Untruths about Unschooling

Here in Australia, one of our television stations just aired a segment about unschooling on their show called “The Project”. It went for approximately three minutes, although the online discussion afterwards lasted much, much longer. Reading through some of the comments highlighted with great clarity some of the incredible untruths people believe to be true about unschooling. These thoughts and ideas are, more often than not, based on nothing more than assumption and hearsay, rather than on direct experience or research.

I thought I would highlight a few of the comments here, and give my response, for what it’s worth. Some of the comments stand alone in all their ignorant unglory, yet I will still grace them with a reply to hopefully bring some kind of helpful information to those who truly do seek to understand this strange phenomenon called unschooling. I assume that many of the commenters below based their response on about twelve years of schooling, and about three minutes of hearing about unschooling via a rather poor piece of journalistic ignorance.

My purpose here is not to mock the naysayers, but to inform the truth seekers; nor is it to knock the teachers who try to make a difference in the lives of their students; instead, my purpose is simply to help people who actually want to understand unschooling have access to something better than the misinformation given in comments such as these:

Un-schooling is ridiculous. How do kids know what they like if they don’t get to experience new things? I can’t imagine a kid walking up to his parents and suddenly deciding to study quantum physics.

Okay, firstly, the assumption that unschooled children won’t get to experience new things is ignorance at best. Short of living life in solitary confinement within a prison cell, I find it hard to believe that any human being could possibly experience nothing new. In terms of knowing what they like? Ummmm from the moment of birth I’d say it’s fairly clear that our human nature is completely in tune with personal desire and interest! The late John Holt summed it up perfectly when he said, “By nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do – and all we need to do – is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.”

I love this little song by Harry Chapin, which shows something of what can happen to that natural awareness of personal preference, after years of being told how and what to think. To me, it seems fairly clear that an unschooled child is more likely to enjoy the freedom to “know what they like” and do it as compared to a child sitting in a classroom having their time and topics decided by a teacher.

Here is another uninformed comment where someone tries to explain what unschooling is:

The direction the child goes in, is solely determined by the child. The parent has no role (in true unschooling) in providing direction nor guiding. If a child (for example) was interested in only picking their nose for eighteen years, a TRUE unschooling parent would not stop them, try to redirect them or influence them into doing something else. They consider this as being the child determining their path and learning.

In a wonderful post by Pam Sorooshian, the idea of unschooling being “child-led learning” is refuted, stating that unschooling “is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others’ little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other. Unschooling is not child-led learning. Neither is it parent or teacher-led. It is child- focused. It is child-considered. It is child-supporting.” Yes, the focus is on the child as the learner, but it does not mean the parent is passive. The parent supports, helps, introduces, suggests, researches (unschooling philosophy, learning, ideas, resources etc), offers, strews, encourages, takes, listens, plays, and learns alongside.

The idea that a trained teacher is more equipped and essential than a parent, is indicated by comments such as this one:

I’ve had four years to become a teacher are you seriously going to tell me a parent will be able to describe in detail the educational theorists underpinning their pedagogical practice? No? Than send them to school

Personally, I haven’t found any need to describe in either detail or summary form anything about educational theorists; nor have I felt the need to understand pedagogical practice. I’m assuming that by pedagogical practice, the writer of the above comment was referring to the art or science of teaching (which is actually of little relevance to unschooling, being as the emphasis is on learning not teaching), rather than to the “Greek paidaggi, from paidaggosslave who took children to and from school”. 😉 

A school teacher spends four years at university studying teaching methods aimed at instructing a large group of children, classroom and behavioiur management techniques, and obviously, “educational theorists underpinning pedagogical practice”! A parent spends the child’s entire life with them (give or take a few hours or days here and there) from the moment of conception onwards, they have a vested interested in the individual child, and an intimate knowledge of who the child is, the way they naturally learn best, their dreams, interests and preferences. Whilst a teacher may have a four year degree in educational practice, aimed at teaching in a classroom, a parent has a six-year degree in their six year old child, a ten-year degree in their ten year old child, and so on. Add to that the fact that in our digital age parents and children have access to all the same information as teachers do, and it suddenly becomes evident that school is not, in fact, essential to learning.

With regards to “Un-schooling” how would children who are not exposed to the outside world know what they wanted to learn?

One of the key tenets of unschooling is bringing more of the world to our children, and taking our children to experience more of the world. It is not about sitting at home all the time staring at the same four walls. And even when they are at home, unschoolers are living in an environment that is intentionally designed to be a smorgasbord of interesting, inspiring things to do, something akin to a living museum. All the same, you are just as likely to find unschoolers at art galleries and museums, shopping centres and movie theatres, parks and playgrounds, zoos and aquariums, concerts and plays, visiting with friends or extended family…..

Here is a question that seemed to actually indicate a potential interest in understanding something of how unschooling might play out in reality:

How does “unschooling” translate when someone applies to university?

Unschoolers are equally equipped and eligible to attend university, if they so desire, as school students are. There are so many pathways such as sitting university entrance exams, attending bridging courses or a foundation year at university, single subject correspondence study whereby the units completed become the student’s admission pathway and also form part of the actual degree, reducing the duration of their course once they are attending university on campus, courses through TAFE Colleges or private institutions, and so on. This article does quite a good job of outlining some of these options, as does Blake Boles’ book, College Without High School: A Teenager’s Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College. Alternatively, it may be worthwhile considering whether university is even essential or desirable for a particular person. Perhaps an overseas working holiday or an internship or entrepreneur based business might even be Better Than College. It’s reassuring to know, however, that if someone really wants to go to college or university, twelve years of school is not the only pathway to get there!

Parents would not be able to teach the dicipline required and expected when you get to university. It’s a shock for everyone. I went through both public and private high schools and excelled, but still was not prepared for the amount or standard of work at university.

Reading this comment, by someone who obviously went through high school prior to attending university and yet felt ill-prepared, it strikes me as absurd that the writer still considers school to be a better preparation for university than unschooling.  It obviously didn’t help her immensely. When my husband was lecturing at university, he discovered that the students who felt most prepared were those who had come through the university’s entrance pathway courses, rather than through the high schools. Many universities seek out unschoolers, homeschoolers and mature age students, knowing that they are more likely to be motivated and self-directed. I remember listening to a speaker at a conference once, who had formerly sat on a university admissions board. He said that you could almost predict which school someone had gone to based on their application, because they were all so similar and uniform. The ones that caught their attention were the different, unique, individualised ones. Why be the same, when you can be yourself?

