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.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Meeting the Texas Homeschool Law Requirements

Guest Post by Sue Patterson

Sometimes unschoolers worry about meeting the legal requirements for homeschooling. In the state of Texas, thanks to the Leeper decision, homeschoolers are considered private schools. What this means is that your local public school has no jurisdiction over what you do.

If you recently removed your child from the school system, it’s possible you were confronted with school officials who didn’t really understand this aspect of the law. You do NOT have to provide a list of curricula you plan to use, or any other piece of information about the learning that will be taking place in your homeschool. It’s none of their business. While saying that to them may create more of a headache for you, I’d suggest that even if they do say inaccurate or uninformed comments, just smile, nod, and say, “where do I sign to wrap this up?”

The other piece of the Texas law sometimes makes unschoolers hesitate. Texas reqires that homeschoolers learn about reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship. While you do not have to allot certain times for these topics, as the parent, you’ll want to be sure they cross your child’s path. But this can be done casually and informally. That’s often the way learning happens best anyway! Some quick examples of ways to learn these topics without textbooks:

Here are some helpful facts to know about the laws in Texas:

  • School age in Texas: 6-17
  • “Curriculum” consists of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, good citizenship
  • Local school districts have no jurisdiction over homeschools (since they are legally
    considered private schools.)
  • No prior approval is required for your curriculum.
  • No one is likely to ask to see your homeschooling records, but it is a good idea to maintain some sort of account of your children’s work. (scrapbooks, flyers from museums, blog posts, a simple notebook with weekly entries, a portfolio of their work)
  • Standardized tests are not required for Texas homeschool students.
  • You are not required to follow the schedule and calendar that the local public schools use.
  • If your children have never attended public schools, you do not need to register with anyone, and you do not need to notify any governmental agency that you are homeschooling.
  • Compulsory Attendance – 170 days – Only applies to public schools
  • Know your curfew laws – individual city ordinances

Sue Patterson

This blog post was adapted from a talk Sue gave at the 2015 Texas Unschoolers Conference. You can find a PDF of the slides here.

Learn more about Sue on our Contributors page.

Texas Homeschool Laws provides a detailed explanation of the court rulings and laws as well as guidance on how to withdraw your child from public school.

Why Take Field Trips?

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

No matter how your family approaches homeschooling, Field Trips have a great deal to offer!

As Unschoolers, we don’t have a set “curricula”.  Some of our trips correlate to an interest our children are currently exploring.  However, many provide the impetus to further explore a topic they have yet to engage.

Families utilizing other homeschooling approaches have also found Field Trips will enrich their studies.  A trip to the Civil War Reenactment complements a unit study on Abraham Lincoln.  Visiting a local Pioneer Farm brings Laura Ingalls Wilder books to life and gives literature-based based families hands-on experience.  Spending the day at the local state park is an excellent way for Charlotte Mason families to expand nature study beyond their own back yard.  The Houston Gem & Mineral Show enhances an online Geology class.

Many factories and businesses only offer the “behind the scenes” look to organized tours.  We have been blessed to see ice cream made at Blue Bell Creamery, hot dog buns at Mrs. Baird’s, and grocery store management at H-E-B.  Children (and adults) benefit from learning the ingredients and processes that go into their food.

I have to be honest, it grieves me a little to hear people speak of Field Trips as inferior to classroom or textbook learning.   Particularly, kinesthetic and visual/spatial learners benefit the greatest from time away from a desk (or dining room table).  Even while reading books, our son HAS to be moving in order to grasp the material.  Forcing him to sit still and face forward would be the equivalent of plugging his ears and masking his eyes.

Equally concerning is to “schoolify” a Field Trip with a litany of pre/per/peri/post- worksheets and tests.  It was disconcerting to watch a mom pull her son away from a hands-on demonstration, tap on the boy’s clipboard, and hear her say, “We’re not here  to spend all day at booths, just answer the question on the worksheet and let’s move on.”  He missed the opportunity to watch Civil War Era camp set-up so he could circle “none of the above”.

Have you ever had a huge family event (wedding, birth, vacation, etc.) and years later everyone remembers it differently?  You sit around and talk about what was special to you and what you remember best.  One person can distinctly remembers the music playing, another the food, another architecture, while you remember a special conversation you had.   Does that mean that others experienced it wrong?  No!   It’s wonderful that we each carry a unique impression and we compliment each other so well.  Consider blessing your children with the opportunity to observe, explore, and participate uninhibited.

Ready to get started?  Check out some tips for planning Family or Group trips.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.