5 Biggest Misconceptions About Unschooling

Puzzled by what homeschool is all about?
Since we decided to homeschool and eventually unschool our boys, I get asked a lot of questions.  It's understandable, as the lifestyle we have chosen definitely goes against the grain of societal norms.  Even I had a lot of trepidation and found myself asking some of the very same questions.

It took me over five years to fully settle in the ideas and, truth be told, I still question myself at least once a year.  Over the eight years plus since we started to homeschool, my perspective through research and experience has grown considerably.  This perspective has allowed me to address the most commonly asked questions.

What about college? 
This is probably the most commonly asked question.   The short answer is YES, homeschoolers can go to college. So can unschoolers.  And they do!  Millions of them in fact!  With the advent of online college courses one can simply continue with a homeschool model even in college.  Otherwise a student can take  tests like GED and SATs, put together a transcript or examples of their work and apply, same as anyone else does.  Prestigious universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Harvard accept and even seek out homeschoolers.  Oftentimes they are MORE prepared then conventionally schooled children to tackle the pressures of a higher education.

The longer answer to this question will be covered in the next installment of this series, so check back next Monday for my rather unconventional (but gaining more momentum) ideas regarding college and if it really is the best path anymore.

Travel, the best education!

How do they socialize and learn to work with others?
Some conformists actually argue that our kids won't be prepared for the real world because they aren't socialized in school.  Pardon me for any typos from here on out, but I can't help but laugh out loud at this common misconception. As if herd pressure to look, dress, or behave a certain way is required to function in the world. Or that facing daily bullies is necessary to toughen somebody up for the "real" world.  Or that learning about sex or relationships is better taught by confused pubescent middle-school peers who claim to be experts because they've gotten to second base.  It's nonsense.

And just because we homeschool doesn't mean we stay home like hermits.  Even before adopting a travel lifestyle we were on what seemed like a permanent field trip.  Hikes, waterfalls, skiing, surf lessons, science centers, museums, and play dates of all kinds, etc.  Most homeschoolers use the world as their classroom and spend lots of time exploring and engaging with people.  Additionally, our children have taken numerous classes outside of the home from karate to cooking, Spanish to gymnastics where they have met many of their friends.

Finally and most importantly, they learn to respect others because we respect them, not because they are forced to at the threat of detention.   We spend everyday out in the world interacting with and observing people of all ages.  Our kids have MORE time to interact with people and observe the differences. Being cooped up all day in forced silence with 20-30 similarly-aged kids is not what anyone should call proper socialization that translates into the real world. Homeschooled children typically gain a tolerance, empathy, and understanding of all different age groups including adults. Ultimately, I would argue the socialization that homeschool kids experience is beneficial, while what passes for socialization in school is, well, unnecessary to put it kindly.

Kung fu class with all their best friends!

How do you know they are "on par" with others?
I guess the best answer is WHO CARES?  Do you realize that the mathematics concepts taught in the first seven years of school, drilled into children's heads day and night under intense pressure to perform, can be learned by a 14-year old in a single day? Many of those concepts can be learned by playing card games or by managing an allowance.

"On par" with others? I don't want my children to be like anyone else, and I fundamentally disagree with putting them in a box called "on par".  Because par or even above par becomes the accepted level.  How many of us bragged that we barely paid attention in school and still got As and Bs?  As if that's something to be proud of.

Children are developmentally diverse and have different interests just like adults. One of the most amazing things about being human is it's beautiful diversity. The LAST thing I would want for my children is to see them morph into being the "same" as everyone else.  We should celebrate our children's differences and help to ensure that they follow their own path in life!  How else can we cultivate the self esteem that so many schooled children seem to be lacking?

It seems to me that if children have the basic tools to learn (reading and mathematics) and are encouraged to pursue their inquisitive nature, they'll likely excel at being happy and enjoying life no matter what a book says they should be like at age x,y, or z.  Part of home-or-unschooling for the parent is to be okay with where your child is at developmentally and to unconditionally love the person that he or she is.  It is also important to know that there is no right or wrong way to do things.

