I Teach at a University and I Unschool My Kids

  1. IT WILL PREPARE THEM BETTER FOR COLLEGE.

Some unschooling families don’t view college as a goal for their children. Some unschoolers start lucrative business, do apprenticeships, embark on their careers, or continue to educate themselves outside of institutions between the ages of 18-22 when many of their schooled peers are off to college. I believe these are worthwhile ways to spend your time, but I also believe that college is a very valuable experience due to the wealth of opportunities it places at your fingertips. The key is to be prepared to make the most of those opportunities. In my experience, homeschooled students clearly understand that they are in charge of their own education and professors are merely there to act as facilitators. That’s what it takes to be successful in college.

  1. IT WILL PREPARE THEM BETTER FOR THE WORKFORCE.

When you were a kid, you were probably asked at some point what you wanted to be when you grew up. What did you answer? Social media coordinator? Canine and equine massage therapist? Birth photographer? Mobile app developer? I suspect the answer was none of these, because some of these jobs didn’t exist when we were kids. Others may have existed but were hidden from most of us. We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years or even in 10 years. Traditional schooling prepares kids for today’s jobs. Unschooling prepares them for future jobs.

  1. THEY WILL KNOW THAT PREPARING FOR COLLEGE OR THE WORKFORCE ISN’T THE POINT.

We don’t have homework battles. We have adventures together. We don’t set an alarm clock. We sleep until we’re not tired anymore. We don’t leave early because it’s a school night. We stay out late with friends. We don’t just prepare for life. We live it now.

Becoming a knowledgable and productive adult citizen is important, but there is more to life that that. As someone who grew up as a “good student,” I admittedly sometimes forgot to seek out fun and adventure and even put building meaningful human relationships on the back burner. I’ve been slowly unlearning that since becoming a parent. The greatest beauty of unschooling lies in the time we have together as a family enjoying each other’s company. We don’t have homework battles. We have adventures together. We don’t set an alarm clock. We sleep until we’re not tired anymore. We don’t leave early because it’s a school night. We stay out late with friends. We don’t just prepare for life. We live it now.

  1. I KNOW THAT NO ONE HAS ALL THE ANSWERS.

Being in the company of some very smart people on a regular basis quickly shows you how little you actually know. After a while, you realize this applies to everyone. No one knows everything. My kids ask me questions I don’t know the answer to every single day. There is no shame in not knowing something. In fact, there is great value in realizing that you don’t know something and then going to find out. Like anyone else, unschooling parents don’t have all of the answers. But we ask a lot of questions and we dig deep, past common assumptions and social norms. I can’t think of a better example of a true education than that.


Originally published HERE.

Nina Palmo is the mother of two unschoolers and teaches sociology at a large university. She also writes for Pocketful of Pebbles, a blog supporting attachment parenting, unschooling, homeschooling, alternative schooling, and intentional living. She lives in the Austin, TX area with her husband and daughters. 

3 Comments

  • I think it is admirable that you are taking the un-schooling route and explaining your rationale on-line like this for others to see and contemplate. I would love see more ‘un-schooling’ in schools. Schools do talk about ‘learn to learn’ and express many of the sentiments you covering your article but rarely step up fully to the plate, which requires the courage to let go… and let the students fly. I have been a state school teacher in the UK for over 20 years and did my best to facilitate children to direct their own learning. As such, I know that un-schooling, as you describe it, can be achieved in schools and a love of Math (alongside a love of learning in the whole range of subjects) can develop as a natural response to the environment and as a function of natural curiosity and reflection. When children know (really know) that their thoughts and ideas are welcomed, respected and valued they will express them and reflect on them and surprise you with their profundity. They become mathematicians and work out the Math for themselves.

  • Can you go into exactly you unschooled them while you and your partner are at work? I’d love to take this route and have explored it extensively; however, we both work. My husband is in startup and I work at an insurance firm. I read a lot of blogs about parents who are doing this, but they always seem to skip the “how” or perhaps they fail to mention they are independently wealthy.

    • I am definitely not independently wealthy. I chose poverty and time with my child over having disposable money. I had an amazing job I loved, but I gave it up to be with my daughter. It is possible. Downsize, find a way to work from home on the side, get used to not having certain things you didn’t need in the first place, and it really helps to have supportive in -laws that feed you a lot. You may notice that if you are not working every day, your expenses and needs change quite a bit. You don’t need to buy new clothes as often, or pay for gas and childcare, you are spending way less on convenience items, it adds up.

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