This one would be really sad if it was true:

I’ve been unschooling myself since I left school at 16 and learnt absolutely Nothing in those, ooh nearly 30 yrs.. Neither should anyone else without the help of a trained educator because the mind just isn’t capable.

finalllll-4Sandra Dodd, one of the world’s most well renowned unschooling advocates, initiated an annual event called “Learn Nothing Day“, to celebrate the fact that it is, in effect, impossible to do so! It is supposedly a “holiday for unschoolers”, but as all unschoolers know, we are learning all the time, even if what we are learning is not what a teacher thinks they are teaching, or what a learner expects to be learning! Many people lose confidence in their ability to learn without being taught, after years and years of being “taught to the test”, having curriculum put into their heads, and then regurgitating the hopefully correct answers afterwards. This led John Holt to say: “To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

It is this loss of confidence in our natural drive and ability to learn what we need to learn, when we need to learn it, that causes most people to find it almost impossible to believe that children raised without teaching and lesson plans and forced curriculum, could possibly learn everything they need to know. If you think logically for a minute about all the incredible things humans have learned since the dawn of time, prior to the invention of “schooling”, and if you are actually privileged enough to know any grown unschoolers, you will realise that we really don’t need to be taught, to learn. The advent of the digital age, with the all the resources of the worldwide web at our fingertips, along with libraries, knowledgeable people, and all sorts of other resources in our communities, also negate the need for schooling for those who are prepared to embrace the autonomous joy of unschooling.

I believe that there are some elements of an education that should not be not-taught just because the child doesn’t want to learn about it, for example news and current world issues. (That is the flip side to choosing to teach what a child does want to learn.)

Again, unschooling is about learning, not teaching. As Joyce Fetteroll says: “Teaching is putting information in; learning is drawing information in.”  With unschooling, life and learning are intermingled and inseparable, and learning takes places wherever the learner is, rather than teaching taking place within the walls of the classroom. When life itself is the learning ground, the playing field, it is almost impossible to keep things like news and current affairs hidden away from curious minds. Children who have not had the joy of learning turned into the chore of lessons and homework, are naturally drawn to finding out whatever their mind desires, to living in the flow of their learning. And parents of unschoolers are always on the lookout for things that might be of interest to their child, or that they think might be helpful for the child to know. The child lives with their eyes, ears, hearts and hands wide open to the world around them; the parent lives in much the same way, and also with a constant awareness of the child’s learning journey. Instead of being concerned that the child might have a gap in their knowledge, there is understanding that we all do, and the joy of unschooling is finding the juicy bits to fill in the gaps, building a beautiful mosaic of a life well lived, where learning is a byproduct of unschooling.

It’s as if we are going to breed a generation of experts in just one topic rather than well-rounded, educated adults.

Does it really matter if every adult doesn’t have a broad based knowledge in all the school subjects?  The idea of a society filled with “well-rounded, educated adults” sounds somewhat … boring!  If everyone has the same broad-based generalist education, we are highly unlikely to progress as a society. We need people who are intuitive and creative, who think outside the square, who follow their dreams and pursue their passions. So many of the world’s greatest thinkers and most successful entrepreneurs have been “school dropouts”. They weren’t by any stretch of the imagination lacking in intelligence or drive; in fact, by choosing to remove themselves from compulsory, co-ercive education, they showed their desire for autonomy and independent thought. Even the Harvard Business Review gives credit to the idea of society’s need for misfits and rebels, and of our need to be true to ourselves, rather than attempting to fit in and be like everybody else, or like what we think everybody else expects us to be.

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To learn more about unschooling, I highly recommend these sites:

Living Joyfully
Joyfully Rejoycing
Sandra Dodd

And these books:

                                                            

Gaming Helps Bullied Kid

Bullying is never, never, never okay.

But neither is it black and white. It is not a simple case of “bullies are bad, victims are good”. Bullies are usually people who are hurting badly, themselves, and looking for an easy target as an outlet for their own pain. I think the saying “Hurting people hurt people” is an insightful observation. I don’t want to bully bullies, because that would be ridiculous! Yes, they need boundaries, but they also need love and understanding.

I truly believe that putting 98% of society’s children in mass childcare for twelve to fifteen years, with 2% of society’s adults in control, is a recipe for disaster, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

I simply wanted to point out that in the above video about bullying, the boy talks about how gaming helps him to process and cope with some of the impacts of the bullying. I thought it was interesting to hear it straight from his mouth, because it helps to debunk the myth that gaming increases violence. In case you couldn’t be bothered watching the video clip, here is the relevant bit:

Gaming actually helps me a lot,
to calm down and get out of the troubling parts of my life,
and to clear my mind of things that happened.
It’s like you go into a different universe….
I wish to fly without anything to hold me up…..
I like Harry Potter and I wish I could do magic! 
I’d zip everybody’s lips, all the rude people’s lips.

Video gaming can help people to handle stress better, reduce their hostile feelings and reduce the likelihood of depression, which I imagine would be a factor for the boy in the above video. There are many other benefits, too.

It’s time to radically rethink our assumptions about things like gaming!

A Relaxed Road to Reading

Not one worksheet.
Not one piece of curriculum.
Not one phonics lesson.

Actually, I tell a lie. There was a very brief experience with “Reading Eggs” once, but she didn’t enjoy it, so never did more than a few games and activities.

I am speaking of my ten year old daughter.

She woke me this morning with the following words: “I started reading ‘Bindi’ last night. I got up to chapter five.”  She then proceeded to curl up on the bed and read some more. And she has barely put the book down since.

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The book she chose for her first ever chapter book to read alone was, unsurprisingly, Trouble at the Zoo by Bindi Irwin. We have previously loved reading this book series together, thoroughly enjoying all the animal adventures with Bindi and her brother, Robert. Due to her passion for all things Bindi and all things “animal”, I had purchased the books as we read them, so they were readily available on her bedside bookshelf.

