This is a guest post from Erin Wetzel. She is a painter and a poet who lives in Tacoma, WA with her husband and daughter. You can connect with her on instagram @ekwetzel

My decision to unschool arose, not from an idea I superimposed onto our life, but out of a fundamental shift in my worldview. I put my faith not in any external system, but in the ability of my child to know her own needs. This mindset permeates everything about how I interact with my daughter, including how I potty her and how I unschool her, even at age three.

The way our culture treats education is similar to the way we teach potty training. We suppose babies are incapable of controlling their bowels until they reach a certain age, and then we expect them to use muscles they have never been allowed to control.

Most cultures around the world potty their children as newborns. (I first learned about the practice of infant pottying from Dr Sarah J. Buckley’s book “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.” You can read an excerpt on the section about infant pottying here.) Because most cultures potty their children at birth, most cultures presuppose that:

  • Babies are capable of bowel and bladder control from birth.
  • Babies prefer to be clean; it is only through desensitization that they come to accept sitting in a dirty diaper.
  • Babies give cues to let you know when they need to relieve themselves. These cues can be reinforced by parents so that they become a form of communication.
  • Parents, in turn, can establish cues to let the baby know they understand the baby’s potty needs and that help is on the way.

Raising a child with an unschooling mindset follows similar assumptions:

In our home, we started communicating with Phoebe about her potty needs at birth by using cueing noises and by 11 months old, she kept her diapers dry at night and during outings. Supporting her in this way was fundamental to building trust and communication with her. However, pottying wasn’t just about avoiding dirty diapers. It was about encouraging Phoebe to take ownership of her own life. She was a curious, engaged, empathetic baby, and now she is flourishing as a three-year-old.

When given freedom and parental support, children will naturally make choices that are best for them. When a child is given the ability to control one area of her life, she naturally gains confidence that will help her with future development. This is why I believe the principles of unschooling start long before a child reaches an arbitrary “school age.”

80 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    Erin, this is great, thank you! I have just recently started reading about unschooling/homeschooling within the last year and am slowly un-educating myself in what I think I know (I was public schooled my entire life.) My wife and I just had a baby boy 4 months ago and fully intend on homeschooling him and even the other day I caught myself thinking “we have 5 years to figure out how to homeschool him.” It definitely starts at birth. Thank you for the book recommendation!

  2. jessica
    jessica says:

    I learned this upon the birth of my second child. After sending my first to school. A very interesting time indeed.

    Kids are smart. They don’t need control and being told what to do and how 24/7. They self regulate quickly if given the tools- I.e love.

    Helping a baby gain self confidence through sleeping, eating, emotional and general self reliance builds upon itself.

  3. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Every time I feel stressed about having to do something I ask myself if I really have to do it. Then I imagine that I’m lifting up in the air and I get an birds eye view (like the characters in Dragon Ball Z or, you know, Jesus in the ascension). Then I look at different countries and their cultures and realize that people survive without having to do what we do.

    It was very helpful when I decided to have a home birth. It’s not so helpful when I’ve been procrastinating on work stuff and then I have to do it no matter how boring. I guess I think of the Japanese who work crazy hours and have very little wiggle room at doing something for fun.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Then I look at different countries and their cultures and realize that people survive without having to do what we do.

      Haha exactly! Living in the uk then coming back was a breath of fresh air in the sense that it gave me a big new perspective on needs vs wants. I used to spend a lot of time shopping, driving a fancy car, and eating out (like most of america). That came to a halt when I realized my time and my kids time is much more valuable than consumption. (Not thay other countries aren’t this way- just to a much less extent, and this is my view personally)

      Also, education and community is just very very different abroad.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        So I want to add a couple of things on community and kids.

        While there, if my kiddos shoes were untied and I didn’t notice people would stop me. If they looked cold people would stop me. when I went into the er with a late night bump on the head with my 16 month old, the first question was why isn’t he asleep? (11pm)

        When I came back and did a late night run for medicine into a walmart, there were families with little kids everywhere (12 am) just rolling about shopping like no big deal. You would never ever see that in the UK. It just made me realize there are such big differences in community standards and cultural treatment of kids.

        • VegGal
          VegGal says:

          But isn’t it great that our families can not only be flexible enough to homeschool, but also flexible enough to allow kids to spend time with their parent who works odd hours and really only has time after 10pm? With homeschooling the child will be able to sleep in later than their counterparts.

  4. scifi
    scifi says:

    It’s interesting to see unschooling and infant pottying linked in this way, because reading the linked excerpt reminds me of nothing so much as Suzuki violin training, which is not thought of as a particularly free-form method for children to learn.

  5. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    For me, the irony of this post is that it come across a bit like a lecture, complete with bullet points.

    After I had my first kid I was a bit of a know-it-all parent, but then along came my second and really gave me perspective about how different kids can be with different capabilities. For instance there is a vast difference between my 2 in how much they care about not wallowing in their own poo.

    My husband was keen to try EC but I quickly ran out of energy with the clothes changing. I learnt most of those cultures where it is prevalent like India and parts of Africa are nice and warm most of the year – makes a big difference. I’m glad it worked out for you. On the other hand we had our ‘aha’ moment with baby-led weaning/solids where it really hit home that babies literally and figuratively do not need to be spoon-fed.

    I’d like to read more of what works for you, but perhaps made a bit more palatable with stories, vulnerability or humour (come on, tell us what your cueing noise for a poo was…)

    • julia
      julia says:

      yes, I want to be supportive, but I come here for the vulnerability and authenticity that I can relate to, and I have to agree that this post would benefit from some of that vulnerability or self-awareness — some sense that being the parent of one 3 year old doesn’t mean you know what is best for all children, that parenting efforts have roller coaster paths and mixed outcomes, and that you recognize you’re learning along with us rather than schooling us. Looking at your blog, there’s more of that there, so I wonder why it isn’t coming through in your posts here. Do you feel like your role here is to know more than your readers and educate us? It’s okay if you know less and come across that way while sharing stories about learning the unschooling ropes that we can relate to.

      You’re drawing a connection between EC and the fact that your daughter is flourishing, curious, empathetic, etc., but what do you suppose all of your readers are thinking who also have kids with those qualities but didn’t EC? (which is probably most of the readers here). How can we relate to what you’re saying? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m a jaded gen x-er and have been through the mommy-blogger/mommy-wars thing and back again already, and have no interest in revisiting it.

      Your parenting philosophy sounds a bit like RIE. If you haven’t looked into that yet it’s something you might enjoy. It’s an infant parenting approach, but I think it can be a useful way to think about parenting beyond infancy.

      I appreciate what you have to say about giving kids control of their own lives, even at a young age. It is easier said than done. What have been your challenges in learning how to do this with Phoebe?

      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Julia – Your feedback is really valuable, and I will take it to heart for future writing…both here and on my own blog. You’re right: this post lacks vulnerability. That was kind of an accident. I got all caught up in my thoughts with the parallels I was seeing between EC and Unschooling.

        I know I don’t have everything figured out. Haha! Far from it! I’m intimidated by the prospects of schooling my child at home in the coming years. But we did infant pottying well, and, since there are parallel principles behind infant pottying and unschooling, the one gives me hope for the other.

