Life Without School

One of the reasons that families are afraid to pursue life without school (unschooling) is that long term ‘success’ is not guaranteed.  

However, if we are being honest, we would have to recognize that nothing is guaranteed.  No matter how many classes, schools, tests, and workbooks an individual has ground through, no outcomes can be promised.  The future is so elusively ethereal that way.

The point is: life is a risk, one way, or another.

We choose our risk: the pains of freedom, or the pains of ‘the system’ (conformity).  They both have consequences.

We are risking on the side of freedom.

Sunny, with her Grandpa, manning my art booth at a recent pop-up sale.

I look at my teens, now: joyful, diligent, creative, hard-working, growing-in-wisdom, hilarious, co-operative, kind, generous, avid learners.  Lots of rough edges are still in the mix, but aren’t we all a work in progress?

They are pursuing life each day as it comes.  Opportunities to serve, work, learn and grow find them every day, and they rise to the challenges. 

Duke and Dorian, moving their aunt’s furniture to her new house.

They are living abundant, beautiful lives right now.  This is their reality: to be plugged into the joy of a creative, productive, peace-filled life!  They have an appetite for discovery, adventure, inviting atmospheres, good music, cultivating good economic sense, learning languages and business, stimulating conversation, apprenticing and serving.

They are doing life.  Now, already.

Why do we expect that at some magical point between 17-25 they will lose this glorious momentum?  Why do we assume that if they do not get some letters behind their name, or a fancy certificate, that their trajectory all of a sudden dips, or their potential maxes out, or the goodness of God somehow wanes?

Getting a degree or diploma can be a great investment, for the right kid, who chooses it.  But, why do we spend two decades orienting our entire family life around an application process for a college experience that may not even deliver for most of our children?

There’s no right or wrong in choosing to attend university.  However, as a family orientation point, it feels off.  Our kids don’t need the stamp of approval from giant educational corporations to thrive.  They can win at life in a million ways. 

Yet, who will be brave enough to try?

Getting it Backwards

I’m going to go a little rogue here and suggest that much of our effort in cultivating our children might not be entirely necessary, and may perhaps even somewhat damaging.  

As a parent, I have spent countless hours of my life teaching and instructing my kids, aiming to guide their thoughts, creating activities, pursuing opportunities, disciplining errors, and educating at every opportunity.  Desiring to guide my children into patterns of righteousness and relationship with God, I have filled their little hearts with instruction, with “shoulds”, with best practices, and pounded out teachable moments at every turn.

Deuteronomy certainly affirms that teaching and talking to our children is an aspect of a healthy development.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deut.11:19

However, I suspect that much of my teaching and talking over the years has stemmed from a place of fear, anxiety, and a need to control the “process” of my children.  It has had more of an urgent quality, a religious intensity, a panicked sheen of needing to “pack it all in” before it’s too late. {Granted, this has often been approached with creativity and warmth, but nevertheless was rooted in insecurity.}

This is very different in quality from the relaxed conversation, meditative reflection, personal sharing, and delightful engagement of real-time curiosity that stems from faith. 

As I have shed the need for my children to compete in the world’s systems, or to appear ‘perfect’ to the penetrating religious eye, to measure up to outsiders’ expectations, to behaviorially conform to ever-shifting expectations, or to be somehow something other than the God-filled life that they are (whether appearances support this reality or not!), I have discovered that ultimately it is me who is changing. 

As I change (live from hope, rest in God’s ability to be God, delight in my children), the atmosphere of our relationship changes, and in some miraculous way the children are freed to be good.  Without me constantly goading them, they are free to not resist me, and there is a radical new kind of peace manifesting in our home.

In all my striving to enrich my children, to prepare them for the future, to guide them into goodness I have discovered that:

“…the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent’s transformation and only secondarily for the raising of a child.”  – Shefali Tsabary

Raising our children is important, divine work.  But, I suspect that my approach has largely been off, as though nailing certain strategies, or covering particular topics, or perfecting certain approaches or routines were the recipe to raising my children well.  Jesus turned this all around, by reminding us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little ones.  Turns out, they are here for my sake, to draw me into the truer parts of myself, to aid me in shedding lies, false securities and comforts, to invite me into simplicity, presence and delight in God now.

