Thursday, September 10, 2009

A fellow homeschooling mom send me the following email yesterday titled "Would you give me some advise" and I thought I would share it and my response here. This is the second of this type of email I have received in the last month, boredom being a key issue in that email as well. I never really know how to respond, but this was what I came up with. I removed her name and her son's name.....but I wanted to share because I thought my response was a decent one, maybe you don't agree?

From K: Hi Laura,

We're thinking about giving unschooling a try with S, age 5, this year. If I remember correctly, you've almost always unschooled with your kids. I was wondering if you had any advice for someone who is pretty much clueless about this?

My biggest concern so far, is that he's often prone to complain about being bored. When I suggest reading to him, or doing something with him of his choosing, he just tells me he doesn't want to ever homeschool again. If I try to do something more organized, I get basically the same reaction.

I'd really appreciate any advice you'd have to offer.

Thanks so much,

My response:
Yes, we have pretty much always unschooled. The older 3 went to school through 4th, 3rd and 1st grade, the younger 6 have never known anything but unschooling. I don't know that I have any advise, but I can share some thoughts with you.

I guess I should start by saying that I don't see unschooling so much as an educational choice as much as a lifestyle choice. It is about living as if school doesn't exist and therefore not valuing any one activity over any other activity. Shooting wadded up pieces of paper into a trash can or playing a video game is as valid of a choice for filling ones time as reading or learning multiplication tables. Yet it doesn't mean not exposing your child to a rich variety of opportunities, because after all, how do you know if you want to learn more about an artist like Jackson Pollack if you have never seen one of his painting or if you want to study ancient Egypt if you are never exposed to a mummy (either in real life, through books or the internet) or study karate if you have never gone and done an introductory class or at least watched a video about it.

I don't know how to address your issue of boredom. I have never had any of my children complain of boredom on a regular basis. On the rare occasions that I have heard it (honestly between the 9 kids, I bet I haven't heard the phrase uttered more than 30 times) I usually suggest an activity that needs to be done that they could work on....matching socks, cleaning the bathroom, doing dishes, they usually decide something else is far less "boring" that those tasks...although sometimes they do go and do what I suggested, gives them time to think and figure out a new plan of action. I guess because there are so many of them, there is always someone to keep them busy. They are all really good at self occupying their time, but again, since I don't limit tv, video games or computer time that is always an available option. Of course they love creative play (building forts, playing dolls), legos, art, playing outside to occupy their time.

Does S see you being passionate about things or are you just going through the motions? I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is embracing our own passions and having our children see us living, learning and loving life. To realize that my everything isn't wrapped up in them and what they are doing....even though I am passionate about what they like and love to share it with them, I am my own person, not just mom, I think it takes a huge weight off their shoulders! If you aren't passionate about anything, I encourage you to find something that you love and consider sharing it with S, so he sees you being HAPPY and occupying your time. Sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, stamping, reading, hiking, cooking...learn something new, revisit something old, you might be surprised at the example it sets.

Does S say he doesn't want to homeschool because he is lonely? Does he like being around other kids? Is he around other kids on a regular basis? If he likes other kids and isn't around them often, have you considered seeking out activities he might enjoy, basketball, baseball, storytime at the library,an art class, karate, regular playdates with another boy his age? We spend a lot of our time out and about (often doing free activities) with other homeschoolers, so my kids have a sense of community with other children.

Have you done much reading on unschooling?
John Holt (try to get the originals, not the newly republished copies) personally I don't think Farenga gets unschooling!
John Taylor Gatto
Raymond Moore: Better Late than Early

Websites (I don't agree with everything these woman say, and feel some, since they aren't Christian, hold differing views than I do, but the websites as a whole offer decent information)This is by no means an exhaust list, but just the first ones that come to mind:
Sandra Dodd:
Kelly Lovejoy:
Joyce Fetteroll:
Danielle Conger:
Dayna Martin:

Have you ever visited my blog? It was recently listed as one of the 50 most eye opening unschooling blogs by some unschooling website: probably not anything too revealing, but it gives you a glimpse into what our lives look like!

Did I even address any of your questions?

Does it work? I say yes. Brett at 18 is employed, working hard and trying to find his path. Hannah at 17 just got her first "real" job (although she has been teaching dance since she was 13, but this job has a real paycheck!), Emily is passionate about ballet and is studying about 10 hr a week at Ballet Tech Ohio. The boys are happy...they have learned to read without any program or workbooks and can do math in their heads better than most adults, they can certainly make change quicker and more accurately than most cashiers we encounter. The youngest 3 are happy, living, learning exploring. And me? Well, I am blessed, I couldn't ask for a fuller life!



Alex Polikowsky said...

Gosh Laura I missed reading your blog. I am glad I come over looking for your address to send a mom new to unschooling that has 7 kids and is wondering if it works in a large family So I thought of you and Melissa right away! I am going to try to read more often...I only have 2 kids but life sure is busy!!

jen said...

Hi Laura,

My name is Jennifer, and I am a homeschooler who resonates with unschooling philosophies. (We are not full on unschoolers, but we are more like unschoolers than most traditional homeschoolers.) My family has just moved to Cincinnati, and we are looking to get together with other homeschoolers/unschoolers to connect with. Do you know of any support groups for people like us?

Laura Riesenberg said...

There is an cincinnati unschoolers yahoo group that I am part of, it isn't extremely active, but you are certainly welcome to join. If you go to yahoo groups and search cincinnati unschoolers it should come up, if not, leave me your email and I will be sure you get an invite. The other group I am active with is HSNCincy (, there are quite a few unschoolers there and many of us get together on a regular basis.

the platts said...

really enjoying your blog...great answers and links! thanks for letting us get a glimps of your life! even though we unschool as well it's lovely to see other families in action!