Don’t Be a Slave to Labels!

Image courtesy of digitalart /
Image courtesy of digitalart /

A common theme among homeschoolers is, “Don’t be a slave to your curriculum!” The translation is: use your curriculum as a resource; you are not obligated to finish every last page. The key to a successful homeschool is flexibility. I’ve been thinking about this the last few days, and I think this theme can be added to labels, as well.

What do I mean by labels? In this case, I’m referring to differentiating between homeschoolers by their method- traditional, classical, eclectic, unschoolers. You get the picture. As with curriculum, this can be useful. Just as so eloquently stated by Sue Elvis on her blog,

“Labels are difficult. When they are used to separate people by excluding them (you’re not like us so you don’t belong), I hate them. But they can be good when they lead us to like-minded people who can support and encourage us. We sometimes need some reassurance we aren’t alone. When we were ‘doing our own thing’, I often felt alone and actually never talked about how we were homeschooling in case we were criticised. So saying all of that, even when we have adopted a certain label, this doesn’t mean we all have to be exactly the same…”

There is a time and a reason for these distinctions, but do not let yourself be bound by them! I think sometimes we can fall into the trap of defining our homeschool by these labels, and in doing so we can outright ban certain methods of learning because they don’t fit in with what those nifty handbooks say about our approach.

“We’re unschoolers, so we don’t ever use textbooks. We won’t even touch them.”
“Use a television show as a learning resource? No, thank you. They wouldn’t do that in school.”
“You want to read what??? But Charlotte Mason said that there’s no value in twaddle!”

Do you see what I’m getting at? I don’t see anything wrong with any of these homeschooling methods. In fact, I’ve probably used most of them. They all have value in their own way. My problem is with the inflexibility that can come from an attempt to follow each and every “rule” defining these man-made categories.

I, myself, have perpetrated this kind of mentality because I was trying to fall neatly within the “unschooling” parameter. But then one day I realized that I was more interested in “following the rules” than I was in what my kids were actually doing.

As Sue commented, it is helpful to designate which group your homeschool most looks like because that is where you’ll find camaraderie and your main source of information for inspiration, but it should not be the only place you search for ideas and friendship. As an unschooler, I read homeschooling blogs of every nature; I truly find ingenuity in each and every kind, and sometimes I take ideas from these blogs and incorporate them into our day.

So, as a self-proclaimed unschooler, and in keeping with the nature of this post, I’m going to confess to some (or all- how much time do you have?) of the un-unschoolish things that go on in our house.

– I require my kids to read everyday at a designated time, so that it gets done.
– I read aloud to the children at a designated time everyday, so that it gets done.
– I choose the read-aloud books based on things that I think might interest my children, but they would never pursue on their own. I also incorporate a lot of historical fiction/non-fiction because my children aren’t big history buffs.
– My children have a math curriculum, which we try to work on everyday.
– I’ve started a family newsletter, for which I’ve asked for a submission from every child.
– I’ve assigned “jobs” for the newsletter, such as: proofreader, senior editor, copy editor, photo editor, layout designer, etc.

Some unschoolers may well gasp at the amount of structure in our day, but that’s okay. We don’t need to all look the same; in fact, I don’t think we would even if we tried to. So when you go about your homeschooling day, remember that these methods aren’t set in stone. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I promise you, your homeschool will thrive because of it.

Confession time! What do you think about homeschooling labels?

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Going on a Road Trip? Ditch the Textbooks and Live Life!

Image courtesy of federico stevanin /
Image courtesy of federico stevanin /

[This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.]

Spring and Easter are right around the corner, so this is a popular time to travel here in the US. Ever wonder how to go about homeschooling on the road? I have one key piece of advice for you- ditch the curriculum. Why waste precious learning time sitting in a car or hotel room filling out workbooks when your family could be immersing themselves in a completely different environment or even a different culture? I have heard so many stories of homeschooling families who have done just this. Remember, your curriculum is a resource. Don’t let it get the best of you. Use it with some flexibility.

