About Sue Patterson

Wife. Mom. Daughter. Nana. Mentor. Coach. Writer. Editor. Speaker. Activist. Find me also at: Instagram: @UnschoolingMom2Mom Twitter: @Sue5 Pinterest: /umom2mom Facebook: /UnschoolingMom2Mom AND /SuePattersonCoaching

Private Groups Get MORE!

I’m so excited to announce that my wonderful private groups are now going to get a BONUS!
In addition to the “regular stuff” group members get…

  • Monday Morning FB Live Stream
  • Wednesday Group Coaching Call
  • Thought-provoking article discussion
  • Resources and information
  • Ongoing support from the private community
  • Ongoing coaching and information from Sue Patterson   

We’re adding on a special Q & A time with various authors, experts, parents who have a lot of information to share with you!

My first Special Guest!

Joyce Fetteroll
April 10-16th

Joyce – a longtime unschooling advocate – will be helping those in the private group figure out what they could do to help make their homes happier.  Joyce believes that there are two key elements to successful learning, namely engagement and a rich, supportive environment. For unschooling to work, parents need to support that engagement and swirl interesting, fun experiences through children’s lives to give them a taste of the variety the world has to offer.

This is going to be so much fun! I’m excited to introduce you to some of my friends! 🙂

Find out More!

Book Club Starts This Week!

Do you wish you could break down the barriers between you and your teenager? Maybe those speed bumps are starting to show up in your pre-teen or even younger!

My best guess is that you’re trying to control something that isn’t even within your power to do!  Kids resist control – even when we think we’re being super subtle. They can see right through it!

And OF COURSE you try to control the situation! You have a lot of life experience that shows you how things could go terribly wrong if they “continue down that path!”

Don’t even get me started on how social media feeds that. Parents are applauded for heavy-handed discipline, their “likes” skyrocket. Everyone is SURE what they’re doing is necessary.

But I’d bet money that those kids who were shamed on their mom’s facebook page are busy figuring out a way to get around her. They’re not “seeing the light,” and changing their ways! Their parent/child relationship wasn’t strengthened by that little public cry for approval from other parents living in fear. Instead, that kid probably cannot STAND their mom.  That’s heartbreaking to me.

The bottom line is that “control” is not going to work. Choosing an approach “for their own good,” isn’t going to work either. And even if you do get fragments of success, the price you pay is going to be too high.

And here’s the secret – you don’t have to live that way at all! This book helped me when my parenting techniques were not working. It completely turned things around. It can for you too.

Join us in the private group I host for parents of teens. We’re opening it to parents with kids of all ages while we discuss the book, Parent/Teen Breakthrough: A Relationship Approach.  This way, we can all get better at creating the relationships we want to have with our kids.

When you sign up, you also get all the benefits of being in the private group:

  • Weekly group coaching by phone
  • Weekly live stream video in the group
  • Coaching from me in the group
  • Support from others in this private community
  • All for only $20/month!

Sign me up!          

 <- Order your book asap! Use your Amazon Prime through this link!

“I’m Bored…” Quick Tip!

People write a lot about the benefits of letting kids be bored. And while that may give kids the opportunity to figure things out, I tend to want to help them when they are uncomfortable.

My family was an average suburban middle class family. In the beginning, my kids went to school just like everyone else. But when it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped it would, we explored our options and started homeschooling.  It took us a while to figure out our rhythm and how we wanted to approach learning and life.

But we learned a few things along the way.

When my son first came home from school, he complained of being bored. He had been SOO over-scheduled – if I wasn’t directing him in some way, his teacher was. He got up in the morning, ate the breakfast I had prepared for him, got on the bus that took him to his next 8 hours, then back home again to me. He was offered a snack choice and then we’d be off and running again. But he never really figured out how to manage his own time or make his own way.

One thing we did, and parents could maybe do it for each of their kids: We walked around the entire house with a clipboard and he and I identified fun things he could do if he felt like it.

Every room had several opportunities. We found toys in closets that he had set aside. We set up a few folding tables, so there were more surfaces ready for play. We talked about snacks he could fix without asking for help or even some cooking he could do if he wanted to be adventurous. The backyard, patio and front sidewalk were full of options for building and playing.  Pets needed attention, so that was always an option.  At the time, we had so many books (pre-Pinterest days) full of activities he could do if he wanted to make something.

I recorded all these things for him and when we were done, we taped his, “I’m bored, but I can…” list onto his door. For a while he referred back to it. Then in time, he got more comfortable with finding his own interests.

Sometimes kids say, “I’m bored,” because they need more connection with their parents. But sometimes they just need a little help figuring out what they can do with their time.

Hope this quick tip helps!

Creating New Holiday Family Traditions

Here we are in the final countdown if you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, the Yule or Kwanzaa!

Several people have asked for suggestions on new traditions they could create for this holiday season. Sometimes their family dynamics has changed and the big family get-togethers seem to be a bit of a disappointment. Other people have really happy memories from their childhood, and they want to be sure that their own kids have something like that. Some are finding that the old family traditions are feeling a little stale and don’t fit with what they want in their own family now.

Let’s up the merriment, ok?

Here are 25 ideas that might help you keep those wheels turning for something that could work in your home. Some are activities we did as a family, others I only heard about – and quite a few Pinterest links!  Who knows, maybe one or two of these will find their way into your own holiday traditions with your children. 

