Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Unschooling Posts (On This Blog) of 2011

The last couple of years I've done something like this, and it's a tradition I'd like to keep going.  I've chosen my favorite post on this blog from each month of the past year. It's always interesting looking back on what I've written over the year, and if you missed any of them the first time around, I hope you'll find them an interesting read now!


Growing Up Unschooled...With Siblings
"To me, one of the greatest benefits of unschooling is the relationships I've developed with my family, which I definitely attribute at least in part to unschooling.  When in school, siblings spend every day appart from each other, in separate grades, classrooms, and even schools (though seeing as you're not supposed to be socializing in class, I suppose it wouldn't make much of a difference if siblings where in the same class, anyway).  Evenings are usually spent doing homework, or spending time with other friends.  There's a stigma attached to hanging out with people of different ages, and I've definitely also encountered a stigma to liking family members.  To many young people, actually liking a sibling enough to spend time with them just isn't cool."
Blame Unschooling!
"By unschooling, I had the time and space to become my own person.  Unschooling gave me freedom.  The rest I did myself.  Or, myself, with the help of the world, my community, and life in general...  Unschooling didn't create the aspects of myself that I'm proud of, and neither did it create my less than stellar qualities.  My achievements and mistakes are thanks to me and the circumstances I've found myself in."

Why I Use "Labels"
"Some people eschew anything they see as labels, and that's fine.  But as a word lover, I kind of like walking around with a string of words attached to me.  I picture them trailing out behind my head, fluttering a bit in an imaginary breeze as I move around: a banner of pride.  Yeah, pretty fanciful mental image, I know.  But anyway, I choose to attach these words to my person because I identify strongly with them: they make me happy to use, I feel like each one describes me well, and I just like them.  Those words are my friends."

I'm going to cheat a bit on this one, since I didn't really write any real posts this month, and instead share two podcasts I did during that time, one an interview between me and my sister, the other an interview with Kelly Hogaboom.  Neither of them are especially "professional," but I was really happy to try creating stuff in a new medium!


A Parental Right
"Unschooling isn't about parental rights.  It's about children's rights.  A childs right to choose their own path in life, with the support and assistance of parental or other care-giving figures in their life."

Teenage Rebellion: An Unschooling, Respectfully Parented Perspective
"When the subject of "teenage rebellion" comes up now, my mother is fond of saying "why would you rebel, since there wasn't really anything to rebel against?"

Now, I think there is an important distinction to be made here: some parents proudly brag about how their teens aren't "rebellious," and what they really mean is that their children are obedient to their parents wishes (or, possibly more likely, are simply very good at hiding the aspects of their life that their parents would disapprove of).  When I say that most unschoolers I know, myself included, don't or didn't "rebel" against our parents in our teen years, I don't mean it's because we fit the perfect-child model of some narrow-minded authoritarian-parenting suburbanite."

I only wrote one post in July, so this pick was an easy one! Insecurities and an Anniversary: Three Years Blogging and Writing from the Heart
"Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: I don't think, especially right now, that my life is a good example of unschooling.  I feel like I've somehow put myself on this pedestal, with lots of people looking up at me, and I'm just going what?  How did this happen?  I'm not the person you think I am!!"

The Ignorant Commenters Strike Again: "But You Have to Learn to Get Along With People You Don't Like!"
"Sadly, life is filled with people who, to put it bluntly, are assholes.  People who treat others poorly.  Bullies.  People who don't seem to realize that working respectfully with others is even an option.  You can (and will) definitely find those people in school.  But, even if you never set foot in a school, you'll still find those people.  The whole thing with living and learning in the real world is that, well, you tend to run into the things commonly found in, you know, the real world."

Breaking News: Unschoolers Not as Good at School as Schooled People
"Schooled kids and schooled-at-home kids practice tests all the time.  They get good at taking tests, because they take tests.  Young, unschooled children who are not used to tests obviously will not be as good at taking tests, regardless of how much knowledge they have in the areas they're being tested on.  Unschoolers don't generally aim to be "successful" by being good at tests: they aim to be successful by being good at living life!"