Almost two years ago, my son Brendan graduated from boot camp and AIT training in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. It took some planning, but we managed to pack up our nine other children (Kenzie wasn’t even thought of yet) and drive almost 1,000 miles to be there for him. Believe me, it took some preparation packing up everything that we would possibly need for a five-day trip. What was conspicuously missing, though? Our curriculum. Yes, at this point in time we were eclectic homeschoolers and did use a curriculum.

I knew that we didn’t want to waste precious time with our son by tying ourselves down with schoolwork. Doing it in the car wouldn’t have worked, either, because all of my kids get carsick, and this would have exacerbated the problem. After some initial thought, I realized that it really wasn’t a big deal because they would, no doubt, learn a lot on this excursion.

We began preparing for this trip by doing a week-long unit study on the military. We learned some military marches, what the different insignias mean, and what sorts of activities are done at basic training. It gave us a fair understanding of where we were headed, but, more importantly, it got us even more excited than we already were.

The trip to Missouri was a long one, and it was probably one of the best geography lessons my kids have ever gotten. We live in eastern Pennsylvania, so we had to drive across our state, then through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and, finally, Missouri. The children kept themselves busy by writing down all the different states we saw represented on license plates; surprisingly, we saw a license plate from Hawaii. The kids were pretty excited about that. We also observed the topography of the different states and noted the vast differences between, say, Indiana and West Virginia. (I do have to add that while all of the states were beautiful, West Virginia won our hearts. I would love to live there someday.) We also kept a close eye out for wildlife and had fun looking for Bigfoot. (Read this. You’ll understand; my kids love to poke fun at me.) My kids also got a kick out of the Missouri Department of Transportation name- MoDot. It took us a while to even figure out what it meant because here it’s called PennDot, and I guess we’ve never given any thought to what other states may call it.

You know how when you read about famous places or see them on TV, it’s kind of a ho-hum experience? (At least, it is for me.) I’ll tell you what, seeing them in person is amazing. Even though we were not able to stop because of time constraints, driving past Wrigley Field and the St. Louis Arch left a lasting impression on us. In fact, Devin particularly liked this monument because of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief when Percy gets attacked by a chimera in the elevator of the Arch.

Once we got to the base, it wasn’t anything like we expected. I guess I’ve seen the movie Stripes one too many times because I imagined it would be some dreary military base with nothing to look at but trainees marching everywhere, getting screamed at. It was beautiful. Seriously. It looked like a movie of a small town in the suburbs. Grass everywhere (not concrete, like I was expecting), a mall that was called the exchange, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a school, fast food- you name it. Seeing where Brendan had spent the last five months helped me to breathe a sigh of relief because we all honestly thought it would be some horrendous place.

The first day we got there was family day, so we were all seated in an auditorium when all of the soldiers came marching in. I’m getting chills as I’m writing this because it’s still so emotional for me. They did several formations, and after a brief speech, we were able to spend the day with him. Seeing him for the first time since Christmas almost brought us all to tears because it was so obvious that our Brendan was now a man. He had an obedience and respectfulness that went way beyond the good kid who left for boot camp. The kids were fascinated with his dress blues because we had studied the uniforms, and the kids were happy to tell him all about it. We also signed out his battle buddy and spent the day with him, too, because his family would not be there until later.

We spent the day visiting the Leonard Wood museum and the exchange where the kids were introduced to the concept of sales tax and why the soldiers there did not have to pay it. Since we walked everywhere once we were on base, the kids had a great time looking at the gigantic bullfrogs we saw everywhere. Gigantic.

After family day was over, we retreated to our hotel rooms, which the kids were enamored with because we never go anywhere, and got some sleep.

