The hardest thing about unschooling.

It’s not other people’s concern and comments over socialization and “keeping up.”

It’s not the worry that you’re doing it wrong.

It’s not the moments when your kids are bored and trying to figure out what’s next.

It’s not the constant work of making sure your kids have what they need to explore their various interests.

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It’s this simple fact: you and your kids are going to be very, very different.  In my experience, both in my family and by observing others, your children are going to:

  • have a much stronger moral center than other children their age.  They will know what they feel and believe about certain issues and they will not be easily swayed by popular consensus.  They will struggle to understand the wishy-washy nature of other adolescents.  They will be this way because they will have had the time and the respect granted to them to figure those things out.  Rather than being told what to think, they will decide on their own and that will give them a deeper conviction than others will have at that age.  This will make them struggle to connect with other children at times.
  • have a deeper sense of the importance of time.  They will be annoyed by things that waste time.  This will at times cause them to be irritated (or irritating) in situations with other children who do not value the time or activity they are currently pursuing (i.e., in class or group settings).
  • be far less trivial (especially females) than other children their age.  Unschooled children spend their days in “play learning,” but their time and their thoughts are serious to them.  They will distain triviality.  This, again, will make connecting with peers challenging at times.  (For example, my 12-year-old daughter can’t begin to understand the amount of snarkiness and boy-crazy behavior other girls her age exhibit.  She has boys she is interested in, like any normal adolescent girl, but the social snarks and trivialities are a waste of time and effort for her.  When she is in social situations with other girls her age, she has fun but often feels odd because she doesn’t have any inclination to participate in those types of conversations.)
  • be more appealing to adults than to other children.  Children who are allowed to be in charge of their own education think more like adults.  They take charge more often and are more respectful of those who have something to teach them.  They view those in their lives who are educators as valued friends and incredible resources.  Because of this, they are sometimes seen by other children as being outsiders or “teacher’s pet” types.
  • have friends of all ages, rather than just their own age.

By posting this, I hope not to discourage, but rather, to encourage.  Every time I have caught myself worrying about the fact that my children are “different,” I remember that I wanted something different for them, and that’s why we did this in the first place.   I want them to have strong beliefs and know where they themselves stand.  I want them to value time more deeply than I ever did.  I want them to rid their lives of triviality, and I want them to respect all people in their lives, rather than only those who happen to be the most popular in their age group. In honesty, child-led learning can have a “lonely” aspect at times, but the benefits for us still far outweigh the challenges.  Our children have friends, but they include people of all ages, from children younger than them to adults the age of their grandparents.  Our family is different, but we want to be, and remembering that is key.  :)

Also, as a person of faith, I also believe this: if you are on this path, you have been led to it because it is right for your child.  This path and these experiences will help to shape who your child is meant to become.  It will change everything for you, too, and I believe that, for me, it was meant to.  Don’t fear being different.  Embrace the power of choosing your own path and respecting your child enough to allow her to do so, as well.