  1. Midnight Game Night. Prep all day baking cookies, making snacks or favorite appetizers for that night. Load up on the Anticipation…. cue the music for the 1979 ketchup ad! Plan for easy self-serve breakfasts the next day as everyone wakes up verrrrry slowly the next morning.
  2. Holiday Party Food. Do you need some inspiration? Check it out and get inspired! Holiday Party Food
  3. Video each other with phones saying what they like the best about each other.
  4. Do a Family Photo – Pile on the couch together, be as goofy as you like. Then next year, do it again, with everyone in the same places. It will be fun to watch everyone grow!
  5. Create a Facebook group for just your family – did you know you could make it “secret” so no others can even find you? Share photos, encourage funny captions. Keep it going all year long. It could turn into a great way to record what everyone is doing, where you’re going, etc.
  6. Create a family Hashtag, so you could post them something catchy like #BowensAreBest or #WenzelsAreWonderful – Just a couple of cool examples.
  7. Favorite Toy of the Year. What’s been the favorite toy in 2016? Everyone takes a photo of their favorite toy, game, activity! Or have each kid take a picture of the other kid with their favorite toy. Make a day of that.
  8. Start a family blog. Retrace this past year… what were the highlights each month? Everyone can dictate what they remember most about the prior months.
  9. Watch Chevy Chase’s  Christmas Vacation and then drive around to see which house wins the Christmas Vacation Award this year. Or which neighborhood is best.
  10. Christmas Movie Marathon Day. Make a list of Christmas movies and vote on which ones get Family Favorite status. These will become YOUR family traditions!
  11. Movie Week. If you have too many movies to do a Marathon Day, you could spread it out over this next week! There are so many available to you: Animated, oldies, comedies, dramas – plus now with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, you can watch old Christmas specials or the Christmas episode from a regular TV show!
  12. Declare a “PJ All Day” day. Maybe even have new Christmas pajamas for the occasion.
  13. Winter Night Hike. Get the kids flashlights and headlamps (there are some cool ones attached to hats now), and go on a night time winter walk after dinner. Maybe go Pokemon hunting!
  14. Paper chains to count down until Christmas. Cutting each ring as you get closer. If you don’t want to do Christmas, do it to count down to the New Year.
  15. Cookie Bake Off. Spend at least a week baking various cookies (maybe one batch per day?) and let the cookies compete for which is the favorite! You could keep the ongoing score for the cookie on the fridge. Or use a white board and let each person put their 1st, 2nd , and 3rd choices. Here’s a collection of recipes from my cookie exchanges over the years!
  16. Winter Garden Stores. Go to the local garden center to see what’s different in the winter. Buy one of those Rosemary trees and bring it home to decorate. Keep it on the front porch or in the kitchen, just to remind everyone how awesome it smells. Or get something else that makes anyone excited when they stumble across it.
  17. See A Show! Check out the live performances in your area. What would be a fun one to go see all together? Remember that the afternoon matinees are sometimes less expensive – and easier to go to if your kids are younger.
  18. Hallelujah! Where can you go hear live Christmas music? Check online for local events – chorale groups, festivals that will have carolers, church performances that are open to the public. You don’t have to be a member of a church to go hear their music. There’s something about the way organ music can fill a big church – maybe your kids would enjoy that.
  19. Make Gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, frosting and candies. Or make a snow cave scene. Get creative!
  20. Community Service. See what kinds of community service options are available to you. We used to do the hand outs for the Salvation Army Toys for Tots program. It was an awesome experience. But we also collected mittens, made blankets, adopted families through Angel Trees. Lots of options.
  21. Make a Donation. Help make room for new toys by seeing which toys the kids might like to regift to someone in need.
  22. Get Fit. What if you took an hour each day to exercise together? What about the YMCA? Or finding an indoor pool. Or how about a yoga stretching class on video?
  23. Wreaths. Make a cool wreath for the front door. Would they like to make ones for other rooms? Pull up Pinterest to get inspiration for some of my favorite Winter Wreaths.
  24. Fun Runs. Join a local 5K Run over the holidays. Usually it’s a recurring event – sometimes on the actual holiday (early in the a.m.)
  25. Collections of Other Family Traditions. I’ve collected collections! My Family Holiday Traditions board is full of suggestions from other people too.

I love Pinterest, (did you know that?)
I actually have 2 accounts…
one for myself and my own interests and one for Unschooling Mom2Mom.

Read more about Why I think Pinterest is an Unschooler’s Dream.

Unschooling is not UnParenting

Let’s put this concept that Unschooling equals Unparenting to rest once and for all.


People have been saying this for decades. And those same people usually have no first-hand knowledge about unschooling. Or perhaps they’ve witnessed one family having a rough time.

Let’s try to remember a few things:

Do people parent differently? Of course.

Do parents apply or incorporate different research or advice? Certainly.

If someone does it differently from you, does that make them WRONG? No way.

Parents who have applied unschooling principles in the rest of their lives are living involved intentional lives with their children. The concept that runs through the philosophy of unschooling is one of trust… trust that kids WILL figure out what they need. This is tricky to do sometimes, considering our societal pressures.  But it certainly doesn’t happen in a vacuum or without parental attention and focus. Nor does it always happen immediately.

Unschooling actually requires MORE from parents than other more rigid homeschooling methods! It’s a 24/7 approach.

Unschoolers don’t say, “no learning today!” because, well, we know that’s impossible – humans learn. Period.

Unschoolers don’t use the Light Switch Approach to learning, where educational input is On or it’s Off.

3 p.m.? Put your books away, no learning allowed after that!

The Light Switch Approach is based upon whether the parent/teacher is bringing something to the table. (Literally and figuratively.) Lessons have to be prepared, children are discouraged from deviating from the plans, adults are the gatekeeper of all knowledge.

That is simply not how unschoolers want to live.

Unschoolers want fuller richer lives WITH their kids. They want all the opportunities that are presenting themselves daily – hourly sometimes – to be available and free for the taking. They want to provide resources so children can explore and discover.

