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.


  1. Great job, as always! This makes me think about really how MUCH we just "follow" and don't think for ourselves. There IS nothing wrong with kids not going to school. Most people don't understand that, which I find strange. Then again, I am a teacher and both of my older boys went all the way through the public school system (and it was horrible, as a parent). I now teach online college classes and can rationalize that ;-) (my students choose to attend) but K-12 education should be Unschooling in my opinion. Not "No learning" but definitely Unschooling.

  2. wow, just what I needed to hear. Thanks.

  3. ... I remember my (lay/direct-entry (apprentice-educated) midwife advising, "Just Trust Nature"! It was sooooo different than my first hospital/doctor pregnancy experience!!! Those very very simple words made a major impression on me!!! My midwife believed in nature, trust, unschooling, thinking for one's self, natural/herbal medicine (which she made herself from locally collected plants)..... she just trusted!!....

  4. Thanks for this post. We just started unschooling this year and I'm sure it's the right thing for my son and yet struggle with it daily.