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!

10 Lessons for a Homeschooling Mom to UNLEARN

Homeschooing-Moms-10-Lessons-to-UnlearnIt’s all about the “learning”, right? We hear that all the time. And it’s true! But it’s also about the UNlearning! And homeschooling moms seem to have the biggest challenges in this regard.

I don’t know whether we’re so conditioned for approval – thank you schools and mainstrem socialization – or really why this is. But over and over these same particular issues crop up for those of us who choose to step into the home education world.

See if any of these ideas are lurking in your head. Let’s clear them up so you can get on to successfully homeschooling your kids!

  1. I’m not smart enough!
    Don’t you think it’s odd when this irrational thought crosses your path? Most likely, you are a product of the school system yourself. And you want to put your child in the same place that didn’t prepare you well enough? That’s not logical.
  2.  Who am I to do this?
    Do you hear that voice, “Who do you think you are, young lady?” Boy do I hear that loud and clear! This kind of talk seems to hone in on our self-doubt, magnifying it and attempting to embarrass us. It’s odd how we can do that to ourselves. But after years of conditioning, it shouldn’t be surprising.This is a spin-off of the idea that we need to always call in The Experts. We can’t possibly know wha to do in any given situation.Does this one plague you?But did you call in a specialist when your child learned to walk or to eat solid foods? Did you have a tutor sitting with you and your baby when he would attempt to talk? Of course not! Maybe you consulted some baby development websites… but otherwise, you left it to nature. You were completely ok with that. But learning – another one of those natural tendencies all humans have – you somehow don’t think you can do the same.

    Not true! You can. Your child is hardwired to learn. Your role is kind of like when they were learning all of those baby skills: You created an environment that was conducive for them developmentally and based upon their interests. You were flexible and continued to offer options as the baby began to figure it all out. The exact same process can happen with learning. And it IS happening with learning all around the country.

  3. “Real learning” has to look like school.
    School really creates a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. But educational research shows that children learn in so many different ways – visually, auditorily, kinesthetically, experientially. There’s no way schools can accommodate all the different ways a classroom full of kids could possibly need. So instead of admitting that, they simply try to make the kids adapt. They declare that their way is The Way, and that’s that. But it’s not true.In fact, when we look back at the things we retain and/or the things we really learned – more often than not those experiences happened outside the classroom.
  4. What will the neighbors/relatives think?
    This can be tough. Peer pressure has such a strong grip on so many of us. Again, all those years of having to fend for yourself for hours at school – you had to learn how to cope with peer pressure! So when we care too much about what a stranger at the park or the clerk at CVS has to say about why our little one isn’t in school, we need to recognize that as truly inconsequential to our day. Because it is! For relatives we only see at holidays or special gatherings, we have some options for dealing with them in   Dealing with Naysayers and Pass the Bean Dip.
  5. My kids are so unmotivated!
    Kids can be unmotivated for a variety of reasons – and now that you’re going to be with them more, you’ll be able to figure out why that is. Usually it’s because they haven’t been allowed to make very many choices for themselves. Either a teacher was telling them what to do, or we as parents were prodding them along from one thing to another. Sure, they may have been unmotivated in the old setting, but that doesn’t have to be the new norm.
  6. Worrying about gaps in their learning? 
    Another thing to remove is this fear that they will have gaps or that we need to “stay on track.” On track to what? Those tracks that you’re worried about really only apply in a school setting. Truth is, we all have gaps – times we weren’t paying attention or weren’t interested and tuned it all out. If it’s something we ended up needing, we can look it up! “Hello, Siri?” And then we are much more likely to remember it.
  7. Children need more structure.
    This is a myth. Structure makes US feel better when life is feeling chaotic. But let’s not kid ourselves – the children aren’t the one who are needing structure. Sure, some prefer to have bit of a routine, or need more lead time when shifting from one activity to another. But no child needs the structure of Math every morning at 10 a.m. or History every afternoon at 1 p.m. Sometimes we have to look at the fact that the adults cling to the idea of structure when they feel life is a bit chaotic.
  8. Compare and despair!
    Comparisons and competition is also a remnant of years in school. It was used to motivate us and even to shame us into complying with the expectations for the class. So it needs to go.As parents, the comparing often looks like, “Her kid is doing xyz or knows qrst and mine doesn’t! Oh no! I’m failing!” We need to remember that comparing is never a good idea – whether it’s kids or even comparing ourselves with other mothers. Kids all develop differently. They have interests and needs that vary from child to child. Homeschooling is your opportunity to create TRULY individualized learning situations. And comparing yourself to other moms? So often we look at a mom who seems really on top of things and we feel sub-par. But we don’t know what her life is like. We don’t know how much longer she’s been at this either! It’s a bad idea to compare your beginning on this homeschooling path, with someone who started years before you. Also, you have no idea what challenges she has regarding her own family – people often only share the highlights on social media.
  9. Everyone’s House is Clean Except Mine
    Let me put this one to rest right away. When people LIVE in a house, it gets messy! Period. Don’t let having a clean house become a stumbling block to learning. Think about when you dove into some project. Didn’t you spread your stuff out? Same for kids and their projects. Create environments where they can explore their curiosity and get creative. There will be plenty of time later on to have a clean house.
  10. If something doesn’t work out, I’m a miserable failure at this.
    I think this is more of that same school conditioning. We stumble a little and we want to throw in the towel. But remember – even if you’re taking two steps forward and one step back – you’re still making progress! Don’t give up!

 

Dear Suburban Mom

 

Suburban MomHey there!!

Whew! You wrapped up another school year and I know some of you are wondering if you’ve really got it in you to do this all over again in a couple of months.

Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. You can’t even count the number of nights you spent wrangling with your kid about homework and trying to spin the idea that, yes, this is all necessary despite their protests. Because truthfully, you have your own doubts. All those “necessary” classes and subjects from your own school days – long forgotten! Besides, no one ever asked you about the Pythagorean Theorem or the date of the Battle of Hastings. Heck, you don’t even use your degree! Neither do I! (Talk about a waste of time and money.) Yet you’ve spent the year deputized by the kids’ school as their “Homework Police.,” making sure they memorize all those same irrelevant facts.  And that was not fun.