But before I get offtrack singing the praises of this non-traditional lifestyle, let’s look at what Unparenting usually means in people’s minds.

When people use the term “unparenting,” they usually mean something like this:

  • No assistance or direction from the parents
  • Parents who don’t publicly reprimand their kids when they don’t conform socially.
  • Parents not enforcing bed times, allowing “back talk,” – not adhering to mainstream parenting techniques
  • Kids who seem wild in public, maybe presenting with messy hair/poor hygiene

True UnParenting is neglect – and that’s the opposite of unschooling. People who are unparenting are ignoring, avoiding and not engaging with their children. They don’t fuel their child’s interests, expose them to new opportunities, console them when things don’t work out, and become their biggest source of support and love. Those are the very things that make unschooling work out – unschooling parents do all of that!

Parents Judging Each Other

My kids are all in their 20s now. And I have to say that over those two decades, sometimes my parenting was ON POINT, and sometimes it was sorely lacking. I’d hate to be judged on how I responded to my kids on a bad day.

Sometimes parents are trying various parenting techniques they’ve read about and the children are resisting. We can’t really know what’s going on specifically – we’re not in their heads or in their homes. Parenting approaches can vary widely and we make decisions based upon what resonates with us. We wouldn’t want someone making OUR parenting decisions for us, let’s not do that to other parents.

When kids are learning new skills – or when anyone is, really – sometimes it takes a little while for it to become a new habit. Unschooling parents are often trying to give their kids the space to figure out how they want to behave in their world. This doesn’t mean without parental input – but they may simply choose not to have those conversations with their child in public.

Humiliating the child just to save face among other parents doesn’t do anything positive for the parent-child relationship – an important factor for unschoolers.

While some parents are trying to honor their kids natural tendencies, sometimes they get off track. Has everyone always gotten this parenting-thing right every time?  When someone sees parents either ignoring a behavior or struggling with it, we should all try to remember that this is just one little snapshot of their day.

Maybe just getting out the door was tough and the battle over the hairbrush wasn’t worth it. I’ve certainly had days like that. And I’m happy to say, my grown kids don’t have a problem with hygiene – or any behavior in public really. Which leads me to…

The Wild Child

Some kids have a higher energy level than others. And that can take its toll on parents.We have no idea what else is going on, what the parent has tried before, what they’re trying to implement at the moment you’re watching.

One of the factors with louder kids, is that it pushes the parenting out into the spotlight. And one thing onlookers enjoy is criticizing! Probably from a deep-seated need to compare and deflect any unwanted attention their own way.  Or maybe it’s just a habit left over from the adult’s own school days, where stepping out of line or drawing unwanted attention was something to be avoided at all costs. Those kids who didn’t get that little social school memo were often ostracized and shamed. It’s not that we can’t undo it when we have that kind of thinking persist later in life – we can! But we need to recognize it when it rears its ugly head.

Is it “Permissive Parenting?”

Permissive parents are not involved in their child’s life. I often even wonder about using that term at all. I “permitted” my kids to do a lot of things that other parents wouldn’t have. Did that make me permissive? As usual, I struggle with labels, never quite fitting into one or another.

Sometimes people mistakenly think that unschooling means there are no rules. Or that the parents have thrown caution to the wind saying, “Anything goes!” But that’s not the case at all. Unschooling families do have rules  – rules about safety, interacting with others, etc. – they’re just not arbitrary rules. Boundaries exist in life. Highways are dangerous. Hitting your little brother isn’t okay. Staying up all night can ruin the next day’s activities. Unschooled children are given the space to figure out how to deal with life’s frustrations with the help of adults who are on their team. Instead of creating a list of rules, unschooling parents use these ideas as guiding principles.

Sometimes adults get locked into the idea that “kids getting their way” is a bad thing. They’ve been convinced that it’s the slippery slope to their child becoming “spoiled.”  But unschooling parents work with their children to see how they could get what they want – or at least some variation of it. Or maybe they help them see it’s not possible right now. In any case, they avoid the Us vs. Them approach to parenting. Unschooling parents aren’t on opposite sides as their children. They’re more like partners – trying to help them navigate their world so they can be successful.

Unschooling parents actually find themselves somewhere in between the conventional authority-oriented parenting and what’s usually considered permissive parenting. Mainstream parents often feel they must make the boundaries the most important aspect. They feel it’s what keeps the family from descending into anarchy. While permissive parents feel that the child’s wishes are always honored with NO glance toward boundaries. Unschooling parents take both into consideration – the child’s needs and the reality of boundaries.

Trust and Respect

Unschooling parents prioritize trust and respect. I know, I know. A lot of parents are going to say that they cannot trust their child to behave well without a lot of threats or ranting on their part. But really… are those techniques effective? Are you having to simply amp up the punishments to get compliance? And are you really getting compliance or are they simply finding a way to work around you?

Unschooling parents have discovered that modeling trust and respect is what promotes trust and respect in children. Unschooling parents speak to their children in the same way they speak to their own adult friends. Sure, the topics are different, but the tone and the attitude is similar. When this happens consistently, children feel valued, they feel respected, they feel heard. And isn’t that what all humans want – their wishes and ideas to be heard? And how else are children going to learn to trust and respect others, if they don’t see it demonstrated in their lives?


Be careful about sweeping with a broad brush. Resist spreading gossip about families who are are having a rough time, just to alleviate some insecurities of your own.  Don’t make decisions about “all unschoolers” based on some story you heard from someone else or one family you saw struggling in a hotel lobby.

And consider parenting a different way from how you were parented or what’s the typical parenting technique these days. After all, is that really working all that well?