Unschooling: Are We Teaching Ourselves
"Virtually every time unschooling is covered in the media (such as the newest segment on MSNBC's Today Show) people, either in the segment itself or in the comments, refer to unschooling as an educational "method" where kids "teach themselves."  And that's always struck me as being way off the mark.  Unschooling isn't about unschoolers "teaching themselves": it's about unschoolers choosing how and what and with whom they want to learn."

Guest Post: The Future of Unschooling by Jeff Landale
"If we find ourselves engaging in radical modes of alternative education which don’t inherently challenge and disrupt crucial aspects of the world, then we should be concerned that we are actually reproducing the same structures which Unschooling was originally supposed to allow us to escape from. Thus, rather than having Unschooling be that thing which isn’t school or homeschooling, we should have Unschooling be something which, while growing out of critiques of industrial schooling and its sibling, homeschooling, defined in terms of what it allows us to become, and how it allows us to change the world."

Unschooling and Trust
"Trust is hard, and learning to trust yourself is a continuous journey, full of learning and re-learning your own strength and capability, while learning to accept weaknesses and mistakes.  A great strength of unschooling is, I believe, the gift of being confident in the innate ability of children to learn.  Giving them trust.  And in so doing, breaking a cycle of teaching dependance on authority, breaking the cycle of teaching children that they're incompetent and incapable of having a major say in their own lives."
And with that, I will wish you all a very Happy New Year, filled with joy and health and, of course, lots of learning!  I'd like to publish a post in the next couple of days with my favorite unschooling/radical education posts of the last year from all over the internet, and hopefully I'll find time to do so!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homeschooling Doesn't Mean Your Kids Will be Like You

I've talked to a lot of young parents considering alternative education of some sort or another, not necessarily unschooling, and to people who plan on teaching their children, a common enthusiasm expressed is that they'll be able to teach their children to love what they love.  Usually the thing they're talking about is "classic" something or other, especially literature.  Sometimes it's even put as baldly as that, though often that simply seems to be an underlying theme in what they're saying.  I don't point it out, though sometimes I consider doing so.  It doesn't seem particularly nice to say that all their dreams of creating children who share their interests isn't necessarily going to happen, and I figure it's something people will figure out themselves soon enough.  But I always kind of shake my head a bit, internally.  Trying to make someone else like the same things you like is likely to lead to them having little interest in the subject being pushed, at best, and actively disliking and resenting both the subject being pushed and the person pushing it, at worst.

I understand the drive behind it: when you think something is fascinating and exciting, enjoyable and useful, or simply fun, it's natural that you want to share it with others.  I'm very pleased with myself for making Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans of several of my friends, and I rather hope any future children of mine will like reading Tamora Pierce novels as much as I do.

I can't wait to read her newest novel!

Wanting others to like what you like is perfectly normal.  But where many people go wrong is in how they attempt to approach it.  With friends, you mostly have to be respectful about it, and introduce things in a "I think this is so cool and thought you might too, want to watch it/read it/try it with me?" But when it comes to children, so often their very thoughts are considered to be under parental control (because really, what is attempting to teach something against someones will if not attempting to control their thoughts?), parents decide what their children should be interested in, and decide to make it happen.

But of course, no matter how much power you hold over another individual, you may be able to make your children read classic literature, but you can't make them like it, no matter how much you enjoyed reading Mark Twain yourself.

It's understood that adults will have different interests based on their own personal tastes and preferences, and those different interests are generally at least marginally respected (while an interest in comic books might not be respected overly much, it's probably unlikely someone will be told to their face they should be reading classic lit instead), yet most often children get very different treatment.  Like ideas on the necessity of Shakespeare, many parents think that their list of things that have been most enriching in their lives will also prove the most enriching to their children, if only they teach them about it.

