Saturday, September 25, 2010


I got home after spending the morning and afternoon running around with my little friend Madeleine, and in my Inbox was an email of "Help!".
I remember Naomi Aldort saying something once that when she gets asked to write an article on a particular subject, she starts hmmming because it's inevitably something she really needs to examine and learn. I can totally appreciate that.
It's a sort of "being called on the carpet" by the Self.

Those moments are pretty high on the list for me.

Get on with it, Missy.

So I was responding via email - though I knew very well that it could possibly take me two days to process the whole thing through - to this question that really had asked "How?", but for me, for my whole life every beginning and every first question has always been the biggest one of all.... dundun-duuuuun... "Why?".
And it happens that this lines up rather beautifully with this month's unschooling blog carnival topic of "Why Do You Do What You Do?" (Hosted by Enjoy Life Unschooling)
So here I am.

With the Unschooley story.

I pretty much supposed that I would put my babe in a charter school, as I knew that I wanted to be involved intimately in my child's everyday life.
At least I already knew that much. :)

I checked into charters (my little son was probably two or three at this time), and found out that my town didn't have a whole lot of them, and somewhere along the way, I started thinking "homeschooling"; I have two (younger) sisters that homeschool and that preceded me in the having-children department, I was introduced to the idea of home education early on.

Typical me-- since a charter was apparently out, pretty soon I was consuming and consumed by home ed.

I started seriously collecting things. Collecting, as in "oooh, this site has an extensive list of "What My Child Knows at Three Years Old, and Yours Should, Too." And four. And five.
And near a two foot's length of binders with "Trace these lines!" and "Oooooh, let's do a unit study this week on the Letter A!"
And of course all of the other treasures.... social studies for preschoolers, which look like little books you can print out and staple together of "people in the neighborhood", and all of those other lovely things.
Thousands of pages of these things I have, friends.

I was researching and studying and bookmarking and drawing up documents in Word and Excel.
I had Plans, I had weekly things to cross off, and I had in the pockets of my sturdy binders Gold Stars.

My sisters both swore by Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, so I signed up with my little boy wholeheartedly.
Somewhere during lesson one or two or five things came to a screeching halt.
Because, you know.... there was me.... screeching.
Not pretty, is it?
Deep breath.
Loves finds its way in, eventually.

Somewhere in there I started researching. Charlotte Mason. Marie Montessori. Rudolf Steiner. Unschooling.
One thing all of my favorites had much in common was the new (to me) and radical idea of supporting the child's interest.  Imagine that!!  Letting a child choose what he loves!

I found my way, through my then Mamas Group to such life-changing things like liquid water colors and beeswax crayons.
I was led to Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments To Love and Reason, Naomi Aldort's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, and John Holt's How Children Fail.
I watched, and fell in love with Animal School.

Maddie was born, and my mother gave her the beautiful book My Mother Gave Me the Moon.
I started moving from a place of Ego (much of home education is about fear and ego, I think) and into a much bigger and gracious one.... I started moving into "Unconditionally".

First, I think, was Magic and Joy.
It became my life and breath to offer and sustain my children with these things.
I wanted to change the world - fill up our lives with so much of the sparkly stuff.... move the special and spectacular Life Magic from the occasional and rare into the everyday - making it ordinary Life Magic.

The second part of this how-why question comes from examining the system itself.
('Why?' is a very useful question. : )  )
Thankfully there are some very helpful and amazing people out there... Sir Ken Robinson.  Albert Einstein.  John Taylor Gatto.  They've done some intense work, and are willing to share their finds with us, if we'll only listen.
When looking and watching and examining on my own, I've found that The System just isn't... infallible.  Or even very useful, to me.
Question it!!
I've written a few posts about school imitating life.  Among them there's this one, which I wrote a bit over three years ago, and then more recently, this one, which is about living life jumping through hoops, written last year.
I just don't find school to be necessary - especially with our vast resources.

There are many shifts in Becoming and Being, as you know.
Trial and error.
Parenting and loving and educating our children are no different.
There were years of trying things out... co-op classes with friends (didn't - and still don't - work for my Little Son, who I suppose is like me and prefers to do his studying and learning in a very private manner); unschooling practices; finding my way (crying and kicking and screaming, sometimes) through questions of what was coercion and what was a matter of persuasion or enlarging the world... which is still cause for much soul-searching for a Mama with a little boy who lives in a crab's shell...

