Thursday, November 29, 2012


I cannot count the number of times people have expressed their fears to me about why they'd love to unschool their kids but can't, or why they fear for my children's happiness or future, because we are unschooling. There are so many reasons to be terrified.

This is going to be controversial, but I think everyone should let go of our enslavement to the goal of financial gain (because growth economy is not sustainable), and take on a goal of emotional gain. And by that I mean happiness! I'm not even there myself, but I'd sure like to be!

And I think the only reason we still live the way we do is fear.

I do realize that there are a number of people who truly believe in mass education; in conformity. But I think most of those beliefs also stem from a fear of non-conformity, or of somehow not succeeding in the current social/economical landscape. Because you know what? It was bloody scary when I was 7 and I dropped my wieners on the floor and a boy in my class made me crouch on my hands and knees and eat them off the floor while everybody watched and laughed. And he kicked me. I never want that to happen to my kids.

Honestly -- this has been a learning journey for me too (because we don't stop learning when we get out of school). That incident in elementary school is part of the reason I didn't send my kids to school! I was afraid for them! But that is not why I unschool. I unschool because once I made the decision to keep my kids out of school, I had to face the litany of new fears that provoked - and I overcame them. I don't want to live in fear, anymore. That incident did not make me stronger; it made me scared, and I'm still overcoming the many many fear-inducing incidents of my 37 years. Overcoming these things gives me strength to create a better world for my children.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
                   ~Nelson Mandela

I like to think of any difficult situation in terms of "Why is this happening?" What fear is fueling this person's anger towards me? Or what cultural fear is propelling the people's support of this law I don't agree with, or this social system that frustrates me? Or what personal fear is keeping me from telling this person my feelings; starting this project; etc.? The answer is often more interesting than the question! And this helps me to overcome a large number of my fears. 

I am afraid of plenty of things; here's a sampling, if I sit and consider this moment:
  • That my mother will read this blog post and discover some terrible problem with it and I'll delete it.
  • That there really is some gross flaw in my judgement and this post just makes that obvious.
  • That I'm deluded about my kids' happiness, and really they're just deprived of a happy childhood.
  • That my kids really are happy now, but will grow up deluded and incapable of functioning in "the real world".
  • That I'm condemning them to lives as social outcasts by giving them the life I have.
  • That I'm wrong.
  • That I'm harming my children.
  • That people will hate me for what I do and say.
  • That my children will hate me for what I do and say.
  • Inadequacy!!!
  • Unhappiness!!!
Notice how easy it is for this line of thought to inflate way out of control? How harmful it can be? So I think of these things, and I carry on. I'm here anyway. Why? Because I don't want to live in fear.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.
                    ~Jim Morrison

What are you afraid of? And how is it impeding your happiness?

Of course this isn't just about unschooling, it's about our community as a whole, and our country, continent, culture, and world. We make the changes that we can see ourselves making, and we have to let go of the fears to envision those changes happening.

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
                    ~Thomas Jefferson 

The solution is very simple, but also very difficult and complex in its realization:
Acknowledge the fear, and let it go.

Back to unschooling, somebody came to this blog this morning by Googling "Does homeschooling make kids weird?" Some of us might laugh, but this and similar searches are actually very common on my tracker. My answer to that question? "YES!" In the sense that weird means other than the norm, yes homeschooling makes my kids weird! It makes them have absolutely no reason to fear their uniqueness and be the people they dream of being! It enables them to feel belonging because of the acceptance of their own and others' uniqueness instead of because they have conformed! In the sense that they do not have to conform to the government's plan for their futures, nor the school district's rules and constraints about the way they should dress, eat, speak, learn, and direct their interests - they are WEIRD. And in the sense that they are happy just to be themselves, happy with their ever-changing desires and life-plans, happy with their bodies and spirits and selves? YES!! I embrace the word weird.

...and hopefully they are learning to live without being shackled by fear.


  1. I think that the built in survival mechanism of the human spirit allows for both traditional conformist schooling and the unschooling method as well. I can see a need for conformity on mass as a protectionist mechanism against social chaos, and also the need for spirited individualism for a select few. You may find cases for both not working well within each seperate system. That being said, I personally lean toward your ideal of unschooling. Keep up the awesome fearful work! I admire your courage Emily!

  2. Hey Emily,

    I have been following your blog for a few months and I believe it deals with a lot of the same themes as UnCollege an organization founded by Dale Stephens to change the notion that college is the only path to success. I am Head of Marketing at UnCollege and I would like to offer you an opportunity to receive and review a pre-release copy of Dale’s book, Hacking Your Education, which will be published by penguin on March 5th 2013. Hacking Your Education is a practical guide to adapting unschooling principles for college age learners and provides and framework for success outside the traditional college system.
    If you would like to receive a free pre-release copy of Dale’s book please shoot me a quick email and I'll get you signed up.

    Alexander Berger


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