I trust my kids, and that is why we unschool

I believe that children are born ready to learn; and in possession of innate knowledge about how to go about that.

We can see it in babies from the very start! It is beautiful, fascinating, and entertaining to see how inquisitive and bold they are as they begin to understand the world. There is no such thing as a “school” for babies – we know that being loved, nurtured, and living among a community and family is how they pick up what they need to. We know that they are developing and growing because we can see their smiles and hear their laughter, and because we can see them changing and learning all the time.

Toddlers continue with vigor to examine their worlds, to explore, to test ideas, and to constantly learn and grow. We rush to keep up with them, and do all we can to support and facilitate their learning and their attempts to play.

So why is it that when a child reaches age four or five, it is deemed necessary for them to cease this kind of learning and enter school? For here, all of the inner knowledge children possess about learning is ignored and it is expected that they will now submit to someone else’s plans for how, what, and when to learn. They will no longer be allowed to be joyfully exploring, because now they are not trusted to know what is best for them. The enthusiasm and inquisitiveness that kids may have in playing and exploring is seen now as not good enough, as separate to real learning, and as something that they should do “just for fun” or when the “real learning” is over.

In my family, my children have never been to school. We chose to unschool instead. And the primary reason for this is that I deeply trust children. I deeply trust all children, and I have been able to give my own children the freedom of unschooling. That spark I see when they play and smile and are examining the world around them? I consider this to be the truest kind of learning.

I trust that my children know how to learn, and that they will learn naturally when I support them and provide them with a safe and opportunity-filled environment.

I trust that my children have an understanding of their own sleep and food needs.

I trust that my children are using their play for all manner of valuable skills and understandings, and I will allow them to play when they seek to do so.

I trust that my children are inherently capable and that they know themselves and their learning needs better than I do.

I trust that my children will be imperfect and that this is okay; that I don’t need to punish or otherwise train them with perfection in mind. They are always learning!

I trust that my children, while immersed in a culture and a community, will learn what they need to about that culture and community.

With such trust, my children have thrived and they continue to thrive.

This idea may sound radical if you have not heard about it before, but freedom is an incredible thing. And it benefits all children – including our neurodivergent kids about whom we frequently hear are disordered and ‘need to learn how to learn’. They don’t; they already know how to learn. They were born knowing how to learn. And they aren’t disordered just because they’re neurodivergent either.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, then perhaps Unschooling is something you can look into for your own family. I wouldn’t have paid much notice to these ideas before I had my own children and started observing how they thrived with freedom; but now I have seen how amazing unschooling can be. I am so glad we ended up on this path. I’m not sure what my family would have looked like without it, but I love the way it looks now.

I Trust My Kids




2 replies
  1. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Love this post (and all your work on unschooling in the Neurodiverse community!) I collect advanced degrees (Education, law, library, English…) and if we could unschool, anyone could. Wisconsin has “rules” about curriculum, but we keep it in the house and sometimes I might ask him some questions. Inevitably he’s taught himself (thanks, Stampy-of-the-Minecraft-fame, for teaching my science curriculum!) or he files that fact away so he knows it now; no need to harp on it. In the end, if he’s going to be good at anything, my son needs time. And he has to be the one to decide what he’s going to focus upon, so unschooling is SUCH a great fit. He’s selected video gaming and programming and he’s teaching himself what he needs to know and to do THAT he’s had to keep improving his reading skills (over 7th grade by 3 years old) and math reasoning to go along with it…and he does. It amazes me how he learns and he’s taught me that maybe I could, you know, stop collecting degrees at some point since I am more than capable of teaching myself. I trust him more than I trust myself…but I was schooled. It takes us longer to see it, I think. But I’m forever haunted by a Jonathan Kozol quote likening free schools (the open/democratic style…like unschooling in a school setting to group the kids) to the commandant at Auschwitz’s kids playing in the sandbox at their villa at the gates of the camp. I want all children, teens, and tweens to have access to what we do, and sometimes it’s so hard to get people to see that our school “system” would be better, were it freer. Maybe we start with Montessori or Waldorf, something that looks like structure, and then back off a bit until we have all free-and-democratic schools and/or unschoolers off on their own. But for now…all we can do is try to help some families opt out, I guess, and hope we can, together, figure out how we go back for the others, so to speak. But we have to go back for them, somehow.


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