Now don’t get me wrong, she hasn’t acquired the skill of reading in a vacuum. She has grown up surrounded by words, letters, books, magazines, video games, birthday cards, emails, Instagram, recipes, iPods, stories, board games, television, shops, computer games, Nintendo DS, street signs, pens, pencils, moving boxes, TV guides, libraries, bookshops, websites, shopping lists, notes from me, postcards, letters……

If you were surprised by some of the things on that list, you wouldn’t be the first person to wonder how television and video gaming and so on could possibly have an impact on learning to read; however, if you sit and watch a child doing any of those things, you will soon realise that they incorporate a lot of written language. A child who is happily engaged in playing a video game or watching a television show, will naturally and effortlessly absorb the written words as they do so. There are instructions to read, missions to complete, credits to read, TV guides to understand, words on the remote control and so on.

We are absolutely and thoroughly surrounded by the written form of our spoken language.

My daughter has never been to school, and has never done school-at-home (which is probably what most people think of when they hear that she is homeschooled).

As unschoolers, there is no forced curriculum, no expectations of “grade level”, no pressure to learn to read (or do anything else) by any particular arbitrary age.

We live life.

We play, sing, dance, explore, discover, experiment, relax, read, watch movies, play computer games and video games and, well, you probably get the gist of it!

Along the way, information is drawn in, observations are made, dots are joined, language is decoded, numbers are added and subtracted, and so on.

The tools of reading, writing and arithmetic are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. They are useful and enjoyable tools that are naturally used in the exploration of our interests. There is no pressure to “learn to read”, because it is something that simply happens along the way, in the living of an interesting life. Questions about words and spelling are asked and answered, without being turned into mini lessons. Without comparisons, pressure, tests and grades, there is a natural, intrinsic progression of understanding, as language is gradually decoded.

There isn’t a big leap from not reading, to reading. It is a progressive experience that, in an unschooled life, is able to follow its own course at its own speed. It is like a babbling brook, gradually flowing into larger streams, meandering around gentle bends, plunging down a gushing waterfall, and finally emerging into a wide river that flows out into the ocean filled with new experiences and opportunities. It is a joyful, gradual experience without trauma, and one that I have been so blessed to participate in, as I have provided resources, answered questions,  read stories, listened to early attempts at reading, encouraged, waited and observed this beautiful process.

This morning’s announcement really wasn’t a huge announcement for her. It was simply the next step in her journey.

There were a few moments during this journey when a friend or two commented that she “can’t read”, and for a while she echoed those seemingly definitive words. When this happened, I reminded her that she was learnING to read, just like we all are. That even adults are still learning to read certain words, and that she would gradually work it out. And she did, of course.

Not Always So Positive

I wish that learning to read could always, for all children, be as natural and relaxed and fun as learning to talk, and learning to walk!

I feel sad for the many, many children who are pressured to learn to read before they are truly ready, who are part of a system where children are compared to each other, and where those who are “behind” are given remedial help and a complex along with it, when really they probably just need more time. I feel sad that learning to read is turned into a structured sequence of lessons and readers, worksheets and tests.

I wish that all children could be supported in their learning to read journey, but not pressured.

For many children it is an extremely negative experience. In his brilliant book, How Children Fail, John Holt talks about some of the damage done to children in the name of education. For example,

“From the very beginning of school we make books and reading a constant source of possible failure and public humiliation. When children are little we make them read aloud, before the teacher and other children, so that we can be sure they “know” all the words they are reading. This means that when they don’t know a word, they are going to make a mistake, right in front of everyone. Instantly they are made to realize that they have done something wrong. Perhaps some of the other children will begin to wave their hands and say, “Ooooh! O-o-o-oh!” Per- haps they will just giggle, or nudge each other, or make a face. Perhaps the teacher will say, “Are you sure?” or ask someone else what he thinks. Or perhaps, if the teacher is kindly, she will just smile a sweet, sad smile-often one of the most painful punishments a child can suffer in school. In any case, the child who has made the mistake knows he has made it, and feels foolish, stupid, and ashamed, just as any of us would in his shoes. Before long many children associate books and reading with mistakes, real or feared, and penalties and humiliation.”

There is a better way to learn, and I would love to see more and more children have the opportunity to do it. Learning to read does not have to be hard, boring or stressful. It really can be relaxed, enjoyable and natural!

This post has been shared, along with lots of other “how they learned to read naturally” posts over at:

Learn to Read Homeschool Blog Hop

Radical Unschooling and Food

I was thinking, tonight, while preparing green quiche and salad for dinner, about how the principles of unschooling actually apply to food, in the simplest of terms. I mean, I get that they do, and it’s how we live, but I think many people don’t necessarily understand why food gets included in the radical unschooling checklist. Radical unschoolers often say, “Oh, we don’t put restrictions on food”, or “They can eat what and when they like” and sometimes I wonder if people are making those choices simply because they have heard that radical unschooling means extending the philosophy into all areas of life, which means “no limits on food, bedtimes, media etc”, so if they do those things, they will be “qualified” to use the term. I’ve been wondering how many people have paused to consider *why* radical unschooling means not arbitrarily limiting food.

Then there are others who are trying to embrace radical unschooling but really struggle with “letting go of limits on food”. They often  say, “But I just can’t let go of my beliefs about food!” or “Surely you wouldn’t just let your kids eat whatever they want! All they would eat is lollies and chips and chocolate!”

Many people seem to think that they will be automatically considered a “radical unschooler” if they jump through certain hoops and tick all the necessary boxes (There are others who like to use the name and NOT jump through the hoops, but we’ll save that for another day!). This is the typical checklist that many people believe will qualify them as bearer of the grand title: radical unschooler.

  • No curriculum
  • No limits on food
  • No limits on media
  • No forced bedtimes
  • No forced chores

Do all those things and hey presto! You’re a radical unschooling parent!!

But I think it is much more than this. It isn’t just about doing the things a radical unschooler does. It requires thought, contemplation and mindfulness. It requires some mental shifts, and possibly some discomfort as we unpack our baggage, conduct critical analysis and undertake courageous self-examination as to why we tend to want to control certain areas of our children’s lives, why we find some areas harder to let go of than others, and whether we can still be considered a radical unschooler if we, for instance, still make our kids eat their broccoli! Radical unschooling involves re-thinking the status quo, and delving deep within ourselves to find that place where we truly can trust our children’s natural learning process in every area of life.

My daughter, making herself a fruit salad whilst I was in another part of the house, oblivious to her culinary adventures.
My daughter, making herself a fruit salad whilst I was in another part of the house, oblivious to her culinary adventures.