"On par" for happiness

When do you get any free time as a parent?
This question is most often asked by people with young children, and it's the hardest to answer.  I understand the need for a break as much as the next person, but 8-10 hours a day?  Come on, no one needs that type of break from the things they love most in this world.  That is just an excuse!  It can be a challenge, don't get me wrong, but most moments I just prefer to enjoy the precious time with them while they're young.  Frankly, I have never understood the parents with the "yeah, thank goodness the kids are back in school" mentality.  Is that the message you want to convey to the people you love the most?

It's true that I have less free time than most parents I know, but I do have free time, whether its a short walk, long bath, or just when the kiddos are in bed and I can snuggle up with hubby or a good book.  In my opinion, the thing that really needs to change to make homeschooling a success, is to change the way you view your child-parent relationship.  Re-assess what you want out of your relationship with your children and question if you are doing all you can as a parent.  You need to take care of yourself, but making an excuse that you "need" 8-10 hours a day is just plain silly.  No one said parenting was easy, but it should be the most amazing and important thing you'll ever do. Enjoy it, soak up their giggles and messes....it won't last forever and you will most certainly miss it when it is gone.

Why would anyone need a "break" from this?
How will they be prepared for the real world?
Since when does anything about a school resemble the "real world"?  Unless you are planning to be in prison, or landing a brainless job with a dress code shuffling paper all day, then I do not see a correlation at all.  My boys are IN the real world everyday while schooled kids are stuck in one room, with the same age children, segregated from the "real world" and their family.  Homeschooled children are well prepared for the world they will face because they have been preparing first hand their entire lives.

When you see what goes on in school you wonder what part that plays in real life.  A family member of mine actually said that kids need to be bullied and picked on to be able to handle it later in life.  Really?  I just cannot remember when I was bullied anywhere but in school.  As an adult it just doesn't happen unless you're conditioned to invite it.  Likewise, when, in adult life, are we so distrusted that even going to the bathroom requires permission.  No job I have ever worked has declined my right to use the bathroom.  Finally, how much of what you learned in school applies to your happiness and success now?  Think about it and be honest.  It's probably very little.

Mahout training, who needs the "real world"
In addition to these 5, I want to clarify that homeschooling IS legal in all 50 states, homeschooling is NOT expensive or only for the wealthy, homeschoolers DO have friends, and finally you ARE smart enough and more than well equipped to teach your own child.  Society likes to tell us that we are not a good enough option for our children, but we know and care about our children most, making us the best option.

In the end we all need to do what works best for our families. But if you're considering homeschooling, be sure to research it well to clear away any of the common myths before deciding.  Or, better yet, try it for a year, the worst case scenario is that they go back to school if it is not working.  If you go into it with flexibility, love, and encouragement then it will be a success.

Do you have any other questions you would like to have answered?  I am happy to give my experiences and advice.  Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.

If you like this article please share with others below. It helps so much.  Thanks!

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  1. Thank you for this fantastic article. Readers can find more information from John Taylor Gatto's book Dumbing Us Down and Iserby's The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.


    As Gatto notes, public schools have not failed. They continue to accomplish what they were designed to do by social engineers from the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations - produce working human robots incapable of true critical thought and dependent on authorities to form their opinions. Worker bees in a soulless society of continous consumption, competing with third-world slave laborers.

    Public schools cannot be fixed with all the fiat money in the world. The only solution is refusing to attend them. Why would you trust total strangers to educate your children? How can your children learn when they are imprisoned away from society every weekday, locked away with thirty kids their own age and one adult authority figure? You learn from experience and by interacting with people more knowledgeable than you are.

  2. http://snippits-and-slappits.blogspot.com/2012/02/five-biggest-misconceptions-about.html

    I have posted the above with a few of my own comments and a couple of extra images. Brilliant article.