        Of course, there are many paths that people can take to arrive at the decision to unschool. And no one path is any less valid than another. All we have is our stories, our convictions, and our hopes for the future.

        And, for the record, our cueing noise for “poop” was a grunt!

        I’ll have to save my challenges with Phoebe for another post.

        Thank you for your comments. I look forward to more discussions with you!

        ^_^ Erin

    • Meghan
      Meghan says:

      Yes! When I was a mother of one, I heard someone say that their second child taught them that they knew absolutely nothing about being a parent. I had no idea what they meant until I had my second, and then my third! Children are so different, no one way is the right way.

  6. sarah
    sarah says:

    I never believe people who give parenting advice and only have young children. How can they know what they are talking about when the “test subject ” has not lived long enough to prove it? All 3 year olds are fun and confident. The only 3 year olds that are not have clingy parents that create low confidence. If she was writting a post that talked about early potty training produces self confidence and could say, “My 16 year old is very confident because we… “Then I would believe it because most 16 year olds are not confident. How can a parent know the success of unschooling on a young child when it is their only child? A parent with older kids who tells me success with younger kids is believeable.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Funny enough, just yesterday I was picking up my son from a play-gym class. My other, younger, son ran past and into the gym excitedly thinking he was going to play. Unfortunately, that was not the case and he became upset.

      A mom of a 5 and 8 year old turned to me and said, reassuringly, “look, I also have a set of teenagers, I know exactly how it is.” – in regards to meeting the needs of older and younger kids at the same time.

      This was great. This made my day. I think we wallow in a lot of details (anxiety, am I doing this right) and the perspective of a parent that also has been through the years was just what I needed.

      I think, though, the author is proclaiming more that we don’t need to stick to cultural norms if they are not beneficial to our children. If we listen to our children and their cues, life will be easier for everyone.

    • DB
      DB says:

      LOL! Exactly. If you have any kind of childcare forget it. I like the main point though about encouraging folks to break the rules and do what works for them and their kids/families.

      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Jonathan R & DB –

        You might be surprised to learn that we DID have babysitters, two different ones, and they were on board with our style of infant pottying! Other parents have told me their babysitters were willing to do infant pottying, as well.

        Erin

  7. Logan
    Logan says:

    Interesting excerpt. This is how I potty trained my toy poodle. It’s nice to know this method works on babies as well.

  8. susan
    susan says:

    I suppose it might be too cheeky to start off by saying let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here, but I’ll say it anyway.

    Fair enough if you don’t agree with the tone the author chose for her post (authoritative rather than relational), but she didn’t make this post for a group writing critique, I’m pretty certain. Instead she’s pointing out the benefits of allowing kids to live self-directed lives and how we can start that on a micro level from the earliest age.

    While I didn’t do this kind of potty training with my own kids (ages 17, 15 and 14) I most definitely have let them call as many shots as seemed developmentally appropriate over the years. And that’s still the case now, even as we’re winding our way through these “wild” teenage years (which are turning out to be not so wild so far, I suspect because they’ve been empowered to make their own choices all along).

    When a stranger asks me if the kids have always been homeschooled (usually in a somewhat incredulous tone), I always give one of two replies, depending on how snarky I’m feeling at the time. My more polite answer is “Yes, they’ve been homeschooled since birth” and my more provocative reply is “Yes, that’s correct, they’ve never been institutionalized.”

  9. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I’m noticing the pattern that every time Erin guest posts people let it all hang out and they get nitpicky and become assholes.

    They don’t do that with Penelope or Cassie.

    You’re being as preachy by telling the world that parents of only one kid, and only one kid under three have zero wisdom to offer to your more mature and definitely sage-status in parenthood.

    It gives me second hand embarrassment.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      It’s obvious to me also that people are irritated by Erin’s guest posts.

      In this case, however, I’d put that on Erin’s shoulders.

      Many homeschooling parents have felt a bit of annoyance when parents of toddlers announce “I’m homeschooling too!” No, no, you’re not. If you’re staying at home with your toddler, you’re just doing what was the norm in this society for generations. You’re not homeschooling, you’re just not sending your kid to daycare.

      Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great idea to keep kids home from daycare, and I wish more people did it. There might even be some correlation (though among my peers I haven’t observed any) between not sending toddlers to daycare and homeschooling of school-age children. But taking care of your own toddler or preschooler and filing to remove your children from mandated schooling are different things. The overwhelming majority of kids who stayed at home with mom as toddlers and preschoolers still go to school.

      This was pointed out to Erin – sometimes kindly, sometimes not so gently – after her first post here. One would think that a person hoping to join an affinity group would reflect on her audience and their response. But here is another post, conveyed in the same preachy, self-satisfied tone as the previous one, and with even less to do with the subject of homeschooling. It’s not collaborative, not responsive, and not relevant. Given the previous post and its reception, it seems a spiteful shot across the bow of the commenters and actual homeschoolers here.

      I doubt there’s any correlation between this kind of pee-pee training and homeschooling of school-age children. That certainly hasn’t been demonstrated by the author. All of the other parents I’ve met who did this sent their kids to school. Portraying this infant elimination decision as part of a decision to be made five or more years later is not only absurd but hubristic.

      Personally, I doubt very much that the author will continue to keep her child at home once she reaches school age. To do so, for such an extroverted child, would require building a peer group for the child to develop her social proclivities. To do that would require sensitive, considerate, and substantial networking among other parents who are homeschooling. That’s hard enough for an introvert, I can tell you. For an introvert who doesn’t care about the values and opinions of her desired affinity group, it’s likely impossible.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Everyone remembers that psych. study they did where people would administer higher an higher electric shocks when their identity was concealed, right?

        I would take your comment more seriously if your info was available so we could go online and find out the kind of content you’ve been putting out there thus putting yourself in the line of criticism.

        There’s nothing in this comment that shows anything solid worth of criticism in Erin’s writing and opinions. Just that you dislike that she takes such a bold stance for what she believes.

        She believes she’s unschooling. You say that her kid is too young and that her efforts and her opinions don’t count. That they would only count if they fulfill some check list that you have arbitrarily put together yourself to measure all the parents willing to speak about their parenthood experience.

        Second, you say that essentially she brought upon herself all the hate because SHE DARED! be herself upon the masses once again even though they once told her to stop it (some nicely some others not so nicely). She should’ve learned from the beginning shouldn’t she? she should’ve shut up and not share what is working for her family and what isn’t working for them!!!

        Also, your prediction that she will stop unschooling because of a list of reasons you have come up all by yourself with no help whatsoever, without even consulting with the person in question to see if that’s even a concern of hers…..it’s sad! Are you also the kind of person that goes to weddings and says (not so quietly) “I give them two years tops!”

        All of these are your options and the fact that you have so boldly stated them I find them repelling the same way that you find Erin’s post enraging. BUT the huge difference is that we don’t even know your first and last name. We have a picture of Erin. We have a glimpse into her life. We see her questioning what her role as a parent in unschooling is. We notice she tries to weight how to best provide a great life for her child as well as for her when priorities and needs contend.