But what are you going to do? You used to remind yourself that this is simply what everyone must endure until they’re 18 and graduated. But school these days? It doesn’t look like your school days with so much emphasis on testing, the pressure and the stress. The bullying that happens has really gotten out of hand and the teachers seem incredibly frustrated. I don’t know whether the system got too big or too removed from what really works… I don’t know how it has gone so wrong. But you’re pretty sure your kids are not going to look back on these days with a lot of happy memories.

So as you’re wringing your hands and wondering if there are any viable options at all, you’ve started to notice a few more families deciding to homeschool. They’re not all ultra-religious or crunchy granola types either.

And it has you’re  wondering:
Do regular people like me homeschool their kids?

And as soon as that question slips in, the flood of counter-questions surface!

  • Is homeschooling even legal here? Are their a ton of hoops to jump through?
  • Would I even be qualified to do this?
  • How would they make any friends?
  • How would they learn anything?
  • What if we can’t stand each other?

So I just want to tell you,
Yes. Regular people do homeschool their kids.

I did. I had no plans to homeschool as we were trying to make school work for my little kindergartener. But as first grade rolled around, it became clear that the classroom experience was not a good situation. His enthusiasm for learning was already starting to wane. His curiosity was being squashed. His individualism and self-expression – well, there was no room for that. So I started to investigate the homeschooling option. It was the 1990’s and the landscape looked a lot different! Ha!

But the times have changed. And more and more moms like me (and you!) started leaving the local schools venturing into this learning no-man’s-land. Interestingly, there were plenty of people choosing home education back then and thousands more now. It’s a subculture that exists in every community.

To address the questions that popped up first:

1. Legality. Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Each state decides it’s own rules for what hoops homeschoolers must jump through to legally homeschool. A quick google search can take you to your local and/or state homeschooling group and they will have an explanation as to how the community is dealing with the compulsory attendance laws. Some states require nothing of homeschooling families. Others want periodic testing, some want an end-of the-year evaluation. Send me an email if you have trouble finding out about your state and I can help you out.

2. Are you qualified? Of course you are! Do you know everything? Of course NOT! No one said you have to know everything. You simply have to be a good resource finder. Being able to tap into the local community (libraries, museums, friends with skills, the Internet, etc.) is all you need to be able to provide a wonderful rich learning environment.

3. Ahhh… socialization! That question always pops up. They make friends the way any of us do that aren’t sitting in a classroom – shared interests and experiences. These are the real friendships anyway. I can remember being “best friends” with someone for a year while we sat beside each other in class. And then the next year, we had no shared classes and that friendship was gone. :::poof::: Homeschooled kids aren’t missing out on anything by skipping those kinds of shallow “friendships.”

Remember earlier I mentioned a subculture you may not be aware of? All over the country, homeschoolers are getting together at parks and homes, libraries and recreation centers. They’re off on “field trips” together, meeting for “game days,” pool parties, and mid-week (gasp!) sleepovers.

4. How will they learn? Life provides SOO many opportunities – many you can’t even plan for! But when you’re open and flexible, you can stop to learn more about whatever is crossing your path. Between the internet, books, movies, conversations with people “in-the-know,” you will be shocked at how much your kids will learn. And, you’ll probably learn a little along the way too! Learning really doesn’t have to be dull drudgery to get through – it can be exciting and fun. That’s what will make your little learners engage! Not a stack of worksheets.

5. What if it’s too much togetherness? If this is really the case – and not just one of those unfortunate social kid-slams people say – then you will have the opportunity to work on it. You’ll be able to create rhythms in your day that work for you and for your kids. You don’t have to be side-by-side 24 hours/day! But when you remove the rushing around and the pressure that happens in those precious hours after they come home from school and before they hit the pillow, you’ll be surprised how much everyone’s attitude improves! And, if it’s a big concern of yours, I have an awesome book reference – Parent-Teen Breakthrough: A Relationship Approach by Mira Kirshenbaum.

So there are my quickie answers to the first five questions that popped up. I’m sure there are more percolating in there. And we have all summer to talk more. I’d love to be able to help you figure this out. There’s nothing worse than feeling you don’t have any options. At least in this case, that’s not true. You do. 🙂

xo,
Sue

P.S. If you already know you want to homeschool, but you’re overwhelmed with what the next steps are, a new 12 week support group is coming soon!
We’ll talk about deschooling, socialization, dealing with unsupportive family, building relationships, and more.
For more info: Chaos to Confidence.

 

 

Chaos to Confidence: For New Homeschoolers

 It’s Time!

Homeschooling helpA Group Mentoring/Support Program starting August 1st, led by Sue Patterson.
If you’re a new homeschooler/unschooler, Chaos to Confidence is perfect for you!

  • Everything a new homeschooler needs to know to be successful
  • Get answers to questions you have and didn’t know where to get them answered
  • Join a community of new homeschoolers exploring this path together
  • Group coaching from me for those critical first 12 weeks!

Don’t miss out!!!
Space is limited, so sign up soon!





From Chaos to Confidence

You can do this – and I can show you how!

If you’re just embarking on this homeschooling journey,
I want to invite you to this mentoring program:

Chaos to Confidence.

Chaos to Confidence is for you if:

~You’ve just removed your kids from school and you’re unsure about your next steps.

~Your kids are now “officially school age,” so you’re ready to commit to homeschooling/unschooling.

~You’re overwhelmed by all the info on the internet – but wondering who to listen to.

~You have plenty of people who think homeschooling is nuts, but something deep down is telling you that this is right.

~You’re wishing you didn’t feel so alone.

I’ve created this group mentoring/support program because I know what it’s like to be so new that you’re not even sure what questions to ask!

In our 12 weeks together, I give you the foundation you need to be successful and take you from chaos to confidence!

I can help you.  Every Day.  Walking beside you.

I’ve been where you are now – I remember it clearly. I was so afraid I was going to screw up my kid, or that they’d hate me when we were all done with this. But I knew that school wasn’t where they needed to be. I had to figure out what the heck was the right thing to do – and fast.