The next day was graduation. The army played a slide show of actual basic training exercises, and we were blessed enough to see Brendan throwing up after coming out of the gas chamber. Perfect. After a beautiful awards and graduation ceremony, Brendan was ours again because he is in the Military Police reserve unit. Sadly, we witnessed several families saying goodbye to their sons and daughters who, being active duty, would not be coming home just yet.

This trip was, by far, one of the best learning experiences we have ever had. The kids still talk about it, in great detail, to this day. Not one math or language arts book made it into our suitcases, but look at what they learned:

-government services
-biology and natural habitats
-military history
-social studies

There’s probably so much that I’m missing, but I think you get the picture. So if you’re planning a vacation or a road trip, consider leaving those books at home. There’s so much more out there.

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Five Weekend Links

I’m linking back to some of my earlier posts today. Don’t mind the fuzzy pictures on some of them. Up until recently, I was using my android as my camera, so some of my pictures turned out less than desirable. If you haven’t read these, take a look. Maybe you’ll find them to be useful.

1. The Top Ten Reasons I Homeschool

2. Lessons from an Eight-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

3. Sometimes Simple Is Hard

4. Maybe “Educational” Should Be a Bad Word

5. Five Great Homeschool Resources and a Giveaway

I hope you enjoy them, and have a great weekend!

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Weekend Review- The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /

I can finally tell that spring is coming. We had several warmer days this week, including Tuesday, which was over 60 degrees! I’m not even going to complain that the wind chill was in the single digits today because spring has announced its imminent arrival, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yay!

We had another busy week this week, but busy is good because it means that we actually left the house. I’ve gotten so used to being stuck inside that every little outing is exciting for me.

Sunday we made it to church, despite losing an hour. Although we did miss Sunday School and attended the later service, we made it. Sunday night was the first Awana and Ladies’ Bible Study that we’ve attended since before Christmas, so the kids were ecstatic, and I enjoyed spending time with the ladies.

On Monday, I had to get my blood drawn, so Arianna walked to the hospital with me. I had some sort of trainee drawing my blood, and she must have done something wrong because my blood was leaking out everywhere. Arianna even pointed out that it was dripping on the floor. Note to Phlebotomy instructors- keep your trainees away from people on blood thinners. Just saying. I made it out of there alive, and we enjoyed walking home in the warm(ish) weather.

Tuesday was just an awesome day. Shawn took a vacation day because he knew that it was going to reach 60 degrees, so we took the kids to the trout nursery. We had an amazing time, and we all learned so much, despite the fact that we’re there several times a year.


They’ve set up a bunch of information boards, which we really enjoyed reading. They really made a difference in that we learned more on this visit than we have in the last several years of going there, combined.


Afterwards, I took Devin to the local camera store where she got a very detailed lesson on her camera. I posted about this day right here because it was such a good illustration of what unschooling is all about.

Wednesday we were back at church. This time the kids went to Kingdom Builders, while I helped in the nursery. Again, the kids were so psyched to go because we have’t been to church on a Wednesday night since December, either.

Thursday was too cold to go anywhere, but we actually needed the down time, so it worked out.

So what about the schoolish stuff?, you might be wondering. We started the Life of Fred math curriculum this week. We all love it. I wish we would have known about this curriculum years ago. Since I have so many kids, I bought almost every single book in the series, including the new language arts set.

See? I wasn't kidding.
See? I wasn’t kidding.

Ireland and Luke have actually initiated a lot of seat work this week, so Luke has been completing some basic addition problems, while Ireland is getting familiar with her letters and numbers.


Dillon is still going strong with his gaming, but something great has come out of it…he’s found a like-minded friend in Taiwan who’s been helping him with the mods, so they’ve been emailing back and forth about Minecraft. Sunday they plan on chatting via Skype, so Dillon’s really looking forward to it.

Today Arianna and Caollin were learning French, Irish, and Japanese, thanks to Mango Languages. This is the same free program that Devin is using for Swedish. We also created some chalk pastel sunsets today, thanks to a tutorial over at Hodgepodge. Chalk pastels can get a little messy, but it’s usually the messy stuff that creates the best pieces.