Building an Unschooling Nest

December is a cozy time of year! Instead of stressing about the holiday gifts and get-togethers, let’s lean into the idea of building a lovely nest for our families. Nest-building can happen any time of the year! And for those who choose to unschool, having a wonderful place to return to may be exactly what your family needs most from you!

People often want descriptions of an unschooler’s home life. They want to be able to visualize what the world looks like from our vantage point.  One of the things that was really important for me and for our family, was that I wanted our home to be like a cozy nest – a soft spot to land when they returned from their adventures out in the world or somewhere they could feel nourished as they daydreamed and played and enjoyed their life. When I look back at what our home was like – even though we moved frequently, some things continued from one location to the next.  In trying to describe what it was like, I often start with the five senses. If you’re like me, you’d consider how it looks, sounds, smells, feels and even tastes! If you’re the type who’s been fretting over planning, this might be a good project for you! Plan The Nest!

Now that my husband and I are retired, our nest looks a little different. But during the height of our unschooling days, here’s what you would have found:

At the front door….

I grew a lot of plants in the front garden beds. It kept them right under my nose, so I wouldn’t forget to water! You could brush against lavender or rosemary and the smell would just travel with you up to the door. We had a wonderful music teacher in Davis, CA, who had a gauzy curtain at her front door. The music would waft out through the doorway, her garden was lush and right up to the porch – a lovely inspiration for me.

Going Inside…

You probably WOULD hear music when you entered my house. But it would be a cacophony of sound! World of Warcraft or some video game blasting away, maybe some old-school rock and roll. You’d hear broadway show tunes playing upstairs with Katie belting them out right alongside. You’d hear the sound of jumping and stomping as Alyssa was dancing along to Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Of course, this gives you an idea of our time period… but it’s all shiftable to now.

You might hear Katie playing songs on the piano singing along with them. Back then, lots of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Or maybe they were all piled onto the couch for a raucous game of Mario Kart.

Something was always cooking, so you’d smell food when you walked in. Usually garlic and onions, because… well, we love them. But also baking and/or yummy-smelling candles.

Visually, it would look messy to most people. “The Lived-In Look” is what we called it. But we always wanted to do something else INSTEAD OF cleaning. Some adventure always seemed to pull at us harder than the housework. Maybe you can relate? I had a friend say, “No flat surface is safe in your house.” So true. 😉 Projects all over the place. Back then, we also had a video camera almost always up on a tripod, ready to record. We did that a lot. So many people worry about having a clean house. Our cleaning tended to happen because we needed a surface to begin another project. My husband used to kid me that we needed to have people over more often, just because we tended to clean more when we had guests. “Guests” were the infrequent visitors. The friends that came often knew that housekeeping wasn’t my strong suit. And most unschooling families I knew had similarly somewhat messy homes. The activity and the relationships were the priority.

Texturally, the sofas and chairs were comfy. Squishy pillows and soft blankets were always around for people who wanted to cuddle up and read. Oh yeah… reading. Bookshelves in every room. Every. Room. TVs in every room too. Sometimes on without sound…NatGeo or Discovery in the background, ready to be turned up if something caught our eye. But all kinds of other tv too, whenever someone wanted it. Back before DVDs we would record hours and hours of Magic Schoolbus, Gullah Gullah Island, or Kratt’s Creatures on VHS. Remember Wishbone and Carmen Sandiego? We had years where PBS was ALWAYS on! Eventually, that moved to Disney Kids and Cartoon Network, sitcoms, movies, documentaries. We took advantage of everything available!

We were definitely a Pet Family. Dogs, cats, birds (people used to tell me that it sounded like a jungle when they called. For a few years, the kids raised cockatiels as a pet biz.) Guinea pigs, fish tanks. At one point, circumstances allowed our quite suburban familiy to try our hand at ranch life.  During that time, our love of animals had no limits! We had horses and cows, a bull, a donkey (did you know they have the softest noses?), goats, chickens, a turtle. If we had had a pear tree, I’m sure we’d have had a partridge just for the fun of it – instead we had a guinea in a mesquite tree! Fa-la-la-la!

We had lots of extra people too. Staying for dinner, picking someone up to go somewhere, hanging out to chat. Easy non-judgey nests tend to attract others too.

We didn’t have places that were designated for children or adults-only, no rooms were off-limits or dedicated to solely learning. It was all mixed in together – learning happened everywhere! Staying flexible to accommodate whatever the kids’ interests are is the key. No place is more important than the people in it.

Knowing you can create anything you want, realizing that you can change it again when life changes – that’s so awesome! Right??


My Unschooling Manifesto

Sometimes it helps to get really clear what we believe about unschooling. Here’s my list of 25 items that are important in my own personal Unschooler’s Manifesto.

Would you add something to my list?

Would you be interested in creating your own manifesto? 

1.) Stop dividing the world into Educational and Non-educational. Everything is educational!

2.) Nothing is more important than the relationship between you and them – not some worksheet, not a banana peel on the floor, not what time they go to bed, not when they learn to read.

3.) You don’t have to artificially divide the world up into subjects. One thing really does lead to another when learners (children and adults) follow their interests.

4.) Figure out what your family’s rhythm is – and recognize that it may change over time. And! It may not look like someone else’s. But that’s the beauty of truly being able to individualize for your family too!

5.) Be curious about the world yourself. Invite your kids to be curious with you. Support them as they begin to wander with their own curiosities.

6.) Be Interested and Interesting. Unschoolers focus on living a rich, stimulating life with their kids.

7.) Role model critical thinking skills.

8.) Unschoolers recognize that the schoolish ways of lesson plans, curriculum, assignments, quizzes or tests, required memorizing, and grades are totally unnecessary and more about the “teaching” than the “learning.”