I think it also really helps to contemplate *why* the things on that list up there are actually on the list! Why is it that radical unschooling involves removing arbitrary limits from things like food?

So I spent some time thinking it through and this is what I came up with.  I think, like with unschooling academics, it is a multi pronged approach:

* With unschooling, we honour what our children love and we support their passions. We don’t elevate one activity as being more “educational” than another. Even if it is something we don’t personally value, we still respect the fact that they see very real value in it. We hold fast to the truth that they are learning all the time, whether they are choosing to watch a television program, or read a book, or draw in the dirt, or research medical eugenics.

So also, with food, we honour our children’s freedom of choice regarding food. We provide the foods they love. We say yes to them when we are out somewhere and they ask for a particular food. We trust in their ability to learn which foods feel good in their body and which foods don’t. We trust in their ability to know when they are hungry, to know what foods they do and don’t like, and to know when they are full.

* With unschooling, we provide an enriching, interesting environment with a wide variety of resources and opportunities for the nourishment of their minds. The resources and opportunities are always available for them to choose to use, or not.

So also, with food….. If we restrict their exposure to only ever include “all natural, all organic”, or we restrict their access to foods they want to try, or we rarely ever provide fresh, foods, relying instead on a diet of processed food, it’s a bit like how unschooling might look if we only provided TV, or only provided outside play, or only let them read books. That really wouldn’t be a great unschooling environment, and their opportunities for learning, and discovering/enjoying what they love, would be seriously limited. And when they do one day discover the big wide world of “other foods”, they may potentially gorge themselves to the point of being ill, or develop an unhealthy obsession with “junk food” or find it very difficult to have a pure, unadulterated relationship to food. So instead, we stock our kitchen with nourishing, tasty, fun and interesting foods. We provide a wide variety of foods to nourish their bodies. We prepare “monkey platters“. We cook and prepare foods that our family will enjoy eating, and make all sorts of foods easily accessible and attractive to look at, readily available for anyone to choose to eat them. Or not.

* With unschooling, we strew new and interesting opportunities and resources before our children, for them to explore. Or not.

With food, we experiment with new cuisines and recipes, explore new tastes, take them to interesting eating places, buy the weird fruit….. We stimulate the senses with interesting new smells and tastes and colours and textures. We visit the local farmer’s market, talk to the growers, try the samples, laugh together at the funny dog who balances an orange on his nose, throws it up in the air and catches it (click the link and scroll to the bottom of that post for an awesome photo of one very cool dog)…..

* With unschooling, we provide information, but without coercion and manipulation.

With food, we provide information, but without coercion and manipulation! And for many of us, when it comes to food, we have to do a lot of that self-examination I talked about above to enable us to provide information without it becoming a mini-lecture, or, even worse, a long lecture! In the early days of radical unschooling, it can be quite difficult to do this without the child feeling pressure and manipulation, even if we think we aren’t pressuring or manipulating them! In an attempt to “teach their children about nutrition”, many parents cause their children’s eyes to glaze over, and their minds to wander, and their heels to dig in.

* With unschooling, we are not only interested in what they’re doing, we are interesting people ourselves! We pursue our own interests.

With food, we follow our own bliss, eating what we love, and learning about nutrition if that’s what we want to do. We eat mindfully and authentically. We don’t do this to try to subtly convince them that they should do the same, but because we are living an authentic life, and eating the foods that we want to eat. When a child is in an environment of trust and respect, without pressure to eat a certain way, they are far more likely to be positively influenced by the way we are living and the choices we are making. If that is a scary thought, and you really wish they wouldn’t copy your eating patterns, then reconsider the choices you are making, rather than getting stressed about the choices your child is making!

So there you have it! When we apply the principles of unschooling to the way we interact with food, we are moving towards what is often termed radical unschooling, or whole life unschooling. And trust me, it’s an AWESOME way to live!

Instead of Teaching

suli-breaksLet me introduce you to Suli Breaks.

The man with the voice. The speaking voice. The voice of insight, perspective and wisdom. I’ll let him do the talking and I really, really hope that as many people as possible do the listening. With ears wide open.

Here’s a teaser: “If education is the key, then school is the lock. Because it really never develops your mind to the point where it can perceive red as green and continue to go when someone else said stop, because as long as you follow the rules and pass the exams, you’re cool. But are you aware that examiners have a checklist? And if your answer is something outside of the box, the automatic response is a cross, and then they claim that school expands your horizons and your visions. Well, tell that to Malcolm X, who dropped out of school and is world renowned for what he learned in a prison.”

After the videos, I will share some of my thoughts about schooling, education and learning.

There’s some interesting stuff in those videos, hey? I’d love some feedback on what you got out of these videos, what you feel challenged by, and where to from here….

They have caused quite a controversy in this well-schooled society of ours, where the emphasis on “getting a good education” is often interpreted to mean dependence on an educational institution. There seems to be an idea that without forced schooling, no one will learn, and our society will go backwards; yet some of our most brilliant minds and most successful entrepreneurs are “high school drop outs”.

I find it hard to believe that being told what to think, how to learn, and what will be on the test, is a particularly successful way to educate all the children in a society.

What is education, anyway? Is it something that is done to a person? Is it filling a void with enough information to ensure opportunities for future “success”?

Is the onus of education on the teacher, or the learner?

What does “teaching” really mean, anyway?

It seems, to me, that teaching is something that is done to a person, learning is something a person does for themselves. In the words of the very wise Joyce Fetteroll,

“Teaching is putting information in; learning is drawing information in.”

Even when someone thinks they are teaching someone something, they are never really in control of what the other person is actually learning. Someone could try to teach someone that 2 + 2 = 4 and the other person could be learning that the person thinks they are an idiot! A child could sit in a school classroom and be “taught” by the most highly regarded teacher, and yet learn nothing from the lesson at all. They may, for instance, learn that “I don’t have autonomy here” or “I suck at maths” or “What I really want to do is not respected” or they may learn something of what is being taught.

Imagine, for a moment, two children with the same IQ, sitting in the same classroom with the same teacher. Will they both learn the exact same things?

We are all learning, all the time. What we learn is up to us. When we are seeking knowledge, information and wisdom, we can source our information from all the ends of the earth; we do not need to make our first port of call a “teacher”. All those years we spent in school where the teacher was the expert set us up for a future where we do not trust in our own ability to learn, believing instead that we need to ask someone else to teach us.

