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Deschooling Facebook Live Resources

Rachel Miller & Shannon Stoltz hosted a Facebook Live in the Texas Unschoolers Group on Monday, October 26th to talk about Deschooling. The replay is available to watch in the group. We covered:

  • What is Deschooling?
  • Why is Deschooling necessary?
  • How long does Deschooling take?
  • What does Deschooling look like?
  • What do we DO while we’re Deschooling?
  • How do we combat doubts?

If y’all haven’t “met” us previously, Rachel is the admin & content creator for the Texas Unschoolers Facebook Page, the main moderator in the Texas Unschoolers Group, and a veteran unschooling mom to two teens (17 & 15). Her favorite topics are gaming and respectful parenting.

Shannon is a veteran unschooling mom with four “kids” (23, 21, 18, and 16) and a sometime contributor to Texas Unschoolers – usually on topics related to dyslexia, autism, adhd, and following kids’ diverse interests.

We wanted to provide y’all with some links to follow-up on various quotes & resources we mentioned. We’ll also come back and continue to add any relevant materials brought up during the Q&A portion or posted later.

We’ve tried our best to credit quotes, thoughts, & ideas to the person/website/source where they originated.  Any failure to attribute or attribute correctly is not intentional.  We’ve been reading, listening, and participating in the Unschooling community for over a decade – so know that if we personally share something particularly profound, it’s due to the hard work and encouragement of the thousands who have come before us.

What is Deschooling?

Deschooling allows us to contemplate a new way.  It allows us to see how learning really happens. It gives us an opportunity to examine our paradigm around education and life in general and gives us new perspective to work with.

Michelle Conaway
Deschooling – Why It’s Important

Deschooling is about learning to trust your child. You are building trust between you. When you impose school-like structures, your child can’t relax in the knowledge that those days are over. You’ll need to back up and give more time until they can trust that school is over.

Issa Waters
Everything You Need to Know About Deschooling Before Unschooling

How long does Deschooling take?

If you had a less than stellar school experience it might be easier to walk away from all the schoolish 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 may trigger some wistfulness that you or your child harbors.

Sue Patterson
What Does Deschooling Mean?

What does Deschooling look like?

If you knew you only had a year more with that child, what would you expose him to? Where would you go? What would you eat? What would you watch? What would you do?

If you had only ONE year—and then it was all over, what would you do? Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 days.

Do that THIS year. And the next.

That’s how unschooling works. By living life as if it were an adventure. As if you only had a limited amount of time with that child. Because that’s the way it IS.

Kelly Lovejoy
Unschooling: Getting It (Kelly’s section is near the bottom of the page.)

Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.

Carol Black
A Thousand Rivers

We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.

Peter Gray
Free to Learn

Studies over many years have found that behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior. When the rewards stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program began. More disturbingly, researchers have recently discovered that children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers.

Alfie Kohn
The Risks of Rewards

When I use coercion instead of conversation in attempts to “teach” them the things the world might offer them through harsh lessons, I am using fear and privilege, not respect and liberatory relationship-building.

Akilah S. Richards
Privilege, Oppression, and Thoughts on Raising Free People
You can find more from Richards here on her website: Raising Free People.

Unschooling is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others’ little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other.

Pam Sorooshian
Unschooling is not “Child-Led Learning”

Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.

Katrina Gutleben

If children lose academic skills over the few weeks of summer, then did they really ever learn those skills?  It must have been pretty shallow learning.

Peter Gray
Facts and Fiction About the So-Called “Summer Slide”

What DO we DO while we are Deschooling?

Read a little, Try a little, Wait a while, Watch.

Sandra Dodd
Read a little…

When I bring wonderful, new, different and intriguing things into our lives without any pressure or expectation, our wonder and enjoyment increases. When I tickle our senses with new smells, tastes, sounds and objects, we engage more fully with our world. 