9.) Don’t suck the fun out of something by turning it into a “teachable moment.” Take your cues from your kids – a little conversation about it may be fine with them.

10.) Create a support system for yourself – people you can turn to when you’re not sure what you’re doing is working. Best if local, still good if online.

11.) You don’t have to use the term “unschooling” if it bugs you. A lot of options exist. And you may use different terms when you talk to different people – based upon their level of understanding. “Homeschooling” is fine for friends/family who don’t know what the heck you’re doing! Unschooling, at it’s simplest definition, is a homeschooling method. But if you want to call it Whole Life learning, or say, “We’re doing an experiential, individualized approach to learning,” that works too.

12.) Do everything you can to stay focused on TODAY… don’t beat yourself up about screw-ups in the past, and don’t play the “what if” game about all the things that could happen in the future.

13.) Take your cues from the child standing right in front of you. Staying tuned into who they really are (not that imagined story in your head) , will point you toward how to support them to grow and learn.

14.) Deschool yourself as well as your child. Read about how schoolish thoughts creep in, simply because they’re familiar – and because we are inundated with them from society.

15.) Ask yourself Why? And Why Not? Move away from arbitrary reasons. It may not have to go the way your knee-jerk thought wants to take you.  Think about the rationale behind the decision – does this work best for your family today?

16.) Get rid of comparisons. Every person is unique – their interests, their experiences, their internal wiring! The sooner we embrace people for who they are today and not wish for them to be something different – the better!

17.) Recognize that when you are making comparisons or wishing they were different, they’re picking up on your disapproval, your disappointment. If you’re trying for unconditional love – don’t make it conditional.

18.) Observe without judgement. You’re taking in data so you can be the best resource finder or facilitator for them.

19.) Learning is naturally hard-wired into humans. It’s possible that your child has had that negatively affected by schoolish techniques – but it can return if you’re supportive and patient. It’s human nature.

20.) Parents have to have a lot of trust in the process of learning – and in their own children – when external pressures are so strongly pushing for traditional schooling.

21.) Stay flexible and continue to learn about unschooling. What sounded insane in the beginning, may make more sense to you later down the road. That’s ok. What you embrace is entirely up to you. We all evolve as parents and as learners ourselves. Thank heavens, right?

22.) Because unschoolers aren’t following a typical scope and sequence, they will likely have gaps in their learning… at least according to what schools expect. But truthfully, we all have gaps – either we weren’t paying attention, or we transferred schools, or we were out for an illness.  And everyone can easily close up a gap with a quick google search or Siri question! 

23.) 18 is not a magic age – they will learn when they are ready. Sometimes before 18, sometimes after. But the pressure to get It all done by 18 is gone.

24.) Your days will look more like summer vacation – with all the fun, connection, and exploration that can go with it.

25.) Enjoy your life with your children. If this is hard for you, talk with someone to see where your obstacles are.


If you’re new to unschooling and wish you had a little extra support, I have a couple of great options for you!
Creating Confidence – A private membership group approach
Stress-Free Start – a 1:1 Coaching plan with a free ebook.

Private Group – Parents of Teens

Would you like to unschool your teenager?
Are you not sure if that’s really a good idea?


I have something special for you!


Lots of parents feel the urge to get their kids to “buckle down” when it comes to the teen years.
Fear grips us and our days of playful learning are tossed aside.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get some support for these years from someone who’s been there?

A Private Group for Parents of Teens! 

Starting on November 1, 2016, I’m opening a private members-only Facebook group for parents with teenagers.  I’ll share PRACTICAL ways to help parents who are struggling with all the new issues that adolescence brings in a private membership-only group on Facebook.

  • Maybe you’re not sure if the play-based childhood you’ve been supporting needs to shift gears?
  • Maybe you’re hanging around with homeschoolers who are piling on the academic work and wonder if they know something you don’t!
  • Maybe you’re simply worried about how to support your teenager and still keep doors open for him/her.

If you have any of these worries, this group will be JUST what you need!

In our Parents of Teens group, we will share ideas and look for ways that can help our kids move into young adulthood – without having to turn into some kind of parent we don’t want to be!

Each month, you’ll receive:

  • Weekly Group Coaching Calls!
  • Access to a private Facebook group with other parents of teens
  • Webinars for parents of teens
  • Weekly live stream videos in the group
  • Q & A sessions with Sue
  • Blogposts, articles, resources specific to issues of parents of teenagers



       $120 – 6 months

Please excuse the weird spacing
… but the paypal buttons have been giving me grief!
Email me if you’d like me to send you the link to sign up via email.  Coaching@SuePatterson.com



Pinterest and Unschooling

pinterest-unschoolPinterest, a social media platform founded in 2009, allows users to visually share, discover and catalog new interests. I think of it as a visual bookmarking system. When you find something you’d like to save, you “pin” it to a common theme area called a “board.”  You can browse/follow other people who share your interests and also “pin” what they’ve found onto your “boards.”  Pins can be photos, videos, graphics and even articles (although this works best if there’s a photo on the article’s page.)

I think of Pinterest as an Unschooler’s Dream!

I joined Pinterest when it was still really new in 2011. You had to be invited by someone who already had an account – it was somewhat of a cumbersome process!  But by then, my kids were grown. Immediately, I was nostalgic for the days of combing through hard-copy catalogs that had come by mail – always on the lookout for just the right resource. Back in the 1990s, most of the catalog products weren’t online, so we would wait for the mail or pass the catalogs among us at park days or our monthly Mom’s Night Out. Little did we know, someone was about to design something we would have adored – PINTEREST!

If you’re still only using Pinterest for recipes and interior design ideas – you’re barely scratching the surface!

