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Although, strictly speaking, I’m just having *life* wobbles! full stop….

I know if I were to read lots of posts on here I’d probably find many similar fears but…

My dd is 4 1/2, due to start school in Sept but I’d always planned to HE, then when I read the term ‘unschooling’ it spoke to me. However, this last week I’m struggling to see when any ‘learning’ will happen. By the time I’ve prepared, eaten and cleared up after 3 meals, maybe done one load of laundry or some grocery shopping, and had our daily walk, there doesn’t seem to be any time left!
I feel really guilty doing anything around the house during the day, even though dd is quite happy to play by herself, and equally I feel bad when dh comes home after a tough day at work to a house that’s a mess. But mainly I feel guilty that we’re not doing all the creative stuff I thought we would do simply because there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

I’m getting myself in such a flap, there is an autonomous HE fb group which I’ve joined which covers 3 counties (I guess cos there aren’t many of us around here) and my lovely dh bought us a cheap car so we can go to some of the meets, but we can go days at a time where dd doesn’t see any kids her own age because my friends’ kids are at school/preschool and I go days at a time without seeing any friends because I haven’t got many and those I have are at work when their kids are at school.
Oh god, I’m waffling because everything seems to overlap - I could write about 10 different posts at the moment but they all boil down to one thing - always feeling like I’m not good enough, not good enough as a mother, as an unschooling mother, as a wife, friend, person…..

I guess I’m asking - what does unschooling look like, how does the other stuff get done, and how can I find my tribe? Not a big ask, eh?!
If anyone is still reading, thank you!

Ok…I don’t HE yet as ds2 is only 2 and my older two are both in school… but at the moment we do two classes a week (well, we’re starting a 2nd soon). One of which will carry on into school age so I’m hoping he still wants to do it then (gymnastics). There are lots of HE things going on in this area so I’m hoping that’s still the case once he reaches school age. Could you attend a couple of meets and see which one you enjoy/click with the most and keep that as a regular one?

I don’t think it’s urgent to see children their own age every day to be honest. Communicating with people in shops or with family and friends who aren’t her age/adults is still giving her valuable social experiences. I assume she sees her friends who are at school during the holidays? If so, she’ll still be making friends. She doesn’t have to see them every day to be a friend. My older two are both at school but their best friends are my best friend’s children who live an hour and a half away from us and we only see once every couple of months. My big children are 9 and 11 and have known these friends all their life and they’re still adamant they are their closest bestest friends. grin

I’m not totally sure about unschooling as we do intend ds2 to go to school at some point and so I’m intending on doing a small amount of structure with him… but hey, we’ve got years yet so anything can change!

What about involving your dd in the preparation of meals? Weighing, measuring etc is all learning. Talking about the ingredients where they come from. Get her to help sort the laundry into colour piles and to match the socks. Maths. Grocery shopping - get her to draw her own shopping list and she’s responsible for getting the things on her list when you go shopping. Eventually she might start writing or attempting to write the list. Look at the labels at the shop and talk about the colour and shape of fruit - round oranges - spheres etc Over time you can show her things like the “O” at the beginning of “Orange” is like the “O” at the beginning of “Oreo” (ok, just an example here! Lol!).

Your daily walk can have a huge amount of learning attached. Talk, talk and talk some more! Look at things you see on the way and talk about them. She might spot something that she wants to find out more about - you can then suggest library visits or something else to help her find out about whatever she was interested in.

She’ll be learning with everything you do especially if you involve her in it all.

I do all this with my 2 yr old and just intend to carry that on but obviously extend what he does to help me along with his abilities. x x x x