So there, at last, we have three reasons for the Why of it:
  • for the Magic and Joy
  • because Learning and Seeking are an innate need and we're naturally compelled, and in our home we appreciate having many resources
  • And because spiritually I think Big, and I don't feel I have the right to get in the way of (deter, impede, oppress) my children's Becoming.  I only wish to lovingly support, appreciate, and encourage their Grandest Self.
I said last month that I wasn't too attached to the term 'Unschooling'.  Often I think when someone says "I don't really call us Unschoolers..." it's because they have attachments to particular fears or fear they've done something by which to be judged, or that they wouldn't measure up by others standards - however temporary this particular shifting in finding one's way may be.
I think when you're so desperately trying to find your way, Unschooling can seem rather dogmatic and rigid.  Ironically.
This particular space isn't where I am today, and I am really comfortable with the way we discover, explore, and learn.
But I know that taking on the title of Unschooler (or whether one is worthy of it) can be a rather emotional and disconcerting thing... self-examination under intense scrutiny is sometimes very uncomfortable.
And, presently, I am about unifying and loving the whole big wide world, not separating and segregating us into little or big islands of Same.

Sometimes I wonder about these things while I am here, writing.
I wonder if we're doing it (Life) well enough.
I wonder what this -very exposed- life looks like to others.

But mostly I don't,
because in the end, it's like the first question of Why, and we still just do what we do.

For the Joy and Magic of it.
Because seeking is what the soul does.
Because it's about Becoming.

And that's Everything.


  1. You pretty muck rock you know!
    So glad to know you :-)

  2. Thank you for sharing. It's always lovely to hear other's stories. And that people you think are amazing at unschooling still question and feel uncomfortable. Thank you again. :)

  3. I am glad you shared this. I love hearing how other people come to their decisions and where they lead them. This sort of 'story telling' is so good.

  4. So very good to read your thoughts. Our children have always been home educated. We chose this way right from when our first child was a small babe. It is our way of life and boy am I passionate about these children living each day with that magic you speak of, living the day well. How I can really connect with what you say about joy and magic and loving and respecting. All these different ways and titles and islands, the parents' need to belong under a label, perhaps for security, it can be a distraction from the core reason for homelearning - all that belonging and keeping up with that Same, and sometimes losing sight of the Child's needs. Sure we are part of this homelearning journey but it is essentially the child's education, the child's way - the child's joy - how they learn, and we seek and support and offer what fits, change direction when needed, try things differently, but always keep that child in the forefront, and from this it all falls into place and we each find our own dynamics. Sure, it can be a journey finding the way that fits but I reckon this shifts and changes - the way needs to flow rather than remain rigid, according to the child's seeking and learning, and goodness each child learns differently and has different needs too. I see that with my children, one has special needs but don't they all!! It is hard work being on the ball and being perceptive and finding ways that appeal to each child's need to know. But in the striving and in the sparkle and knowledge in the child's eyes when it is gotten right, what joy!
    Thank you for this. So good to ponder on this. How I always respect and appreciate what you share with us, and always, always the energy and love you focus on your children.
    Blessings to you

  5. Looks like my last comment didn't go through. Ah well.

    Extraordinary Life Magic is more like it.

    You are amazing. And inspiring, and fun.

    Brilliant post. Absolutely stunning, and honest and brave. Many, many thanks for sharing.

  6. This is an absolutely beautiful post! Thank you for articulating part of your soul energy in how you love your children. You are inspiring and lovely all the way around!

  7. Penny - I hate that.
    I write some exquisitely poignant and brilliant comment, and then either the system or I do something stupid and I lose it. ;)
    I'm not amazing - I'm just a girl crazily seeking and stumbling.
    But I thank you. <3

    Kelly -
    I'm never really sure about these posts here, as that's why I have my personal "perspective" blog. (Happy and Free.) But this one is much more widely read than that one, so I figure I have to come out of hiding every now and again and make certain announcements to the world. :)
    On the off-chance that someone might know what the hell I'm talkin' about, or find something I accidentally say helpful or worth remembering, I guess.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to dissect and respond to what I wrote - I can see that you understand well my processes, here.
    Other than maybe giving me too much credit!! :)
    Half the time I swear I just get lucky in "doing it right". ;)

    Echolage - I'm pretty big on "digging in". :)
    Whether it's valuable to anyone else is questionable, but rather than seeking and finding my answers outside of my self, I almost always go Within.
    It gets me in trouble, certainly, as I can go for long stretches where I am "off track", but still... trusting and beleiving in the self and that I'll eventually find my way home is a part of it for me, too, I guess. If that makes sense. (Not very efficient, mind you.... but still I can count on it. lol

    Thanks so much to everyone for the acceptance and encouragement.
    I'm never sure what to expect after such a hashing.

    Loves to all.

  8. Wow! You are a "why" questioner too? I have driven my mother and husband crazy by asking that question over and over and over....

    And I smiled when you said that unschoolers are dogmatic and rigid. I think that too. It is another set of rules set up to secure the bounds of what can be called unschooling. I've always found that interesting. That is why I have always chosen the title of "eclectic", because then *I* choose what makes me be that, know what I mean?