  3. Agreed, I mention all of this in the first article in my education series. You can find it here http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/02/reasons-to-change-standard-approach-to.html?utm_source=BP_recent

    Another great avenue for learning is through travel. My boys have grown so much and see the world with an open mind and heart, something so few adults even in the US have!

  4. Thanks so much Noor! This was the 3rd part of a 3 part education series. You may enjoy the first one which I linked to in the above comment. I appreciate the support!

  5. I really needed to read this today, thank you. I am beginning our families unschool journey and get asked to many questions from friends & family. I will continue to follow your posts!

  6. This was an excellent article! I am considering homeschooling my only child for the first time. He is going to be in the 7th grade. He is so smart, but has grown to hate education because of the rigidity and...he is bullied ALL the time. I am sad that I have not made this decision before. One of the main reasons, was for socializing... at this point, in Jr High, I think the "socializing" is severely overrated. I do sort of worry about my need for time away from him a little. He is a very intense personality, and can be rather exhausting at times. Praying for wisdom!!

  7. How does this apply to the single child...any successful single child examples out there ?

  8. Thanks so much everyone! I agree that socialization is over rated and honestly they socialize no matter how they are schooled as long as you get out! And it's usually all the positive stuff not the negative crap. And don't worry, you'll get free time. If your son is that old just do things together that are fun, that you can bond and enjoy together. Join some home school groups, sign him up for classes that he wants to enjoy! Just relax and let it all unfold. Not sure about the single child thing, I know that presents its own challenges. Look online, I bet there are loads of resources for that exact topic!

  9. Just wanted to thank you for such a fantastic article! I'm in SoCal and it's spreading fast on all the HS groups over here (via LewRockwell). We're in int'l family (mom US, dad UK, kids RU) and looking forward to traveling full time and learning along the way.

  10. Wow, that's amazing! Feel free to share my other articles on the groups as well. This was the 3rd in a 4 part series on education:)

  11. "As an adult it just doesn't happen unless you're conditioned to invite it."

    I am a former homeschooling mom and I agree with everything you said except for the comment above. My husband is bullied at work and it isn't because of anything he invited. It is because he is a man of God and was doing his job in such a way as to please his God. This did not sit well with the bully who was being made to look bad because of his lack of work ethic. It is a long, hard story, but please don't put forth statements like this. It blames the victim. Educate yourself on workplace bullying. It's out there, and it's bad.

  12. I know that it happens and I am not trying to blame the victim at all. I wonder did your husband go to school?? My point is that children in school are made to accept this type of behavior and anytime you accept something it seems OK in some small area of you and it oftentimes invites it. The other point is that I believe VERY much that people are in control or should take control of any given situation. There is always a way to make something better if you really believe in yourself. School oftentimes takes that self esteem and control away and then even as adults the residual effect is still present. No disrespect meant but this is part of the problem, the deep conditioning that we all went through.

  13. I never understand those parents who can't wait till summer vacation is over so they can send their kids back to school either. It baffles me. On the first day back to school we have a tradition of having a celebration in our family....A not back to school day!

  14. Thank you! I say the same things all the time, and this article was spectacular!

  15. This is a lovely idea and I am certain it works. Unfortunately, it will only work for the privileged. How can you spend your entire day with your family and still afford to pay the bills? Even if you live on the road...paying for gas, Kung Fu lessons, etc, it all costs money. For those of us trapped in the system by financial debt, systemic racism, or whatever else, this is a dream that is just out of reach. Any ideas?

  16. Thank you anon. I disagree though. We are not exceptional or privileged people (by American standards anyway) we just saw that things needed to change and put all our focus on ensuring it would. (I will be writing an entire blog post about this in March) All you need to do is decide to make something happen! Before we started traveling I worked in the evenings and my husband worked during the day. Now I write on this blog in my spare time and mostly hang out with the kids while my husband works online and joins us on our outings when he can. You need far less money than you think you do.