I saw what worked and what didn’t. Over those years while my three kids were homeschooling, people began to come to me looking for support and advice. They’re grown now, in their 20s. They are not screwed up nor do they hate me! (In fact, they’re successful, socially savvy and really happy with their lives!)

But maybe you want to know more about them…

The oldest went to community college, transferred to a university and graduated Magna Cum Laude. He also spent a lot of time doing community service, got his Eagle Scout award, went to Japan as an exchange student at 16, joined the Peace Corps after college and worked in Nicaragua, moved back to Texas, got married and just bought a house.  He is 27.

The second spent most of her teen years doing community theatre, taking acting, dance and vocal lessons. She took community college classes and went to an acting conservatory in New York City. She finished her conservatory classes in Los Angeles and ended up with an associate degree in fine arts.  She lives and works as an actress in Los Angeles now. She is 25.

My youngest loved people and all the pop culture type of things. After only unschooling, she went to the local high school for a year and half, made the dance team, did fine in school, but decided it wasn’t worth it. She left to go to cosmetology school and now works in an upscale salon in Austin, Texas. She married a local firefighter, bought a house and had a baby in 2015. (Adorable, I might add!) She is 22.

I’m not saying your kids’ paths will look like my kids’ paths. I shared this for you to see how different they each were and yet we were able to support them in ways that were totally individualized – not the cookie cutter one-size-fits-all (even though it’s called an IEP) ways schools have to use.

I can show you how you can focus on YOUR kids’ strengths and help them unfold into the person they’re meant to be. I focus a lot on helping you, the parent, undo the fear and the assumptions that the school way is the only way. It’s not. My kids are living proof of that.

If your kids have been miserable in school, I want you to know that a better way DOES exist! And I’m so happy we’ve found each other because I want to show you how to make this work!

Sometimes families made the leap to homeschooling but got distracted by curriculum and headed off on the wrong path. They ended up feeling isolated, frustrated, and disappointed in their homeschooling experience. Many ended up putting their kids back in school. They wished they had had someone who could have been a guide or a mentor to them – just someone to help them start off on the right foot or guide them along the way if they get stuck.

So that’s 2 types of families that Chaos to Confidence is built for:

The Brand New Homeschooler who is feeling overwhelmed and doesn’t want to waste time going in the wrong direction.

The New-ish Homeschooler who started probably last year and ended up unhappy with their approach.

Here’s My Plan…

INFORMATION & KNOWLEDGE

You need practical information. Operating in the dark is scary and the info that you’ll get in this program will wipe out a lot of your fears. We will start with the basics – getting legal, thinking about what “learning” really means, finding reliable resources.

CONNECTION & SUPPORT

Sometimes homeschooling/unschooling moms can feel really isolated. They really need to feel connected to other parents on this path. So, I’m creating a private Facebook group for you and the other new homeschoolers in the 2016 Chaos to Confidence program. Over these 12 weeks, we’ll be able to get to know each other and give support. Members can pop into the group to share success stories as well as fears that show up. Learn where to find support locally, in your state, regionally, globally, and online.

REASSURANCE & INSPIRATION

Chaos to Confidence is the reassurance you’ve been looking for! I want to share everything I know with you so you have success and confidence when you feel like you’re swimming against the tide. As you work your way through the program, you’ll find yourself on steadier and steadier ground. Your anxiety and fear will begin to evaporate. Your kids will be happier and more engaged. You’ll see changes in the way the entire family gets along. You’ll be able to see learning in a way that might be different from what you’re used to – richer, exciting, much more enjoyable. And I’ll be with you every step of the way!

Here’s what we’ll do each week!

(I’m soooo excited!!!!)

Homeschool Coaching

And here’s the framework for the entire course!

homeschool coaching

Sounds great, right?

Sometimes we just need a little hand-holding to get started.

I’ve made the price super affordable – just $90 total for 3 months of reassuring support and boatloads of information.  That’s group coaching from me on our private FB group for a $1/day!

But I want to keep the size of a group manageable, so don’t delay.

And now, it’s time to sign up!





Before working with Sue I had tried every method I could think of to make my son’s traditional schooling work for him. I was feeling confused, defeated by all the bad advice I was getting, and very alone in my decision to teach my son at home. Sue helped me to realize that other options existed that were actually better for my son and his situation. I now feel confident and excited about his learning experience. He is now thriving and enjoying this unschooling experience in ways he could never have done in the traditional environment. It has been an amazing transformative experience!
~ Becky M., Michigan

A Wonderful Coach + All That Knowledge = EXCELLENCE!
~Tracy M., Kentucky

Before working with Sue I had tried every method I could think of to make my son’s traditional schooling work for him. I was feeling confused, defeated by all the bad advice I was getting, and very alone in my decision to teach my son at home. Sue helped me to realize that other options existed that were actually better for my son and his situation. I now feel confident and excited about his learning experience. He is now thriving and enjoying this unschooling experience in ways he could never have done in the traditional environment. It has been an amazing transformative experience!
~ Becky M., Michigan

“Am I Doing Enough?”

UnschoolingWhen people begin to homeschool in a less-traditional way, they often worry if they are doing enough, providing enough, educating enough. Good parents worry about that all the time – in non-academic ways too: Are we connecting enough?

Let’s face it, it would be a lot easier to follow a curriculum or just do what the teacher told you to do. But now you’re aspiring for more than that kind of mindless following. While you recognize that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for you, that does put a significant amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

And that often leads to feeling pressure.

It’s not unusual for parents to ask whether they’re doing enough.
And I have a few different answers for you.

I don’t know, are you?

While this might seem somewhat vague or avoiding the question (no one likes answering a question with a question!), but it’s worth exploring. When we question something happening, we need to dive deeper to look around. Maybe you need to tune in with the kids more to see if their interests have shifted. What intrigued them last month may be old news now. Are there cool happenings in your community this time of year, that you might like to all trek off to see? Festivals, day-trips, etc. Maybe it’s time to talk more about what’s happening in the news or within their circles of friends.

