Definition of unschooling: Teaching kids to intentionally find a passion

I have let my kids run wild all over our farm, doing whatever they want, even in the almost-dark of early autumn evenings.

We have a lot of land. They have a lot of choices.

I have de-emphasized school to the point that when someone says to the kids, accusingly,  “How do you learn math?” I answer, “We don’t. Kids don’t need to learn math if they are not interested in it.”  I answer with such firm-footed security that people are taken aback, and this has given my kids the confidence to answer in the same way.

So of course tons of people sent me the article in Outside magazine about the family that unschools by sending the kids outside. And people sent me the followup interview on NPR where the dad says that his kids can go to college without having any curriculum.

I was that dad. But instead of Outside magazine and NPR I was doing gaming magazines and BBC. I was telling everyone the same thing: We do self-directed, adult-supported learning.

But what happens when the kids decide for themselves that they want to be an expert in something that is not available in that particular unschooling environment? Is the dad in Outside magazine going to support his kid learning some sort of specialty? In my world, cello lessons are expensive. His kids might not pick something so expensive, but the kids could pick something that requires more resources (money, or earning power) than that family has in their “self-directed learning as a family” environment.

Unschooling can look a lot like curriculum-based schooling if your kids make choices that lean that way. And public school looks a lot like unschooling if your kids, say, play on three varsity teams and do after-school workouts instead of homework.

Maybe the truth is that the quality of one’s education is about how many choices one has, to ensure that kids are picking something that’s right for who they are, instead of merely right for the environment they are in.

I am in the position of being the hard-core unschooling parent who has one kid following the STEM curriculum closely and one kid following the Suzuki music curriculum closely. And I am in the position of starting to doubt parents who say letting their kids run free all day is schooling. (Which I have also said.) I have a feeling the kids who wander through life just have not been exposed to anything they feel passionate about. So they participate in their parents’ passions.

I think unschooling is the process of learning to find a passion. It’s  one of the hardest things in life to learn, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to find a passion in a school environment where kids are spoon-fed information to prepare for standardized testing. But I’m also pretty sure that when you mix unschooling with passion, you get a sort of learning that feels a little curriculum-based:  focused, sequential, and structured, within an otherwise free-for-all childhood.

51 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Shades of grey. It sounds right -the quality comes down to the choices/freedom one has and it depends on the individual.

    Then the passion thing. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel I have ‘found my passion’ that I seem to take objection to it. It is amazing to me that my 5yr old so clearly has a passion – he is obsessed with how things work (in a mechanical way) so can spend all his time building things. So it is easy to throw resources at him and easy to find places to take him he loves and people to talk to as enthusiastic as he is (which turns out are traffic engineers…). But then he goes through little spells where he loves to make up stories, and declares himself an author – so then I wonder about balance of different things…

    And what counts as a passion? Can it be ‘problem-solving’ or like you say for ISTJ’s ‘telling people what to do’ because then it might not matter what the specifics but makes it harder to focus on a curriculum? Then maybe it is easier because you can get that in any environment.

    I’d like to think that passion is much better suited to certain types of intense personalities. .. but some of us (i.e. me) need to think about it in different terms.

  2. Beth Tilston
    Beth Tilston says:

    I’ve stopped thinking about ‘passions’ and ‘purposes’ and started thinking about ‘my work’ – i.e. the work I should be doing right now. I’ve acknowledged that maybe in ten years I won’t feel that that particular work is so important, but right now it’s the thing that drives me. This slightly less intense approach has really helped me to focus on what I am doing now, knowing that as I move forward it’s ok if I also move sideways without feeling like I am giving up on ‘my passions’.

    That said, ‘my work’ can look like a passion as it is bounded by what my personality and my values/ethics will allow me to do happily and that really narrows it down quite a lot. So maybe it’s all just semantics…

    • Anna M
      Anna M says:

      I really like what you have to say about “my work”. That works much better for me than the word passion- because passion to me do much connotes feelings not always living in reality. I homeschool and have tried to take the approach that my kids have to be working on interest led projects, but that while they are doing that, there is still time for efficient basic curriculum- if nothing else but to keep them busy throughout the day.

