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Freeing Butterflies: A Grandmother’s Journey to Homeschooling Acceptance

“I’ve had it, Mom—the last straw has landed. I’m taking Shaun out of school this week and I’m going to have him learn at home. And I’m never going to send Patrick and Molly to school. And if Ian wants to homeschool, he can, too!” With those words, I let my mother know I’d taken the drastic step I’d been contemplating and researching for months. Read the full thing

How to Unschool

1. Give your love generously and criticism sparingly. Be your children's partner. Support them and respect them. Never belittle them or their interests, no matter how superficial, unimportant, or even misguided their interests may seem to you. Be a guide, not a dictator. Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or push them. You will sometimes despair when your vision of what your child ought to be bangs up against the reality that they are their own person. But that same reality can also give you great joy if you learn not to cling to your own preconceived notions and expectations. Read the full thing

Slaving Away in the School Factory

You see, the problem is that unschooled kids have fun. They play. They noodle around inside and outdoors, at home and in their communities, messing with projects, indulging their passions, and generally having a good time. These kids are continually demonstrating that learning isn’t hard work when it is need- and interest-based, and when the learner is in control…that, in fact, learning (not to mention life) is fun, even exciting. They are showing that there is no need for being processed by means of mostly irrelevant prepared curriculum, stressful tests, or long hours spent listening to boring lectures or memorizing monotonous and out-of-context facts. Read the full thing

From Waldorf to Unschooling

My husband and I have been Unschooling our daughter (age fifteen) and son (age nine) for nearly seven years. I’m a former Steiner Waldorf Class teacher turned Unschooling Mum, as well as an artist and blogger. We are very blessed that my husband works freelance and is a very hands on dad. He’s a filmmaker, editor and all round computer genius which is very useful for our children, who have a keen interested in creative technology. Read the full thing

Why Our Coercive System of Schooling Should Topple

I’ve been called a crazy optimist, a Pollyanna, a romantic idealist. How can I believe that our system of compulsory (forced) schooling is about to collapse? People point out that in many ways the schooling system is stronger now than ever. It occupies more of children’s time, gobbles up more public funds, employs more people, and is more firmly controlled by government—and at ever-higher levels of government—than has ever been true in the past. So why do I believe it’s going to collapse—slowly at first and then more rapidly—over the next ten years or so? Read the full thing

Sudbury: Autonomy in Community

More and more people are coming to know the power and flexibility of letting young people learn the way our species evolved: relying on their innate curiosity and drive to explore and engage meaningfully with the world. What’s more, within the world of Self-Directed Education there is a variety of approaches. This makes sense, really, given that self-direction implies a diversity of individual beliefs and preferences, but it means you have to dig a little deeper to get a sense of what self-direction entails. Read the full thing

Collective Intelligence in Action: The Self-Directed Education Movement

We humans form institutions for the value they offer to society. Collectively these structures function with an intelligence based on what works. Ideally, whatever works persists and whatever doesn’t work fades away. But sometimes institutions become resistant to change or change in ways that make them more rigid and therefore less responsive. When that happens, people who work for or are served by that institution tend to suffer. Read the full thing

Why Self-Directed Education?

Written by James Davis. Six years after deciding that our family was going the route of self-directed education, it’s almost hard to remember what we used to think. When I think about my wife and I earnestly discussing whether we’d choose a conventional public school (the diversity!) or a conventional private school (the opportunities!), it’s like I’m a fly on the wall in the house of people I barely recognize. But that was us. My wife Taylor and I both went to college to be teachers, and while I never “used” my teaching degree, my wife taught in a well-to-do private elementary school for three years before we had our first son, Oliver (Ollie). We had both worked with children for the duration of our adult lives, and thought we pretty much had things figured out. Thankfully, Oliver became our greatest teacher. You see, Ollie didn’t care for daycare. He didn’t care for doing things on other people’s schedules, and had no interest in being dropped off with strangers, or sleeping alone, or any of the other plans that the well-meaning adults in his life had for him. We were at a loss. We figured we’d be awesome at parenting, and six short months in, we felt completely clueless. And then Taylor came home from a continuing education seminar having seen a video that she just had to show me. It was Ken Robinson’s now famous RSA Animate video called “Changing Education Paradigms.” When it was over, I sat there feeling stunned. My mind was swirling. Schools could be a detriment to creativity? Kids might be better off choosing what interests them, instead of the established curricula designed by PhD touting grown-ups? I watched it again. More revelations. School as we know it was designed in the industrial era, and is closely modeled after factory assembly lines? ADHD might be over-diagnosed? I started to process my own childhood through a new lens. I realized I didn’t really feel entitled to pursue my own passions. I couldn’t recall times where the teachers in my life took my goals and dreams seriously. I could only recall feeling worthy when I demonstrated knowledge or skills in all of the things they thought were important. As I held my infant son in my arms, it all felt so real. Did I want to sign this little child up for 12 years of trying to please others, or was there another way? As we went down our personal self-directed-learning rabbit hole, we were even more shocked. These weren’t new ideas. We read John Holt’s works, found Peter Gray’s books and blog, read about Sudbury Schools, and Summerhill. People had been unschooling for decades (well, millennia, but you get the idea), and whole schools had been dedicated to self-directed learning that we had never even heard of. And that was really the weird part. We had both majored in education in college. Why had this approach to learning never even been mentioned? It’s not like our... Read the full thing