        All I gather from these petty comments is that you guys dislike the way she talks and the way she decides to go about life. Which teaches me nothing and helps with nothing. You sing the same song that everyone else since the dawn of time.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think you’re taking the criticisms of Erin’s writing a but personally.

          There is a huge deal of wisdom that comes from parents with more kids or older kids. They’ve had more time. That’s just fact. That doesn’t negate single children parents or younger children parents wisdom. It’s a different context and perspective.

          Older children or more children, provides a broader context on which to base writing through the compounded experience.

          I think the headline is 100%, as the parent child relationship starts from day one (or in utero). And naturally progresses.

          What I think is substandard is the writing and how that relates to the message as shown through the comments.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          This exchange makes me a little sad, two of my favorite commenters on this blog.

          Dissent is ok in all conversations, that is how freethinking people operate.

          If as a writer you can’t handle a little confrontation then you are in the wrong business.

          I would hope that if any of us were asked to guest post that we would still be respectful in our dialogue, even if someone hated what I had to say, I’d be ok with it.

          Also, some of us like contributing, we are real people, but we like to stay anonymous for a variety of reasons. I hope that isn’t held against anyone… :(

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            My reasons for being anonymous are to protect my family. My husband has the highest government security clearance there is; it has to be renewed every 5 years. I don’t want one of my flippant remarks from when I contribute here to ever be held against him. But I’m still real. Every piece of advice I have given, every story about my life… it’s all real. Does that make sense? I’m not making up stories about my life on a homeschool blog.

          • Karelys
            Karelys says:

            I think your anonymity never bothered me because you always made a point to add something to the conversation and have always been respectful. Even when you disagree with people you critique the points they present rather than degrade them as people (by way of ragging on the thoughts they shared).

            I think that writers should anticipate being people antagonistic. But I’ve grown attached to the commenters and the forum. I feel like this is my space too and if someone came to my favorite coffee house and started graffitting the walls and throwing garbage everywhere id be so upset. If they personally attacked the baristas I love rather than respectfully address a problem with the coffee and then the barista quit because the work environment was garbage I’d feel that I lost because some other patron was out of line.

            Perhaps I’m the one out of line here.

            I felt defensive and scared that Erin would think “I’m just not ever positing for Penelope again because the commenters hold a disrespectful culture in there.”

            I used to love the conversation in other forums until the culture of the commenters turned unbearable and disrespectful, and truthfully, not a placed id walked away feeling challenged but better because of it.
            I want to be better and be compelled to change my mind and attitude when people show me the better way. I don’t want to walk away feeling like I never want to come back because of the disrespect with zero weight worth of good criticism.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I see what you mean. I love this group of commenters and I love when we can all collaborate.

          Maybe it’s just my personality, but I really didn’t think anybody’s comments were out of line… well except for the toy poodle comparison.

          I get it though. I guess I thought it was obvious that Erin’s posts were geared for Gen Y, that’s why I didn’t feel the need to comment, because I couldn’t relate to any of it. But I love Erin, and I love her comments on Penelope’s blog. But I know who her audience is… and it’s not me. But that’s ok, I’m not gonna get all uptight about it.

          I’m glad I get to stay anonymous :) I kinda like my handle.

      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Dear Commenter –

        I know you have a lot of problems with what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. On the one hand, I think your points are valid. My tone *was* preachy in this post. That was kind of accidental…I was trying to be logical and focus on my thoughts and ideas. My intent was to draw parallels between infant pottying and unschooling. For someone in my shoes, all I’ve known is age 0-3, and my only schooling experiences are my own experiences in public school. To be blunt: unschooling scares the crap out of me. The more I hear people talk about it, the more I believe in it. The more I believe in it, the more I know I MUST do it…and that scares me even more. So I look for something to build my faith on. For me, I know infant pottying worked. I see the evidence: when I give my kid freedom, she makes good choices. So that gives me hope for the future, that we might actually be able to unschool, or do our own version of homeschooling. My main purpose with this post was to explain why I believe that I can call it unschooling when my kid is under age 5: because unschooling has more to do with your worldview and the way you approach the parent-child relationship than it has to do with what age your kid is or what activities you’re participating in. I could have said all of that better.

        On the other hand, you were kind of mean. But I don’t hold it against you. I don’t know if I’m a scapegoat for other people who you are frustrated with, or if you truly just don’t like me. But it’s ok. I signed up for this when I sent Penelope my blog posts. I know that people who disagree with me will leave comments, and, frankly, I’m glad. It challenges me to address what I believe and how deeply I believe it.

        If I couldn’t hold onto my convictions after a few blog comments, I’d stand no chance when it came time to defend my choices and beliefs in the Real World.

        ^_^ Erin

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          Is it odd that I like this response more, and find it both more open and more reasonable, than your original post?

          You’re right: I was unnecessarily rude in my last paragraph. I should have phrased it differently.

          I am happy that your post has resulted in so many constructive comments for you. I could have been more constructive. Here’s an attempt:

          I recommend you look into developing your local, face-to-face homeschooling/unschooling social group sooner rather than later.

          Your participation in online forums and blogs can help your understanding of what you’re doing, but only a strong social network can help an extroverted child thrive in homeschooling. If you don’t provide that, your kid is likely to want to go to school instead of staying home with you.

          As another introverted parent of an extroverted child, I can tell you that you should be ready for an amount of being out there with your kid that will be uncomfortable for you at times. It’s like being a swim team parent, or head of the PTA, or both. Some days you come home exhausted from a five hour playdate – and she cries and goes manic and clingy because she just wants to go back out again.

          Just because you like reading and art projects and quiet walks in the woods doesn’t mean your kid will. For an extroverted child, socializing is a key part of the learning they want most to do, and respecting our children’s needs and desires – the foundation of unschooling – requires that we provide them with adequate opportunities for this learning.

          About half the kids I’ve met whose parents declared their intention to homeschool them at 3 or 4 went to kindergarten nonetheless. Some of them started off being very evangelical about homeschooling, all fired up from reading Gatto or someone. Fervor does not make conflict disappear.

          In many cases, the choice was precipitated by the arrival of another child. Why does this happen? For many, having an infant results in spending much more time at home en famille; that conflicts heartily with a 5 year old extrovert’s desire to be out and about all day long, and the easiest solution is often to send the kid off to school. Be prepared for this conflict if you have a second child.

          I know scores of kids and dozens of families who homeschool, including more than a dozen kids just in my extended family. Some are curriculum-focused, some are religiously centered, and some are unschooly. About 80% of the homeschooled kids I know, from any subset, went to school or preschool at least for a year or two. I know several families who only start homeschooling after preschool, and several others who only homeschool up through sixth grade (and some who do both).

          I know it’s crushing for a parent to be pushed away by their children, but it happens to most of us sooner or later. It’s especially sad when it’s the parent’s very enthusiasm the children find smothering. One of the hardest parts of homeschooling is moderating one’s own enthusiasm in the face of our child’s tangential development. Unschooling isn’t a magic wand that makes that difficulty disappear.