  3. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Fantastic love your articles
    We unschool and my girls go with whatever they want to do
    They were in the garden until 9pm last night with other HE friends looking at the stars with their telescope …today their all space and planets crazy :-)

  4. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    When people ask me why I like homeschooling, I sometimes say because it is efficient. I say it’s efficient because when a kid studies things he’s interested in, he learns better. Schools spend a lot of time shoving things at kids, one after another, at times they’re not interesting. Kids learn coping mechanisms, sarcasm, distrust, and delay.

    I am starting to teach my son (and several of his friends) a second language this year. Previously, he was not interested. As a toddler, he would put his hands over his ears if I spoke in a language other than English. Now, he asks me the Spanish word for something at least once a day. Now, he will learn efficiently and quickly, because he’s thinking about how to do it, not thinking about how to get out of doing it.

    Finding something they’re really interested in is for a minority of schoolkids. The worst students are too beleaguered by excoriation on all sides to think about their desires; the best students spend all their time working to keep up with multiple demands. Only a few can meet school requirements sufficiently while keeping enough distance to think about their own interests.

    If a child can figure out something he’s very interested in before college age, it will further increase the efficiency of his studies and his use of higher education. I loved higher education, but I was definitely adrift at the end of my BA, head full of knowledge about everything besides what I wanted to do. My delayed adolescence was lived out in a wandering decade between my BA and my PhD. I wasn’t unhappy, and I wasn’t in debt, but perhaps I can spare my son a quantum of misery if he can figure some things out earlier rather than later.

  5. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    So it seems that curriculums can be a means to an end. If a curriculum helps a kid pursue a deep interest they have found, and it doesn’t squash the kid’s interest, then use the curriculum!

    I’ve followed your unschooling journey from the beginning and have enjoyed its evolution. As it has unfolded, I have wondered about unschooled kids wandering aimlessly and never finding a thing that grabs them. Then what did they gain from unschooling, in terms of something that sets them on their adult life path? There is a whole world of stuff out there that could grab their deep interest if they were only introduced to them. From my outside perch, it seems like this introduction to things is the most important job of unschooling.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      One of old Penelope’s post she talks about how Gen. Y says they don’t believe in God because to them “God” is the Christian God and they don’t like him.

      So they say they don’t believe in God.

      And I think the same has happened to the new-to-unschooling people. They say they don’t believe in curriculum because they believe that curriculum is this constricting plan that keeps you away from true education rather than facilitate it.

      And then you become “enlightened” and decide that curriculum is a vehicle. A plan. The means to an end.

      And then you want to preach about it, or like Elizabeth Gilbert, you write a book that everyone loves.

      And the people that knew that all along either go “meh” or “man! If I knew this was such a point of contention I would’ve written a book before and made all the money myself!”

  6. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Oh, and one more thing. A kid could very well have an interest that a family can’t afford to fund.

    When I was 9 I became interested in photography. Our working-class family could truly not afford to keep me in film and processing. That stuff was expensive in the 1970s. This interest waited until I was older and could pay for it myself, i.e., now. What fun!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      By trying a lot. I started my oldest son on violin. He had no choice. I was not a homeschooler then. My younger son begged for a year to also play an instrument before I gave in (I was overwhelmed by the prospect of making a second kid practice every day).

      My younger son has done voice, piano and guitar and he always comes back to cello. Also, he is an ESFP, which means he’s a born performer, so when he was ahead of all the kids in his first grade class by more than two years, I largely ignored it because I know he will never make a living in academia or problem solving. That’s not him.

      My older son is an INTJ with a very high IQ. I know that in general, those people are big companies behind the scenes or being academics. So I encouraged lots of different types of entrepreneurship because that is easy for me. On his own he found paleontology, then geology then astrobiology. After the third time of him switching his obsession I realized that while he might not hunt dinosaurs or be an astronaut, it’s pretty certain that he’ll do some sort of science, because that’s what he chooses to do on his own. So I started pointing him in that direction, and he’s been very happy to work hard at doing a curriculum to become a scientist.

      The big things, I think, were allowing the kids to do what they want from an early age, and watching closely what they choose. And also knowing their personality type and body type so I could steer away from things that clearly wouldn’t work. (For example, my younger son made a gymnastics team very early and I thought: total waste of time because he’s going to be very tall.)

      Look for the intersection of your kid’s personality type and your kid’s interests. Help your kid stick to things he or she could be great at. If you can’t figure out your kids type, hire someone. At about five years old you should be able to tell. I did not know personality type well enough when my youngest son was three, and I hired someone to help me figure it out. The information was invaluable and that, actually, is a big reason that I because completely obsessed with becoming an expert myself.