Creativity stems from leading a normal day to day life, not from trying to achieve artificial set tasks. When your daughter plays she is being creative. You don’t need something concrete to show for it. I also agree with skye-blu, that a huge amount of traditional curriculum type stuff can be learned from your daily tasks, as long as you fully involve your DD in them. So much will be being learnt from your daily walks, the changes in season, all the natural wonders etc. If you are talking & observing together whilst you are doing these things, then she is learning! We walk daily too. If you want something more concrete, then try the National Trust 50 things to do, or perhaps the Osbourne Nature spotters sticker books. We sometimes do these and the kids enjoy them, and sometimes we don’t:)
In between all the other things, if you can clear an hour to sit with your DD to do something (whatever that might be!), then that is plenty at her age. If you then add maybe a group or two to your week, that will cover social and will probably be enough.
I do know what you’re saying, it IS hard trying to do it all, but I am learning the hard way that I cannot fulfil everyone’s needs every minute of the day & we have to compromise. Think about the happiness of your family as a whole, meet those needs first. I have been trying to do to much, be the whole universe for my whole family, it’s impossible. We are only human. I have scaled back massively what we do in a week, it was crazy. Simple really IS ok. Giving your child plenty of quiet time at home is giving her a gift I think, a true opportunity to be creative in the proper sense of the word. She does not need groups and classes everyday, just find the ones that really speak to her, really engage her and that you are also happy doing. One really good HE group with families you can grow with is the thing you need to find. It takes some finding, some experimenting, but you will find it:)

To dare is to lose ones footing temporarily, to not dare is to lose oneself.

LETS number 137

My 2 are a bit older (which makes everything a lot easier) but I switch between autonomous to semi structured on a virtually daily basis depending on the mood of the children and how much I need to do over the day! I find, on the days when I leave them to it they “learn” far more than when I have a big plan and try to organise them,  my biggest reassurance that they are learning stuff is that I keep a diary for each of them and I note down what they have done over the day which would count as “education”, nothing fancy, just a few notes (discussed seed distribution during dog walk, calculated how much change we should get in the shop, helped make dinner- reading recipie, writing items on the shopping list, setting temp on oven…).
I think there are a lack of clubs for your lo’s age group, but a couple of things a week are plenty… They’ll find LOTS of clubs they want to join when they are a bit older, and friends will turn up when they are needed, especially with the summer holidays coming up.

Thank you all for that injection of sanity. I think I just feel lonely, you know? That’s soooo hard for me to admit to, but I think that is the root of it. I don’t know anyone who would even consider HEing, and it would be nice to have a network, some support.

I don’t believe in over scheduling but I do want to be sure dd doesn’t struggle to integrate - my friends’ kids at school are so boisterous by comparison and she often ends up on the sidelines observing. I’m not good at making friends, I’m painfully shy and awkward so hardly a role model!

One last question - people often say they knew their child/ren were more suited to school - how can one tell? I’m keeping an open mind and tell her when she’s older she may choose to go to school, but what if I miss the signs that she would do better in school?

Thanks again xxx

Well that is a hard question! I do sometimes think my DD would love certain aspects of school, but she is quite introverted & though enjoys a good amount of social stuff, she struggles with too much. Sometimes I also think she would like the structure of school, but then on the other hand she is highly creative and very active/outdoorsy, so I think she would struggle with the emphasis being on the academic side in school. What I’m saying is there are pros and cons. Nothing is perfect all of the time. Every summer we touch base about whether we continue to HE. The option is always there for them,  but in the summer term we always have a meeting of sorts & go through everything we’re doing to re-assess.

I think you know your daughter. You will know if she’s unhappy over a pro-longed period of time. I was just thinking about this all today & thinking, you know what? when I was at school, there just wasn’t the choice not to go. I enjoyed school at primary level, but of course like everyone you have off days, fall outs with friends, feeling jaded etc Life is like that, we have up’s and down’s. sometimes in the downs we need to resist the urge to make constant changes and just sit it out & see it through. Eventually it will be clear whether the down is a passing phase or whether a bigger change is needed. When we HE it’s easy to think a ‘down’ period might mean we need to try the school option to see if that’s better. Well it might be, but the likelihood is there will be pro’s and con’s! The grass is always greener! A ‘down’ period in HE might just mean we need more structure, less structure, more social, less social….................etc

I think some of this depends on why you’re HE’ing in the first place too.

It’s ok to admit you’re lonely:) Are there no HE meet ups where you live?

To dare is to lose ones footing temporarily, to not dare is to lose oneself.

LETS number 137

stargazy - 13 June 2014 01:05 AM

Although, strictly speaking, I’m just having *life* wobbles! full stop….