On Friday, Devin is going to a sleepover/tea party at her friend’s house, and then she’ll be headed to her painting and drawing class on Saturday afternoon.

These past two weeks have been such a boon to our souls. I can feel our cabin fever slowly melting away…

How about you? Have you been enjoying getting out of the house?

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My Hands-Off Approach to Teaching Reading

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.

Today I’m back to answering readers’ questions again. Teaching reading can be a scary thing with any homeschooling method, let alone unschooling, which prompts this next question…

– Now, for my big question: In your opinion, how do you continue unschooling your young children while still teaching them some of the basic necessities (reading, math, grammar)

That’s a great question. I really don’t know. 😉 I’m only half-joking here because this is only the third month I’ve actually been unschooling, although I do think I can help here since my method of teaching reading relaxed more and more as I continued to homeschool.

When I first started to homeschool, I went all out with every subject and got a book for EVERYTHING. It was so excited to imagine all of our glorious future days of sitting around the table having our own little school at home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite like that. My children soon- like, immediately- tired of completing book after book with no end in sight. And reading? Well, that became one of their most dreaded subjects because learning to read can be overwhelming enough without completing five worksheets for a four-page story.

Next, I ditched the reading workbooks and turned to Saxon readers. Everyday I would sit with London and read her they same story for one week. I would read it once, then she would attempt to read it. If you would go by school standards, London was a slow reader and would probably have been put in special education. This kept weighing on my mind as we were reading these books, and every time she would have a hard time reading something, I would get so frustrated because I love reading, and I just couldn’t grasp how hard it is for some children. I would get frustrated, and she would cry almost everyday. Until I read the book Learning All The Time by John Holt. He surmised that the best way to teach children to read is to let them teach themselves! This seemed almost too good to be true, but I was so frazzled over the whole situation that I decided to give it a try. I stopped making her read to me and only read to her when she asked me to. After a couple of weeks, she had taught herself how to read all those books she had been having trouble with because it was something she wanted to do, and the pressure from me was gone. I can’t recommend this book to you enough.

Another year rolled around, and it was Bailey’s turn to learn to read. You would think I would have learned from my mistakes, but no, those phonics books just looked too alluring, so I bought them for London, Bailey, and Luke, and I started going down the same path a different way. Instead of using readers, I forced phonics on them, which they LOATHED. Bailey was great at memorizing sight words but just couldn’t get the hang of sounding things out, so, before the frustration returned, we stopped the phonics books, and I just read to them- a lot. Bailey can now read books that I’ve never read to him before with words in it that he was never taught. He figured it out on his own. And you want to know why those phonics books didn’t help him? Apparently, he’s a whole language learner. If I would have made him continue his phonics lessons, it probably would have taken him longer to learn how to read.

One thing that I’ve learned in all this is that you have to go with the flow. Luke is five, and, so far, isn’t interested in reading at all. He likes to be read to, but right now that’s sufficient for him. Ireland is four, and she is the one asking me, “What’s that say?” “What letter is that?” “How do I spell Easter?” They’re two different kids and have two different learning styles. Am I worried? Not at this time. Children develop at different rates- they’re not robots. While Ireland may eventually surpass Luke in reading skills, Luke’s a mean skateboarder- something Ireland can’t do. And honestly, what does it really matter at what age a child starts to read? As far as I know, no one’s been turned down for a job because they were a late reader. When you’re all grown up, no one cares.

Reading isn’t essential for learning. If all you use is books, then, yes, it’s an asset, but don’t be discouraged if your child seems to be taking a while. Learning can happen in so many different ways- with or without reading. Look at babies. Their illiteracy certainly doesn’t seem to hinder them, does it?

