From Academics to Relationships – Unschooling As A Paradigm Shift

This article is part 1 of a longer series, called Does Unschooling Have Natural Limits? Please subscribe to get future installments.


Awareness of others’ needs and wants doesn’t come naturally to everyone–and it’s something that many young people fail to learn.

Growing up in a family where everyone’s preferences are considered makes life flow more smoothly, especially in a larger unschooling family like ours.

However, it wasn’t always this way. We’ve been unschooling since 2004–when my now-adult child was still just five years old. 

Over time, I believe we’ve gotten better at living and learning within the family dynamic in mutually respectful and cooperative ways.

It’s profound, how much the concept of unschooling creates change in one’s life, if we open up and really let it take hold of us.

Unschooling may have started out as an alternative educational approach, but this can gradually morph into a reconsidering of all sorts of things–even those that seem unrelated.

As I’ve said in prior articles, unschooling is not something you can “get” in a day or a month. We’ve unschooled for the better part of 13 years, and it continues to be an ongoing evolution of both theory and practice.

Unschooling may sound like a destination at first, but trust me: It’s very much a never ending, fascinating journey.

Many families start out “just” unschooling academics, but taking a step back from arbitrary control in one area of life tends to be contagious.

The way we eat; our daily routines; what discipline means to us; how we communicate with our children – everything is touched and ultimately shifted by the unschooling paradigm.

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In truth, however, there are layers upon layers of shifts – tiny, sometimes almost imperceptible, building upon one another over months and years, until one day we realize how far we’ve come.

Many times, we’re quite pleased with the changes that have taken place in our family life. Sometimes, those shifts are accompanied with a certain uneasiness or apprehension.

Perhaps it’s just a vague feeling that something’s not right–or perhaps it’s as sharp as the pain that comes from stepping on your child’s abandoned legos in the middle of the night!

The unschooling lifestyle tends to be extremely well-received among children…

However, some parents can have misgivings about it, for a plethora of reasons.

In striving to give zealously support and accommodate our children’s passions and feelings, we may feel (either consciously or subconsciously) that our own needs and happiness as parents are somehow being left out of the equation.

Too many parents think unschooling means the children are in charge, and ought to “rule” the family.

When our children have the freedom to “do whatever they want,” then it only stands to reason that at some point, we’ll observe them exercising that freedom in ways that are destructive or harmful to those around them.

Our children are indeed learning from these experiences, which is good–but ideally, learning ought not to happen at the expense of others!

So, does unschooling truly mean a free-for-all, or are there natural, inherent limits within the unschooling experience?


This article is part 1 of a series…subscribe to read the next installment!

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