          I can recommend another read for you, from a mother who seems to do a great job integrating younger children into a homeschooling lifestyle. Links here get a commenter jailed, so google “city kids homeschooling.”

          Good luck.

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            Commenter,

            What a great comment. Suits the name. :) I couldn’t have said it better.

            This is exactly what happened with me. Extroverted 5 year old Nad pregnant with number 2 (introvert). I had a huge need to stay home with the baby and figured my older son would be in school, problem solved. Until the bullying, drill Sargent learning, and teacher emotional abuse.

            Then I started searching for answers.

            It is hard to have two completely different children and at different ages.

            Finding the balance is key and something I honestly still struggle with!

  10. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    PS. you guys! I wanted to do the Elimination Communication thing. I bought the book, I armed myself with noticing patterns, etc.

    We caught a few pees here and there. Then I was too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed to care that much.

    So I just gave up.

    The offspring is almost 2 now. There’s a certain pressure to potty train him. Sometimes I feel lazy and think that the $40/month we spend on diapers is worth not having the added project on our plates. Sometimes I am more determined and we try to use the baby potty and he likes it. Then has a fit of rage all day long.

    I don’t know why potty training is such an emotional thing for kids. But it is. Whatever. I figure that he’s given all the signs that he’s ready and he’s not mentally or emotionally ready to make the leap.

    I am waiting patiently with diapers at hand for when he grows tired of having to wear diapers. For right now, it seems unnecessary and kind of mean to force him to get rid of his “security blanket.”

    So maybe my lazy/observant way of doing things in the poopy department is actually Elimination Communication. I am watching my child closely and always inviting him to go on the potty. If he doesn’t feel ready we don’t push it. We wait for his cues.

    And yeah, bite me! I think this is the heart of unschooling. So GASP! I think we’re unschooling or not-yet-2-year-old that has never stepped foot in preschool!

    We’re putting into practice what unschooling is about – offering options to the kid and letting him choose when he’s ready or how much he’s ready for.

    And if you’re still with me read this: there are a lot of changes happening in our family. The child is growing too fast and sometimes demonstrating knowledge and judgement for a 3 year old. It’s understandable that he still wants his security blanket. It’s understandable that growing up is scary and confusing and he doesn’t know what’s going on. So we’re not going to force it. Just like we’re not going to force math or anything else until he’s ready to take it all in.

    • TLH
      TLH says:

      So if this is what “unschooling” is all about, then I guess I (and most of the people) I know unschooled our toddlers to age 5. And technically, I’m still unschooling my kids in all other areas of their lives, except for when they are actually in school. Right? I just thought it was an approach to parenting that worked for our family. Who knew I was an unschooler? :-)

  11. Suzy
    Suzy says:

    My experience is that many parents arrive at unschooling from attachment parenting, and that there are, indeed, some philosophical similarities between the two. However, elimination communication is not the only gentle/attached way to deal with babies’/toddlers’ toileting needs. One does not need to practice EC in order to attachment parent any more than one has to be a vegan, or anti-plastic, or an anarchist, though some who attachment parent are all of those things.

    I have no problem with the guest poster pointing out some similarities between unschooling and attachment parenting; however, as an experienced unschooling parent whose oldest child is about to turn eleven, I can say that having what it takes to attachment parent does not guarantee that one will be successful at unschooling, and thus would caution against using that term until one is sure one is actually doing unschooling well. It does nothing for the public perception of unschooling to see lots of parents of three-year-olds say, “Look! I’m unschooling!” only to put their kids in school one or two or three years later. It contributes to the widespread perception that unschooling is idealistic and doesn’t work in practice.

    There are a number of reasons why unschooling fails, and why parents who are sure they are committed unschoolers give up. For example, one cannot successfully unschool while simulatenously making sure that the child does not “fall behind” his or her peers. I’ve seen a number of unschooling parents put their kid in school at the point where this divergence occurs. It is easy to feel good about unschooling when others perceive one’s child as “advanced,” and more difficult when others become very vocal and critical about a seven-year-old not reading yet, or a ten-year-old not knowing multiplication tables.

    Another problem that often interferes with unschooling success is a parent’s very strong political priorities. For example, parents who are uncomfortable with their children liking popular plastic toys (or screens, or meat, or whatever) sometimes pressure their children to adopt their agendas. Then the kids decide school is way better than being judged and denied the opportunity to experience things that they are genuinely interested in.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I’m unfamiliar with unschooling failing. So that was a good thought to point out and I’m going to go ruminate.

      Truth is, as you said, unschooling takes the measuring stick that is applied in public school and then another is used. It could be the parents principles or worldview or who know what.

      But if you’re measuring your kids’ growth and success the same way it’s done in regular school then I’m not sure that it’s unschooling. Mainly because to measure it so one must place the kid in a certain time frame for her to accomplish reading or writing or something else. I think that’s the main difference.

      Some parents say they unschool and then put their kids in school. Is that failure? Who can say. Truth is that there can be many reasons to do that. Like letting the child try out the school environment and are if they like it and are willing to put up with the demands of it to receive the benefit they perceive. That’s such a big unschooling step. Letting your kid choose to go to school and find education through that method. I bet it must be so hard for parents who are convinced school is bad.

      I don’t think unschooling removes failure from the equation because the goal to achieve is something else. There’s just a different scale to measure it.

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Suzy – I really appreciated your comments, and I feel like I learned from your insights. Here is my dilemma: I am convicted that I will unschool or do a mixture of homeschooling/unschooling. I’m still really new to this all, and, while I have some ideas on what “school” would look like in our home, the truth is: I don’t really know! When I see evidence of something in my experience that help me believe in unschooling principles, I get really excited and want to share my insights. But, if I’m not supposed to call it “unschooling,” what then should I call it?? I do not ask this in a snarky way. I’m seriously asking: as a parent with more experience, when you see me talking about my daughter learning things and being self-directed, and me learning how to cope, emotionally, with her learning in a completely different way than I was raised, how can I talk about that while still respecting “true” unschooling? My aim is not to be offensive to “true homeschoolers” in my posts, but to give hope to others like me who are grappling with the conviction to pursue unschooling while our children are still under 5 years old.

      Thank you,
      ^_^ Erin

      • Suzy
        Suzy says:

        I would just say, “We are seriously considering homeschooling or unschooling, and are learning as much about those as we can.” Or, “We are looking into homeschooling/unschooling.”

        I always feel a twinge when someone says they are planning to do a combination of homeschooling and unschooling. This is not because I want to trademark the word unschooling, or rigidly control its definition, but because I think that keeping one foot in each stream keeps one from ever really swimming.

        We started as eclectic homeschoolers, but there was this tension between our unschooly philosophy and our fears: I would have periodic freak-outs and push stuff on my kids that they didn’t want to do. This led to us trying a private school three years in, because the fears got the best of us. It was pretty much a complete disaster, and only lasted seven weeks, but had the benefit of driving us to embrace radical unschooling, no holds barred. At that point the learning really started to flow, in this very rich and satisfying way, and our lives became much more peaceful because the fears were gone. We knew that we could do better than all of the available alternatives. We really trusted the process.

