"It Depends"—thoughts on choice making

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Is unschooling right for everyone? My answer is, "It depends." I think ALL children can learn and grow and thrive as unschoolers. But, I also think it takes an intensity and focus on living life with a great deal of gusto on the part of unschooling parents.

more at I LIVE THEREFORE I LEARN: Living an Unschooling Life, by Pam Sorooshian

Someone wrote:

I have had so many doubts, or moments where I just don't know what to do. I've felt at times like I should be able to find mutually happy-making solutions to conflicts, but I can't always.
I responded:
If you've adopted a set of principles and priorities, it will make decisionmaking easier. And I don't mean to choose your five and write them down. I mean to consider what's important in a situation when you're making a decision. And those things can vary.

If it's 11:00 at night and a child wants to do something that's outside the house or noisy, the idea of quiet time and consideration for others who are sleeping should take precedence, for sure.

All other things being equal, for me I decided in favor of something new and different, over something same-old, when there was a draw about which thing to do or which way to go. I decided to take the "more learning" path, if some kids wanted that and some wanted to just do nothing. (Of course the first option might be to only take the kids who want to do the cool new thing, if there's a place to leave the other one(s) but that isn't always the best option anyway.)

It depends.

It's hard to explain unschooling, partly because the best answers are "it depends," followed by questions for the parents to consider while they're making their decisions.

It depends on time available, time of day, safety, resources, the effect on other people, need for food or rest, and other factors I can't think of right now. :-)

Some days a certain request would be just perfectly WONDERful to do/pursue, and the same request on another day might be a total flat-out "no" (Or a "maybe later, but not during a funeral," or whatever it is).

Getting unschooling is a process. There will be more to get once you're comfortable with the new understandings and behaviors.


from a discussion at Always Learning called I think I've got it!", in November 2010

Photo (a link) by Janine Davies

Don't make a rule for yourself. Sometimes maybe you could say "just a little bit." Sometimes (depending on what the symptoms are and what you're about to go an do) say "it's not a good time, because we're about to get in the car," or "It's not a good time, because we all really need to go to sleep quietly now" (because you're in someone else's house that night with early-morning plans).

All decisions should be made that way, with the particulars of the moment in mind. Who else will be inconvenienced? Maybe nobody. Maybe lots. How much "recovery time" do you have? Maybe lots. Maybe you're home with nothing planned on a calm day and it would be a fine time to see whether the problem is worse than before or maybe has gone away. Kids do grow out of such things sometimes (and older people can grow into them).

Sandra Dodd, on facebook, about food options, at Radical Unschooling info, April 2013.

What will happen if you dig a hole in your back yard? It depends!

Let's say it's from the point of view of a child. Either one of your children now, or the child you were when you were nine or ten. What happens if you dig a hole in your back yard? Read many wonderful responses here, including this and another one by Deb Lewis, who writes better than most of us do:

When Dylan was little we had a big hole by the vegetable garden that was sometimes a lake (when filled with rain water or water from the hose) or burrow that monsters emerged from when it was time to destroy Tokyo.   —Deb Lewis

Someone asked (19 Mar 2009, Always Learning):
-=-I was reading on unschooling principles and I had the thought that it doesn't mention if correction of a child's factoids is necessary in order for learning to take place? I don't think it does.
My response:
Principles aren't about what's "necessary," though.

The best answer to most questions is "it depends."

I'm sure children can learn even when their parents don't know enough to correct their factoids. And children whose parents correct their factoids unmercifully might give up trying to learn around their parents.

With my kids, it depends how leisurely the moment is, what mood the kid's in, whether it seems it could cause problems that they don't know the thing... It depends.


Occasionally it comes up and recently did again—the question of exactly how to unschool. No philosophical nattering, some folks say; just tell us what we have to do. Of all the things in the world that don't work like that, unschooling must be in the top ten. Unschooling and I both are all about philosophical nattering. One of the truest and clearest answers I can give is often "It depends," after which much "if/then" ensues.

The rest of that is at Precisely How to Unschool

"It depends" is a good first answer when someone asks whether something is or is not okay. There is no "rule" that says unschoolers can eat anything they want any time. But there should not be arbitrary restrictions, just really logical, sensible ones involving courtesy and common sense.

"Food Rules"
Lack of rules—need for thought, good judgment, consideration

From Understanding the Value of Principles:
A question like "should I buy this, yes or no?" isn't the kind of questions others can answer very well. And if we did, we'd need to say WHY we thought so, which would involve explaining a principle. And with all of the best answers, it needs to start, "It depends."

If we answer questions with "yes" and "no," and give people what they claim to want, or what they think they want, we are chucking fish out instead of providing information on how to fish, how to make one's own custom fishing equipment and when and where the fishing is great. Unschooling can't work as a series of yes/no questions.

A page called "What if" touches on the hole-digging question, and also brags up and links to other Deb Lewis stuff.
Which is the best way to go?

It depends where you want to end up.

Choices Principles Misconceptions