  7. Tim Larsen
    Tim Larsen says:

    BTW, this is how the schooling system maintains it monopoly on education, parent (myself unschooling self included) are deathly afraid that their children will never find a passion early enough to provide for themselves so the most secure and certain way is the system and the promises that it makes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the link. The part about why orchestras are so white is so interesting! I am very frustrated with the lack of diversity of music in the Suzuki method, and my older son does half Suzuki and half American fiddle because of this narrow focus of Suzuki.


      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I always thought the lack of diversity was because such a training is more like a status symbol.

        It’s not like the same processes cannot be learned or attained through some other discipline. But there’s something about the combination of expensive and perceived high class that exclusively belongs to training in those kind of instruments that gives people a huge stamp of “elite.”

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          The lack of diversity in classical music study is a peculiar question.

          There’s a noticeable lack of black and Hispanic kids, yes, but there’s no lack of diversity.

          In a country where about 2/3 of the population is white, a little more than 1/4 of the population is split unevenly between Hispanic and black, and about 5% is Asian, one might imagine such a representation in conservatory prep or youth orchestras.

          In my experience, however, the youth classical demographic seems to be about 2/3 East Asian, 1/4 split between Eastern Europeans and South Asians, and 5% black, Hispanic, and/or American whites, generation 2+. The 5% up and swallowed the rest of us.

          I believe that classical training is very much a status symbol for many people. Just perhaps not the people others imagine.

          Slate has an interesting article up about this.

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Great idea for Suzuki kids to pursue other ways to use their instruments. I did Suzuki violin for 7 years, and would imitate fiddles from Sesame Street and other shows after hearing them: a much freer way of playing. A liberation from Suzuki structures.

  8. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    I think you and the Outside Mag. author are on opposite ends of the financial spectrum as unschoolers. He and his wife are subsistence farmers with a little bit of income from his writing. You are able to juggle unschooling and significant professional endeavour.

    But I, too, was struck by the fact that his kids’ “activities” are limited to what they already know: Farming and wilderness. As you say, music lessons are the most expensive (we are struggling with this), but things like community theater aren’t.

    I am fascinated by the larger issue of how home/unschoolers afford helping their kids follow passions whilst getting by on a limited income.

  9. Liz Ness
    Liz Ness says:

    I totally resonate with this post and am completely biased in this way: Cultivate curiosity. I think curiosity is the driver of learning and that passion is about loving what you do/want to do; loving to learn about what you do/want to do. Curiosity is that spark of enthusiasm that sometimes dies out and sometimes fuels the fire driving passion. Sometimes, where we haven’t figured out what our passion is yet, it is curiosity that leads us to it. If we as home school guides can help our kids learn to find their passions, we can help them take the world!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      You know what Liz?

      I kept hearing everywhere that you have to specialize to be successful. Which to me sounded like *ominous music* “You’re screwed Karelys!”

      Okay, truth be told, my aversion to specializing is that I am afraid to choose a dead end for a path. But still, my curiosity feels cramped like big feet in small shoes when I think I should abandon pretty much everything in favor of learning and discovering just one thing!

      But as of late I’ve been on a kick of liking and appreciating myself just as I am even if it means never having a flashy job title and fat paycheck. As long as I am happy. Because SPOILER ALERT!!! we’re all going to die so might as well die happy.

      Once I gave my curiosity free rein things actually changed for me. Rather than feeling like I was constantly running into walls and feeling like the only available paths to success were the pre-described ones….things just started to develop. Kind of on their own. Easily. Things just fell into place. It was a matter of us deciding to engage or not.

      So yes, curiosity and creativity break walls.

      The end.

      I forgot to drink coffee this morning so I am a mix of adrenaline and zombie.

  10. Amelia
    Amelia says:

    I am a homeschooling parent. Our two daughters have a private tutor that comes to our home four days a week. We try our best to expose them to many different fields of study and activity. I think your motives for your sons are truly from love and sincerity, but I have a concern to share. Your choice for your career most likely came after much exposure to many different things. As adults, we realize how truly massive our world, our cultures, and economies are. Isn’t our job as parents to pleasantly push our children towards things they may not know they are interested in or even know exist? By exposing them to unpleasant subjects like algebra, physics, chemistry, British literature, we can stand behind them with confidence when they have made a decision for themselves.
    Then…they can truly find their passion.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Amelia, I get a feeling that most people think that unschooling or homeschool HAS TO BE DONE by the parent. Otherwise it’s cheating or something. Which is ridiculous!