“[What] we teach our children about God is almost a side issue.  In a way the less said about God, the better.  And then it must not be religious, or the children will find God irrelevant.  It must not be preach, or the children will find God trivial.  It must not be “should-ful” or they will reisist, rebel and reject.  Let God be God’s idea, occurring spontaneously and responsively to you and your children together.” – Polly Berrien Berends

God has our children firmly in His grip.  I wonder how much of our frenetic activity is what actually propels them away from this truth?

Me and my children are first God’s children.  Should I presume that I could out-parent Him?  He who so gently and generously dwells with us in every moment, pouring love upon love and grace upon grace over our home?

Let God be God’s idea.

On The Way

I feel like the life we lead requires a new term, a tidy new label.

We used to “homeschool”, then our slide from all the formalities delivered us into spaces usually labelled: “Life learning”, “Unschooling”, and “Delight-Directed Education”, etc. However, these all fall short of the way we encounter the world and have chosen to live within it.  Now, we are living in the present, alive to all it’s contour, beauty and possibilities; exchanging systematic plans aimed at a hypothetical future, for the joy of living life freshly alive to all the miracles and motion of *this* day.

Ultimately, I realize that labels are unhelpful as they begin to constrict over time anyway, and so I shall have to be content with the fact that we are simply on The Way.

We are learning to live from rest, to live from the absolute assurance that everything we need is supplied by the God who loves us.

This takes the chase out of education.  Bye, bye, panic, anxiety, hoops that wanted jumping through.

Education is now: life lived together.  It is God directing our steps and shining light on the path before us, prompting and guiding along the way.

This living-from-rest, this peaceful home-life, is dynamic and vital, pulsing with joy and grit and trust.  We practice the presence of God even as we eat, bake, sing, garden, vacuum, read, talk, laugh, dance, clean, run, work, organize, draw, create, enjoy, and revel in life together.

There is nothing schoolish about our life anymore.  I don’t even pursue “teachable moments” in a casual, off-the-cuff way.  It is like life in the good old-fashioned days before institutional tentacles strangled an entire culture and multiple generations, brainwashing humanity to think that we could only succeed if we followed their plan, swallowed their agendas, and earned their gold stars.

Freedom is a different language, a different reality.  And really, it is very silly of me to think that I could tie it up neatly with some kind of label.

Getting It Done

A drawing by nine-year-old Tucker

My husband and I are giving a talk together tomorrow at a homeschooling conference.  We’re down to the line, and we’re trying to brush up the last details of our presentation.

Our talk is on Learning in Freedom (large family style), and it is titled “Treasure Hunt: Discovering Our Children”.

But, we can’t seem to focus and get the project wrapped, because: LIFE!!

This morning alone, we’ve had two children needing help on their stop-motion projects, one applied to an exciting aviation opportunity before working on his first quilt, one is doing an online search for a pet goat (for milk to make soap with), another is looking to purchase his first car, while one makes a slew of adorable little puppets on popsicle sticks.  Someone else is finishing up cleaning the breakfast dishes, while another sings (from memory) every single song from “The Greatest Showman” at top volume, and one is soaking cranberries in a cup of water(?), even as someone else vacuums up the popcorn beneath our feet from last night’s movie night.

The life in this house is just barely containable!

The words “overflowing” and “abundance” come to mind.

We are dreaming, and working, and trouble-shooting all the live-long day and it is amazing.  We are seeing God provide just what is needed just in time for each one of us. 

There is no fear, no anxiety, no pressure, just an awesome sense that the future is exciting and we get to *rest* our way into it.  Could it be this easy?!

She Glowed

Yesterday, I watched Poppy (4) playing with a long red shoe horn and six small blue paintbrushes.  It was remarkable to me because the scene was so beautiful: the sun soaked her spot on the carpet, bathing her in light as she played.  She was dressed in her white ‘dance clothes’, and her hair was large – matted in that indefatigable tangle that haunts many little girls who don’t like brushing their hair – almost like a knotted halo.