I know if I were to read lots of posts on here I’d probably find many similar fears but…

My dd is 4 1/2, due to start school in Sept but I’d always planned to HE, then when I read the term ‘unschooling’ it spoke to me. However, this last week I’m struggling to see when any ‘learning’ will happen.

I guess I’m asking - what does unschooling look like, how does the other stuff get done, and how can I find my tribe? Not a big ask, eh?!
If anyone is still reading, thank you!

I wish I could give you a crystal ball, ours are 9 and 11 and if I’d had a crystal ball when they were 4 it’d have saved a load of wobbles and given me more confidence in our choices.
There is a UK based facebook page UK Unschooling Network where you will find discussions and at least an online element of “tribe”. Going to HE camps like HESFES can really help in terms of meeting others doing a similar thing. 

While the term “unschooling” appeals it migth be worth looking deeper to see how much the concept appeals.  Reading some of Sandra Dodd’s writing might help, siging up for her daily email Just Add Light and Stir and or Pam Larricias email introduction to unschooling.

We’ve found Jan Fortune Wood’s Winning Parent Winning Child really useful and in some ways a better fit for us culturally.

You will need to let go of some of the great ideas you had about what you might do with your child or teach her, I still have books I’d intended to read with mine that don’t interest them.  But there will be many new ideas that crop up from your child’s interests, you will have busy times and quiet times, times when you are very involved because that is what is wanted and times when you are free to get on with the hoovering.


Okay, some tough questions there that require longish answers! smile

What does unschooling look like and how does the ‘other stuff’ get done? Well, that’s the thing. Unschooling and the ‘other stuff’ are not separate. Unschooling extends to our whole life, not just education; learning from everything. We just go about life and you can’t *stop* them learning! We find that unschooling and life are simply not separate concepts, they are the same thing.

Ru just turned five, and consistently helps me with the house work. His sweeping technique needs a lot more work wink , but he’s pretty speedy at loading a washing machine and he can put clothes on the dryer AND fold clean clothes more efficiently than his Daddy! Pixie loves to help too, especially pairing socks. With unschooling, we’ve just tried to continue what we were already doing as AP parents. Take pairing socks for example, even at Pixie’s age, we can talk about colours, patterns, matching, numbers, characters on the socks (superhero socks are a BIG deal in this house!).

We’ve also never made the ‘other stuff’ into unpleasant chores. They regularly join us in baking and cooking, we tidy up together, clean together, and so on.

Outside of house stuff (like the cleaning and cooking and washing), we tend to play our days by ear, depending on what everyone would like to do. We find that outdoor time every day is essential for them *cough me cough*, whether that’s Daddy taking them to the park, or playing with tubs of coloured water in the garden. I set up painting or other activities if they want me to, and will ‘strew’ things I think they might find interesting around for them. Recently, that has been a new nature encyclopaedia, stickers, painting rocks to go in our rockery, new little notebook and special pen for Ru’s bedroom…

Because mine are still young, I find that they do often want me to lead them in an activity, which I’m happy to do (and here, Pinterest is your friend! wink ), though they will happily play their own games and do their own thing without my input, though I do try and remain available for them if they want me to join them. The past few weeks, we’ve done (that I can remember) glittery slime, sudsy goop, beach playdough with shells…

I also find that every day conversations set off a lot of explorative learning. The other day, we were worming the cats and Ru wanted to know why. A quick Netflix visit later and we’re watching a documentary about worms and parasites in the human body. Pixie asked if we could get more cats which led to an episode of Animal Hoarders with a lady with 283 cats in a two bedroom house, and the kids talking with us about how many animals is too many, which led to a discussion about animal welfare, which actually led to us deciding to get our meat from Abel and Cole as Ru said he wanted ‘only happy meat’ from now on!

And just being out in life as well, electricians, plumbers, builders, gardeners, buskers, PCSO’s etc often love talking to kids; and means I get to answer the question “What’s that person doing?!” with “Why don’t you ask them?”

And it looks different every day for every family too, and changes depending on individual and group needs.

As for finding your tribe, there’s a good bunch of unschoolers/home edders right here! wink

I love reading Arwen_Tiw’s blog, Carried Family as I find that a wonderful look into another unschooling family’s day!