And, as kids get older, they’ve learned how to find lots of their own resources. They’re not needing their parents to do all the legwork for them when they’re curious about something.

Unschooling is far from “hands-off.” The best unschooling moms are those who walk that delicate line of being involved yet not controlling, staying available while leaving room for their child’s autonomy. If you prioritize this way of parenting, you’ll stay tuned in.

And you get better with practice. 😉

Is it just worry and fear?

Does this come from not having deschooled enough?

Deschooling is a funny thing. When we first start on our home educating path, we look around to see where it’s hiding… in our thoughts, in our actions, in our expectations. We look for the schoolish ways that have inserted themselves into our lives and reevaluate if those stories are true. Or was it just conditioned responses from all of those years of complying?

So, when we’ve cleaned that all up, we think, “Whew! That’s done! Let’s go!”

And just like I was telling my son-in-law this morning who told me he had a good handle on how his 14 month old was behaving, I smiled and thought, “Yeah, this week.” We all know the one thing kids do is grow, develop, and change. What works now, probably won’t be a permanent thing.  Parenting is tough!

It’s the same thing with deschooling. You may have removed all the arbitrary schooly notions at the start, but kids continue to grow and take on new developmental changes. Maybe they’re influenced by the neighborhood kids who go to middle school, or the other girls in dance class that are starting high school. Maybe they have some doubts about their abilities, because developmentally they are starting to make some comparisons that they didn’t make before. Or maybe you are doing this. It’s ok, it’s human. Just recognize it for what it is. And know that different phases of childhood may carry emotional baggage for you that you had long forgotten about… and yet something has stirred that cobwebby memory, and now you need to examine it… and deschool again.

Do you have your own issues about learning that you haven’t untangled?

Do you still think that learning can’t possibly be this easy and fun?

After years and years of “schooling,” lots of parents find it hard to break away from some of these ideas:

  • Learning is not fun
  • Learning has to be hard.
  • Enjoying your day (all day) is being lazy.
  • They’ll never be able to overcome an obstacle if they always opt for what’s easy/fun.

Do any of these sound familiar?  It’s not surprising if they do, because this is what our culture tells us all the time and what our own school experience probably solidified.  If something seems easy, we feel like we’re “getting away with something.” Right??

None of these ideas are true.

The research is showing that more play, more fun, more engagement in whatever interests our kids (or any of us, for that matter) IS the best way to learn. Playing provides the opportunities to persevere, to maintain their attention to the task, and to control emotions. All of these are incredibly important life skills and the very things we hope children will take with them into adulthood.  Check out the articles below to read more.

When children aren’t having their entire day scheduled for them – or rushing around in those precious after-school but before-bed hours – they have the time to live at a more leisurely pace. The pressure is gone about learning.

Maybe it’s time to pry the reins away from your fears and look at what’s REALLY happening in your child’s day. Learning happens all the time, so you might do well to list out all the different ways it shows up.  Here are few ideas I’ve seen get brushed aside when a parent is panicking about “what about the learning?” And yet, it ALL counts as learning.

  • Creating things at home or online
  • Painting, drawing, writing (even scribbling)
  • Reading books, comics, etc. (by child or to child)
  • Watching interesting videos or TV shows
  • Asking questions and getting answers
  • Playing outside, with siblings/friends
  • Making up games or playing make-believe
  • Helping out at home
  • Conversations in the car about what they’re seeing or hearing
  • Sports, classes at the Rec Center, museums, nature centers, etc.
  • Venturing out into your community and talking about what you find

Lastly…

It’s not about finding a sneaky way to get some teaching in there. It’s about looking at life differently – your life and your kids’ lives.

So when people ask, “are they happy?” – that really is the key. If your home is lacking joy – that’s where you need to focus. What would make life happier? The learning will be a byproduct of a full and rich life!

 

 

Need more to read?

Let The Kids Learn Through Play
David Kohn | New York Times
“As the skeptics of teacher-led early learning see it, that kind of education will fail to produce people who can discover and innovate, and will merely produce people who are likely to be passive consumers of information, followers rather than inventors. Which kind of citizen do we want for the 21st century?”

Play as Preparation for Learning and Life:
An Interview with Peter Gray

The Journal of Play
“Children are designed to educate themselves through their self-directed exploration and play, but to do so well they need certain environmental conditions. They need plenty of free time to play and explore. They need access to the tools of the culture and permission to play with those tools, in their own chosen ways. They need to be able to associate with whom they please, in an age-mixed environment, so younger children can learn skills from older ones and older children can learn to care for and nurture younger ones. They also need access to a variety of adult experts, to whom they can look for help and guidance when they want it. And, perhaps most of all, they need to be immersed in a moral community, where they have a voice in the rules and how the rules are enforced, so they grow up feeling responsible for others as well as themselves. … None of this happens in our standard schools.” (p.281)

Play Well
JJ Ross | The Homeschooler Post
“So looking back at how I made my own connections between play and learning, teaching myself to not teach my children wasn’t work and it wasn’t school. More by happy accident than design I had kept myself busy long enough working through scholarly stuff on play, that it (mostly) kept me from inflicting scholarly stuff on the kids. In the process, I collected bins full of colorful connections to play well with, just like Legos themselves. Could we say that in the end, I taught myself to let go and Lego?”

USA Today Interview

This week, I spoke with a journalist who ​was working on an article for USA Today about unschooling. She specifically wanted to know what kinds of challenges unschoolers face. She described the readership as generally more interested in how to help their child excel, get into a “good” school, and be competitive. Well… you and I know these aren’t traditionally unschooling characteristics.  😉 

Yet, I am on a mission.

It breaks my heart to think of kids that are miserable in the school system being told they have to stay, that they “just have to get through it.”. 

Because I KNOW that isn’t true.

Yes, lots of us felt that was the case when we were growing up. Little did we know that a movement was brewing and one family at a time was quietly leaving the school system saying, “Enough already!”  

I want to do whatever I can to stand on the highest building and shout that there are other ways to learn. AND you can still go to college, get a career, be successful – whatever carrot that has been dangled out there to lead people around. 