Since standardized testing does begin in 3rd grade where I live, I do have a plan in place. I’ve heard so many great things about a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. While I haven’t personally used this book, I have heard nothing but good things about it from people I absolutely trust. In the event that one of my kids still needs help by 3rd grade, this is what I’ll be using. The lessons are short and sweet, and it’s easy on the parent, too.

I’ve spent a lot of time on reading, so I’ll keep grammar and math short and sweet. There are a lot of fun ways to teach grammar, such as Mad Libs. My children also like to write their own stories, so this is a great way to teach them about proofreading for grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation. In PA, homeschoolers are subject to standardized testing in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. This year Dillon is the only one who falls into that category, so today I just started having him complete Daily Grams: Guided Review Aiding Mastery Skills JR/SR High worksheets. These are really nice because they only take about five minutes, but they cover a wide variety of grammar and punctuation rules.

Math is something we still do everyday because I’m just not comfortable without a curriculum for this subject. I’ve recently gotten the Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred), Life of Fred Kidneys (INTERMEDIATE SERIES), Life of Fred Fractions to Pre-Algebra 5-Book Set : Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, and Pre-Algebra with Economics, and Life of Fred Advanced Algebra Expanded Edition. Devin is the only one who actually hasn’t tried these books yet, but everyone else loves it! These math books are literature based, so they make the subject much more interesting than the standard instruct and drill methods. This series also presents the subject matter in a comical way that my kids really enjoy. Perhaps the best thing about this series is that it presents math in real-life situations, so that the reader will actually know why he/she needs to know this stuff. I will point out that I don’t plan on formally introducing math until 3rd grade, unless one of them desires to learn it earlier.

I know I’ve been rather long-winded in this post, so let me just finish by saying that, in my experience, the best way to learn is to learn naturally without outside pressure. It’s that simple.

How have you taught your children to read?

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Literacy Musing Mondays

An Unschooling Day- Our Way

Since I’ve been writing so much recently about our homeschooling philosophy, I thought I’d write about our day today to give you an idea of what we do. My husband had a vacation day today, and it was over 60 degrees outside (finally!), so this will be a little more exciting than what we’ve been doing the last couple of months, which has basically consisted of crafts, reading, and complaining about the snow.

This morning Luke approached me and said,
“Mom, I haven’t done my bookth (not a typo- he has a lisp) in a long time. Where are my bookth?”
“They’re in the basket with the other workbooks. Do you want to do them?”
He decided that he was going to work on math today, so after about 3 pages of math- very basic addition and subtraction- he went on his merry way playing his boyish games around the house. I have to add that, despite his lisp, his voice is very husky, so it sounds really comical.

Anyway…Ireland saw him doing his workbook, so she wanted to do her “school work.” I printed out some free letter printables, and she worked on those for a while. Ireland is the oldest child that’s never been formally taught, (she’s 4) and she whizzed through these papers before I could even tell her what to do. She really loves doing worksheets, so I’ve bookmarked the website because I have a feeling I’ll be visiting it a lot.

Soon after, we all ate a quick breakfast (sausage corn dogs for the kids, a banana nut muffin for me) and did our chores so we could get ready to go to the trout nursery, our field trip for the day.

It was so sunny and warm outside, I felt like doing cartwheels, but I held back because I didn’t want to have an aneurysm. We really had a great time, and I took lots of pictures.


It really is beautiful there, and the contrast between seeing the snow on the ground, and the warm weather was unbelievable. There’s some fabulous wildlife there, also. Every time we go there, Devin and I have always talked about the time we saw an enormous crane in a tree. It seriously looked like a pterodactyl. Well, there are a lot of information boards throughout the nursery, and we actually discovered from reading one today that the “crane” we saw was actually a herron. We also saw a poor fish swimming around that had its entire back ripped open, possibly by a herron. Poor thing. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never noticed these information boards before. Maybe they’re new. Regardless, we learned a lot from them, like how to tell different types of trout apart. Caollin, for some reason, has always called the yellow ones “Goldilocks,” but today we found out that they’re actually called “Golden Rainbow Trout.” I think she’ll still call them Goldilocks. 🙂 We also never knew that the little hatchlings are called fisherlings.