She spent a good 30 minutes sliding those paint brushes up and down the shoe horn, experimenting with different angles and whether or not leaning it on the couch would make the paint brushes slide faster or slower.  Sometimes, they fell off, and she would rearrange the brushes to fit better on the horn.  While left alone in her own little world of observation, she was completely absorbed in her experimentation with these unlikely objects.

Unlike current modes of education where adult interference and direction ‘guides’ the ‘learning’, I did not intrude in order to teach her something.  I did not ask her questions to test her experience; I did not presume to interfere with her good work, by prompting her to count the paintbrushes or tell me the colour of the shoe horn.

Instead, I let her be.  I let her be alive in the moment, allowing her life the space to breathe and be present.  Rather than impose on her a slurry of factoids, as though I know better than her how to spend 30 minutes of a Wednesday morning, instead I become her student and learn from her ‘the art of attention’, the beauty of quiet wonder, and the joy of simple things.

In honouring her process, in allowing her space, I am giving her the room to grow, and the pace that she needs to thrive.  An untethered childhood can be a place of restful discovery that is fully meaningful, impactful and educational, as delight can guide this little soul in a way that goading never can.


There is something about womanhood that has been so tamed, restricted to debates about roles, work, and tips on how to deal with the pressures of life. Woman-hearts have been scattered into boxes of emotional and mental survival tactics, guilt-handling, pressure management, hurdle jumping, relationship negotiation, doing more, and striving for goodness in a land of confusion.

There is more.

There is a radical womanliness that flows with an awareness of a reality that glows with the Divine pulse of our Creator. It’s aroma is freedom, and it’s expression is the presence of a rested, trusting Love, absent of fear.

We lift our eyes off of the grids and patterns of the world, and no longer orient our hearts, our vision, our dreams, or plans to the illusions presented there.

Our eyes remain on the power and presence of God alone.

As we secure the eyes of our heart on the True Reality of God’s power and goodness, we begin to live from a place of security, love and peace. When we enter this rest, we begin to explore the expansiveness of who we are: those who bear the DNA of a mighty, unfathomable, remarkable God.

“How can an infinite power, a creative Intelligence, have an image and a likeness? How can an invisible nonquantifiable force be imaged and reflected and manifested through individuals?” -Thomas Hora

Imagine! In some supernatural, indescribable way, the Creator has funnelled His formless magnificence into this form we call our body.

Yet, we often choose to live constrained to the laws of this world; the mini-mindsets, the unceasing waves of thought that endorse division, judgement, lifestyle burden, duality, the agreement with pain and fear… the very places where Jesus broke through the mesmerism with True Reality.

When we become aware of the illumined nature of our source, we begin to see that we too, are blessed. We are no longer a list of symptoms, a catalogue of interests or giftings, a bundle of earth-bound contradictions, or an assortment of various limitations.

We are glorious.

We are vessels of vitality, we are co-participators in the bliss-life of God. We have these bodies to act as channels between heavenly dimensions and this earth-space. As women, we seed life in our wombs, we take on the grand invitation to create, we engage the journey with ecstasy and delight, because we are so much more than the limited laws, promises and lies of this reality.  

This is the faith life.

It takes a walking away; a transformation, and a willingness to disempower the systems of this world in our minds before we can ‘see’ the upside-down glory of spiritual freedom that is ours.  All that needs to happen is for it to be realized.  Not made, not willed, not strived for, but simply realized.  

Then, you will find out the woman that you are.  {This is the woman that religion, a law-bound life of obligation, a sin-awareness, and a focus on ‘best practices’ has been hiding from you.}

You will dive deep into the expressions and beauty of your true nature, disregarding what ‘appears as true’ for that which is eternal and real.  And you will begin to radiate with courage and boldness and beauty, as you risk leaving the tameness of this world for the wild glory of life with an infinite God who made you better than this temporal illusion ever wants you to realize.

The nature of this world is to protect and endorse it’s hypnotism at all costs, through limitation, burdens, judgement and fear.

Yet, when we begin to live from freedom, it threatens the security of the grid of this world… creating cracks for the light to shine through.

We are the light of the world, simply be the instrument for the light to get  through!