So, with that mindset, I agreed to do the interview. The reporter was lovely and genuinely intrigued by the idea of unschooling. She found me through this coaching website and through the Unschooling Mom2Mom website. (Hooray! All those volunteer hours of curating the “best of the best” in unschooling writings and making them all available in one place paid off!!) 

I shared our story of why we left the school system. You can read some about our early homeschooling/unschooling days here: The Patterson Interview or  Our Own Curriculum Wars.

But then we ended up talking about challenges.

So what do I think the biggest challenge is for parents who choose this style of homeschooling?

By far… the toughest challenge is undoing our warped way of thinking about learning and education and children. And we think this way PRIMARILY because of all those years we spent in school. Year after year we were told that we had to “stick it out” because school was our ticket to success.

We were not told that there are multiple right answers to any given question – but instead only one right answer. It had to be all black or all white. And what I’ve come to know is that most of life is gray. And I know now that a multitude of ways exist for arriving at any given answer. People can use all sorts of tools to learn!   

And all of that… takes some undoing. It’s as if we have ruts in our brains. We’re taught to conform and we’ve been conditioned to believe that thinking independently is NOT a good idea. Somewhere along the way, we stopped trusting ourselves and we look for validation from others instead of from within. 

But I’m here to tell you that that doesn’t have to be a permanent way of thinking! 

Thousands of parents – like me – are living proof that you can change how you think about all of this. It takes some deliberate effort to swim upstream though. Society does what it can to influence you to conform, to get back in line. Recognizing this is the first step though. Reading about deschooling and opening up our eyes to what’s really happening right in front of us – these are things that will help change our way of thinking. Noticing how children learn without coercion or lesson plans will help loosen the ties of that old way of viewing learning. Piece by piece, you can begin to dismantle all those preconceived ideas we carry around with us. And we can always talk more about it together! 

THAT’S what I think the biggest challenge is. 

What about you? What has been YOUR biggest challenge as you carve out an educational path for your family? I would love it if you’d share it in the comment box here:

 

What is Unschooling?

The term, Unschooling, often bothers people. They make the incorrect assumption that unschooling means anti-learning or anti-education. Far from it! It simply means that “the learning” may not look may not resemble the familiar ways we learned in a school. 

 I’ll have more here for you. But in the meantime, here’s an overview of what unschooling is all about.
If this is a new term, feel free to ask questions in the comments. And if it’s a term that you’d like to discuss, we can do that too! 

10 Tips to Help You Deschool

1  Focus on the Learning instead of the Teaching.
When you notice that you’re thinking about planning lessons, turning interesting movies into “educational experiences,” creating a cute school room in your house – these are all examples that you’re losing touch with the most important focus: The Learner and their learning. What interests them? What brings them joy? What could you help them explore more fully?

2  Don’t worry about “gaps” or “keeping up” with kids of similar ages.
Comparison can really do a number on us! But it doesn’t matter if your child learns anything by a particular time frame set by schools – that’s THEIR issue, not yours anymore! If your child is interested, they will remember it. If not, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Gaps can be easily resolved when they need to be. “Hello, Siri?” 😉

3  The 1 month for every year of school is a good starting place.
Don’t rush through deschooling. Find out what triggers your “schooly thoughts.” Focus on undoing some of that irrational thinking.  Some people say that you should anticipate deschooling one month for every year you went to school. Sometimes it’s not exactly like that though. Children go through different developmental stages, and then various stories and expectations can pop into our heads that set us back. We may understand deschooling well while our kids are all playing and learning at 6, 7, and 8 years old. But then when adolescence rolls around, we start worrying again…gaps in learning, getting into college, missing out on high school events… and we’re back to Square 1 on Deschooling again. But that’s ok, because you know how to undo this kind of thinking. Still, if you want a ballpark idea, 1 month for every year of school is a good starting place.

4  Continue to read about unschooling and how children actually learn.
It’s always been interesting to me how schools don’t (or can’t) implement some of their own best research about learning. Homeschooling/unschooling parents can though!
Stay current – here are few good links:
Unschooling Mom2Mom (FB)
Homeschooling/Unschooling Your Teens (FB)
Homeschooler Post
Sue’s Notes

 

5  Plan a fun outing when typical school year activities tug at you.
Do “Back-to-school” ads get under your skin? Or maybe it’s those end-of-school year parties or even prom that makes you wistful. Those school experiences can pale if you plan a great trip or do something particularly fun when those events roll around. Perhaps it’s time for a beach trip or a campout? Maybe a road trip or some theme park hopping? The lines are usually so much shorter once school has started – take advantage of that! Remember, it won’t be long before the parents/children are all complaining again about how they find school to be boring/annoying/cumbersome… so distract yourself and your family in the meantime!

6  Remember that deschooling can sometimes be harder for the parent than the child.
It stands to reason that you spent a lot more years entrenched in the school system than your child. You’re likely to have far more stories in your head of what learning is supposed to look like. Also, parents sometimes feel an additional stress when they share what they’re doing with their friends, family and co-workers.Removing yourself from the competitive/comparative discussions that happens between parents, can be isolating too.

7  Make a list of your own school experiences, identifying how the school expectations interfered with the learning that interested you.
Sometimes we can go straight to the grievances we had with our school experience. We know what we wanted to do and how we didn’t get time to do it. We know how we have not used those things we were promised we’d need in our adult lives. What would you have spent more time on?
Sometimes we glamorize our school experiences, focusing on a hand full of great memories. Try to really examine how “great” they were – was it because everything else was so dull? how does it compare with what you can offer your child? Could it actually happen more frequently without the limitations of schools and schedules?

8  List (with your kids) all the places you’d like to explore but were too busy before.
Let me get you started: museums, parks, festivals, downtown areas, nature centers, the beach, the lake, picnics, camping trips, day hikes, bike rides, yoga classes.

Chambers of commerce have brochures about interesting places near you – as do interstate info centers, websites like (365 Fun Things to do in… ) <- yes you can write that in the URL and it will give you some ideas, and even Pinterest!