When someone “teaches”, they are supposedly the “expert”, the one with the knowledge. The learner is the receptacle.

Should a teacher be judged by what a learner learns?
Should a learner be judged by how well a teacher teaches?

When a child’s head is stuffed full of the knowledge deemed important by our society’s current educational authorities, does it leave them hungry for more? Are they able to retain the knowledge after they spew out what went in?

When a child is given the freedom to be curious, to ponder, to investigate “just because”, they will learn. When they are free to ask questions rather than being forced to answer them, they are more likely to still be hungry for more, and to seek nourishment for their minds, rather than needing to shrivel up their natural thirst for answers to allow room for parroting the answers to other people’s questions.

In her book, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, Grace Llewellyn writes an introduction that in itself is worth the price of the entire book. She tells a story of a young girl living in a forest, hungry for the beautiful fruit on the tree that is just out of reach. She longs for the day she can reach the fruit, and in the meantime enjoys all that she can discover on the forest floor. One day she is taken to a big ugly grey building by a man who tells her they will teach her how to reach the fruit. What she is fed there ruins her appetite for the real thing, and when she is finally able to reach the fruit, she no longer wants it.

As a mother of unschooled children, I am delighted that they enjoy the freedom to pursue what interests them, rather than spending their childhood sitting in a classroom with the masses of other children, all being taught the same things and all having to regurgitate it back on the same tests. It brings me so much joy to support my children in their interests. To honour their passion. To delight in the flow of their days. To take them to interesting places. To provide resources that are inspiring. To help them find the answers to the questions that keep on coming. To watch with wonder as I see them quench their thirst for knowledge, only to wake up the next day thirsty for more. It is a bit like drinking from an eternal fountain that never runs dry, and always leaves you wanting for more.

So instead of teaching, I show, introduce, discuss, facilitate, strew, provide, take, support, and partner with my children in their learning journey. It’s a wonderful life!

N.B. I have total respect for the hard work of passionate teachers. My post is about questioning the system, and looking beyond teaching, to the joy of learning, and hopefully empowering people to trust in their own natural ability to learn, rather than assuming they always need someone to “teach them”.

Do “Violent” Games Make People Violent?

I am a pacifist, yet my children have all played with toy guns, swords, and now “violent video games”.

Yes, the two things can go together! My children are not me! They have their own interests and values, and I have mine, and that is okay. In fact, it’s awesome! Not always easy, but definitely good. I did not give birth to clones of the wonderful me. I gave birth to children who are unique individuals, with their own ideas and preferences.

I still don’t love the sounds of (fake) war when they play “violent” video games, but I focus on delighting in their enjoyment, interest and passion. And for what it’s worth, they don’t go around doing any of it in real life.

What My Kids Think

My children all say the same thing: It’s just a game!

I recently had a great chat to one of my boys (aged 16) whilst sitting on his bed watching him play what most people would call a”violent” game. He was relaxed, leaning back on a soft comfortable lounge, chatting casually with me whilst simultaneously pressing buttons that caused pixellated digitalised “people” to be artificially obliterated before our eyes. I was wondering what he thought of the fears some people have about first-person shooter games and how they can tend to blame violent crimes on “violent” video games. At the time we were chatting, we observed that there were hundreds of thousands of people all around the world playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2 at the same time as him. We wondered whether any of them had ever, would ever, or were at that time actually hurting (or desiring to hurt) anyone.

Dec and Brady Gaming_unshackled

Tonight I asked my youngest son (12) what he thinks of these kinds of games. Here is his response:

It stimulates your brain. You think about the strategy. For instance, you might see someone on top of a building; you can’t get out of where you are and you don’t have the right weapon for longer range shooting, so you use your brain to work around the problem. Does it make you want to go out and kill people? No. The whole fact that you’re shooting guns is irrelevant. It’s a strategy game where you want to win the match and it’s intense, fast paced. You can ignore the fact that you’re killing people. You don’t think about that. You just think about getting extra scores. It’s irrelevant that it’s supposedly ‘shooting someone’.

I asked him, “When you play a game like that, do you find that it’s a release of energy? Or do you feel MORE stressed after playing?”

It depends what happens. If you lose by a lot or something unfair happens, it can be stressful I suppose, but otherwise it can be a good challenge and really fun. You feel like you’ve achieved something.

Being non-sexist and all, I decided to also ask my daughter (10) what she thinks. She doesn’t play “violent” video games as much as her brothers, but she does occasionally enjoy playing Halo. I asked her, “How do you feel when you play a game like Halo?”

I feel like I am the person and I’m in a big adventure. I feel free and I don’t think that it could make me violent in real life. Because I could never actually shoot someone.

She has also played Skyrim a little bit, which has awesome graphics, and would be considered more violent than Halo.

Yeah I think Skyrim is a little violent but it’s not like I would get a real life sword and stab someone! Sometimes I do find it a little freaky, but it’s just so much fun because well, it’s just fun!

I tried asking my 19 year old son, but he said his brain isn’t functioning well enough to formulate his thoughts into words tonight. He got up at the crack of dawn today, travelled three hours to go to TAFE college, and then another three hours to come home late today after a full day at his course. So it seems all his game playing hasn’t turn him into a “delinquent” after all! Nor did “shooting zombies” turn him into a zombie!

What Other People Think

Many, many people make the assumption that “violent” games cause violent behaviour.

If you consider the huge number of people playing these games, why aren’t all of those people being violent?

If you consider the huge number of people playing these games, isn’t it statistically quite likely that, if a violent crime is committed, the offender will be a gamer ?

Does this mean that “violent” video games cause violence? I think that is a fairly large leap to make, and it is certainly not in keeping with my real life observations of people who play these games. Nor is it in keeping with the many, many other radical unschooling families around the world whose children have been raised in loving, connected homes with no arbitrary limits placed on game playing. Nor is it backed up by a recent study conducted by Texas A&M International University associate professor, Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson. The results of the study suggest that “Violent games may help people work through their frustrations with real life and calm down without increasing aggressive behaviors in real life”. If a gamer (or anyone!) does commit a crime, it is pretty much guaranteed that there are some other pretty big factors involved; perhaps a dysfunctional family, bullying at school or a maladaptive personality. Rather than blaming the games, perhaps people could start using them!