        We are now at the point where people regularly make comments about how my kids are thriving and are different, in a good way, from schooled kids. They each have very deep passions and are free from the peer pressure stuff that seems so rampant in those middle/tween ages. They are really decent people and are very good friends to have, which I see as kind of the ultimate success.

        If I could go back in time, I would have confronted my unschooling fears earlier. My specific hangups were my fears about too much screen time, my book worship (some lingering idea from English grad school that reading was superior to just about all activities), and my desire to have three early readers. I remember the day I knew I would be okay if my second child didn’t read until she was twelve. That was the day I knew I truly got unschooling. (She ended up reading at 8 1/2, by the way. My eldest read at 5 and my third is not yet reading fluently at 7, and I have zero concern).

  12. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    I’ve always said parenting is one of the most competetive endeavors there is!

    One thing for sure, anyone who reads, comments, or guest posts on this blog, is probably a stellar parent.

    A parenting revolution in this country is badly needed. Once that happens, I believe a quiet public school revolution would be inevitable.

  13. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    I think there can be a sort of unschooling attitude versus schooling attitude with very young kids. With my oldest son I was doing alphabet flashcards and phonics programs from a very young age. It was fun for me and I thought he needed it to be successful. Even with all my effort he still became a good reader at age 6 when he started playing video games and wanted to read the help guides to learn all the tips and tricks. My 2nd son I did not “work” with at all. He taught himself to read at age 4 with the iPad. I was very surprised to discover he knew how to read and it has made me realize that kids will learn about the things that interest them. My attitude with my younger kids is much more relaxed than the “schooling” attitude I held with my oldest son. I have been home with all of them and an attentive parent but I pushed my own agendas much more with the oldest.

  14. VegGal
    VegGal says:

    I’ll say here what I said to my friend. I spent way too much of my pregnancy in the bathroom. I deserved a two to three year break! Potty training at three was quick and easy, yes it put me back to spending half my day in the bathroom, but only for about a week. :)

  15. jessica
    jessica says:

    Really interesting conversation in the comments.

    Do any readers have an only child above age 6 that unschools?

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      My daughter is 8 going on 9. We have met a few families with one child. We know a couple with girls in the 8/10 range and several with boys in the 10/11 range.

      It is SO much easier to coordinate things with other families with just one child.

      I definitely do more than my fair share of driving to make things easier for the parents of more than one child. I have been known to go and pick up my daughter’s friend and take her back (even if it is 30 minutes each way) to ensure that they have some time to themselves. It is so hard to work the dynamics when a younger sibling is around (all of her friends are the oldest.) I was the younger sister, so I definitely feel for the child who may get left out.

      But, I digress. Did you have any questions in particular?

  16. karelys
    karelys says:

    Have any of you seen/read Ender’s Game?

    I just watched it this weekend and it sparked lots of thoughts re unschooling.

    First off, I see a few commenters who say things like “oh so if that’s unschooling then that means we unschool outside of school hours!”

    Which got me thinking, “what’s the point of unschooling? and what’s the point of sending the kid to school?”

    I think that can answer a lot of questions for everyone on either camp. If you send your kid to school, why are you doing that? If you’re not, then why? if you use a set curriculum, why? and if not then why not?

    The movie portrays a lot of principles I am a fan of. I dislike the idea of children being treated as less than capable of understanding and developing skills and abilities like adults. I think every kid has a certain capacity in different areas but sometimes we rob them of the opportunity to develop really well because we think the point of childhood is to dink off and be happy.

    I think you can be happy and also be grounded and develop the ability to make logical well-rounded decisions.

    I don’t want to make this comment super long. But I wanted to share that just asking myself “what’s my goal/point for unschooling?” really flipped the issue on its head for me. After all, if the kid decides to go to regular school after much consideration, I think that counts as unschooling because the kid is choosing how to go about his own education.

    For right now, my curriculum looks more like a set of values that not only do I want to instill in my kids but I want my husband and I to grow into and get better at every day. Like making sound logical decisions, think clearly under pressure, resilience, leadership, etc.

    I seriously recommend the movie (since I haven’t read the book). I was confused since it looked very Disney from the beginning but once I got past that, I really enjoyed the core of it and it gave me a lot to chew on for the rest of the insomniac weekend.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I’ve read the book, own the movie but don’t have any time to watch movies currently. The book is really good. He is 6 years old in it though, and the movie really tries to be family friendly (from what I have read in reviews). Who wants to imagine their 6 year old being tortured with the monitor being removed and killing that bully kid… the book is so great though… I recommend reading it. And it’s a series too.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        In the movie the kid looks to be about 12 or so. When he kills the bully is a punch in the gut.
        I could see how staying faithful to the book on the age range would make it harder to watch.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          The book and movie are very different from the reviews I have read. The dialogue is very much written for little boys in the book. Things happen in it, like him killing other kids that don’t happen in the movie… I loved the book though, and I love Harrison Ford… so I’ll go in with low expectations when I watch the movie.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      So are you more thinking that unschooling is a state of mind rather than a sub-set of homeschooling? I think the issue that others may have is that because we are mostly thinking that unschooling is a form of homeschooling, and homeschooling is what is done when your kid doesn’t go to regular school and receives their education at home from their parents. But maybe unschooling can have more definitions than that. Maybe it is like I said, a sub-set of homeschooling. But maybe it is also, not putting your kids in daycare and starting the path from birth. Maybe it can be accomplished like some parents do with their kids that are in school… they homeschool them after school.

      So then that puts us all back into saying we’re homeschoolers. Maybe pre-school counts for that now because of how common place it is for parents to send their kids to pre-school and daycare… I didn’t realize that’s what was going on. I used to say I stayed home with my kids till school aged… but maybe it’s more than that now.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I used to think of unschooling as “not school.”

        I began considering homeschooling so I could make sure to let my child choose his pace and to make sure that our family wasn’t a slave to school schedules. Then I realize my thinking shifted and unschooling for me was about self-directed learning. Which made me very uncomfortable but I realized that my assumptions about people and children in general were the very base for why parents decide to unschool: they trust their children and see them as full humans to develop on their own with unfailing curiosity.

        So I decided to throw myself at providing the best environment I could so it could be fertile ground for a kid to develop into a successful individual.

        Lately I became convinced that even if a kid and his parents chose regular school as a tool to pursue education. Even full time school. That’s still unschooling. Or self-directed learning.

        So I would say that for me, unschooling is not a subset of anything. Instead, it’s a paradigm shift that occurs in people and it breaks down the barriers for education. It encompasses all modes of education and people end up choosing the tool they want rather than being slave to the system or the tool.

        A child that understands self-directed learning and why his parents are giving the family that opportunity, is not a part of the school system even if he choses full time schooling. That child wields the tool, uses school and plays the game to advance and realize his very own goals.

        Once you make the paradigm shift you’re not confined to the camps of curriculum, homeschooling or private school versus public school. You realize there are rules everywhere you go and the set of rules are a blessing. They are the rungs on the jungle gym and once you see the whole panorama you use the rungs to your advantage. They are not an obstacle. The obstacle becomes the way.

