Without wonder—a combination of curiosity and acceptance of the unknown as a potential friend—natural learning won't flow.


spontaneous delight

A new, worried unschooling mom wrote:

It just seems like everyone else has more exciting things going on.
Pam Sorooshian responded
Maybe the others, those whose lives look more exciting, are people who view the mundane things, the ordinary family-centered everyday things, as more exciting? Maybe it is a difference in perspective?

It really makes a huge difference how the parent is feeling about what the kids are doing.

My sister inadvertently taught me this when her now-24 yo son was only about 4 years old. They had old very beat-up furniture and her son, Alex, was standing next to a couch with holes in it. He was pulling out little bits of stuffing and rolling it in his fingers, feeling the texture, stuffing it back in, pulling out another tuft, feeling it, and so on. He had a faraway look in his eyes and was clearly really focused on experiencing the sensation of the texture of those tufts of couch stuffing.

She and I walked in and saw him at the same moment. MY reaction would have been to stop him from pulling stuffing out of the old couch. Julie stopped and smiled and said, quietly to me, "Look at that — he is having such a deep sensual experience just with a bit of stuffing from an old couch. How wonderful!"

Another parent might have complained, "My kid is so bored he's literally pulling the stuffing out of our old couch. That's the best thing he can find to do?"

This might sound sort of phony or silly and unimportant - I'm just recommending that people look at what their kids ARE doing and see if they can change their own thinking about it - see it in the best possible way. It doesn't change what they're doing, but it changes the "tone" in the home and that is so all-important it can't be overemphasized.

I guess, to be honest, I don't think people who are negative, pessimistic, or cynical are going to make great unschooling parents and that if they know themselves to be that way, they owe it to their kids to work on being more positive, optimistic, and especially at not expressing even minimal scorn. They'll do better by choosing to be more child-like themselves, more filled with wonder at even little ordinary aspects of life.

more by Pam Sorooshian

The first snow is still magical every year for me even though I've seen many, many first snows of the year!
—Colleen Prieto
from a chat on awe and wonder

Katherine (QueenJane555) shared with UnschoolingDiscussion:

Pam S wrote:

This might sound sort of phony or silly and unimportant - I'm just recommending that people look at what their kids ARE doing and see if they can change their own thinking about it - see it in the best possible way. It doesn't change what they're doing, but it changes the "tone" in the home and that is so all-important it can't be overemphasized.
I think this is unschooling in a nutshell, for us. When my son runs up to me, and says "Katherine, guess what!?! I just got a [insert name of weapon here] in my game, for only 3000 gold, and with that I can [insert special ability here]" and he's all excited and happy....and I can be excited and happy for him, not roll my eyes and wonder why he isnt doing something more useful...this is what makes our relationship. And most parents don't have that. I think most unschooling parents DO have that. Its pretty evident when I'm at a park day, and the surly angry teenager of the controlling school-at-home mom is being not-so-nice to the littler kids, I wonder "Does this mom ever just revel in her kids passions? Does she even SEE her kid??"

That kind of happiness, of being amazed and joyful about everyday little things occurring around us, has made me a much happier person in all aspects of my life. I've been checking out the myspace pages of some people I used to know a few years ago, and i am so suprised at all the angst, anger, and general moodiness, depression, and negativity everyone seems to be wallowing in. I just don't get it. We're so freakin' HAPPY here 99 percent of the time. I think people forget that happiness is a choice, or maybe its just not cool or interesting to be happy. I dunno. I do think that for our unschooled kids, joy will be the default setting, and I'm prepared for my son to bypass the whole "teen angst" thing altogether.

Ok, I got way off topic from the subject at hand. Then again, "everything's connected" right? 😉


More by Pam Sorooshian:

I'm not saying to prepare a lesson on cactus or coconuts or pineapples. I'm saying that if you're not already an interesting person with interesting information to share with your children, then you'll have to make an effort to be more interesting. The way to do that is to develop your own sense of curiosity, wonder, fascination, and enthusiasm.

It might have to seem a little artificial, for a while, if it isn't natural to a parent to just 'be' this way...

Pam Sorooshian
Building an unschooling nest

photo (a link) by Sandra Dodd, of an orange in a bowl at Alex Polikowsky's house


The catch is they don't want "right answers"! They're not in school and don't think like school kids - they think like artists and/or scientists. They Wonder. And wondering will lead them down all sorts of rabbit holes of discovery - not just about "food" or "tv", their discoveries will go all sorts of directions and just at the moment you think you're going to talk about nutrition your kid is wondering about the digestive systems of vampires ;) Which leads to drawing the vampire princess from Adventure Time. Which leads to questions about brain injuries. Because That's how learning works. And if you're standing around, waiting to dole out "right answers" you're going to miss all the fun.