    What you stated, being trapped by personal debt, is a product of your own doing (and a society and educational system that sets us all up for it) and at any moment you can decide to reverse it. I know because we were there! NO DREAM IS EVER OUT OF REACH, unless YOU let it be!

  17. This article is so well written! I am sharing it with all of my friends and family who think that I am foolish for embarking on this journey with my little ones. Their favorite thing to say to me is "You really need the break that school gives you!" Like you stated, I can't imagine ANYone 'needing' an 8 hour break five days a week. On the rare occasion a grandparent keeps the kids overnight, I'm usually fully rested and satisfied with my 'break' after just an hour or two. (In fact, I usually spend the time planning for our next unit of study! :)

    And to Anon: My oldest is just now five, so I know that costs will very likely grow once he becomes interested in more complex subjects...but I am homeschooling my family of six on a total monthly income of 1600 dollars. We are by no means wealthy. We ask for family memberships to museums, the zoo, and other such places instead of Christmas and birthday gifts, and will do the same once the kids show interest in extracurricular activities such as karate, gymnastics, or music lessons(and no, the kids don't miss the material gifts.) I utilize our library, the internet, and an online local swap-shop for materials and resources. I invested in some good report page covers and wet-erase markers so that any worksheets become re-usable, which allows me to use the same books for years. You'd be amazed at how accommodating universities and workplaces can be about allowing field trips and shadows for a day. :) Don't think it's impossible! Homeschooling doesn't have to be about expensive pre-made curriculum, sit down instruction, and intensive instruction and testing. In fact, the most successful homeschoolers are often those who AVOID those things! Homeschooling is about instilling a love of learning, experiencing the amazing world around us, and allowing children to develop and learn in that world, with a little guidance from us as parents.

  18. While I do not agree with many of your theories and ideas in this article, I understand that everyone has different opinions and must do what they believe is best for their family. For that reason, I wouldn't dare criticize any other part of this article. However, I have to say that I was very offended by your answer to the following question, "when do you get any free time as a parent?"

    "I understand the need for a break as much as the next person, but 8-10 hours a day? Come on, no one needs that type of break from the things they love most in this world. That is just an excuse!"

    I find your answer incredibly insulting. I feel that you're insinuating many parents are just too lazy to spend time during the day with their children they supposedly "love."

    I am a stay-at-home mom with small children in the home. After my first child, I quit my career as a public school teacher in order to work in the home as a full-time mother. I believe this to be noble work, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have to stay home.

    While my children are not yet old enough, I have every intention of sending them to receive an education in our local public schools. Let me stress, however, that my preference for public schools has nothing to do with needing an extended daily "break" from my kids. I do, in fact, love my children and want to spend as much time as possible with them. I also believe we have amazing teachers and great programs in our schools and community from which my children will greatly benefit.

    Also, I don't know what kind of families live in your community, but I can't think of one parent who just lays around doing nothing for 8-10 hours a day while their children are in school. I, like all other working and stay-at-home parents, have daily chores, errands, and other duties to be accomplished. I serve in my church, which requires additional time commitments during the week. I volunteer in our community and schools as often as possible. And when my children are older, I have every intention of becoming heavily involved in parent and school board programs. I can assure you that unless I am deathly sick, you will never find me lounging on my couch for 8-10 hours a day taking a break from my beautiful kids. I can't believe you would insinuate that there are any good parents out there who have the luxury of wasting their day away with nothing better to do.

  19. When I figured out that I had at least as much ability and talent as my kids' worst public school teachers, I took the unschooling plunge. It was GREAT. AND, they both graduated from college. One is in graduate school even. :)

  20. I would like to home school my daughter, but my husband is unsure of it. I have always wondered how in the world a family can afford to just travel? Sounds like the life to me, but I have no idea where I would begin to achieve the motor home traveling life. It may not be feasible for us, but I still wonder how others do it.