Just as parents in our support group shared ideas, resources and websites at local coffeeshops and park days, unschooling moms are sharing resources from atoms to Zentangles on Pinterest! If your child has an interest, typing in a couple of keywords can give you access to so many options other people have discovered. And you’re not limited to only the other moms you know personally. You can search by theme, and find all kinds of things.  The entire internet is accessible to you – other people have done their research and are happy to share!

The 3 Step How-To

So how do you make this work to your best advantage?

  1. Create Pinterest accounts. Create one for yourself and, with your kids, create accounts for each child.
  2. Start identifying a variety of interests each child has. Get creative! You can have as many as you like. Each should be their own “Board” (in Pinterest lingo)
  3. Sharing boards. Once your child has his/her boards set up, he can invite you to pin onto that too. This will give them access to anything you find when you’re out resource-hunting on the internet.

Sometimes people have asked why not simply have your child use your account. Here are a few reasons I think it’s a good idea for kids to have their own account:pinterest-unschooling

  • They can learn more about how social media works.
  • They can easily add boards of their own if this turns into a tool they enjoy using.
  • They can create their own network of people to share pins.

At first, kids may find Pinterest to be a “mom” kind of thing – maybe. But it’s an easy visual way to keep track of the hundreds (thousands?) of ideas that cross our paths as we’re out on the web.

If we’re going to have so many wonderful ideas coming at us at lightening speed, we need to have a way to manage them! Certainly trying to remember it all isn’t going to work. Plus, another advantage is that you can pin something that you’d like to explore, but haven’t had time to yet. Then it can sit in your board and wait until you have time to really peruse the website.

From a mom perspective, Pinterest removes the pressure of “Come look now!” Even when it’s exciting, it can be interrupting – to you or to them! This way each person can check out the topic when they’re actually in the mood to look. And it allows you to continue to find cool resources even after their interest fades a little – it will be there if and when that curiosity pops up again.

Unschooling Mom2Mom currently has 66 Pinterest boards with nearly 2,000 pins!
So, if you’re just starting, go check these out and pin those that interest you.

Happy Pinning!


What SHOULD They Learn?

3-cute-kidsSo, you’ve ditched the curriculum and lesson plans, and now what? You’re twiddling your thumbs?

I doubt that very much!

But I was thinking about what kids need to know before they move into adulthood. What do I wish I had been able to focus on as a kid/teen? I created this list eons ago – when I still had three teenagers at home (and also a couple of grown step-kids with kids of their own!). I came up with my own list of what I thought would be good to learn.

  • Kindness and compassion. Learn how to put yourself into other people’s shoes.  When everyone else jumps on a bandwagon against something someone did, hold back a little bit.
  • Live in the moment. Realize that there are about 16 waking hours in a day. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s nothing wrong with having a little “down time” but make sure you have some “up time too.”
  • Listen to people when they talk to you.  Give them your full attention.  Think about what they’re saying but also why they might be saying it to you.
  • Get healthy. Learn healthy eating choices and find exercise that you like and can do nearly every day. You’re going to be in this body for a while – longer if you take care of it
  • Learn your strengths and your weaknesses.  Take time to get to know yourself.
  • Manage your stress. Find a way to calm yourself – maybe meditation, visualization, yoga, journaling. Even just getting in the habit of taking your dog for a walk might work.
  • Learn how easily it is to be manipulated. Learn about the nature of advertising and marketing.
  • Learn how to pursue your interests. Learn how to find information on the internet and dive in!
  • Be brave. Try new things. You never know what you might actually like.

Imagine if these ideas permeated school curricula with the same importance as academics. In our homeschooling/unschooling world, it can.  Reading, writing, and math will present itself.  And if you need these more traditional “subjects” for a job you’d like to pursue, that’s why we have community college. But it seems a far better plan to focus more on these kinds of characteristics/traits than something that may not even be part of our world in ten years.

Coping with the Back-to-School Frenzy

Sue-Patterson-adviceI want to share a few quick thoughts about this Back-to-School season. It’s almost a rite of passage here, isn’t it? New shoes, new backpack, new class schedule – so much hope and promise. Yet, we’re all too aware of how this will fade fairly quickly. The backpack zipper rips, the shoes aren’t just right, the bullies rear their ugly heads, and the schedule is more of the same… year after year. But people have to do something to get everyone to forget how they felt about the whole thing last year and buy into the idea that THIS time, it’s all going to be different.

Sigh. Disappointing.

Yet, even as we KNOW that, some of us get a little twinge. We allow ourselves to get swept up in feelings and memories that may not even be accurate! We feel a little left out or like a little fish swimming upstream alone. Or maybe we feel a little jealous of the moms who go for coffee together after they’ve dropped the kids off. We KNOW we’re doing the right thing, so why are we having these weird feelings about this time period that is so clearly manufactured by marketing and hype?

It could be because…
…It’s that rite of passage thing. And we went through it year after year.
…We’re having some doubts about how our home educating path has gone recently.
…We’re mere mortals against the marketing machine at work on us!
But I have a solution!