    • Logan
      Logan says:

      Ender’s game is really a thinly disguised novel about preparing children for military school. By weaving a sci-fi heroic aspect to it, it prepares its teen audience for entry into government service. Underneath the glamour, and the POV of a young child, it’s really the story of a wayward 18 year old who decides to enlist for the Army then realizes that life isn’t about playing fair. There’s another popular teen book with a similar plot line by Kristen Miller called “How to lead a life of crime.”

      I think part of the problem with homeschooling children is that most parents aren’t equipped to be the best teachers in all subjects. There is something about being put into an external situation where one is exposed to many different variables that makes her progress at a higher stage than if one lived comfortably under the tutelage of her parents 24/7. From my experience growing up, it seemed that homeschooled kids were often slower than other kids and often had parents with overbearing, controlling tendencies who prevented them from becoming independent thinkers.

      Of course, that isn’t to say that public school in America isn’t exactly ideal, but in Asian nations it is much worse, despite their higher test scores. They are creating a population of slave laborers who can only think in terms of multiple choice answers. I think education in America is going through a radical change, and the outdated ways of classroom learning, test taking and knowledge based on books written by the same publisher are going to be revolutionalized in this decade.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I think Ender’s Game is not a thinly disguised novel about a naive young soldier that grows his own set of morals. I think it’s exactly that very bluntly.

        As a big defender of homeschooling I am quick to point out that your argument as for why you believe it doesn’t work can be flipped and show why it does work. For every overbearing parent that uses the home as a shelter from the world there are many parents who train their children for life very well.

        Normally, these sheltering parents exist in the homeschooling and regular school environment. And stifles kids.

        What I loved about Ender’s Game is that it paints a picture of what happens if we start treating children at their full potential rather than short-change them because they are only 6 years old and we believe that a 6 year old can only handle so much.

        I remember being young and asking questions and my mother’s go to answer was “you’re too young to understand. When you’re older I will explain to you.”

        It still angers me.

        Of course I grew up with this quiet assumption that life would be grand once I became an adult. I got rid of that mentality but sometimes I still get moments when I look around my clean house and a peaceful heart and think “I’ve made it. I’ve become a bonafide adult.”

        I realize that all those things “security, self-sufficiency, self-control, good critical thinking, etc.” can be forged in a child from a young age. Why wait until they are adults? raise the bar from an early age and they will step up to the challenge!

        I will end my comment with this. Before my kid could walk very well I left a box of blue berries on my table. Saying he loved blue berries is an understatement.

        I was cleaning while he was on the floor playing and sometimes holding on the chair. I figured he was safe.

        Five minutes later I come back to find out that somehow he had figured out a way to climb the table to get to the blue berries and figured out a way to get down to the floor and open the box (I thought it was too hard to do for a baby).

        He ate the entire box and had a bad rash for a week.

        That moment is indelibly etched in my mind. I realized that as long as I place metaphorical blue berries just outside his reach, just enough to give him a good challenge, he will grow because he will figure out his way there. Even if he doesn’t have it in him yet, he wants the blue berries so bad he’ll just figure it out.

        And that’s why I want to homeschool.

        I am preparing myself in case one day he comes to me and says “I want to try going to regular school.” I will hate it. But I realize that if he was gifted and wanted to play violin like Penelope’s kids I would make the great effort and sacrifice to facilitate that. So I am preparing myself to be willing to support him in case this is the route he wants to go.

        • Logan
          Logan says:

          I think your example with your child and blueberries really is indicative of the way all children react and think, and in our society we underestimate what they are capable of. Bertrand Russell says in “Principia Mathematica” that “children are smarter than adults” in many ways because they haven’t been desensitized to ignore their intuition.

          Perhaps so much of parenting is allowing the child to make his own mistakes, to make his own decisions instead of forcing something onto him that he will rebel against as an young adult. As far as “security, self-sufficiency, self-control, good critical thinking, etc.” it seemed that those developments of character were inherently embedded into the generations at the turn of the 20th century. I’ve examined historical archives of students during the 1800s-early 1900s, and it is breathtaking how articulate, analytical and sensitive they are compared to the generations post WWII and especially our current generation Y who often cannot string one sentence together without sounding completely airheaded. I’m wondering which generation is the illiterate one when making a comparison between past historical archives.

          @YesMyChildrenAreSocialized The main concern with public schools today is due to an outdated and limited curriculum along with teachers who are not qualified to teach, but those lessons are important for the child to learn as well. In real life, we won’t be sheltered by the idealism inherent at universities or exclusive educational institutions. In real life, we will have incompetent bosses, be working for less than ideal institutions, and be faced with challenges of a sociological nature than ones that deal primarily with book learning, and those lessons can’t be learned if we are homeschooled and sheltered into thinking that the rest of the world must fit into our ideal of what we experienced as children.

          I also think that a lot of education is about understanding social dynamics of any situation, and to do that, we must be exposed to a diverse peer group to understand the difference between an ideal education and an education which encompasses our experiences, our failures and the mistakes we had made as children and young adults. I think parents may not be willing to admit that they won’t allow their children to make the same mistakes a child will be able to experience while away from the parents vs. those mistakes made in a homeschooling environment. The parent/child dynamic is ultimately different from a mentor/student dynamic.

          In relation to the myth of “gifted” or “prodigious” children, karelys, I don’t think there is such a thing. Everyone knows behind every prodigy there were thousands of hours involved spent practicing that very skill. Why some kids aren’t considered “gifted” rather than others is simply related to focus. Just as every child star and every star athlete had a parent who allowed them to shine, made them practice when others were playing, I think a lot of what we consider “genius” or “gifted” can be simply attuned to a circumstance in which the parents allow that outlet to be expressed.

          @Commentator, I think having a group of PhDs who can tutor your children in many subjects is the ideal for most parents, but unfortunately, that might not be the most practical option in the long run. In addition, there is something different to be gained from group learning vs. teacher-student learning that can open new avenues as well. When a child has a tutor who caters to his abilities very well, that is good for a limited time, especially during the memorisation/regurgitation stage but when a child is around her own peers, and those peers have a different opinion and approach to a problem, then interesting things can happen in that group dynamic. I know as a student, I learned from other students more than I ever did from my teachers.

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            Logan, I may have given you the wrong impression. My son doesn’t have any tutors, though I think that might be a good idea for him.

            Except for his violin lessons, math practice, and essay writing with me, my son normally studies in groups of six or more kids. He’s learning with groups of other kids half the day every day.

            I live in a city with hundreds of homeschoolers, and one could get a group together for classes in just about any subject.

            As YMKAS says, I’m like the principal of a constantly changing, multi-location school.

            It really does seem like your idea of homeschooling is driven more by imagination than experience.

          • Heather Bathon
            Heather Bathon says:

            Logan, dude, hold on a minute s’il vous plait!

            I like your points of view in this post, with the exception of the “myth of gifted children” part. You are simply incorrect that giftedness is a myth my friend.

