Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lessons of Unschooling

I recently gave a talk at a wonderful and stimulating event in the White Mountains of New Hampshire called Life Rocks, which was a week-long gathering of families who are on the cutting edge of freedom in parenting and education. Founded by Dayna Martin with her husband and kids, the event brings together hundreds of families to share and explore their experiences, wisdom, and vision for a family-centered child-rearing experience, to encourage their children to become creative, capable, confident, and happy adults.
Author of Radical Unschooling, Dayna also directs the Rethinking Everything conference in Texas in August. She was my guest on my radio show "Family First," and I encourage you to listen to the show at
Not all families will want to educate their children at home, though more and more are choosing to do so. Those who have done it have learned much that can be of value to those who have chosen to take advantage of our many kinds of school systems. The contrast between letting kids learn what they need through living rather than formal schooling and sending kids to school for twelve to twenty years is often dramatic. Most notably, the children do not come to assume that someone else is in charge of their schedule, their learning, their work contribution, and their income. They take responsibility early for their own future.
In my book The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, I included an Appendix describing why my husband and I decided to educate our son and daughter at home. In brief, it was primarily to give them more freedom to explore what they were most interested in at any given time and to give us all more family time so that they could learn more from us, their parents, as well as to have more fun enjoying each other as a family. You will find much more detail in the book, but my point is that all parents can focus on these things without going all the way to home education.
What we find in family-focused child-rearing is that children are naturally curious, naturally want to learn, and don't need to be prodded, "taught" responsibility, caring, or contribution. They want to help, want to do important things, want to imitate the adults they respect.
Making time together is the most important thing you can do for your children. Choose things you like to do and share these with your child. Then pick things they like to do and facilitate their activities and your own participation. Create an example of inquisitiveness in your own life. Create lots of opportunities for seeing, hearing, exploring, traveling, reading, playing, dancing, drawing, singing, building. If your child is in school, it's harder to find these times, but maximize the opportunities during vacations and on weekends. Don't let school and sports and extracurricular activities prevent your time together.
Child-led learning is the natural pattern among traditional peoples and it works just as well for us now. The best teachers in our school systems try to tap in to what turns a child on and show them their own competence around that subject to bolster their performance in other areas. Who is in a better position than a parent to know their child's passions, needs and wants? And who else can figure out better what each child needs for guidance, healthy limits, and healthy freedoms at different ages and stages? Too often today parents are asked to abdicate this all important role. Hold on to it and your children will thrive. You will be happier too!
Randy Rolfe Take Home Tips: You Can Postpone Anything But Love.TM Making time to be with your children is the best thing you can do as a parent. Children learn by example and you are it! See that your lifestyle and relationship habits model what you want from your child, and be there to help them interpret what they see and hear from the all-pervasive media. Make time to do fun things together and to listen to their stories. Take time to find out what they would like to do to have fun. Go hiking, watch a game, play a video game with you, go to a fancy restaurant, visit a dairy or a TV studio? Whatever it is, make it happen together.

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