      I have done quite a bit of networking as of late. I love meeting interesting people but then I am stumped by…..I don’t share any of their stories, skills, experience, etc.

      But you know what? I figure, I would have no issues finding a way to connect my kid to those people I meet that have nothing to offer and or that I have nothing to offer to them.

      Always always always I try to find a way to be helpful. Even if I am talking to a scientist that I have nothing in common with. I find the connecting point and then I offer my help and make myself really available if I am called. I figure that something will come out of it at some point. And at the very least, it’s just nice to know people that are so cool and in such a different world than I am.

      All this to say, I am poor. It’s not like I can afford a sitter much less a high end tutor. But there’s a way if you care to find it.

      I don’t care that people think this is not unschooling :)

      • Amelia
        Amelia says:

        I agree with you completely. I think “school” goes on wherever we are. Sometimes a financial constraint prevents specific opportunities but should never be considered a reason to not explore other options for your children. I was referring to basic subjects that children may not have a natural interest in, but by exposing them to these basics it may lay the groundwork for other interests. Whether you run into an interesting scientist or the garbage collector, I think every encounter is a potential learning experience for your children.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I like exposing my kids to all sorts of different things. I will intentionally leave things about, suggest things to explore, but I never force it. Sometimes it takes a day or two for interest to be piqued and then it takes off from there. Other times there is nothing I can do to get them interested, but I will try again at a later time.

  11. karelys
    karelys says:

    Last night we were on a walk, again, and I was asking my husband “how are you? what’s going on with Chris? what changes have been happening?”

    He’s got an amazing poker face so even for me, being very intuitive, is hard to pin point what is going on. I can just feel there’s something different.

    So about a half a mile later he got to talking and I didn’t want to stop him. He talked about how it’s hard for him to see life as “this one shot” we have. He feels convinced that things are just sort of going to develop on their own. “You know?”

    No. No I don’t share that same feeling. I am always being chased by a tiger. As of late I feel like I finally jumped and I am riding the tiger and directing this drive inside me. But I’ve always had a sense of urgency about life.

    I thought it was out of being grown in poverty and need. Maybe it was maybe it wasn’t. But with all the good a sense of urgency does, I also had a lot to unlearn (like hopelessness and lack of confidence) to be where I am at today. Which is nothing but en route to something awesome – I can feel it.

    He was given everything that was needed and more. I’ve always been convinced that it zapped his sense of urgency fueled by need. But I am also convinced that part of the reason why it’s hard to pin point his passion is because unless his passion was related to earning money and a “serious career” he was told that it wasn’t good, or just something to be done as a hobby, etc.

    So we got a lot of unlearning work to do. And I think that once he gets a taste of success in what he’s trying he’ll get that fire in his belly and focus.

    The last 5 months that he’s been a stay at home father he’s made leaps and bounds! unlearning a lot of the old messages and learning new skills and he’s learning to focus his thinking.

    I am extremely confident in our ability to raise good people and unschooling them for success because I see the progression we’ve made. We’ve unschooled ourselves since we’ve started reading this blog. My husband used to hate the idea of moving to another state and now, with his eyes set on his new goal, moving doesn’t seem like a big deal.

    Even if I can’t wrap my head around something at the moment I always act like it’s not a big deal. I know we’ll figure it out. I know him well enough that I know when he’s looking to me for confirmation that he’s not crazy and that there’s a chance his ideas may workout. Even if I don’t quite understand how we’ll do it at the moment I always say that we’ll make it work. Because I know that confidence is one of the building blocks needed to make things happen.

    Can you tell I am excited!?

    I have no clue how I’ll afford music lessons of the suzuki caliber if that’s what my son(s) decide to go after. I just know that I am bringing down the first barrier of “I can’t.”

    That’s how we ended up positioning ourselves for unschooling. By getting rid of the “I can’t because I can’t afford to not work” or “I can’t because I can’t handle staying home with the kids” and other made up obstacles on the road.