There is a reason why I keep putting “violent” in quotation marks when referring to video games. There are some key differences between depictions of violence, and actual violence.

If you look at a person playing a first person shooter game, what do you see? A person, usually sitting on a soft, comfortable lounge, holding a plastic game controller in their hands, often chatting with friends, sometimes laughing, looking at pixelated images on a televisions screen, and certainly not hurting anybody.

If you look at a parent walking into the room where their child or teen is playing a “violent” video game, you may see the parent roll their eyes, you may hear an angry, frustrated tirade, you may observe a subtle or not so subtle judgment of the game and the person playing the game.

Which is more damaging to the gamer? The game itself, or the judgment of their choice to play it?

What would happen if parents could

  •   accept their child/teen’s choice to play a particular game
  •   delight in the fact that they are enjoying their chosen activity,
  •   trust that they will be okay, and perhaps even
  •   play the game alongside them!!

A child/teen playing games with the support, interest and involvement of a loving parent is much better off than a child who feels judged, shamed and guilty for playing. It’s certainly been true in our experience and I have discovered that I care much more about connecting with my child and respecting their preferences, than I do about connecting with the idea that “violent” video games cause violence. Because, to be honest, I just don’t think it’s true!

Recommended Reading:

An Unschooled Child Learns to Read

I didn’t teach my son to read.

He never did a workbook or followed a learn to read program. He never used “readers”. You know the ones:

The cat sat on a mat. 
The cat was fat.

Does that make me a bad homeschooling parent?

I don’t think so. In fact, it was a conscious choice not to “teach” him something I knew he was capable of learning without coercion or pressure or expectations or “lessons”. It was a well thought-through decision not to turn reading into:

  • a structured, sequential process
  • memorising a list of rules (most of which have about as many exceptions to the rule as keeping of the rule!)
  • a phonics program
  • any one of the multitudes of other “methods” for learning to read

I was tempted to use all those things! In the early days of our unschooling journey, my childhood dream of being a teacher had me perusing the homeschooling message boards and websites, searching through the plethora of learn-to-read materials produced by the billion dollar education materials sector. But I resisted. And I’m so glad!

Now don’t get me wrong. My son did not live in a wordless vacuum. He was living in a supportive family environment and getting out and about in the “big wide world”, and was therefore surrounded by the written form of our English language.

Our house was full of books.

We went to the library.

We read together. A lot.

He saw me reading. A lot.

We played games that involved – unsurprisingly – words and letters.

There were words all around him. On television (yes, even there), on street signs, in the letterbox, on cereal packets, in recipes, and so on.

And, being naturally hungry for knowledge as all unstuffed children are, he asked lots and lots and LOTS of questions. “Mum, what does that say?” And I would simply answer his question. Sometimes I would, in about one sentence, add something interesting, such as, “See the last two letters? A and H together say ah” and he would store it away in his busy little brain.

We went about our life, and then one day he walked out of his room holding a chapter book and simply said, “I read this book, it’s cool”. I think he was about six, maybe seven. Now I have to admit, I thought he was pulling my leg, perhaps just wanting to be like his big brothers who could already read! I asked him, curiously but not derisively, “That’s awesome! What was it about?” He proceeded to tell me the whole story! I was shocked!

To understand why, you need to realise that my older two children had learned to read while they were at school, so this was my first experience of partnering with a child who was learning to read naturally, without pressure, without “teaching” or testing or readers or programs. I tried not to jump up and down with maniacal parental pride, choosing instead to revel in his own happiness at his new skill, which had obviously been developing quietly inside his brain as he’d gone about his days, quietly decoding the written English language.

Looking through my highly disorganised old photos on the computer, I was unable to find one of my son reading but I did find this. During the time he was working out this "reading" thing, the kids discovered this fun little computer game where you could add your face to funny pictures. I found this one that my son had made, and think it's a perfect fit for this post because it shows how, even when "just playing" on a computer, our children are surrounded by letters and words! And, just as importantly, fun. :)
Looking through my highly disorganised old photos on the computer, I was unable to find one of my son reading but I did find this. During the time he was working out this “reading” thing, the kids discovered this fun little computer game where you could add your face to funny pictures. I found this one that my son had made, and think it’s a perfect fit for this post because it shows how, even when “just playing” on a computer, our children are surrounded by letters and words! And, just as importantly, fun. 🙂

Here in Australia, we have what is called “The Premier’s Reading Challenge”. It “aims to encourage in students a love of reading for leisure and pleasure, and to enable students to experience quality literature. It is not a competition but a challenge to each student to read, to read more and to read more widely.” One year I asked my son if he would like to participate, and he simply said, “No, I don’t need a certificate for reading. I just read because I want to read.” Now, I’m not saying that the Challenge is necessarily a bad thing, and I like that it isn’t a competition, and the book lists are usually quite inspirational, but I wonder how something like this achieves its goal of encouraging a love of reading for leisure and pleasure, when it is all about achieving goals and earning a certificate? Of course, if he had wanted to do the challenge, I would have supported him in that endeavour. I wonder, though, how many children participate in things like this to get the certificate, the recognition, the affirmation, and I wonder if that takes something away from the pure pleasure of reading as an experience in and of itself.

Another opportunity that was presented to my son a few times came from a friend who goes to school and likes competing. He would try to get a group of children to join him in a competition of his devising, whereby they would see who could read the most books, or the most pages, or for the longest time each day, etc. My son, again, was simply not interested. Again he said something like, “If I’m reading a book, it’s because I’m enjoying reading it, I don’t want to have to read more or faster to beat other kids.”

I love his authentic awareness of reading for reading’s sake, rather than to complete a challenge or win a competition.

He has read many novels over the past few years. Series such as Zac Power, the Andy Griffiths “Just” series, Beast Quest, Deltora Quest, Harry Potter, Narnia, The Ranger’s Apprentice, and many others. Over time he realised that he got bored with a series if it had too many books. He never did read the 10th book in The Ranger’s Apprentice series. And that’s okay. I’m glad he worked that out about himself, and I’m glad I learned to honour his preference.

Over time he has moved towards a preference for online and non-fiction reading. He gets most of his stories in electronic format through gaming or audio books. Initially I found this somewhat disappointing, as though it meant I was no longer this “amazing, successful unschooling mum whose son had learned to read without being taught”. I would keep suggesting a different book I thought he might be interested in, or I would put a novel in his christmas stocking, thinking it might reignite his interest in reading.