Karen Lee
Natural Strewing

We have got to look for win-win, because when we are all lifted up and we are all comfortable, we all do better. But convincing someone who has that privilege to share it, is very much like us trying to make others understand that children are whole, complete beings. They do not need to grow into something, they deserve their wholeness just by being.

Erika Davis-Pitre
From the Exploring Unschooling podcast episode: Unschooling and Diversity with Erika Davis-Pitre

How to combat the doubts

The day ‘deschooling ends’ and ‘unschooling begins’ won’t be lit up in bright lights — There’s no ‘magic moment’.  Life will just continue with the wonderful rhythm you’ve found, you’ll see all the learning that’s happening every day, and eventually you’ll look back and realize, ‘Hey, I think we’re unschooling.

Pam Laricchia
What is Deschooling?

Connecting With Your Unschooler When They Are Awake All Night

For those of us who have a child whose sleep schedule has shifted to being awake all night and asleep through most of the day (this is especially prolific in teens*) – it may feel like we’re disconnected from them. Especially if, before this shift happened, we were able to regularly and consistently connect & hang out with them during the day.

It helps to think of new ways that you can gather and to recognize the “unofficial” ways you may already be naturally connecting. For our son, now 17, he’s spent much of his life as a night person – so we’ve had a lot of time to settle into various routines that allowed for the most connection possible.

I sort of have a morning routine where I come downstairs, let the dogs out, start coffee, unload/reload the dishwasher, make food for dogs, and other random kitchen/downstairs stuff. 17yo would come down and wander around the kitchen and we’d talk about what he’d been doing overnight. He’ll show me YouTube videos (our main TV can be seen from the kitchen). Sometimes he’d set up his laptop to stream to the TV so I could see what he was doing.

It’s a common joke where the first time I see him all day, I say, “What time is it?” And what that means is “where are you in your day?” so he’ll answer with “Just woke up”, “About to go to bed.”, “taking a break for ‘lunch’ and then…”, etc.

Connecting with our 17yo Unschooler while walking our dogs

Lately, the temperatures have dropped, so we’ve been taking the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. This morning we talked about a new League of Legends character that was released and how he feels about playing her. Some new games that are going to be coming out over the next few weeks, how he’s budgeted for those, and what he’s looking forward to. Spelunky 2 is a newer version of a game we’ve loved to play as a family so we discussed purchasing a bundle if it becomes available.

He asked me about the book I’m currently reading which led to a discussion about forensic accounting and blood diamonds. He was able to connect that with another game he’s played and the discussion moved to Sierra Leone, Northern Africa, child soldiers, and the difference between private military contractors and mercenaries.

Don’t be so quick to ban “tech” during these times. We often use our phones to look up/clarify the things we’re discussing. (This morning, it was to see on a map exactly where Sierra Leone is located in Africa.)

Since the tween/teen years hit – we almost never eat dinner at the dining room table. We’ll watch TV together, take our food to desks and game, etc. All those “studies” about how sitting around the dinner table is necessary are based on: 1. schooled students and 2. parents who don’t know how to connect with their kids. If we eat while we’re all gaming or watching tv together or whatever – then the connection is happening.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Image: Picture is of our two dogs, a brown & white King Charles Spaniel and a grey/silver Schnauzer, walking on leashes ahead of us. (currently our kids don’t want their pics posted to social media, so you get the dogs. 😉)

* For more about how biology impacts when teens sleep, you can read this article (which includes more links): Your Teen Needs More Sleep. However, please keep in mind that this article & the resources are all focused on schooled teens and how to help them work around, adjust, or at worst ignore their nature in effort to function within a paradigm set up against how their body functions. Unschooling makes that unnecessary.

My Child is Having a Hard Time

A common Unschooling question, especially lately, is “What do I do when my child is having a hard time?”  or “How do I respond when they’re melting down?”