    I started considering unschooling because I didn’t want my kid to be my age and barely getting the hang of finding their passion and having the guts to go after it. But then, while our child is too young for society to realize we’re unschooling him because he doesn’t go to school, we’re unschooling ourselves. And let me tell you, it’s been life changing!

    • Hannah
      Hannah says:

      I love this response.

      I hope that unschooling prepares children and parents to make choices in a sea of uncertainty, although I guess I can’t say for sure.

      I’m not sure that unschooling allows kids to break down societal barriers to success while still maintaining the essence of themselves, heritage etc., but I know that traditional education does not. Which is why as a member of the most privileged race/class I still want to see broader adoption of homeschooling.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        You know what? I figured, if unschooling doesn’t do my child any better than regular school, by god! at least I will skip the super early wake ups, the homework fights, the fundraisers! THE FUNDRAISERS!!! omg I want to break out in hives!

  12. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I prefer using the terms “self-directed” and “child-led” when I describe our philosophy. I’m starting to use the phrase “unschooling” less, and instead I say “self-directed” or “passion-based”.

    I just am leery of letting others, like Hewitt, define what we (my kids and I) do. We don’t live on a farm and my kids don’t play cello… but they are passionate about many things, mostly science related.

  13. Brynn
    Brynn says:

    I have one of those academic, curriculum unschoolers. My son is obsessed with ancient history and languages. He wants to be a Classics major. There is plenty to unschool ancient history, but languages, not so much. He is currently studying Spanish, Latin, and just added Ancient Greek. I am still scrambling to keep up with Spanish and Latin, Greek is kicking my butt. But he takes the book I found, goes on YouTube, and keeps moving forward. I don’t know if I will ever be able to really help with that one, but we can outsource in a year or so when the basics are down.

    Unfortunately, many people in our local unschooling community do not consider this unschooling. The level of shaming and judgement is quite high. As if somehow the kids who unschool are only the kids who are free range outdoor kids. It frustrates me that because my son chose something else to do during his free-ranging that he somehow does not qualify.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Doesn’t sound like a group I would want to be a part of.

      I guess the “true” unschooling way to learn languages would be to go to that country and immerse yourself, not many people can afford to do that, or even want to do that.

      I would keep doing what you are doing, your kid sounds pretty interesting to me!

      • Brynn
        Brynn says:

        We ditched the group this year. Now he goes to the library to be with the “Minecraft kids,” as the librarians call the pack of seven or so boys. he watches a lot of immersion. Plaza Sesamo, Salsa, a weird scarf guy on YouTube… The Internet is amazing!

        I think the judgment comes from insecurity. One mom once told me that giving my kid essay instruction wasn’t unschooling because it was not 100 percent my child directing the lesson. My response was that if he could direct the lesson, there would be no reason to teach him! What I later found out she meant was that there was no way her seven year old would have asked about essays, so my son was therefore not directing and I was forcing. It is hard for some parents to come to terms that my son has been passionate about languages since he was extremely young and had a Mandrin immersion nanny out of sheer luck. He found his passion before many others and has had the ability to really go for it. Their children are still mainly playing with younger siblings, and mine is saving money for immersion overseas summer camp in two years and looking into Ivy League colleges because there aren’t too many places that still offer a Classics major.

        They are doing nothing wrong, but when one kid has fierce direction I think they get a bit worried they might be screwing up somehow.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          We are all about youtube and khan academy! Kids these days learn everything from videos.

          My kids are more like yours, extremely self-directed and very motivated. I definitely don’t force instruction; however, I for sure help guide my kids through whatever it is that they are doing until they don’t need me for it anymore. Once they find something they are interested in learning about, I don’t just make them find out about it on their own, I get the resources for them to explore more in depth the topic and take time to answer any questions they may have. With as young as my kids are, I would never expect them to know everything on their own. :(

          I have left many groups as well, hang in there, you will find your tribe! :)

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Unschoolers are judging your approach? That doesn’t seem very… unschooly.

      The more HS UNSH families I meet the more I see everyone does what’s best for each child. One child in the family likes worksheets, one likes experiments, one likes to wander and play, one likes instruction, one likes routine, one likes this and that. How do you facilitate and engage? By listening to the kids and being observant and mindful and educated. I think the parent knows best in these situations.

      Also, don’t let their worries interfere with your knowledge.

