Deborah Donndelinger

The recent discussions here (prompted by Nicole's post and Sandra's
earlier Please Help:What I want for Christmas post) have me thinking
about my experiences on unschooling lists and what's been helpful to me
and what hasn't.

My children are currently aged 16, 14, and 12. I was introduced to the
concept of unschooling by Jan Hunt after talking with her about my
struggles with Oak Meadow, a Waldorf-like curriculum. I was trying to do
the first year of Oak Meadow with my son when he was five. He really
wasn't interested, I was making us both miserable with scheduled sit
down lessons on letters, and I wanted to find other options to this
homeschooling thing. Hearing about unschooling was a relief and felt
like an approach that would give me the freedom to respond and relate to
my child on his terms, not an outside focus. At the same time I had
some fears and concerns to work through. As I write this, I realize
that I have been responding to my son since he was born but ran smack
into a whole bunch of unexamined assumptions. I never really had thought
about extended nursing or co-sleeping or sling wearing or homeschooling
or unschooling. But as I noticed what worked for him and me and what
didn't, I found those things and more. For me, it's been a lot of
letting go of mainsteam thoughts about children and relating to children
as well as building my confidence in what I was doing.

When I was worried about my son learning to read, other unschoolers told
me that everyone reads at different ages. However, it felt like a leap
of faith to see what happened with my children. I'm not a fan of "leaps
of faith" - I like to feel confident in what I'm doing and what's
happening. I don't mind following doing things differently but I don't
like doubting myself. I wasn't going to try to teach him or force him
to read (as if I could), but I worried I was being negligent if he
didn't learn to read. And yes, one day around the age of 12 he sat
down one week and read a Percy Jackson novel. He asked questions that
showed me was absorbing the information at a level I completely missed
myself reading the book. I really wish I hadn't worried as much.
Hearing other people tell me not to worry wasn't helpful. I do wonder
if I had I engaged with Sandra and Joyce and others here, I might have
been able to work out that concern earlier. I wish I had. Instead I
was on other lists that weren't helpful.

When I started going to unschooling conferences and meeting some people
from two different unschooling lists I was on, I began to notice that
some people talked a good talk but when I met them in person and saw
them interacting with their children, I knew immediately I didn't want
to learn from them. Likewise, meeting Kelly Lovejoy and Sandra in
person at a New Jersey conference, interacting with them, and seeing
them interact with others there also made a huge impression on me. In
fact it was a five minute conversation between Sandra and her daughter
that impacted me the most. And since then I've selectively read
Sandra's list and facebook group with a deep respect for both her
experience and also her and the moderators' questioning of the writers'
thinking and words.

[As a side note and with a bit of a red-face, let me share that when I
first was on one of Sandra's lists years ago, I left in a huff when she
challenged me about "magical thinking". I'm really glad that I grew
to understand why that was a concern and that I made my way back to
learn some more.]

I still don't understand all of the points made here. I am still
deliberately making new choices that make our home a better place to
be. For example, just this week I played Far Cry 4 after reading Alex's
post about how different it is to play vs. watch her child playing.
She's right - it was fun! I even tried to take out a bear and had no
problem shooting the bad guys. It was quite gratifying actually. I own
real guns myself, used to target shoot, and have no desire to ever shot
anything living. Shooting a bear in a game won't change that. And I
have a renewed appreciation for my son's skill at video games. He
blasted through a mission in five minutes that I was absolutely horrible

I debated about sending this post - am I clear and does it add value? I
hope so. The point I am convey is thatI learned from experience that
that these discussion can be helpful but only if I use them to look at
my own actions. Hearing how others do things can help but only if I
make changes for myself. And that just because someone writes
something authoritatively doesn't mean they have the experience or
"success" to back it up.
And to admit I was wrong all those years ago when I left in a huff ... :-)

Thank you Sandra and Joyce and Pam and others for your incredible
patience in dealing with folks who send you rude emails offline. My
family and I have benefited from your commitment to sharing and helping
others grow and learn about unschooling and I am really glad you keep
this list available.

Kirsty Harriman

I totally agree with Deborah post and could relate on a number of levels.

I too came from a history of attachment parenting which led to homeschooling but the Waldorf kind and I too tried oak meadow which totally didn't work without the misery of some kind of coercion to make lessons happen. Awful. I was also taken aback and felt huffy during some of my early experiences on this list a year ago but I chose to stay (luckily I wasn't asked to leave!) because of Sandra's and others' authenticity, clarity, honesty and the lack of fluff which was a relief after being on many fluffy lists and forums (even though I like hugs, I am not sure they help much online!) In the end online fluff doesn't help much. All I chose to do was to get out of my own way and allow the words to sink in without being defensive or precious about the assumptions I had previously held to he true. So I too only hang out on this list now and reluctant to involve myself in other unschooling discussions because I have found this philosophy to be so easily misconstrued and misunderstood. I find this list and the picking apart of words/phrases to be very helpful in challenging my own thoughts.

 I too don't understand many aspects and I despair when my eldest daughter claims to be bored and I wonder what I am doing wrong and why this doesn't seem to be working yet after removing many of our previously tight limits and how can I facilitate four individuals learning when they are all needing something different from me at the same time and in conflict with one another. ... I have a long long way to go to be able to come here and talk about how happily and freely learning we all are... but the point is that I choose to come and read this list alone and I am enormously grateful for it and the time Sandra and the moderators and experienced  others who freely give their time to facilitate our learning. 


One sentence got garbled when I was editing it.   Sorry about that.  I meant to write:  "The point I am hoping to convey is that I learned from experience that these discussions can be helpful but only if I use them to look at my own actions."