A few surprise benefits exist when you choose to do this.  Everyone practices a little cooperation and consensus, and gets a little clearer idea about family members’ interests and curiosities. Sometimes, one child *thinks* they aren’t interested in something their sibling wants to try. But after going, they discover they enjoyed some aspect, and a new interest begins.  (Or, maybe they just learn that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be, and they can focus on happy it made their sibling that they participated. 😉 )

9  List (with your kids) all the fun things you all might like to do together and apart while you’re home.
Movies, board games, card games, videogames, TV shows, painting, drawing, collage, building projects, meditation, blogging, art journals, skyping with friends, going on walks, walking the dog, playing with pets, cooking, creating YouTube/vimeo videos, photography, daydreaming, planning. The list can go on and on! 🙂
Spending time identifying activities that anyone can do at home – that is interesting to them – is a fabulous skill that many wish they had. You have the opportunity to help your child figure out how to spend their own time, not waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

10  Start a journal writing what you notice about your children’s natural inclinations.
Get in the habit of slowing down and watching your children. We are always in such a rush to be sure no one “misses anything.” And, in doing that, we miss out on what’s right there in front of us. Your kids are really giving you clues and cues as to what interests them – there’s no need to look to outside experts for lesson plans or curricula. Find out what they like to do, what makes their eyes sparkle! Spend more time with them and you will find that you are growing the connection with them. THIS will be the biggest benefit of deschooling.

More Info About Deschooling

Deschooling – What does THAT mean?

QUESTION:

I guess I don’t really understand what “deschooling” is. I thought if we took a week of relaxing, we’d be ready to jump into unschooling. I feel like we’re not doing anything educational! 

SUE’S ANSWER:​​

Deschooling may be one of the most misunderstood terms! Not because the definition is tricky – it isn’t. 
Deschooling is simply removing the schoolish ways we attach to the learning process. 
But as new unschoolers/homeschoolers we tend to attach time constraints and expectations to the idea of deschooling. And then we don’t understand why “nothing is working out.”

We have to remember that for most of us, we went to school for a really long time. We have ideas about learning that we don’t even realize, until something triggers it in our homes. It’s hard to prepare for those kinds of scenarios, so that’s why we can’t really set a particular time limit on the deschooling process. Some people say that you should anticipate deschooling one month for every year you went to school. The problem I have with that is that as our children go through different developmental stages, various stories and expectations can pop into our heads that set us back. We may understand deschooling well while our kids are all playing and learning at 6, 7, and 8 years old. But then when adolescence rolls around, we start worrying again…gaps in learning, getting into college, missing out on high school events… and we’re back to Square 1 on Deschooling again. If this happens to you, don’t worry, undoing that kind of thinking can be done! 🙂 

So let’s start with a good description of Deschooling.

Deschooling is about separating learning from schooling. It is removing all the props associated with school. We often think that the only way to learn is the way school presented it to us. 

Academically, we think about grades, testing, “keeping up,” avoiding “gaps.” 

Socially, we think about making friends, learning from the adults in charge, cooperating in groups, and even little things like “homeroom parties,” etc. 

These are the tips of the icebergs that can exist in a parent’s head. Children, depending on how influential school has been on them, can suffer from these misconceptions as well. Even children that haven’t gone to school, or only attended a few years, can get ideas from extended family, TV programs, community events – implying that going to school is the norm and the only ticket to success. 

Deschooling is the term we use when people are trying to get past these schoolish versions of learning. When we deschool, we open to the idea that learning is actually much bigger than that. We begin to recognize that we have created stories around these thoughts and hurdles that we now have to overcome.

If you had a less than stellar school experience it might be easier to walk away from all the schooly ways of learning, socializing and connecting. Still, since unschoolers and homeschoolers are such a small segment of the general population, things like back-to-school sales, football games, and prom season are everywhere. They may trigger some wistfulness that you or your child harbors. 

Your child may think they have to do worksheets to demonstrate learning, or that authoritarian top-down teaching methods are required to learn.  Children that had a rough time at school may need time to relax into this new approach. On the outside, it may look like a lot of “vegging out” or TV/video time. Enjoy that time with them. Show them that you mean it when you say that learning is not going to be similar to school. It may take a while for your child to trust that you really mean that. 

On the flipside, children that were People Pleasers at school, may think you’ve lost your mind! They may have gotten really good at figuring out how the system worked, and now you’ve turned it all upside down. These children may need you to help them identify ways that they learned outside of a school setting. You may need to talk to them about ways the adults in their lives learn new things. And, it may take a while to undo some of the conditioning that has happened in years of school attendance. 
Here’s more reading  about how we have all been influenced to think that curricula/teachers/experts are needed.

How quickly a family moves through the deschooling process will be unique to your child, yourself, and your family. As the person in the original question found, you may even revisit ideas that were buried but surface later when you child enters a new developmental phase. That’s ok, you’re human! And schools have been big parts of the average American life. Give yourself some time to get acquainted  with this new way of approaching learning and shucking the shackles of the school’s version of education!

Want 10 Tips to Help You Deschool? 

This was included in the second Q & A Update.
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Weekly Q & A

Unschooling Mom2Mom Hits 7K Members!

It’s a little surprising how quickly Unschooling Mom2Mom has grown. What started as an idea a year and a half ago, has evidently been exactly what many many people were looking for. 

One of the issues people have had with Facebook and, really, social media in general, is that it can sometimes feel mean-spirited. And sure, I remember the days of “flame wars” on email lists and and sometimes people do write just to get on a soapbox and show off what they think they know on a topic. Unschooling Mom2Mom set out to be different.

Our UM2M group always focuses on the specific person who asks a question. It quickly moves into a friendly conversation between moms, rather than any kind of debate or meta-discussion. Because I’ve been involved in the homeschooling/unschooling world since the mid 1990s, I’ve had the fabulous opportunity to meet a lot of other families. Many of those families’ children are now young adults like mine. But the moms I know have agreed to come back and help people who are struggling with the idea of unschooling. It’s all about letting go of some of the more arbitrary aspects that schools have convinced us really matter.  This is a safe place to ask questions and get really good answers from moms (and a few dads) who have “been there.”