    I really enjoyed this soul-searching post. It is interesting how much I related to what you were saying. Thanks for your thoughts. :)

  9. Melody - :) - Now I didn't say "unschoolers ARE dogmatic and rigid"-- I said that unschooling can SEEM that way - when you're struggling with fears and control issues, mostly, is what I meant.

    Maybe semantics to others, but I try not to attack people or ideas.
    You know? See?
    xxoo Steph

  10. Plus - lest there be confusion - unschooling is something I wholeheartedly believe in.

  11. Isn't it funny that last night I was composing Part II of my {Clarity} and who was I going on and on about--you!

    I love this post. I will be reading and re-reading it. Methinks perhaps you have become my unwilling mentor--don't worry, I won't expect much from you (just keep bloggin' and I'll keep readin'). :)

  12. One other thing -
    I think that's part of the trouble - it seems to me that it often feels like an exclusive club to some people.
    Like if you're good enough at it, people will approve of you and let you in.
    That bums me out.
    I understand it, as so many people think unschooling is un-everything - un-parenting, un-loving, un-responsive, un-caring... when in fact all the unschoolers I know are really hyper-, not un.
    So there's not only that problem, but also the fact that from an unschooling stand point, giving your child the choice of the red or blue pajamas is not actually unschooling, and a lot of U folks like to challenge people to reconsider what they've learned (been conditioned to think) and their own patterns.
    Make sense?

  13. MM and Jess -
    Thanks, ladies.
    Your kind words are appreciated!

    Jess - I ain't scared. :)

  14. Sorry, Stephanie, what I wrote didn't match what I think or mean. I hesitate to try to explain for fear that I'll stick my other foot in my mouth too. :)

  15. Oh, Melody - please don't apologize - I was worried that I had hurt your feelings or that you felt chastened! I wouldn't want to make anyone feel that way! :/

    I think what you were talking about was what I was trying to say in that last note - it's what bothers me about the whole thing - it can seem exclusive and unwelcoming.
    That really bothers me, and I think discourages people - I think people trying to find their way can use a great deal more encouragement toward finding their Truth, and not feel so chastised or like they're a failure.
    Lovingly is best, I say!

  16. Lovely post, Steph. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  17. Yep. Love this post, too.

    It bugs me on so many levels when people try to put me/us in a box, but I know that a lot of people just don't understand. Some are close-minded, others are curious and anxious to learn. I try to be aware of G's needs and find ways that best help them be met. At the same time I try to look at the big picture and try to figure out when it's best to just step back and wait and watch. So many people just want a label, though--too many just don't see how home education can transcend all those titles--how we can be all or one or none of them from one day to the next as the needs or our children change.

  18. Loved this post and this special peek inside your becoming.
    You know, I had trouble at some point, thinking I was not following the unschooling rules. Guess what? I stopped labeling us, what we are doing, and have not had any weird "me freaking out" issues since.
    We just do, live and love, and all is well.
    You inspire me, as a mother,and as one who is just trying daily to honor her children.
    I am so glad I found your blog. You are like a frigging lighthouse.
    I love you,(wo)man!

  19. Sarah - xxoo<3<3

    Sherry - !!! Exactly.
    I love " home education can transcend all those titles--how we can be all or one or none of them from one day to the next..."
    :) Some days we're wild pagans admiring and worshiping the Earth and Stars and Fire and Water
    and some days we're tripping and flipping incredibly and magically from one subject to another (unschooling at its best),
    and somedays we're Bill Nye the Science Guy
    and some days we're spinning roving to make yarn and prettying the Nature Table and baking breads and reading fairy tales. :)

    K - well now.
    I love you too!!

  20. " ... it can seem exclusive and unwelcoming" ~ SO funny you wrote this in relation to unschooling only because we are probably the only unschoolers in our little local hs group and many of them don't approve of the methodology, or of us I expect. I shy away from sharing too much about our daily adventures and just try and hang on to the knowledge that my bright, independent and often quirky boy is happiest having his head, choosing, and being free in his learning.

    This is the first year I've dared... GASP... use the term unschooling freely on my blog. Long story short - it's how we roll and I'm standing more securely in that truth.

    Great post Stephanie. You bring such energy, creativity and love to your blog. You DO inspire me :)

  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    It really is about the magic of letting them become who they are.
    So happy we live in an area were unschooling is so accepted in the hs community.
    Animal school was amazing.

  22. LOVE this post. Thank you so much for writing it. I have been asking myself if I'm doing enough lately, and I don't feel I am. I did some soul searching and decided I need to do more of what we've been doing and add in several new adventures to our daily lives.

    I really love your blog. I was reading through some of your old post. I come here to read, but also when I need some encouragement, or wonder if I'm doing it right. I think "She's been doing this longer than I have and look at ow great her kids are doing"
    Your days in the beginning sound so much like ours do now.

    I always leave her feeling so inspired.

    Keep on keeping on....


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!