And hey, maybe it will prove just as enjoyable and enriching to them!  But it's far more likely to be if you approach it right, the same way you would with a friend or other adult loved one.  Share your enthusiasm, make the things you like readily available, ask if your kids want to watch this great movie, or read your favorite book.  Enthusiasm and passion are engaging, and can definitely spark interest for someone else.  But unless you want to breed resentment, be okay with your kids just not being interested, or watching that wonderful movie and finding it considerably less wonderful than you find it.  It also has to go both ways: if you expect your children to at least try out your favorite things, be ready to do the same with them.  The best relationships, no matter the type, are based on sharing: sharing of emotions and experiences and interests and passions.  It's no different when it comes to sharing favorite things with your children (and your children sharing their favorite things with you).

So I keep quiet when parents enthuse about how much their children are going to love this and that thing and subject because the parents are planning on making it an important part of their homeschool curriculum.  I just wish them the best, and hope that things work out in a way that each person gets to have their own favorite things, and enjoy sharing those favorites with each other!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Against the Grain: Listen to the Podcast on The Unschooler Experiment!

I fell down on the job these last few days what with Christmas and all, but as I'm sure you'll notice my last several posts were of the essays being published on The Unschooler Experiment as part of the Week of the Idzie.  You can find a list of all those essays here, and as of today you can also listen to me read them all on The Unschooler Experiment podcast!  Check it out:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finding Community @ The Unschooler Experiment

Day 3 in the Week of the Idzie.

I started getting enthusiastic about the idea of unschooling when I was 16 or 17, and I actually met other unschoolers in real life for the first time when I was 17 and went to Not Back to School Camp. I think I expected everything to change instantly: that I’d magically become more outgoing and make a ton of new friends in one fell swoop, and I was a bit disappointed when that didn’t happen. But I did really like the atmosphere of camp, and I did make some new, tentative friendships. And as I continued to make my way into the unschooling community by going to a couple of conferences with my mother and sister, and going to Not Back to School Camp again the next year, I started realizing that, slowly but surely, I was making quite a few friends. I found myself keeping in touch with those friends, even though they lived far away, and gaining a hell of a lot of confidence along the way.
I learned that maybe I was someone worth being friends with, after all, and I learned that there were a lot of unschoolers I very much wanted to get to know better.
Now, the unschooling community isn’t the only one I feel I need in my life: I was rather surprised when I first started going to unschooling events by how non-radical many unschoolers are. I guess I’d assumed that because questioning the schooling system lead me to questioning so much else, that that would be the experience of others, as well. And it is! Just not as many others as maybe I’d first thought. This isn’t meant in any way as a criticism, just an honest reflection of my thoughts. Regardless, the people I choose to surround myself with now are unschoolers, anarchists, radicals, queers, hippies, pagans, and other odd folk. And I’m using “odd” here in the most complementary sense possible!
Everyone will feel pulled to find different communities, but all of us do need community.
It’s the finding of it that can be difficult.
Read more at The Unschooler Experiment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Normalcy is for Squares @ The Unschooler Experiment

Day two in The Week of the Idzie.
My sister and I spend a lot of time together. We enjoy having really great discussions, sharing observations, jokes, and just generally being best friends. And a while back, I made some comment along the lines that I dress pretty normally, and my sister just looked at me and said “Idzie, you’ve forgotten what normal is.”
I regularly forget what normal is about more than just clothing. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, but I think it does say something about where, and with whom, I spend most of my time!
I’ve been asked if I feel unschooling made, and makes, it harder for me to connect with “regular” people, and I find that a difficult question to begin with, just because there are so many ways in which my views and lifestyle are, well, far from mainstream. It goes beyond just what could be covered under the label of unschooler.
Some people seem able to find common ground with every single person they come across, and I truly envy that skill. Because so often, with new acquaintances, I find myself running out of anything to talk about very, very quickly. Being the unschooling, vegetarian, animistic, green-anarchist, feminist, hippie freak that I am, what’s on my radar tends to look pretty different than the things that feature most prominently in many other peoples lives...
Read more over at The Unschooler Experiment!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Get My Very Own Week, Courtesy of The Unschooler Experiment!