It’s so hard to see our kids struggling. It helps me keep calm to remember some things when our kids are having a hard time:

A. They are kids. They are not supposed to know how to handle what life throws at them. They only do the best they can with whatever skills/tools they’ve learned so far. And that’s only if they remember them in a time of crisis (which even adults miss the mark on often enough).

B. Me freaking out/panicking/yelling/telling them to stop/calm down is NOT going to help anyone.

It depends on the kid, the situation, their own triggers, my triggers, etc. Here are some things that can help:

1. Asking them, “Do you want me to do anything – or do you just want to vent?”

If they opt to vent: Safety first. I only physically move them if it’s an immediate danger to themselves or someone nearby. (laying down in the middle of the road) In a case of self-harm I offer options of a physical outlet.  “Your body looks like it needs to express frustration – would you like to punch this pillow, stomp your feet, walk around the block, do jumping jacks, etc.?”

“Would you like to sit in my lap/hold my hand/go someplace else?” (not a punishment or forced “banishment” way but in an escape from people/noise/light/surroundings kind of way – like to the car, their room or mine, a closet, etc.).

I may ask again later once they’ve had some time. “Would you like to look over what happened and brainstorm some ideas to perhaps prevent what happened or ways to try it differently or ???”

2. Remember, when they’re extremely stressed – it’s generally “Fight or Flight” that’s kicking in. Notice no part of “have respectful/meaningful conversation” fits under either the category of Fight or Flight.  You can give soothing words, sounds, etc. However they are not always going to respond well to suggestions and it’s doubtful they’ll process them, remember them, or have them as tools next time. So brainstorming will need to wait for later. And probably be discussed more to be “available” for applying in the future.

3. It’s OK to be disappointed. It’s OK to be stressed. It’s OK to “fail”. It’s OK for things not to go our way. Acknowledging those emotions and giving them the space & time to have them is not a bad thing.

4. 2020 SUCKS. Big time. This has been the absolutely craziest year. Even if our kids don’t seem directly impacted by ALL. THE. THINGS. They are definitely picking up on the emotions and uncertainty of all those around them. As adults, we have a lot of life experience to draw from & freedom to try to cope (even so a LOT of us are also scrambling to pick up new skills during these unprecedented times). Grace for your kids. Grace for yourself.

This loops back to A. and number 3 – I acknowledge when things are crazy to the kids. “Hey, we’re encountering a new situation – even I don’t know how to handle it well. Let’s work together to find some ideas/solutions and try those out and see if they help.”

5. Sort of connects to A. We, as their parent/trusted adult are learning our kids as well. Each time something happens – we have more “parenting data” to work with. Now, I often know which kid is going to be impacted in what way by what situations. I’ve had 17 & 15 years to learn these things. That said, we STILL encounter new situations.

At 2, 3, 4, and when they hit new milestones or were out encountering lots of new things – there were definitely a LOT more instances of them struggling with life. Each situation, age, & stage is an opportunity to gather more data. My goal is to continually pass that data and those coping skills along to them so they can try to apply it in their own lives now and as adults.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Bedtimes

Setting bedtimes is a common discussion point and it seems to be especially polarizing. When parents are ill, pregnant, or just tired from life – it can be tempting to institute strict bedtimes. Here’s a recent reply I gave about how to honor & respect the needs of the parents and our Unschoolers. While specifically replying to an inquiry about pregnancy, some of these are ideas I used during lengthy recovery from surgery. This is not a “how to” – it’s to help readers think of possible solutions.

Asking for quiet or rest times – isn’t the same as demanding a child sleep when they are not tired.

Keep in mind too, that pregnancy is fairly temporary in the scheme of things. Trying to find short term solutions to get you through the coming months is *not* the equivalent of Unparenting.

Are there activities that the kids can do that don’t require a lot of physical input from you – but still might allow them to get their own physical needs met (when our kids were toddlers – dancing/musical-type videos allowed them to jump around while I could stay sitting). A mini (or full in the yard) trampoline?