On the way home, there was much discussion about fish. Devin hopes to one day have a koi pond. Dillon wants a piranha pond, of course. Dillon quizzed us on the types of trout and then told us which kinds he’s caught while fishing.

Afterwards, we stopped at the shopping center. Shawn took Devin, Dillon, Caollin, London, Luke, and Kenzie into Family Dollar with him, while I had Arianna, Bailey, Ireland, and Summer with me into Dollar Tree. Even though Shawn had two more kids than I did, he told me that the cashier complimented their good behavior, while my cashier, on the other hand, told me I have my hands full after witnessing Ireland crying because she couldn’t find anything to buy with her penny and Summer taking it upon herself to grab a Snickers bar off of the counter and open it (which I then had to buy). Then she tried the same thing with Skittles and so on and so on. Sigh…Why are kids always better behaved for their dads? I really want to know!

We came home and had spaghettios for lunch, then straightened up again because the house gets messy that fast. Since Shawn was home, I let Dillon and Devin play World of Warcraft with him, while the other kids played for a while. Arianna kept herself busy doing theatrical makeup again. Today she made herself a pumpkin.

After a while Devin came downstairs, and I reminded her about the shooting assignments she hasn’t done for her photography class. It turns out that she didn’t know how to work the manual settings on her camera, so I took her over to Dan’s Camera, where she got a 30 minute lesson on how to work her camera. They gave her so much information that she was even taking notes. It was definitely worth the trip because I honestly just expected them to spend 3 minutes telling her where everything was, and that was it. I even started to get worried after a while because I know they give photography lessons there, and the man was being so thorough, that I started thinking um…am I going to get charged for this? My fears were unfounded, and the only thing I ended up paying for was an SD card for Arianna’s camera.

We came home, and I made dinner- homemade hoagies and Checker’s fries. The kids did their prospective Life of Fred math books. Then, Devin came down and took a Greek mythology quiz from last week, and we went over her algebra self-test together.

So…this is what we did today. Who knows what we’ll do tomorrow? Hopefully, the weather will cooperate, and we’ll actually get outside again!

What have you done today?

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Share the Wealth Sunday

Well, I Didn’t See This One Coming!

Image courtesy of photostock /
Image courtesy of photostock /

So here I’ve been the past several weeks, happily typing away about the freedom of unschooling. Imagine my surprise today, then, when Dillon approached me and said, “Mom, I want to start doing unit studies again.” Huh?? I was shocked, and I did a poor job of hiding it when I blurted out, “Why???” Apparently, he’s bored. Bored. I immediately pointed out all the cool stuff I bought in lieu of curriculum this year. I did my speech about how he’s so lucky to have the freedom to learn about what he wants to learn when he wants to learn it. Still no change. I told him that if he’s absolutely sure that he wants to do unit studies, we’ll do that. His reply? “I’m not sure. I’m just bored.”

Okay…I know that I need to get to the bottom of this- and fast.. First of all, I’m hesitant to pick up where we left off because I know that as soon as the weather warms up, he’ll want to be outside all the time studying creepy crawlies like he always does, and the unit studies will be forgotten. I know firsthand that the cold weather can make me feel like a total slug, so I’m guessing it’s taking its toll on him.

One thing that I know is going to have to change for now is our screen-free period. As it stands now, the kids aren’t allowed to do anything involving electronics- at all- during this time. I thought it was a good idea, but I’m seeing now that it’s a little too strict. My kids love to research. And how do they research the most? While we do go to the library quite a bit, the majority of their research happens on the computer using either search engines or YouTube videos. As good as my intentions were, I think this rule has been hindering their creativity and motivation because, while they may get tons of ideas during the screen-free time, they have no access to the computer. My answer, up until now, has always been, “That’s a good idea. You’ll have to look that up after 4,” after which, the idea is completely forgotten, and instead I see a lot of glum faces trying to come up with something else.