            I’m including a link to Hoagie’s Gifted Education website, for your perusal:http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/all_children.htm

            On a personal note, I have a kid who has been tested up the wazoo and falls into the ‘very superior’ category of giftedness – not the highest level, btw. Lest you think that makes me feel very superior as a parent, let me tell you about some of the gifted qualities that would prevent any parent from feeling smug.
            (First of all, most gifted kids are not the ones who sail through all their classes getting straight A’s – most of those kids are smart, driven and probably getting their academic needs met. They’re the super-acheivers we all love to hate.)
            Gifted kids have a tough time getting their needs met, socially and academically, in any regular school setting. They think differently and learn differently. Many of them have what is known as ‘asynchronous development’, meaning they are terrifically advanced for their age in some areas (academically, artistically), and woefully emotionally immature for their age. As you may imagine, it is not easy for them to navigate the world of their ‘non-gifted’ peers, and not easy as a parent to mentor them through their world.

            I think the knee-jerk reaction to hearing that someone’s kid is gifted is to assume you’ve entered the competitive-parenting battle ground. But, take a minute and read the info in the link and you may realize that next time you hear what sounds like bragging from a parent, it might be their trying to put a positive spin on their kid’s weird behavior or on their own exasperation.

            Best,

            Heather

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            These opinions seem really strange to me. How do you know there will be a revolution in education? Is that just wishful thinking? The only way I know that a revolution can happen is by parents taking their children out of school and homeschooling them. And it actually seems like things are getting *more*regimented not less.

            I’m not one of those people who believes in child sacrifice in order to better society. But I said this in another post, I believe that all homeschool children should have the opportunity to be involved in a collaborative group that has a goal to obtain without parental involvement. This can be achieved without school. There are various scouting groups, kids sports, theater, dance group… so many activities that require kids to be involved with a peer group where they can collaborate. My own kids take acting classes two hours a week as well as swim team. Plus classes they take with other homeschoolers at a very popular museum doing hands on science experiments.

            Your theories on giftedness and prodigy come from where? Have you read many books on giftedness? Are you related to someone who is? Do you have any children? I’m just trying to see where these weird thoughts came from… Had you said giftedness doesn’t translate into being successful in life, I would have agreed with that.

            Also, I don’t think the comparison of the work world to school works. One, you are being paid to do a function you are free to find work elsewhere, the other, you are forced to be somewhere, to learn what others think is valuable.

          • Suzy
            Suzy says:

            I do believe in giftedness, but it is clear that schools only test for certain types of giftedness (logical-mathematical and verbal-linguistic). Being a musical prodigy, while still performing in the average zone in third grade math and reading, won’t usually open up any doors. Nor will being a gifted athlete or artist at the elementary level.

            As an unschooling parent, however, the concept of giftedness simply is not very useful. Unschooling is by nature capable of responding to kids who are asynchronous, even greatly so. The question in unschooling, then, is not how to deal with the giftedness (or fill in the blank with another label); it is how to meet a myriad of smaller needs.

            My husband and I both tested in the gifted range but have no desire to have our kids tested. A label won’t help us to unschool them better. We didn’t need someone’s approval to let our older son read books that were considered “advanced,” or to let our daughter watch history documentaries that are considered too sophisticated for children. Nor did we need approval to allow our younger son to become an “early” chess player, even though he is a “late” reader.

            Unschoolers should be careful about adopting schoolish concepts that aren’t useful outside of school,

          • Anna M
            Anna M says:

            I really didn’t want to respond to this comment exchange, because I also feel that they are all based on Logan’s theories and not grounded in actually knowing more than maybe two homeschoolers. But I am so tired of hearing that we need to “expose our children” to things, as if sitting in the same room with different races of people all you same age with a teacher with power to exact punishment over you for disobeying is true diversity and growth. Do you know how I am teaching my kids to get along in the “real world”? I am teaching them manners and ettiquite. I am teaching them how to find mentors and grow that relationship. And my kids seemed to learn the lesson of life isn’t fair very early in life-not just that some people can be mean, but that we all have different skills and talents, and it is best to not be covetous of others, but to work on our own life.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            In reply to YMKAS’s links:

            I love, love, love the “brag” thread on the Davidson site. It’s always good for a chuckle with all the anecdotes that dare not be spoken of in public. I assume it would also amuse the non-believers as they could get some excellent eye-rolling fodder for future “and would you believe…”s. :D

            If you ever get a chance to go to a SENG conference GO! I was star-struck by all of the big names there! Maybe we should plan a PT meet-up one year. How about it y’all? We could all wear PT badges and then play ‘guess the moniker.’ (I crack me up!)

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        Logan, I agree very much with your analysis of Ender’s Game. It seems to me that the farthest conceivable thing from homeschooling would be sending a child to military boarding school on a space station.

        I agree that parents aren’t the best equipped to teach all subjects. I feel bad for those who try. I was just filling out my city’s form for homeschooling this fall, and there’s a part where you list the teachers. I ran out of room quickly. I could have put down nine (of whom the majority have PhDs). I only teach three of the eleven subjects my son studies weekly, and my plan is to get down to two soon.

        I know some homeschoolers do what you suggest – the parents unpack a ‘school in a box’ each year, and go through all the subjects – but not many I know. I think your experience growing up may have been unusual, and you certainly wouldn’t recognize that characterization in my circles.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        When I first received my undergrad many years ago, I moved back to my home state of California. At the time, any person with an undergraduate degree could take an exam to become a credentialed substitute teacher. I talked my cousin into taking the exam with me, and probably 500 people showed up that day to take the multi-subject credential exam. As I was taking the exam I couldn’t believe how simple it was… like “that’s it?” was my thought. “This is all it takes to get a credential to teach children?” “This is pitiful.” The SAT exams were dramatically more challenging than this teacher test. I past it with flying colors, but sadly only 10% of the people there that day passed the test. These were people with undergrad degrees…

        All that to say, it doesn’t take much (and I don’t mean any offense to teachers) to get a credential to teach multiple subjects to elementary grades. It’s more about having patience to keep your classroom managed well.

        As for your experience with homeschoolers being slower… that’s unfortunate but I don’t believe it’s representative of homeschooling as a whole. I employ different people to teach my kids. I think of myself more as a facilitator and principal… just trying to get things planned and getting the logistics down. My kids would probably offer you a more realistic view of homeschoolers.

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        “Ender’s game is really a thinly disguised novel about preparing children for military school. By weaving a sci-fi heroic aspect to it, it prepares its teen audience for entry into government service. Underneath the glamour, and the POV of a young child, it’s really the story of a wayward 18 year old who decides to enlist for the Army then realizes that life isn’t about playing fair. ”

        I didn’t get that at all from the book. I saw it as a cautionary tale. I’m about 2-3 weeks away on the library waitlist for the movie, so that may be really different. From what I recall, Ender is coerced into attending the program, coerced into staying in the program, only uses violence in pretty much life or death situations, and was actually engineered to be the savior. He arrived with his strong moral character already developed and maintained his integrity as best he could under horrific circumstances.

        I can’t see how this could possibly prepare an 18 year old to voluntarily enlist and kowtow to commanders.

        YMKAS, I decided not to read the other books after finding out about Card’s, errr, less than tolerant stances on various issues. Are they worthwhile? If so, in what order would you read them? Chronologically for the story line or by publication date? (I had the same dilemma with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.)