  14. Kirsten H
    Kirsten H says:

    I keep reading about helping my kids find passions, and in every case, the writers refer to passions that are concrete — an instrument, a craft, an art, or a discipline.

    In some cases it’s as if the objective is to find the thing you can use to signal to others (and yourself) than your kid is okay. “We’re homeschooling, but it’s okay because my child has time to focus on his passion of oil painting,” or violin or chess or computers.

    It seems to me that behind every passion is a drive that is even deeper. Maybe it becomes evident as music composition, but that’s just an expression of the drive combined with other variables (exposure to options, for one, as well as interest).

    I look at some of the happiest, most creative adults I know, and if you looked at their CVs or LinkedIn profiles, you wouldn’t be able to tell what their true passions are. But to look at them, you’d see passion at work.

    One who comes to mind is a highly-regarded “fixer” in his field. He is compensated quite well and loves his job, but no seems to look for “problem-solver” as a passion. And you certainly can’t tell the disapproving neighbors, “It’s okay, because my son is training to be a corporate fixer.”

    I worry that all the talk about finding “passion” is creating a holy grail, the search for which we parents now feel compelled to add to the to-do list for raising successful kids.

    • Anna M
      Anna M says:

      Love this comment! You clarified my position. I have wanted to help my kids become doers, but you really helped clarify my problem with passion- it does feel like a holly grail search. But I do agree with penelope, that I homeschool so my kids can get used to working through their own interests and talents, and see where that leads. Plus, the time together to form family relationships, that is really why I love homeschooling:)

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        “If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.”

        ― W. Beran Wolfe

        This is true with most deeply happy people I have met. A happy and self successful person may be doing a job to earn income, but always, in my experience, has something going on on the side.

  15. redrock
    redrock says:

    For me, I love the outdoors, hiking, exploring, riding my bike – but to say this is the only rich environment worth living and exploring does not work for me. I get the same enjoyment (probably more), satisfaction and fulfillment from science and the intellectual pursuits of all the quests it can throw at me. To understand a concept, analyze data, work out an experiment holds a wonderful and great excitement for me.

  16. Mariana
    Mariana says:

    I think all this passion talk can lead to a lot of dead ends, because passion can be a very egotistical pursuit. A key element in my view is the ability to make a real contribution. To society, companies or even a single person. A child. And things get pretty exciting when you master a valuable skill and can see the number and scope of your contributions grow.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I’m under the impression that the more passionate and productive people, the better a society.

      Self improvement is meant to have a ripple effect.

  17. Rokeya Aktar
    Rokeya Aktar says:

    I kept hearing everywhere that you have to specialize to be successful. Which to me sounded like *ominous music* “You’re screwed Karelys!”

    Okay, truth be told, my aversion to specializing is that I am afraid to choose a dead end for a path. But still, my curiosity feels cramped like big feet in small shoes when I think I should abandon pretty much everything in favor of learning and discovering just one thing!

  18. Ali
    Ali says:

    Funny- I was just thinking about this the other day…about how my parents shaped and directed my childhood passions into something they could live with. I loved reading, ballet, horses, and the violin and yet, when the time came to narrow down the options, I got ballet lessons and books about horses, rather than riding lessons and books about ballet. Even though, left to pick for myself, I’d have given up any number of things to have horse time. This wasn’t a question of money- we could afford either- but my parents were afraid of horses and ballet didn’t seem so scary. I hope one day I’m the kind of parent with the courage to embrace my kid’s passions, even if they’re not my thing.

  19. Erin
    Erin says:

    Penelope – You put into words so perfectly this fuzzy idea that has been rolling around in my head. Unschooling is about learning what your passion is & how to work hard for it. Yes. This.


  20. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This post (filed under curriculum (or not)) makes me think about the role of curriculum in the educational process. The term curriculum is defined by Merriam-Webster as – 1: the courses offered by an educational institution 2: a set of courses constituting an area of specialization. I believe curriculum is important. However, curriculum flexibility is limited (both content and method of delivery) in a typical school environment. Curriculum developed as a joint venture by the parent and unschooler can be customized to facilitate learning goals. Curriculum could be set up and used similar to a business plan where it is written, adhered to, and constantly reviewed and updated as needed. Goals and content of subject matter can be adjusted (flexible) but also tracked closely to note progress toward goals established by parent and their child. Curriculum by itself is not the problem. However, it can made the problem if the goal of mastering the subject is not achieved.

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