We have a game called Hyper Dash that has been an amazing investment. The “cones” can be placed in any configuration and as far apart as you want. The commands range from identifying colors or numbers and expand to simple math problems.

Also make sure that the kids are having their “emotional” bucket filled. When awake, are they getting to spend time with you and your partner?

I would always choose to lighten the load in other areas so that the kids were the last to feel the impact of any exhaustion I was feeling. Make simple or prepackaged meals, use paper plates & plastic utensils. Don’t worry about folding/hanging clothes (they can get stuff directly from the dryer or a communal basket) – if they’re wearing clothes at all.

Borrow audiobooks from the library and listen together instead of being the one reading (or FB/Twitter/YouTube, they’re flooded right now with storytimes)

Once you go to sleep or lay down – make sure the kids have whatever they need to quietly occupy themselves. TV, CD player, tablet (this can be movies, music, audiobooks, games, etc.) Night lights, sippy cups of water, etc.

There is a whole swath of options between “connected/active/engaged 24/7” and “it’s bedtime, go to sleep”.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Tests Don’t Determine Whether Unschooling Is A Success

One of our members came across an article, titled “Unschooling Isn’t The Answer to Education Woes – It’s The Problem” where Forbes contributor Natalie Wexler shares her thoughts and concerns about not only the documentary Unschooled, but current school methodologies as well.  For a large portion of the article Wexler conflates Unschooling with COVID-forced-school-at-home.

Preface – I’ll use Unschoolers/Self-directed learners interchangeably, they’re equivalent in this discussion.

This isn’t a comprehensive examination of the article, but the biggest things I took away are:

1. Wexler doesn’t like the school system either. Everything she’s written is how they’re doing it all wrong. (it’s unlikely to gain much traction as she pretty much denigrates all educational models)

2. I spent some time reading some of the articles & studies she cited. Interestingly, many of the articles she links in support of her position are her own, which then link to more of her articles & books, which then link back to the same study.

3. The main study she cites (and her other “proofs”) are based on testing. How well children do on testing based on various methods. This is problematic because in most cases, the kids in the “control group” are being taught to the test.

So if I take 100 kids that have never seen the color red or a heart and explicitly teach 80 of them that this ❤️ is a red heart. Then wait 6 months and test them all. Yes, a percentage of the 20 remaining may not have learned “naturally” yet the color red or the shape heart. That doesn’t make self-directed learning a failure or directed education superior. It makes directed education superior for taking that specific test.

Testing, the marketing of testing, the writing of test questions, etc are all very problematic – but I have yet to see a study that shows that excellent test takers & high test scores necessarily equates to successful college/careers. (Since more & more colleges/Universities aren’t even requiring testing precisely because tests are NOT indicative of success, it’s hard to continue to value them)

4. I watched the movie. I found it interesting that the kids were held to a higher standard by “educational evaluations” for their short time in the self-directed center than they were in school. These kids spent a decade in the school system and didn’t have this knowledge.

4. b. There is a difference between a child who has been always Unschooled and one who is transitioning after a long time in the school system. It can take YEARS to recover from that. (And in some ways kids who were especially traumatized may never recover fully.) So expecting Unschooling to “work” quickly is unrealistic.

5. I understand the concern that kids won’t learn basic skills. However, I don’t see how any child with an involved parent/caregiver (or facility) is going to make it to 18 not being able to encounter situations in which to learn these skills.

The member who inquired specifically  stated,  “one of my fears, that my children won’t be able to do basic math for life skills”   What life skills? Engage your child in life and they will pick up the skills. At various times and to varying degrees, but they will. Or, at a minimum, give them the skills to find any answers they need. The library, internet, YouTube, etc. are amazing resources. (Since this post was written we’ve added a resource page How Do They Learn… ?)

5. b. HOWEVER, they may still not be able to pass a “test” until taught how to pass a test. Sometimes (dare I say “often”) Unschoolers don’t understand the abstractness of random math “questions” but are immensely capable of applying that math in their life through cooking, sewing, constructing machinery, helping with home improvement projects, strategizing the percentage of attributes needed for a character to win a campaign on Outer Worlds, etc.