I did a recording of my talk Against The Current, for the wonderful website The Unschooler Experiment, about a month ago.  The Unschooler Experiment sets itself apart from pretty much all other unschooling sites in that it focuses on the stories and experiences of grown unschoolers themselves, instead of parents, and seeks to share information that's interesting and relevant to both grown unschoolers and parents of unschoolers (and grown unschooled parents of unschoolers, of course!).

And now I'm incredibly honored to be featured this whole week on that site, during The Week of the Idzie!  My talk has been broken up into 7 essays, which will be followed by my reading of those essays in a podcast on day 8.  I'm truly flattered, and also just can't help but be extremely amused by that title.  "Week of the Idzie"...  It sounds very much like something I'd declare dramatically and with great silliness to my family.  "I declare this to be the Week of the Idzie!!"  Anyway, a big thanks to Peter Kowalke and other awesome folks over at The Unschooler Experiment.

See all the Week of the Idzie posts here:

And read today's essay Against the Grain (Day 1 in the Week of the Idzie.  It seems egocentric to get such a kick out of that title, but I can't help it!). 

In other news, though it may be taking longer than I'd hoped, posts will soon be posted on Sistermatic Response, I promise!  You can follow updates over at the Sistermatic Response Facebook page.  You can also, of course, follow this blog as well, at the I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. Facebook page!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unschooling and Trust

When you get right down to it one of the most integral aspects of unschooling, and this is something you hear lots of unschooling advocates saying, is trust.

Trust is a really nice word.  According to, trust is:


1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.
I love that first definition.  Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person.  Unschooling, or really, doing many things differently than those ways of doing and being sanctioned by the dominant culture, takes a lot of trust.  It takes trust on multiple levels.

Trusting that Nature/evolution/the Divine/God/Goddess has created human beings capable of learning, capable of following their innate drive to learn, capable of making the important decisions in their lives.  It's trusting that nature got things right.

Trusting, as a parent, that you have the capability (and strength, ability, surety) to make the decision to take your kids out of school, or to never send them to school to begin with.  And trusting that your children are capable people, able to learn and grow guided by their innate desire to explore the world around them. 

Trusting yourself, as someone who is themselves of an age to be in compulsory schooling, to have the insight, foresight, strength and ability to take the leap of leaving school, or if your parents made that decision at an earlier point for you, trusting that you really have always been and continue to be capable of controlling your own learning, "education," and life.

Trust is hard, and learning to trust yourself is a continuous journey, full of learning and re-learning your own strength and capability, while learning to accept weaknesses and mistakes.  A great strength of unschooling is, I believe, the gift of being confident in the innate ability of children to learn.  Giving them trust.  And in so doing, breaking a cycle of teaching dependance on authority, breaking the cycle of teaching children that they're incompetent and incapable of having a major say in their own lives. 

I believe unschooling can really help in allowing people to develop confidence in their own power.

At the same time, though, unschoolers are of course just people, and unschooling doesn't erase the influences of the rest of this culture, or fundamentally change the fact that everyone, no matter their upbringing or education, has insecurities and worries and problems with trusting their own judgement.  I never went to school (I don't count kindergarten), yet that doesn't stop my insecurities!  And it doesn't stop me from wondering on a regular basis if I am trustworthy, if I really am capable of making the best choices for myself.

It helps though, having had so much trust for so many years.  It helps being able to look at all the things I've learned and accomplished, by my own initiative and in my own time. 

So, unschooling is really about trusting.  Trusting Nature, trusting your kids, trusting yourself.  It won't be perfect, but as long as that core of trust remains, I'd say unschooling works out pretty damn well.