Image courtesy of suphakit73 /
Image courtesy of suphakit73 /

So, for now, I’m going to compromise. Instead of this time of day being an all-encompassing ban on electronics, I am going to allow these devices to be used for research purposes. In the best of circumstances, when the weather gets warmer, this won’t even be an issue at all. In the worst of circumstances, this will continue through the spring and summer, but my kids will still be learning, and that’s not such a bad thing.

And if Dillon or another of the kids is still bored after this change? Then I’ll do the unit studies. Part of unschooling is giving children the freedom to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it and how they want to learn. As another blogging friend once said- homeschoolers are freedom scholars. And we’ll use that freedom to the best of our ability.

Natural Learning Vs. Assigned Learning


Today I’m going to address the third and final question of a commenter on my post My Answer to a Common Concern about Unschooling. [The comment has since been removed at the request of the author.]

3) It [unschooling] is premised on the idea that people don’t “love learning” if discipline is involved. My experience & observation of others is just the opposite – people tend to come to love those areas of life in which they apply the most discipline – and not just self-discipline, but where adults have taught them discipline.

On this particular comment, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Unschooling takes a lot of discipline- on the part of the child and the parent. The question is, what is that discipline being applied to? Remember that I haven’t always been an unschooler. Our homeschool has evolved from school-at-home to unit studies to eclectic and then finally to natural learning, so I’ve seen the outcomes of all of these methods. With regard to my children, they have retained the most information from topics that they themselves pursued on their own. Pursuing their own interests, in itself, takes discipline, so discipline is certainly not an issue. And whether the discipline is coming from the child or being taught by the parents is not the issue. The issue is what path will their education take? Yours or theirs?

When we were still doing unit studies and would be learning about a particular subject, such as American Indians, they really seemed to have a good grasp of what I was teaching them, and they did have fun doing it. We made false face masks and headdresses and visited a Lenni Lenape museum. They had a ball. Fast forward a few months- I asked some questions about the American Indians unit, and they hardly remembered anything.

Contrast this with a perfect example of my son, Dillon. He loves spiders- especially wolf spiders. I have never covered spiders, specifically, other than that they are classified as arachnids. So Dillon took it upon himself to find out everything he could about wolf spiders- books, websites, documentaries, YouTube videos, you name it. What did he get from all this? I now consider him to be an “expert” on wolf spiders. He can tell you where they live, what they eat, how long they live, how big they get- I could go on and on.

We spent four weeks on that American Indians unit, and even though they seemed to enjoy it, now they remember nothing, other than a few things. On the other hand, Dillon still remembers everything about wolf spiders and has increased his knowledge of them even more since then.

This is not surprising to me. I did the same thing when I was in public school. I remembered what I was supposed to long enough to make the honor roll and graduate in the top 10% of my class…and then I forgot it. It was no longer needed. What do I remember from school the most? The subjects I chose to take- mythology, theater arts, parenting (thank God I remember that, 11 kids later), cooking, nutrition. What do these have in common? My interest.

And I will go even further to say that, unless you have a need to learn something- and by need I’m not referring to a need to fulfill state requirements, but a need to learn something in order to achieve a goal- a lot of what is taught in schools is unnecessary. In the majority of cases, people will pursue a career in something that they’re drawn to- interested in. Is it really important that an astronomer knows that laissez faire means “hands off”? Does a historian need to know what alliteration is? And who exactly decided what is important to learn? This is why homeschooling is the ideal choice because these things should be decided on a case by case basis. Not everyone is the same. God created us to be unique individuals, and we should nurture that.