If they find they need to pass a test in order to move forward to reach a goal – we can easily help them prepare for that.  It doesn’t take 13 years of school.

Ultimately, we don’t know how/when/where – but if we’re including our kids in life and nurturing their interests, they will gain skills.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School?

What do you do if school isn’t a good fit for your child?

The opening of Blake Boles’ new book, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? might seem a bit opportunistic given the current state of public education enacted by pandemic policies.  However, not only has this book been in the works long before COVID became common vernacular (I can show you my receipt that I pre-ordered in January) but this is a topic near & dear to Boles for nearly two decades.   Additionally, what the closing of local public schools has brought to light is something that many students and their parents* have been feeling for years, even decades.  Conventional schooling is not the best option for every child or every family, and in some respects can be downright dangerous – mentally, physically, and educationally.

What I like best about this book is that Boles doesn’t spend a lot of time pointing out all the flaws in conventional schooling.  This book’s primary audience is those who are seeking out what options might work best for their particular child and family dynamic.  There are pros & cons to each and I think Boles does a fantastic job of acknowledging limitations and helping parents narrow down what might provide the best fit.  He also addresses many of the misconceptions and concerns parents may have like:

  • That doesn’t look like learning
  • Are they happy
  • Cost
  • What about working parents
  • How they go to college
  • How they get a job

Boles provides anecdotes from current & “graduated” self-directed learners, studies, survey results, and abundant resource material.  Even as a seasoned Unschooling family (our children are currently 15 & 17 and have never been to school), I still found myself gaining a new perspective on topics as well as additional confirmation that our personal observations/experiences hold true for other families.  I’ve added new books to my wishlist and my highlighter is almost empty capturing the wisdom imparted.  I know you’ll be seeing quotes from this book shared regularly.

What continually comes through is immense respect for children and young adults as humans worthy of respect, their identity, and ownership of their own goals.

You can learn more about Blake Boles on his website or you can follow him on Facebook.  Listing of where you can purchase Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School?

*I use the term parents for simplicity – but please know that I acknowledge the myriad of adults that act as guardians & facilitators in young people’s lives. 

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Creating Abundance During Scarcity

“Scarcity” vs “creating abundance” is something we talk about a lot in Unschooling.

Those new to Unschooling often can’t conceive of the paradigm shift to where things are “unlimited”. Where we don’t put *arbitrary* limits on gaming, TV, internet, reading, types of food, amount of food, etc.

I think in the past few weeks, we’ve been witness to an extreme version of what happens when people even *perceive* that a shortage of something is possible. They run, they hoard, they become rude & ruthless, and some even try to find ways around the system to get even more.

It’s a version of this that happens when we *arbitrarily* limit our children. When children feel that their enjoyment is going to be limited or structured or in other ways out of their control – things like hoarding, grumpiness at interruptions or rescheduling, or finding ways to break the rules are likely to happen.

Also, looking at current events – note that despite reassurances from the government, grocery stores, suppliers, etc. that these items aren’t actually in short supply overall and that new stock is arriving daily – people are still buying up to the limit, visiting multiple stores, making multiple trips, etc. to continue to hoard these items.

Any initial relaxing/relenting of your previous rules/schedules/restrictions may take weeks or even months before your child really trusts, at a deep psychological level, that there isn’t a threat to that level of availability.

When there is a scarcity that is NOT arbitrary, work with your kids to find solutions that are as abundant as possible. Also, abundance in other areas (that you may not even realize is of concern) can help alleviate stress about scarcity somewhere else.

Today, our daughter saw ketchup at Costco and asked to buy some. I told her that I was pretty sure we had a full bottle in the pantry at home. I watched a look of concern cross her face and asked, “Would it make you feel better to know for sure that we have ketchup despite other things running out?”