Bring your own motivations back to the front of your mind. No drifting. Pull out your journal and write your own answers:

1. List the reasons your family chose to homeschool/unschool.
2. Describe examples of your own school experience where it did NOT go as you had hoped.
3. Describe examples of times in your own or your child’s school experience that you will be able to avoid because now you’re homeschooling/unschooling.Next, make a list of new traditions you can create during this time of year. You might be a week or two into the local school year, but seeing what could work and what kind of flops would be good to do – even now.Ryan-Gosling-hey-girl

Here are some suggestions:

  • Get away from it all! Family trips, camping, heading to the beach all can be fun ways to remind you that you have flexibility and fun ahead!
  • Go school shopping! Once school starts in your neighborhood, so many of those supplies go on sale. Stock up on notebooks, pens, calendars – whatever looks fun!
  • Sleep in! And then start the day with a yummy brunch full of everone’s favorite foods. No rush, no hurrying. Put some fun upbeat music on and ponder what you’d like to do ALL.Day.Long.
  • Take photos! Posing near the same tree each year is cool, or even in the same living room chair. It can be fun to look back at the growth. Pinterest is full of all kinds of awesome ways to commemorate special days. If you’re uneasy sharing your photos openly on social media – or you just want to join in on the fun – we have a fabulous thread FULL of kids and their first NOT Back to School photos on our closed group.

Post your photos here

(at the UnschoolingMom2Mom FB group)

The link will work if you’re a member of Unschooling Mom2Mom
Or use the hashtags
#UnschoolingMom2Mom or #NotBacktoSchool

And don’t miss my collection of funny (and sometimes quite irreverant)
Not-Back-to-school memes. 

50+ Comebacks for Homeschooling Naysayers

(collected from the internet, conversations, and a couple of decades of living it)

About Socialization

1. “Socialization? That is why I homeschool.”

2. “Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.”

3. “You go to school—how do you socialize?”

4. “What do we do all day? Nothing. We just sit on the couch all day, staring at the wall.”

5. “What swear word do you think my kids don’t already know?”

6. “Learn what the words “socialize” and “socialization” mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you’re talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we’ve got a decent grasp of both concepts.”

7. “Socialization is overrated.”

8. “With our large family, if you come down to breakfast in this house, you’re socializing!’”

9. “Socialization is the easy part. I just corner the kids in the bathroom every few days and steal their lunch money.”

10. “Oh, right, because (obviously) spending years with no one but her own family really hurt Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

11. “The last thing I need is what you call socialization.”

12. “In school, they tell you you’re ‘not there to socialize.’ But now you’re saying that IS why they’re there?”

13. “We want our kids civilized, not socialized.”

14. “I’m not relying on the school to socialize my kids.”

15. “I prefer to have my kids skip over the bullying skill you learn in middle school – after all, it’s really only useful IN school.”

16. “Well, I guess I can teach my kids how to swear, and we can make them wait in line for the bathroom.”

17. “You mean because we live in a cave, never go to a store, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, never go to church, never visit friends or family, and basically avoid all contact with other human beings? How is it then that I’m talking to you?”

18. “Do you mean good socialization or bad socialization? Because it works both ways.”

19. “Do you mean, ‘Do I think my children are missing out on something by not being in public school?’ Yes, they are definitely missing out on some very important things. They are missing the explicit, X-rated vocabulary from the playground, bathrooms, school bus; the sexual harassment in the lunchroom on hotdog day; and the physical, mental, and emotional abuse from the little extortionist in the next desk who used to beat my child for the correct answers whenever the teacher’s back was turned. My children do miss out on those things by not being in public school, and that is exactly why we are homeschooling!”

20. “New studies show that, contrary to popular mythology… the average homeschooled child has no problem ‘socializing’ with other children… as long as he remembers to use smaller words and shorter sentences.” (From the Mallard Fillmore comic strip, 6/14/2005)

General Homeschooling/Unschooling Jabs

Get These Responses:

21. “If my kid’s only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he’d learn in school, please understand that you’re calling me an idiot. Don’t act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.”

22. “It’s not as difficult as it seems.”

23. “You see a problem with the idea that my kids are out in the community all the time, while yours are cooped up in an environment that resembles a prison? And you’re worried MY kid isn’t in the Real World?”

24. “We don’t look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they’re in public school.”

25. “We didn’t go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the simple fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

26. “If you ask, “Are you worried about the quality of the education my children will get at home?” Perhaps you should be more concerned about the type of education your children are getting in public school.”

27. “If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a “reality” show, the above goes double.”

28. “We didn’t go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.”

29. “Don’t assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.”

30. “Don’t ask my kid if she wouldn’t rather go to school unless you don’t mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn’t rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.”

31. “This is working for us right now. If that changes, school will always take them back.

32. “If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you’re allowed to ask how we’ll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can’t, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn’t possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.”

33. “How will YOUR kids find the time to explore their interests and discover what’s important to them if they’re stuck at school for their entire childhood?”

34. “Have you noticed that when someone has been “schooled” that it’s not a compliment. Why is that?”

Please Just Stop…

35. Please stop asking us if it’s legal. If it is — and it is — it’s insulting to imply that we’re criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

36. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we’re doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

37. Please stop questioning my competency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn’t have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don’t need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least twelve years in the kind of chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can’t teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there’s a reason I’m so reluctant to send my child to school.

38. Please stop telling us horror stories about the homeschoolers you know, know of, or think you might know who ruined their lives by homeschooling. You’re probably the same person who is running up to pregnant women and telling them every ghastly birth story you’ve ever heard. We all hate you, so please go away.

39. Please stop assuming all homeschoolers are religious.

40. Please stop assuming that if we’re religious, we must be homeschooling for religious reasons.

41. Please stop assuming that because the word “home” is right there in “homeschool,” we never leave the house. We’re the ones who go to the amusement parks, museums, and zoos in the middle of the week and in the off-season and laugh at you because you have to go on weekends and holidays when it’s crowded and the lines are long.

42. Please stop assuming that because the word “school” is right there in homeschool, we must sit around at a desk for six or eight hours every day, just like your kid does. Even if we’re into the “school” side of education — and many of us prefer a more organic approach — we can burn through a lot of material a lot more efficiently, because we don’t have to gear our lessons to the lowest common denominator.