Eventually I remembered that he IS reading. A lot! It just isn’t in novel form. And realistically, what is so bad about that? Why are novels, and books in general, seen as the bees knees when it comes to the determination of knowledge and academia? He reads every single day. On his iPod. On his computer. On his Xbox. In gaming magazines. And so on. Books are one source of reading; there are many, many others.

Dr Alan Thomas is a developmental psychologist, author and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education. He has done a lot of research into how children learn informally, including the learning-to-read process. Here’s a video interview with him. If you want to skip to the bit about reading, it’s at 2.50

Have you got a story about a child who learned to read without being “taught”? I’d love to hear from you!

Wanna read some other encouraging stories of unschooled and homeschooled kids learning to read? Check it out:

Learn to Read Homeschool Blog Hop

 

Food Freedom in Action

I wrote recently about our journey to Food Freedom. Tonight after a bit of Valentine’s Day food fun, I realised it was a good example of what I was talking about before, so here is a snapshot of Food Freedom in action. 🙂

A sleepover on Valentine’s Day seemed like a good excuse to try out a new recipe: Raw Chocolate Hearts, made with raw cacao powder, pure maple syrup and organic coconut oil (I flavoured it with some peppermint essence for extra pizazz!) After letting it set for not-quite-long-enough in the freezer (because who can wait, really!?), the fun began!

The girls had fun cutting out some shapes in the not-quite-frozen chocolate
The girls had fun cutting out some shapes in the not-quite-frozen chocolate – it hadn’t had time to set hard so it was deliciously gooey and messy!
The tasting began and the verdict was………
A definite thumbs up!
A definite thumbs up!
Yummy gooey deliciousness, even for self-proclaimed non-chocolate-lovers!
Yummy gooey deliciousness, even for self-proclaimed non-chocolate-lovers!
Who needs shape cutters when God gave us fingers?
Who needs shape cutters when God gave us fingers?
Along comes one of the teens to see what the fuss is all about, and he has a taste...
Along comes one of the teens to see what the fuss is all about, and he has a taste…
Nah, I'd prefer to eat some grapes thanks
Nah, I’d prefer to eat some grapes thanks
Yum, that was nice!
Yummo! More for everyone else. 🙂
Five minutes after the eating of the raw peppermint chocolate, the choice for yet another child was grapes. Neither food was said to be better or worse than the other. It was all just food, and it was all delicious! No guilt, no judgment, just food.
Five minutes after the eating of the raw peppermint chocolate, the choice for yet another child was grapes. Neither food was said to be better or worse than the other. It was all just food, and it was all delicious! No guilt, no judgment, just food.

I am so glad we no longer have an environment of food tension, judgements surrounding food, guilt, shaming and control in our family. It is wonderful to have children who are free to really taste and enjoy food, even if it’s “unhealthy” or, God forbid, “junk” food. We’ll be waking up to freshly made vegetable juice in the morning, and it has absolutely nothing to do with having to “compensate” for the chocolate tonight. It just so happens that tomorrow is a juicing day. We’ll also have a fresh fruit protein smoothie for breakfast, made with home made raw nut butter and organic chia seeds from the Kimberleys in Australia, amongst other delicious ingredients. The smoothie is nothing to do with anything that was eaten tonight or at any other time. It just so happens to be one of our favourite breakfasts at the moment!

An Imperfect Unschooling Life

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been thinking of deleting this blog, or at least taking it offline. Why? Because, well, I’m not perfect. And neither is my family.

Bet you thought we were, huh? 🙂

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© Roza | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

I mean, don’t all bloggers have this amazing, perfect, ideal life? I guess you could be forgiven for thinking they do, but in reality, what you read on anyone’s blog is only ever a fraction of that person’s life. For the most part, people write about the good stuff. The “successes”. It can be scary to put yourself out into the public eye, opening yourself up to possible judgment and scrutiny, so it can be tempting to whitewash things a little bit, or shy away from writing about the challenges. Most people don’t want to have their weaknesses or bad days recorded forever on the world wide web, especially those who write about their children.

Like other writers, I don’t want my children to feel embarrassed by me sharing stories of them having a hard time, or struggling with something. (For the record, I do ask them for permission if I write about them, and they are old enough to have a preference. When people write about their very young children, I do wonder if those children, when they are older, may regret being a “household name”, but I guess it depends what is written. I know for sure that when parents write derogatory, insulting things about their children online, it is completely inappropriate. I’m sure you know the kind of posts I’m talking about. Shooting a hole in your child’s laptop, anyone? Making them stand in the street holding an embarrassing sign? No, thank you! I respect my children way too much to write about that kind of thing publicly. Or to do it in the first place.)

Just when I was thinking, our family isn’t “perfect” enough to have an unschooling blog, I received a super encouraging message about my writing, that caused me to think that maybe there is a reason to write after all (apart from the fact that I enjoy it, of course!). Then I remembered back to a time when a homeschooling mum came up to me at an event and thanked me for writing about unschooling. At first when she said, “I read your blog post!”, I was a wee bit worried, thinking she was upset with me, because she is a strict school-at-home parent. She surprised me by sharing that she had been challenged by my post, and her parenting and approach to homeschooling would never be the same. I was humbled, and encouraged, and I decided that if just one person is encouraged by my writing, it is worth it. If just one person is inspired to consider unschooling, it is worth it. If just one person is challenged to parent more respectfully and gently, it is worth it. If just one person is encouraged by knowing that a grieving mother can live a happy life even while carrying that love scar, it is worth it.

I hope to keep it real on this blog, to share a balance of both “successes” and challenges faced by this imperfect family. I think it is better for readers to see real and imperfect families living with hope, rather than elevated, seemingly “perfect” families presenting themselves on a pedestal behind a white picket fence.

According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, imperfect can mean a number of things, including defective, but the one that most fits what I am trying to say is: “a continuing state or an incomplete action”. In the words of Sonny in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end… if it’s not alright, then it’s not yet the end.”

We’re not finished yet!

We don’t need to wait for tomorrow to have a better day. There are plenty more moments left today. Right now. It’s what we do with each one that matters.

And for now, I will continue writing about it.

From one imperfect (unfinished) family to another, I send out love and encouragement to keep embracing each moment, living it to the full and forgiving yourself for the moments you regret and the weaknesses you perceive, remembering that the light still shines, and another moment is ready and waiting. Not tomorrow or next week or next year, but right here, right now.