“Yes”

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Why are they watching YouTube all day?

This is a pretty common question, not only among Unschoolers, but parents in general.  There are a lot of reasons our children watch YouTube or Twitch.  For something like watching other kids play with toys, unboxing, or game play ~ it’s often about better understanding the product. Sometimes that doesn’t directly translate to the same product in your home, but they still “file away” that information for later.

I kind of equate it to something like Pinterest. I may “pin” or save ideas or pictures.  Am I going to turn my under-the-stairs-closet into a home library/reading nook? Probably not. However it spurred ideas about creating a nesting spot elsewhere in my house. OR I love what someone did and I can appreciate the aesthetic while simultaneously acknowledging that I’m never going to spend $50K on a “she shed”.

Our kids have been regularly perusing YouTube for 10 years now. Especially when they were younger ~ I sat down with them. I’d ask them, “Why are you watching this?” Not in a judgy way, but to learn what they were getting out of it. “What do you think about this product?”  “Why do you like this reviewer?” Sometimes they were seeing something completely different than I was. We talk a lot about marketing, commercials, paid endorsements, etc. Both kids (15yo & 16yo at the time of this post) are actually fairly savvy consumers, thoroughly check ratings/reviews, shop the best deals, etc.

Also, even if a YouTuber or a product don’t interest me ~ I appreciate it for their interest. Sort of like how I watch Tennis or Football or Car Shows with my husband. Are those things that I’d prioritize to watch on my own? No. But I love him so I enjoy getting to know the things he loves better.

Now that they are older and I’m not always right by their side, it’s interesting to see the amazing things they discover merely browsing on YouTube.  Just the other day our son (16yo) brought up an art restorer he’s been following.  So we, along with his sister, spent an hour watching Baumgartner Restoration.

We had a lot of great conversations about art, history, colors, chemicals, and patience.  (Because WOW, does restoration require a lot of patience and meticulous detail work.)

Any time you don’t see the value in something that your children spend a lot of their time engaged in, I encourage you to find a way to truly observe what it brings to their life.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Receive Art Via Text from SFMOMA

Text 572-51 with the words “send me” followed by a keyword, a color, or even an emoji and you’ll receive a related artwork image and caption via text message from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Image is of two pieces of art received when I texted, “send me Texas”.

Alec Soth, ‘Del Río, Texas’, 2011

Steven Holl, ‘Edge of a City: Spiroid Sectors, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas’, 1991

More info about this program can be found on SFMOMA’s website.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Respecting Our Children’s Boundaries

It’s understood by our family and friends that there will be seasons where they will not see pictures of one or both of our children on social media.  That’s because we have always asked our children if we can post their pictures.  I show them the pictures that I have taken and they have the opportunity to select their preferred pictures, if they approve any at all.  They also approve any conversations we post that they participated in (they both reviewed and consented to the contents of this post). 

A conversation between our kids a few years ago (using their ages at the time):

11yo: Why don’t you want mom to post pictures of you to Facebook?

9yo: Because I said no.

11yo: I’m trying to understand *why* you said no.  It doesn’t matter, you can say no for any reason and people have to listen to that – I was just wondering why.

This made my heart so happy.  Not only that our children knew that their “no” will be respected, also that they don’t have to justify their “no” and that they aren’t entitled to demand others explain themselves.    Seeking their permission in posting to social media is just a small part of how we protect their autonomy – physically & emotionally.

Respect your children, their feelings, and their boundaries so they will know how wrong it is when someone else doesn’t.  We have done this to the best of our ability since they were born.  In ways that seem to be “no big deal” like choosing their own clothes, a favorite toy, and what activities they want to participate in.  As well as backing their right to refuse affection and declining to stay with someone or somewhere they aren’t comfortable with.  This may seem inconvenient at times but pays off in both the solid parent/child connection as well has how your children treats and expects to be treated by others.

-Rachel

Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.