other parts of my childrens’ lives that adults usually feel they have the right (and the obligation) to control and manage. The name for what we do, is unschooling. More specifically, Radical Unschooling.
Unschooling is a philosophy that believes children will learn all that they need to, when they live rich and interesting lives with involved and supportive caregivers. John Holt coined the term in the 1970’s. He observed children learning through their own direction, and noticed how differently they learned when they were free as opposed to being taught. Unschooling rejects that learning and fun are separate – learning is everywhere! It rejects that there is such a way as a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to learn. In this way, children are given freedom and deep respect, and the trust that they are responsible for their learning and that they know best what they need for themselves.
I want to welcome you if this is your first year stepping out into this way of living. I know how it feels to have little support (or none!) from friends and family, and people around you who may incessantly ask ‘Why aren’t they in school?’ or ‘Are they off on a sick day?’. I remember how it feels to constantly hear the assumption that school is the ultimate and best path to success, to social opportunity, to learning opportunity, and to lessons about ‘The Real World’. In addition to this, there are often those who take offence to the (actually very rare) decision to unschool or to home educate, having somehow decided that such choices are an inherent and automatic criticism of theirs or that you are participating in “mummy guilt” or “mummy shaming” for making such decisions for yourself and your family.
I want to say that I am sorry if you have had a rocky start or if these things have affronted you. I want to say that I am so happy for you that you have had the means and the courage to begin this kind of life. And I want to say that this way of living is AMAZING and I hope for all the beautiful things to come your way while you approach life in a new way.
I am here unschooling my own five children, and I support you! I respect you and your decisions! I know how hard it can be to challenge those views that you have held all your life until now, or until recently. I know the amount of time and thought it probably took you to reach this place.
I wish to welcome you to Unschooling. I cannot put into words how fantastic this way of life has been for my children and for my family. Freedom and play is something that I have come to learn is so valuable, and irreplacable too. I understood this logically already, which is why I chose Unschooling in the first place, but to have seen it in action over my childrens’ lives is something else. I want to shout to everyone I meet about how incredible this way of life is! I want to tell everyone that the things they are afraid of are not going to eventuate, and that you cannot possibly imagine how beautiful life can be when you unschool.
So, welcome! I am happy you are here on this path. Welcome to unschooling, and welcome to a new life. You cannot imagine the beauty that can come to your family when you trust and love, and trust and love some more. I send you wishes for wonderful times to come.
Respectfully Connected has several contributors who are unschooling their neurodivergent children. Here is a selection of their posts on unschooling if you are interested,
5 reasons we love unschooling, by Briannon Lee.
Unschooling Surprise, by Amy Bean.
This is what unschooling looks like, by Leia Solo.
Valuing My Children’s Interests, by Court Alice Thatcher.
The Magic of Radical Unschooling and Autism Acceptance, by Carys O-Sullivan.
Being Free. Why we choose to homeschool our Autistic son, by Briannon Lee.
She Played: my year learning unschooling, by Michelle Sutton.
Learning to Exhale, by Briannon Lee.
It’s Okay, by Carys O’Sullivan.
Searching for a better way to live, by Ally Grace.
Lighthouses, by Leia Solo.
Trust, by Cat Walker.
The Ship at Sea, by Meg Murry.
I trust my kids, and that is why we unschool, by Ally Grace.
Parenting, Unschooling, and Control, by Ally Grace.
Autistic, not broken, by Court Alice Thatcher.
I will not give him over, by Leia Solo.
Culture Shock, by Amy Bean.
Radical Unschooling – an entire lifestyle shift! by Ally Grace.