  21. Lindsay, I am sorry that you took offense to my comment but I stand by what I said. I never insinuated that people were lazy just that they fully enjoy their kids being away all day and that I can not understand. I never said it meant they did not love their kids but I still do not understand why anyone thinks that 6-8 hours away from their kids is a good thing. In my world it does not benefit parents or children but of course your mileage may vary! Thank you for your comment!

  22. Celeste, there are many ways to make it work. Usually the first step is to re evaluate what your real needs are and minimizing your expenses accordingly. We have an online income so traveling the world works as long as we have an internet connection but I know many families that make it work in different ways. We actually have a group writing project coming up where we will all address this topic so stay tuned:) And good luck, just take the leap and go after your dreams, it' s as easy as deciding you are going to do it.

    That being said BOTH partners need to be on the same page for home schooling or travel as a family to really work well.

  23. How do you go about unschooling if you know that your spouse would not agree to it at all. He has a hard time accepting my attachment parenting beliefs as it is.

    Would it be possible for me to unschool my child if she attends public school? How would I go about it(especially when my husband is around, as he has a negative attitude that sets my daughter and I both on edge)?

  24. Anon, The most important thing I think is to give your husband a chance. You say you "think" he would be against it but with good communication maybe he would come around. My husband was not totally on board with all my alternative thoughts but I talked to him about it and showed him lots of material that he read and he slowly came around. I think its important to communicate. If it is still something he is against then quite honestly un schooling will NOT work. What you do with that is up to you. It is more a life philosophy rather then just an education model and if both parents aren't on board it just won't work.

    As for school and un schooling, it just is polar opposites. There is no un schooling if they are in school still. Anything being forced on them, testing, discouragement of creative ideas, all the things that go on in school. But un schooling is a word and even if she is in school you can still foster a good relationship where she is unconditionally loved and encouraged at least in the home.

    I would be happy to speak to you via email if you would like. Use the contact form at the top of the website. Good luck to you. First and foremost talk to your husband! Start there!

  25. We attachment parent and also have an 'attached' marriage... So our homeschool unit of 3 is always together. Someone once told me that if he had to be with his wife for 247, he would kill himself... I was baffled because there isn't anyone else I'd rather spend my time 247 but with my son and husband. We have a lot of fun together!!!

  26. As a family in the planning stage of our future travels it was good to read your thoughts on on going education. Whilst I don't disagree with your general philosophy I'd like to comment on the prospect of our children attending mainstream uni (whatever mainstream means). Gaining acceptance at a regular university should not be underestimated when it comes to the collaborative arts like music and performance and filmmaking etc. To be able to exchange ideas by studying and working together as well as networking should not be underestimated in its importance.

  27. Wow. I considered unschooling at one time (before I actually had kids!), so I was interested to read about the misconceptions, but it was hard to take you seriously when you have so many misconceptions about traditional schooling. Younger kids don't go to school for 8-10 hours per day. Preschool might be 2 - 3 hours; my 5th grader is in school for 6.5 hours. And yes, I enjoy the break from my 4 kids ages 11 and under -- it allows me to be a better parent. Great for you that you enjoy being together all the time, but everyone is different. I'm a quiet introvert and 3 of my 4 are high energy extroverts. We all feel refreshed by a little time apart. They have all had wonderful relationships with teachers that make them more well-rounded people. They love their school. We are a happy family. The traditional way isn't the only way, but your approach isn't the only good one either. It depends on the individuals involved.

    1. What misconceptions do I have here?? I attended school and so did my husband. I left at 715 in the morning and did not get home until well after 5 (sports included) so that was a comment based in reality to me. Most kids spend at least 8 hours in daycare! While yours may not I would hardly call it a misconception.

      Your comments are something I see a lot and seem to be based in some type of defensiveness regarding my lifestyle. I do NOT think that home or unschooling is for everyone...not even close but this article is addressing the misconceptions that get thrown at ME and what my thoughts are on them. It is no disrespect to your method at all.

      I never stated that my way was the only good way, not by a long shot and I absolutly do not feel that way. We all need to do what works best for our families and unschooling is how we function best.