Instagram is great for connecting with other HE/AE families, and there’s a Facebook group called the UK Unschooling Network that I find invaluable, whether I’m wanting to reassurance on a tough day, advice about dealing with particular issues, happily sharing news or breakthroughs, and I love the interesting debates on there, as well as finding it fantastic for moving more and more towards consensual living…

Blue-haired crunchy Mama to Ru (5 yrs), Pixie Willow (3 years) and Baby Gaia (7 months).

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If you’re just starting to consider unschooling my advice would be to slow down as much as possible and take things one step at a time. Sandra Dodd’s advice is to read a little,  try a little,  wait and watch and that is the most helpful thing I can think of. There’s so much to think about! To do! To change!  And then I get overwhelmed…but if I don’t try to do too much,  it really helps me (and the kids).

Plus, part of the process of moving towards an unschooling life is the constant process of deschooling yourself, too, which means that there are lots of things to ‘unpick’ and consider and try on for size. We’ve been an unschooling family for nearly 4 years and yet I am still constantly unpicking negative ways of thinking and bad habits picked up from school.

Talking to other unschooling families is invaluable for me, and the group Emi mentioned (UK unschooling network) is good. There are also a couple of radical unschooling groups on FB which I love because they focus on whole life unschooling, and I find the constant ongoing discussions there help me to unpick my own issues.

Having a tribe is so important to me and I really value the friends I have. I make a big effort to see them often, for my sake and the kids, but many of my friends are not unschoolers. We have at least one playdate a day which feels like the right balance for us, however we do sometimes have rest days too or days where we just get in the car and go on adventures. I know that’s quite a lot, but I’m naturally very sociable and love the sense of community being around other families bringd.

I notice,  no matter what it is we do, being present and mindful with them is key. We can discuss a whole range of things whilst just drying dishes. Yesterday we went to a friend’s house for a BBQ and there were a few families there. I ended up discussing BBQs with Ava how they worked, how food is cooked, what happens when you light it etc. Most of the time she was off playing hide and seek with her friends until she decided later in the evening she was tired and ready for bed.

I also find, when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, that if I make the simple choice to put my relationship with Ava and Ezra first for the whole day, choosing to stay connected with them before everything else, then almost everything falls into place and we have a wonderful day.

I also wanted to say, part of what I love about unschooling is recognising that we all need diffrlt things. I *need* close friends. My DH doesn’t. .for him, us is enough (his family). My daughter loves her friends but prefers playdates with only one or two at a time and does not love boisterous places usually. She will often say to me, ‘Mama, I feel a little shy’ when we are in a big group,  and then she hangs out with me for a little while til she decides that actually she’s not shy at all and goes off and then I don’t see her for ages. I know lots of HE families who get on well not having many playdates at all, but either way, your kids will let you know! Even at 13 months my son makes it clear he wants to be outside from breakfast til dinner!

Aside from some of the great sites mentioned above I absolutely love Jennifer McGrail’s The Path Less Taken ( and Joyce Fetteroll’s Joyfully Rejoying which often answers my wobbles!


Unschooling Mama to Ava (2) and Ezra (due April), living and parenting as mindfully as possible.

MamaMake, handmade whimsy -

Dear all, many thanks to you for taking the time to read and reply. The general ‘life’ wobbles have been a bit overwhelming this weekend, and I want to take the time to absorb all your comments when I have a bit more headspace, but didn’t want to leave them unacknowledged in the meantime. It really does mean a lot.

As to how you assess your child’s education, you can’t really. That’s not the best way to look at it though. Knowledge isn’t visible in the sense that you can learn trigonometry and suddenly be a different person. You acquire skills and talents through everything, no matter how mundane. Words also count for a lot; all you need do is talk to your child while you do things - as you do the laundry you could discuss complex psychological phenomena - it doesn’t necessarily have to correlate with the task. The key is holding her interest which is easily done if she controls the subject matter. You may have to take it on faith that she’s learning until she’s older. If that’s not satisfactory you can read about my own experiences in my recently published book Unschooling: A Teenager’s Experience which is available on amazon here:

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