Before you jump the gun, let me just interject that I love learning. I’m learning all the time, and it is a good thing to be knowledgeable, but why you’re learning something is as important as what you’re learning. Alluding back to my high school days,- sorry for all the trips down memory lane- I took six years of German. Six. I should be a pro, right? Not so much. I could probably help someone in their first year of German, and it would end there. Why? I haven’t had the need to use it.

Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s great to report to the school district that you taught your third grader Euclidean geometry. It’s awesome to look back at those old homeschooling journals and see that your seventh grader completed a course on quantum physics, but are they going to remember it? Unless they have an interest in those fields, I’d say probably not. Why? Because they won’t need to use it.

This is why it’s so important to let your children’s interests come into play. This time is precious. Let them spend time pursuing things that they’re going to retain and possibly use in their future endeavors. I myself know how hard it can be to realize that our children may not care about the things we care- or think that they should care- about. Let them lead the way. Trust that they have the ability to increase their knowledge in the things that are important to them and that they will have the discipline to do so. That’s the best kind of learning- the kind that they won’t forget.

Linking up with


Can a Christian Be an Unschooler?


Today I’m continuing on with the second question posed to me in the comments of this post.[Please note-I have removed the comment at the request of the author. She was not intending to appear judgmental. She was just curious.] Here’s the question:

2) The method seems to put the child instead of the parent in the leadership position -which doesn’t mesh with my understanding of Christianity

This is not the first time I’ve heard the inference that unschooling is disobedient to God’s word. Again, as I answer this, this is how we do this in my family.

My children have boundaries. They also have responsibilities that I fully expect them to accomplish everyday. We have ten kids still in the house, so obviously, there are rules they are expected to follow. Believe me, my children know who the authority figures are in the house- and it’s not them!

I give them freedom in learning, not a free for all. My children are encouraged to pursue their own interests to their hearts’ content. I am there to guide them, offer suggestions, and ensure that they are treating each other with respect. I do not put them in a room and say, “Okay, kids- have at it! I’ll be back in an hour or four!” I jest when I say this, but I get the notion that some people truly think this is what unschooling is all about. If anything, unschooling requires even more parental involvement because we have to have our eyes and ears open all the time and pick up on the tiniest clues that tell us what our children are interested in, so that we can find resources and activities that our kids may like.

Another comment I’ve seen in many a blog post is (I’m paraphrasing) that “God’s word teaches us to train up our children, and unschoolers don’t do that because they are not giving their children formal lessons.”

Okay, let’s stop right there. The verse they’re referring to is this:

Proverbs 22:6-
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

What is this verse speaking of? Certainly not how to teach math, grammar, or geography. It’s speaking of training up your children so that they are obedient to God. So that they do His will. That’s it. And, unless the four versions of the Bible I have are wrong, there’s no addendum that says:

And be sure to use Abeka or an another quality curriculum when you do this, so that it’s done properly.

Please don’t think I’m anti-curriculum. I have tons of it. I’m just making a point that there are many ways to teach your children about the Lord or any “school subject” that do not involve textbooks. There’s nothing wrong with using them for that purpose; there’s a lot of really good literature out there, but it’s not the only way. Another great passage that gives credence to this is:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

This is what unschoolers do! We don’t view learning as being done at certain times- it is happening all the time! And specifically speaking of teaching our children about God, this happens throughout the day, and, as I’m sure it is with traditional homeschoolers, as well, it is a natural thing.

Read the Bible to your children. Talk to them about sin, redemption, and grace. And do it in whatever way you choose because, no matter how you do it, God knows your heart. And He knows mine.

What are your thoughts?

Linking up with






Growing Homemakers



Hope in Every Season


Homeschool Evolution- Year Round Homeschooling

There's No Place Like Home

Today Hip Homeschool Moms has published a post written by yours truly! I actually wrote this before our transition into unschooling, so it’s been interesting to go back and read it again. In this post, I discussed about why we chose to school year-round and what difference it makes.

Be sure to head on over and check it out!


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