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Yeah, I know. Yes I would recommend the series. I do not believe in banning books, regardless of ideology of the author, and I didn’t feel any of that in his books anyway so I was surprised to learn his views. Read them in order.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            Well aren’t you prompt! I’m assuming you mean publication order. Yes?

            I do try to take the work for what it is, but I can’t help but let it inform my interpretation.

            And the naked boy shower scene in Ender certainly did seem a bit odd(er) after reading about Card. Just sayin’.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Just to add… There are many books I won’t read, like that author who says it’s ok to hit kids to get them to obey you. It’s a slippery slope…:( use your best judgement.

    • Hannah
      Hannah says:

      I’m not sure if the connection I immediately draw is the Ender’s schooling (which is highly structured), but to his struggle throughout the book (and even the rest of the series that I have read) to understand whether his path” is determined or if he has a free choice.

      Kind of like the struggle many of us parents are having on behalf of our kids.

      I definitely recommend reading the books (well the core Ender books, I lost interest by about my 15th book in the series).

  17. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Here is my two cents on this.

    I’m not sure about the correlation drawn between EC as an infant and unschooling during school age years but I would definitely be interested to learn in about 3-4 years how it worked out.

    I’m not a fan of labels, grouping, sorting… you are in this camp, I’m in that camp… sort of like you aren’t cool enough to hang out with us mentality. For the record, I do think you are “cool” enough but I don’t think this is unschooling, yet. This is what I would call beautiful parenting and I would encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing.

    My youngest kid is about your kids age. She is still in pullups, I plan on unschooling her anyway… she is independent, bossy, stubborn, and in the throws of tantrums that makes life miserable sometimes.

    With my oldest who is unschooled (and now my middle who will never walk into a school classroom), I didn’t start out with my parenting even ever considering homeschool as an option, let alone unschooling. I didn’t even know what it was until I needed an alternative to the private school my oldest was at (she attended for 3 months before I pulled her in Kindergarten). I fully intended all my children to be in school so I could get my own life back. I didn’t know I was going to have children that needed an alternative…. so here we are.

    Unschooling works particularly well for my kids, as someone who never considered homeschool as an option.

    For jessica, I do not know anyone who has a single child over the age of 6 that homeschools. The people that I do know with single children send them to school.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      ( I fully intended all my children to be in school so I could get my own life back.)—My life is even more beautiful now that unschooling my kids at home–

      I do hire out people to help me at home. Tutors, babysitters and experts. I’m no supermom. But I’m doing the best I can.

  18. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I disagree with the statement that the label of giftedness and unschooling not being useful tools. It is precisely because of my kids giftedness that I chose to unschool. I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive.

    Having the label makes it easier for me to find other parents of children who are different and who can relate and understand that myriad of issues that arise from raising gifted children.

    I posted links in a different post that I thought were very useful to the conversation, but of course it’s sitting in “waiting for approval” mode.

    I consider myself an advocate of unschooling, but I’m also an advocate for gifted kids. They can exist together.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Ah, to test or not to test…
      Many parents who had never dreamed of homeschooling get a rude awakening when they get test scores that pretty much preclude a happy schooling experience. Others are looking for confirmation that yeah, their child really is that different and they don’t suffer from “special snowflake syndrome.”

      The great thing about homeschooling (my experience is with secular) is that no one requires documentation of giftedness. If the group fits you, come on in! Also, there are a ton of 2e (twice exceptional–gifted with a bonus of ADD, Asperger’s, dyslexia, etc.) kids because school is just soul-crushingly sucky for them. These are kids who might not “make the cut” for gifted programs because their giftedness masks the disability and the disability masks the giftedness so they look like slackers who need to try harder to meet their potential.

      So I do think it can be helpful, but isn’t the end all be all and doesn’t actually change anything. Regardless, I’ve always found that gifted people gravitate towards each other in a self preservationist manner. :D

      Unschooling certainly is a blessing for dealing with asynchronous development. Although you could use various levels of canned curriculum to meet those needs also.

      My daughter recently did a movie making camp at Apple (free!) and the instructor asked the kids say their name and grade. I’ve told my daughter to just say “fourth” but when they got to the “say your grade” moment she just looked at me. One of the other mothers good naturedly volunteered “homeschooled?” and everyone chuckled knowingly. It was funny. I guess the word has gotten out…

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Secular here as well…and I can honestly say that from my own experience, that even in my all inclusive group… people want to understand, but it’s very difficult for them to. I don’t require testing for people to associate with me, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels when I finally meet a parent that *gets it* ….no judgment, just acceptance.

        Argh, I wasn’t wanting this to turn into a whole gifted discussion, I don’t really even like talking about it here. But I don’t like when people are dismissive of it, or even calling it mythical. Like really, why go there? :(

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          Heehee, I didn’t think you required documentation. I totally understand the “freeing” aspect. That is what SENG is like. I hadn’t realized how great the emotional burden of “hiding” all of the time really was. It was so sad to leave, though.

          I understand about it feeling weird to discuss such a taboo subject in “public,” but I really do see it as a PSA opportunity to hopefully dispel some myths. The perception of “more gifted=more better” just sucks. People don’t think about having to deal with existential depression in grade schoolers. Why would they if they have no experience with it?

          I “diagnose” kids and parents all the time. Sometimes they really have no idea and it can take a while for them to come around. But when they do, it is like they can suddenly see their past through a different lens and suddenly things come into focus and make sense. It can also make them more confident parents when they realize that they were given the wrong handbook at the hospital.

          I, for one, really value your comments, perspective, and willingness to post.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Lol to all your comments that I can’t reply too. I’m so mad I missed seng this year!

        I would love a ‘guess the moniker game’….although a few commenters here already know my real name…so I couldn’t play.

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          “a few commenters here already know my real name”

          I feel so dejected! I wanna be one of the cool kids!

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I would love that. But only if you pronounce it “Minne-SOH-TAH” ;)

            Yay, for the apple store… I never seem to be fast enough for their educational programs! I’m gonna stalk apple next time they have the movie making class so my oldest gets in.

            I usually connect through P once both sides give the ok.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            Ooooh! Like a friend request.

            I don’t pronounce it that way. But I can. And will.

            I couldn’t believe she got a slot for the Apple one and a Microsoft Coding one. Sorry, I’ll stop bragging.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Wow, that’s great!

            I was just teasing about the accent. I lived there for six years and couldn’t help picking up the accent….my Cali friends thought I was weird…which I am, but for different reasons than that, lol.

  19. Amy Axelson
    Amy Axelson says:

    “It was about encouraging Phoebe to take ownership of her own life.”

    Interesting. I love that we all have different objectives for what we do.

    I used EC so my (second) baby didn’t have to sit in or ignore her elimination or the sensations in her body. And also, a biggy for me, to be in-tuned to/bonded with her.

    This ties into why I homeschool: so my kids and I don’t have to spend our energy jumping through other peoples’ hoops (bureaucracy), and to foster strong relationships with the people who matter to us–including and especially each other.

    I love the photo on the top of this post. :-)

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