If you’re interested in DIYing your unschooling path, here’s the Unschooling Mom2Mom Facebook Group link.

If you’d like a little more help – ESPECIALLY if you’re in your first year of homeschooling/unschooling – I’m creating 2 newletters for the new year. One eill be weekly and one will be monthly.  

Click the button below to find out more about each and sign up. 

​​            Notes from Sue

Unschooling Q & A

idk-ask-sueI answer unschooling questions for the Texas Unschoolers’ group each month in their newsletter, TexUns News. I’m including them here at my blog. If you have any questions you’d like me to address, ask away!

Q: My teens are getting antsy. I think they need more adventure than I’m offering here at home. Do you have any suggestions?
By all means, continue to explore what are everyday opportunities in your community – or even the next community over. Be sure communication lines are open between you and your teen so they’ll tell you what they wish they could be doing. Maybe it’s time to explore community college classes, or a new hobby, or take a few more family trips. Maybe they’d like to visit friends they’ve met at conferences or online.  Going to statewide conferences allows teens to make friends and stay in contact with them. It’s always a great reunion when they see each other again every year.

A few conference/camps are geared specifically for teens. This gives your teen an awesome opportunity to go off on an adventure! Explore these with them, and see if they’d be interested in traveling.

APRIL 28 – MAY 22
Project World School Retreat   ECUADOR, SOUTH AMERICA

MAY 11 – 22
Project World School Retreat  ECUADOR, SOUTH AMERICA

JUNE 29 – JULY 23
Project World School Retreat CUSCO & MACHU PICCHU, PERU

AUGUST 3-10
Not Back to School Camp   EAGLE POINT, OREGON

AUGUST 3 – 27
Project World School Retreat PERU – AMAZON JUNGLE

AUGUST 9 – 16
East Tennessee Unschoolers Camp  UNICOI, TENNESSEE

AUGUST 25 – SEPTEMBER 8
Not Back to School Camp   BRIDGE, OREGON

SEPTEMBER 12 – NOVEMBER 21
Unschool Adventures – Adventure Semester – COLORADO

SEPTEMBER 24 – OCTOBER 2
Not Back to School Camp  PLYMOUTH, VERMONT

 

Q: Do Unschoolers ever keep records? Should we be doing this? Part of me wishes we had something to show for this great life we’re living!

A: Sometimes unschoolers get mixed messages about record-keeping. States vary on their requirements for homeschoolers – including unschoolers – to maintain various records.

In Texas – No record-keeping is required whatsoever.
But check your own state/local group for your laws.

That said, some of us like to be able to look back and see progress in all kinds of areas. Some of our kids (most of them?) like to look back at their own lives and see what they were doing or remember what life was like. Get creative and you can find a fun way to record what’s been going on. Try some of these:

  • Journaling about their lives and their activities
    – Having a place to privately record everything that you HOPE you will remember
    – Some kids might love to write it themselves, either by hand or on the computer
    – Decorating the cover and/or the pages – look at others on Pinterest (especially under “Art Journals”)
  • Photo journals – hard copy or digital
    – get memory sticks to take photos off the phone
    – start folders to make it easier to find what you’re looking for
    – At the end of the year, compile the favorites for an annual book or video montage set to favorite songs
  • Scrapbooking
    – A fun hands-on project to do together.
    – More fun for the artistic creative types
  • Blogging about the family’s adventures
     – Lots of free blog websites are available great idea
  • Writing activities down after the fact in a planner or on a calendar
    – Perfect for the busy mom who is trying to remember it all
  • Pinterest boards can record cool things you’ve done, read, seen, explored
      – Create boards for interesting places you visited
    – Create boards for movies & documentaries you saw
    – Create a board with photos of new creations (foods, crafts, etc)

 

Q: If I unschool the kids, what will we do about gaps? The curriculum makes sure I don’t miss anything. ~Mom of 3

A.The truth is, Mom of 3, everyone has gaps in their learning. There’s no way your curriculum – or any curriculum – can be sure to touch on every piece of knowledge out there. And then, when you add in your child’s attention to the material, and how it might fade if the resources are boring or not what he’s interested in – you will have paid a lot for curriculum that doesn’t do what you were hoping: Avoid gaps.

BUT! There’s good news! There’s no finish line, or graduation date – learning is an ongoing process for life. And, honestly, that little phone in your child’s pocket (or it will be in his pocket when he’s older) will answer any question he might have, tiny fact he might have missed, or fill any gap he notices along the way.

Q: I don’t really understand what deschooling is. I heard there’s some formula for when it should be completed. 

A. Deschooling is the term we use when people (children or parents) are trying to get past the school version of learning and open to the idea that learning is actually much bigger than that. The problem is, we create stories around these thoughts and sometimes we even have emotional hurdles to overcome. If you had a less than stellar school experience, it might be easier to walk away from schoolish ways of learning, socializing, connecting. Still, we’re a small portion of society, and things like back to school sales, football games, prom season may trigger some wistfulness that you or your child harbors. Also, your child may think they have to do worksheets to demonstrate learning, or that authoritarian top-down teaching methods are required to learn. It can even be a little scary at first to know that you are in charge of your own learning. But the benefits are SO worth it!

How quickly you move through the deschooling process will be so unique to your child, yourself and your family. You may even revisit ideas that were buried but surface later when your child enters a new developmental phase. That’s ok, you’re human! And schools have often been big parts of our lives before unschooling. Give yourself and your child some time get acquainted with this new way of approaching learning and shucking the shackles of the school’s version of education!

Q: What do I do about friends or relatives who quiz my kids about their learning? It’s so annoying and I’m dreading those encounters! ~ Nervous Nadine

A. Oh, N2, we don’t live in an unschooling bubble, do we? Our kiddos have to get out there in the community and brush up with people who have no idea what we’re trying to do. And while that’s a good thing, in general, it can be tough when you’re new to unschooling or feeling like you’re on some shaky ground. A couple of quick suggestions is to give them some factoids they can rattle back at their quizzer:

“Do you know the capitol of Angola, or San Salvador, or Malaysia?”
(Here’s a wikipedia cheat sheet, so he can pick which countries they’d like to know)

Or how about a math question?
What’s 2358 x 137? or the square root of 196?
(here’s a square root calculator, so she can pick her own!)
The point being that the child can give some demonstration of knowledge and then happily skip away.