43. Please stop asking, “But what about the Prom?” Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don’t get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I’m one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.Or

44. Come out from under that rock. There are proms available everywhere for homeschooled kids who want to go.

45. Please stop saying, “Oh, I could never homeschool!” Even if you think it’s some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you’re horrified. One of these days, I won’t bother disagreeing with you any more.

46. Please stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child’s teacher as well as her parent. I don’t envy your Homework Police nightly battles.

47. Please stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he’s homeschooled. It’s not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

48. Please stop assuming that my kid must be some kind of prodigy because she’s homeschooled.

49. Please stop assuming that I must be some kind of supermom because I homeschool my kids.

50. Please stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won’t get because they don’t go to school. I don’t think you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.


      • “If you can’t say something nice about homeschooling, don’t say anything at all!”
      • “Pass the Bean Dip.”

This video may help you too!

The Myth of Structure


Structure is another one of those words that gets misused. People say that kids need structure – and then take it too far. Kids don’t need their whole lives structured. There’s no room for curiosity or following an interest if you do that. They don’t need their learning structured for exactly that same reason. It’s not conducive to real learning if you say “We do Math at 10, Social Studies at 11, Lunch at noon, etc.” What happens when something wonderful presents itself in the middle of your schedule? Or if they are more interested in watching the Presidential debates? Or wondering why leaves are turning colors in Vermont, but temps are still in the 90s in Texas?

Life brings structure – winding down for bedtimes, making it on time and prepared for soccer practice twice a week, showing up for park days with blankets, chairs, snacks and water bottles, getting to the post office before it closes. But also, identifying priorities, knowing what’s going to happen that day, being clear on expectations… these are forms of structure.

So I don’t say “No structure ever!” That would be silly.

Structure is all around us. We don’t have to create arbitrary structures though. If you’re still thinking that kids thrive with structure, ask yourself why? Some of your own responses will be totally logical. Others may leave you with more questions than answers.

Ask yourself, “Who says?” and “Why?”

Sometimes, it’s the adults seeking the structure for themselves. It’s about getting a handle on the fear that comes when things are a little more floaty than we’re comfortable with. We quickly want to clamp down and create some order. 😉  Instead, it might be helpful to sit with the discomfort you have with that lack of structure. Just be a watcher. What’s happening? Why do you need the structure? If you’re afraid that a little chaos will definitely lead your family into total bedlam and anarchy, try to get that disaster mindset in check. A little disarray is not the same as a complete pandemonium. Try to stay realistic on what is actually happening in the here and now.

If you have a hard time overcoming those thoughts and you’re still thinking that you’d like to provide more structure, create it for yourself. Start a bullet journal or Evernote system and get your thoughts all organized. Nothing wrong with doing that at all. Just don’t take it that step further and decide that everyone else in your house needs your structure.

When you hear people talk about how “kids need structure,” consider how they might simply be using a cliché to promote the status quo.  Learning doesn’t have to be parceled out to kids under some guise of needing structure.

While some kids need a little more structure based on their temperament or developmental phase, try creating structure individually without sweeping with a broad brush.  And be ready to change it, if the situation doesn’t call for it.

Of course, you have to provide safety – and structure does that. And sometimes kids need help with transitioning from one activity to another. Structure can help with this too. But keep in mind that the less “imposed” structure, the better. A child will be much more likely to learn how to do this for themselves if you can refrain from being heavy-handed in the structure department.



Parenting Teens, A Hands-On Approach

For years, we’ve heard other parents say,

“A house full of teens? Good luck!”

And they wander away shaking their head, as if you’ve already lost some battle.
True, the teenage years are full of heightened emotions, raging hormones, self-esteem issues, and basically trying to figure out who they are in this world. These are tough issues!

Why, as a society, would we think we need to take a more hands-off approach to raising teens?

These years seem to be much more difficult to figure out than those pre-school years, when we were so incredibly involved. But so many parents try to deal with it in all black or white. Either they look away and hope for the best. Or they tighten the screws hoping to keep them safe.

Neither really work.

Sometimes, a lot of times really, parents are simply too tired to go head-to-head with their teen in angst. And, it’s true that if you come back to it in a day or so, lots of the emotion will have blown away and it’s easier to get through the day. But the issues are still just under the surface. This is a missed opportunity on so many levels.

By not sticking your head in the sand, here are some things your teen could learn if you talk with them about a disagreement you had.

  • They could see that you are not afraid to go into these treacherous waters WITH them.
  • They could see you’re willing to stand by them and face the scary stuff that they are facing each day.
  • You’d demonstrate to them that you think their problems are important, even if they seem petty and small to you. They are obviously causing your teen some difficulties.
  • You can let them know that they are important to you and helping them solve problems is part of the job of parenting.

You might have to bite your tongue. Teens want to be heard – who doesn’t? They really want to come to conclusions on their own. So asking questions is better than telling them what should be done. Even if you think you know. Helping them learn to problem-solve is the key. Not doing it for them.

Relating stories from when you had similar situations as a teen might help. Watch their expressions though. You might be really “getting into” your story of your own teen years, and they are tuning out. Not because your story is dull (I’m sure it’s not!!) but because the shift of the focus went from them to you. They are the one who is in the middle of a struggle. Keep your story brief.????

So often, they think we cannot relate. Or they’re afraid we’re going to judge them. Or point out their mistakes. These are the pitfalls to avoid in these parent-teen interactions.

While it may sound hokey, they need to know that you are coming from a place of love not worry – because worry implies you think they cannot handle themselves. But from love. You want them to be happy. You want to be their safe place they can run to when their friends stab them in the back. You want to be the one who will not betray them. They will come to trust you, share more with you, and value your input.