Renee Cabatic

(When Mary Gold introduced me I asked her to ask the audience to close their eyes and then she said the word "Orange".)

Neuroscientists have found that when we read or hear the word orange our taste buds grow larger.

Who thought of the fruit?
Who thought of the color?

What we say vs. what the hearer hears.

Unschooling requires speaking clearly, thoughtfully, mindfully and logically

I'm doing this talk because I need to work on this in my life

Xander is a man of few words and he points out whenever I don't speak clearly, use a word incorrectly or when I embellish a story (this is one of my super powers actually and I quote my friend and awesome unschooling dad Jeff Sabo "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,")

But Xander has a good point, (He often does) and I realized there were words I needed to understand better and words I stopped using that helped me be a better unschool parent. and I wanted to share that with you.

First lets get clear on some definitions of basic words you hear in unschooling circles. This may be boring if you've been doing this for a while but if this is new it could prove interesting.

Origin of the word Unschooling

in the late 60's and 70's John Holt, an author, educator and proponent of homeschooling started using the term.

It also came around the time this could be seen on the TV

That was Geoffrey Holder

So that's the origin of the word unschooling
For clarity I'm calling it academic unschooling but it often gets shortened to unschooling

Unschoooling is:

It often gets used interchangeably with the term Radical unschooling.

Where did Radical come in and what does it mean?

Sandra Dodd coined the term in the 90's on message boards to show a distinction between unschooling only academic subjects and seeing learning in all aspects of life.

"So the history of 'radical unschooling' came from someone saying "Well we're not that radical," and me saying "well I am."—Sandra Dodd

Radical unschooling is all of academic unschooling plus:

Applying principles to food, TV, video games, sleep, hygiene

You heard me say applying unschooling principles to all aspects of life so WHAT ARE unschooling Principles?

Principles of Unschooling
By Pam Sorooshian

Learning happens all the time.
Learning does not require coercion.
Learning feels good.
Learning stops when a person is confused.
Learning becomes difficult when a person is convinced that learning is difficult.
Learning must be meaningful.
Learning is often incidental.
Learning is often a social activity, not something that happens in isolation from others.
We don't have to be tested to find out what we've learned.
Feelings and intellect are not in opposition and not even separate things. Learning requires a sense of safety.

I have trouble remembering all of those so here is my condensed version:

Please don't replace one set of rules with unschooling rules.

Important not to assume principles and rules are the same thing examples:

Don't hit your brother — respect/kindness

The process of letting go of ideas like rules subjects, testing, is called deschooling

parents do this, kids who've been in school will do this

think of it as an extended holiday vacation, become tourists in your own town, explore, relax, get to know yourself, what makes you happy?
what makes your kids happy?

Robyn Coburn: "Deschooling is not just the child recovering from school damage. It's also the parents exploring their own school and childhood damage and proactively changing their thinking until the paradigm shift happens."

Part of my paradigm shift was getting clear on what the words I used meant and how they affected my relationships with my kids.

I found this example of the kinds of things parents say that is not helpful:

"In order to unschool, I HAD TO give them FREEDOM but they never TAUGHT themselves to SELF-REGULATE their JUNK FOOD intake or SCREEN TIME."
Breaking that sentence down:

TEACH Letting go of the word teach may seem like semantics but it's not.
It really helped me.

Learning can happen without teaching but what is teaching without learning? It's a bit like the tree falling in the forest.

Unschooling works better if you focus on the learning, not on the gaps but on what is happening.

Learning can't be forced, cajoled, manipulated, bribed or managed and often much of "teaching" is managing a classroom.

What's being learned in those situations can be vastly different from what the teacher is attempting to teach.

Sandra Dodd said,

"Here's a truth: teaching has no action to show for itself that is "teaching." You can't really pour useful information into anyone else's ears or eyes against their will. They can learn like crazy, but you can't make them.

"Beginners need to know that teaching isn't a thing you do to someone else. Rather, learning is something that you MIGHT, if you're lucky, get to assist with."

Note from Sandra: If the recording is found and says Barbara rather than Katrina, there was some confusion, and it was cleared up about 2010.

It was neither Renee's confusion nor mine. Notes are here, but skip it for now.

Katrina Gutleben in order to draw us a mental picture depicting the problem with unmotivated students:

"Standing and lecturing at students who aren't interested in learning, and calling it teaching, is like throwing marshmallows at their heads and calling it feeding."
Another of my professors, Dr. Mark Allen, during a discussion about our recent reading of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed exhorted us with:
"Students are not vessels to be filled, but fires to be lit."

Is overly simplistic and can easily be misunderstood.
No one has complete freedom and no one can offer another person absolute freedom

No one is free from the natural constraints of living in respect with other human beings
Unschooling can give you freedom from


"How we think - the language we use to think - about what we're doing, matters."—Pam Sorooshian

In each moment think of 2 options and choose the better one.


(also self control)

Instead of saying a person made a rule for themselves and then followed it just see and say they made a choice.


Do not say or think this word combo, please.

Women in Haiti make dirt cookies to fill their children's bellies.

Folks can live their whole lives eating only a handful of foods.

At different times in a life different foods are important: illness, recovery, pregnancy, etc.

Some foods that are considered healthy will sicken or even kill other people.

Foods have different purposes and different nutrients but none of it is junk unless its actual junk. And I actually recently learned of a person who consumed an airplane which may have been eventually destined for a landfill (if not a museum).

Make delicious food, share delicious food, enjoy delicious food.


Please tell me all of the things you were doing today on screens.

(audience participates by yelling out what they have been doing and I write it on a white board)

Do you have paper time?

Dirt time? Fabric time?

Call things what they actually are, it helps with unschooling, relationships, life! What word or words will you let go of ?

I need to let go of "Decent hour"


Follow your heart-- if I did this I'd never let XuMei ride horses because of my fear

All things in moderation--even joy? peace?

Finish what you start--smoking?

The world doesn't revolve around you---yes it does!

I'm not at your beck and call------service as an act of love

My lovely assistants will pass out paper and pens
Write down the word or words you plan on letting go
and forgive the woo factor but throw it away!
Now write down a new, better, more connecting word or words.
Take this word with you.

I did this talk because I want to improve in this area.

I place toothpaste on Xander's toothbrush at night. One night he said it was too much toothpaste so the next night I put much less on. He then told me it was too little toothpaste.

Exasperated, I said, "I can't win for losing."

He said, "You can win. With many small adjustments!"

Do not be overwhelmed.

YOU can unschool with many small adjustments!

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