Another option is to talk to those people yourself. You could even tell your child, “Mom said if the quizzing starts, you should probably take it up with her.” No reason your child should have to go head-to-head with an adult with an agenda.
And if you’re still a little uneasy yourself with the confrontation, change the subject. Talk about their child’s success or something they’re doing. People love to talk about themselves.

Q: I know my kids are young, but what about teens and college? How do they pass the SAT/ACT if they are unschooled? Just looking down the road…. 

A. Lots of parents worry that choosing the Unschooling route will close doors for their kids. It’s actually the opposite.

As for passing the SAT/ACT, mine didn’t have to. They took community college classes as a teen and then transferred to a university as a sophomore. Transfer students don’t have to take the SAT/ACT. For those kids that want to bypass the community college, they simply pull out those study guides and figure it out. Most of those guides show you how to do the questions. There are also prep classes your teens could take if that’s REALLY what they want.

Most unschooled teens I know went the community college route first. Community colleges have their own placement tests. And sometimes kids end up taking developmental classes, depending on how they scored. As my unschooled daughter said, “Even a couple of developmental classes beats 12 years in a classroom!”

Good pointQ: How do unschoolers make sure they hit all the subjects?

A. In two words: they don’t. Subjects are artificially divided for school, but that’s not how they show up in real life. When you’re immersed in your life, a variety of subjects intertwine and connect. One thing invariably leads to another. With no plans to test or “monitor classroom progress,” the need for compartmentalizing subject material becomes unnecessary. Unschooling parents can fuel interests, toss in suggestions, see where something leads.

For instance, say your child enjoys building with lego. What else does he like to build? Where do you find those materials? Has he been to the local children’s museum where he can build on a larger scale? Has he seen cool videos on YouTube? Is he interested in lego robotics? What if when he’s looking up lego robotics, he discovers a Mindstorm app, or downloads some software? Or maybe it leads him to info about the Mars Rover robot and he started exploring more about the solar system… or it dropped him into the Smithonian.com exposing him to exhibits about post-World War II, or dog breeds, or creating your own time capsule. Maybe lego leads him to explore a trip to Legoland in San Diego, or Denmark, England, Germany, Florida or Malaysia. What would be fun things to do if you went there?

Yes, it is incredibly tangential, but that’s what unrestrained curiosity looks like! Would you call that Science, Reading, Spelling, Math, Computer Science, Geography, Physics, History? But why do that? Any particular interest can lead to thousands of other topics. When children aren’t studying for a test or distracted by which subject they’re studying, the sky’s the limit on their learning!

connect-1**But don’t be overzealous in your desire to connect everything. Your goal is to have your child see you as Resource Person or Creative Idea Finder. You don’t want them to avoid you because you want to turn everything into “teachable moments.” Sometimes, a lego is just a lego.  You have to know your kid well enough to know when to offer and when to hold back… and not get your feelings hurt if they have no interest in yourfabulous idea. 😉

 

Q: I have been homeschooling for about 10 years now, my dd is 16 and 1/2 and my ds is 12. I wonder if it is too late to consider unschooling? My children are both right-brain learners and my ds struggles with the “left brain” materials available to us. I could write several paragraphs about boredom and frustration, but I am sure you have heard it all! Is it too late for us? Can you point me in the right direction? Signed, Desperate in Katy!

A: Oh Desperate! It’s never too late! It’s time for a heart-to-heart conversation with your kids though. Talk to them about this new unschooling approach, how you’re going to focus on fueling THEIR interests, as opposed to forcing them to listen to others who supposedly know what’s best for them. It’s their lives! And learning is natural. Our job is to get all the arbitrary stuff out of their way. You may have to do some deschooling about what’s arbitrary. Grades, tests, grade levels, “prepping for college,” teacher-driven materials – all those can be things of the past!

Ask them how they’d like to spend their time? What are their interests? Think of yourself as the Best Tour Guide in Katy! Then go about becoming that! What’s nearby that might intrigue them? What’s going on in your community that might be interesting? Do they have some hobbies they’d like to pursue? What adventures could you go on together? Instead of getting them ready for life, dive into it with them now!

If you have specific questions, check out the Facebook page: Unschooling Mom2Mom. Veteran unschooling moms are there, ready to help you make the shift!

Q&AQ: Hello I am a mother of two girls 5 and 6. They are currently in public school but I am so dissatisfied with public education. I don’t believe children should be given standardized tests, as if all children are the same. What are a few things I needed to know before withdrawing my girls from school?

A: I really don’t think you need to do any prep at all before you withdraw your girls from school. They were happily learning at home just a couple of years ago, and now they’ll be able to go back to where you all left off.

Sometimes it helps to understand our Texas law as it pertains to homeschoolers. After the Leeper Decision in the 1980’s, homeschooling falls into the category of “private schools.” Public schools have no jurisdiction over private schools. The “Texas Homeschooling Law” requires:

  • The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
  • The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
  • The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.

There are no reporting agencies and no testing requirements for homeschoolers. The state of Texas does not regulate homeschoolers once they have been removed from the public school system.

School schedules don’t matter in your unschooling/homeschooling world. So waiting for a particular school break to withdraw them is completely unnecessary!
Let the adventure begin NOW!

Q: So today is one of those days where I worry about not teaching my child about normal subjects. I still have this mental picture she should be sitting at a desk with papers and learning about stuff in a book … help me !!! 

It’s so common for us to fall back on the way we learned as children – I’m assuming you went to school like so many of us. We were really conditioned to believe that “Real Learning” has to be boring, at desks, and divided neatly into subjects. Unschooling principles are the opposite of that. Learning is fun! It happens all the time, everyday. Life never presents itself the way it does in schools – there are no worksheets, or tidy subjects coming at us one at a time. Better to involve your daughter in real life, where learning is real – and very exciting! You might be interested in reading The Curriculum Crutch.

See you next month with more Questions and Answers!