Perhaps if all of us chose just one person to encourage each day, just as someone encouraged me, a multitude of people would be inspired to continue on with their passions, knowing that they really can make a difference and be an inspiration. Even if they’re not perfect.

Food Freedom

© Daemys | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Daemys | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

We did an elimination diet once.

We were convinced that our children reacted to certain foods, and being unsure which ones, we figured we had to either ban all suspect foods (which we’d been trying to do), or work out which ones were causing the problem. Like with most diets, we found it incredibly restrictive, and we didn’t finish the program. Like with most diets, we gained two pounds a whole lot of baggage surrounding the issue of food. We had been slowly heading in this direction anyway, assuming that most “bad behaviour” was being caused by foods the children had eaten. The elimination diet just sealed the deal.

Food went from being something we ate, to something we thought about, restricted and controlled. It went from being a benign substance, to a powerful monster.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that some people have food sensitivities. And eating those foods (if you are able to determine which ones truly do cause a genuine problem) can have annoying side effects. Then there are allergies, which obviously need to be taken much more seriously. The problem is, many people treat sensitivities and intolerances as seriously as they would if it was a life threatening allergy.

And most people also give food in general WAY too much power.

We all want the best for our children and ourselves, so many of us seek the “perfect diet”. What floats your boat? Paleo? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo vegetarian? Raw? Blood type diets? Nutritional typing? Atkins? A see-food diet? 😉

It really wasn’t meant to be this complicated! I know, I know, I can hear the cries of “But it would be different if we weren’t surrounded by all this JUNK food!”

In an ideal world, we would have easy access to an abundance of only natural foods, without the temptation of man-made or man-altered foodstuffs. But we don’t live in that world. Our children are surrounded by all sorts of food temptations, as we are. When we react to those foods with fear, judgment, lecturing, restrictions and controls, our children will no longer be able to have an unfettered relationship to food. It will become a powerful substance capable of inciting all sorts of power struggles within a family, all sorts of internal struggles and all sorts of drama and hang ups about an item that is primarily there to nourish and satisfy us.

Oh, but “sugar is addictive”! We can’t just let our children have free reign over food! All they’d eat is lollies and chocolate! They’d never eat anything other than junk food! They’d live on coke and chips!

Do you really think that’s true? Do you really think that a child living in a house filled with a wide variety of foods is going to only ever eat the “bad stuff”?

What about if there was no hierarchy of foods drummed into our children? What if it was just food? What about if they were TRULY free to choose?

Let’s say a child chooses to eat a bag of lollies for breakfast. (I’ve never heard of that happening, but I’m sure it’s possible, especially if they are never normally allowed to eat them.) Let’s say they also decide to eat a bag of lollies for lunch. What do you think they’d eat next time they were hungry? Do you really think they’d ONLY eat lollies, chips, coke and chocolate?

Chances are, they are more likely to eat those foods if they have been elevated on a pedestal and labelled “Bad” and “Forbidden”, which the child is mostly likely to interpret as “Good” and “Desirable”! Even then, they are extremely unlikely to live on a diet consisting only of “junk food”. They may binge for awhile, especially if they fear the foods will be taken away again soon, but before you know it they will develop a better relationship with food, eating when they are hungry, stopping when they are full, and choosing from a wide variety of foods.

In a research paper reviewing available data on the effects of parental feeding attitudes and styles on child nutritional behaviour, it was found that parents tend to use two primary forms of control regarding food: restriction (of junk food, and amounts of food) and pressure (to eat healthy foods or more food in general). Restriction of “junk foods” was found to have a positive outcome in the short term, but more negative effects in the long term, including increased intake of food in the absence of hunger, and a poor ability to self-regulate. Pressuring children was also found to be counter intuitive, with a further study specifically linking “pressure to eat” with a reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables. Generally, the research suggests that “In the long run, parental control attempts may have negative effects on the quality of children’s diets by reducing their preferences for those foods.” I highly recommend reading the above article (it’s not all that long, I promise!) if you want to understand some of the research showing the potential harm caused by parental good intentions when it comes to attempts at ensuring children have a “healthy diet”.

Here’s what my free-to-choose-their-own-food kids chose for breakfast today:

The older boys chose to have organic eggs from our own chooks, and toast.
The older boys chose to have organic eggs from our own chooks, and toast.
Declan's choice was a green smoothie
Declan’s choice was a green smoothie
chocbanananut(1)
Molly chose Chocoate Banana-Nut “Ice Cream”.
… which ended up being more delicious and fun inside a real ice cream waffle cone, apparently 🙂

I love finding delicious home made alternatives to commercially prepared foods. This one is a winner, for sure. Ingredients: raw cacao powder, frozen bananas and raw pecans. Recipe courtesy of the lovely Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking.

Most days they make similar choices, although it’s not often “ice cream”. The younger two mostly choose a green or fruit smoothie, or a raw breakfast of some kind; the older two teens typically eat our home-grown organic eggs for breakfast. Prior to getting chooks, they usually ate Weet Bix. 😉

Do our children eat a “perfect diet”? No.

Do I? No!

Will restrictions and fears and limitations help us eat a better diet? Maybe, for the children, for a short time (if you work VERY VERY hard at it, and are prepared to say no a lot and fight the ensuing power struggle). But at what cost? Will those restrictions, fears and limitations improve our relationship with food? Not at all. Will it improve our relationship with our children? Absolutely not.

Let’s imagine an entirely different scenario to the typical environment where parents exert a lot of restriction and pressure on their children’s food intake: Let’s fill our homes with delicious, nutritious foods, say yes when our children ask us to buy or make something in particular (unless of course there is an allergy involved), allow our children freedom of choice of all the foods in the house, and focus on our own choices rather than micromanaging theirs. Imagine a child growing up in this environment, without all the baggage and power struggles commonly associated with food.

To be honest, in our family we’re still recovering from our former experience with food controls, but I am SO glad we are on the path to true food freedom. I am so thankful for our unschooling journey, because it is due to this life of questioning the “have to’s” and trusting our children (within a context of loving, engaged parents) that I have been able to question the impact of micromanaging our children’s diets.

Does focussing on food and attempting to have lots of control over our children’s diets increase or decrease the power of food in our lives?