The good news about unschooling is you don't need "right answers" - not to hand out to your kids, and not for You, the parent. Watch and listen to you kids. Let yourself get caught up in what they find wonderful and in the process rediscover wonder itself.

Meredith Novak, July 2013

"A Day of Wonder—A flowing, poetic account of a peaceful, wonder-filled day."
a Typical Unschooling Day

"Again and again my kids can catch me when I am falling, and help me see the wonder of the small things. I feel so blessed to have this time with them."
Nancy's Special Day

"Flexibility to pursue tangents and cowtrails, and continuing to see the wonder in everyday things will lead to learning experiences without prior planning."
Moving a Puddle

"I'm just overwhelmed with the wonder of it all today. These children are so happy and so endlessly curious."
Unschool: Getting It

"Round eyed wonder.
He began to read the first book before going to sleep."
A Great Moment: Liam Needs Maps, Laura B.

"When Andy, 3, woke up he found a large piece of soft foam packing material dh left out for him. He held it up with wonder. First he used it as a carpet for his "office" (the ever-morphing cardboard box), then it was a surfboard."
Paula L's great unschooling day

"Think in terms of creating an atmosphere of wonder where people are genuinely curious about life and where there are intriguing things to be curious about."
Why You Can't Let Go , Joyce Fetteroll

by Theresa Larson, in southern New Mexico
click here for larger image

"It gives you a feeling of wonder, for one thing. It stimulates the imagination and I think adults like fantasy as well as children."

Movies as Tools and Portals

No matter how your children learn, take a few more opportunities to share wonder and discovery with them. It will enrich you all.
All Kinds of Unschooling—Sandra Dodd

"Be curious about life around you. Look things up to satisfy your own curiosity. Or just ponder the wonder of it all."
Five Steps to Unschooling — Joyce Fetteroll

"Relax and enjoy the wonder of your child."
What if little kids watch TV all day? What can happen?

"The things in life unschooled children take for granted have the potential to change the world. They take for granted the fact that learning is FUN. They take for granted the fact that the adults in their lives treat them with respect and honor their uniqueness. They take for granted the fact that they have access to the things they love, the places and people they enjoy. They take for granted their unschooling lives because it's what they know and live every day. Learning is just part of living. Adding a tiny bit of knowledge to their cup is what they do every time something excites them or grabs their attention. Information that is meaningful for their journey is not taken lightly but explored with wonder and awe.

It makes for a very sweet life indeed. "

~Ren Allen

Subject: Re: Wonder

Mère- veilleuse! MERCI!

Though my French is small, I can tell you that their term for "wonder" is like our verb "to marvel," but it looks and sounds like their word for "mother," so Jeanine made a pretty pun that we can't make. —Sandra

There is research on multiple benefits of feeling awe. Deb Lewis found it.
Being in Awe Can Expand Time and Enhance Well-Being: "Across three different experiments, they found that jaw-dropping moments made participants feel like they had more time available and made them more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer time to help others."

photo by Gail Higgins (and it's a link)

Chat transcript with images and videos, on the topic of Wonder and Awe from 2012.
The Big Book of Unschooling used to be correct in saying that there was a playlist on this page, of songs with the word "wonder," but the site that provided the embeddable playlists is long gone. Maybe the page is long enough, but I'm sorry it's no longer here.

If you can get to facebook, we played "wonder" on The Lyrics Game in 2015. Some are about wonder/awe, but more are like "I wonder where she is" and "wonderful," "wondrous" or "wonderland."

Becoming the parent you want to be




“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

E.E. Cummings

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

Anais Nin

“The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder.”

Richard Bach

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

Rachel Carson

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”

Gerry Spence

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who know it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out can.”

Albert Einstein

Philosophy begins with wonder.

Plato, quoting Socrates

"It was through the feeling of wonder that men now and at first began to philosophize."


"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."

Neil Armstrong

"Stuff your eyes with wonder ... live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."

Ray Bradbury

"Wherever life takes us, there are always moments of wonder."

Jimmy Carter

"He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder."

M. C. Escher

"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content."

Helen Keller

"The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."
John Muir

A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.

Walt Whitman

"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle."

Thich Nhat Hanh

"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I would ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."

Rachel Carson

"There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me."

Thomas Jefferson