Skyler is an unschooling dad of three children and is the editor of Unschooling Dads: Twenty-two Testimonials on Their Unconventional Approach to Education. It’s not often that we get to hear about unschooling from the dad’s perspective, and I love that you took the time and effort to pull this book together. I really enjoyed reading their perspectives on unschooling.
In this episode, Skyler shares stories about his book, and his perspective on unschooling.
Quote of the Week
“We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Questions for Skyler
Please share with us a bit about your background and your family.
As you mention in the book’s preface, you were the one to bring the idea of unschooling to your family. That’s unusual—as I’m sure became aware, unschooling groups are, by far, mostly filled with moms. How did you find unschooling and how did you introduce your wife to the idea? What did that process look like?
The men whose essays are included in the book come from a wide range of backgrounds, from artists to entrepreneurs to college professors. What does that say to you about the appeal of the unschooling lifestyle?
I love that you organized the twenty-two essays around the contributors’ unschooling experience, from prospective unschooling dads, to junior dads, to senior dads. Was this something you planned from the start, or did that arrangement come about after you’d gathered the essays?
It’s so interesting to catch a glimpse of the diverse paths that people take to get to unschooling. Some find it as they actively move away from school experiences that aren’t working, while others find it as they move toward the philosophical principles that unschooling embraces. What’s your impression of the interplay of anti-schooling versus pro-unschooling throughout the book?
Last week I spoke with Sandra Dodd and we talked about the paradigm shift to joy that was part of our journey to unschooling. She wrote about it in her short essay, “Rejecting a Pre-Packaged Life,” and it was so fundamental for me that 12 years ago I named my website after it: livingjoyfully. You touched on it in your essay as well. I want to read a short quote from it:
My wife’s reluctance has faded quite a bit now that she’s witnessing our children’s joy. For me, that’s the primary focus of unschooling: helping our children live as joyfully as possible. Everything else will naturally follow from that. As long as our children are happy, they will have confidence in themselves that they can achieve anything they want to in life. I truly believe that, and unschooling is the better vehicle toward living joyfully than any schooling-based alternative.
Can you talk a bit about how joy became your primary focus of unschooling?
I love the epilogue! How being asked to write an essay for the book felt like homework to your friend Phil. Can you share the story and how it relates to unschooling?
What surprised you most about the essays you received?
Links to things mentioned in the show
Skyler’s personal website: skylerjcollins.com
Skyer’s Voluntary website: everything-voluntary.com
NOTE: You can find the Unschooling Dads book at either site.
Sandra’s essay: Rejecting a Pre-Packaged Life
Related blog posts
Book Review: Unschooling Dads, edited by Skyler Collins
The Fear of Your Child Choosing School
This is a great podcast episode. Thanks for sharing. I’m an unschooling dad too, so I appreciate the perspective that Skyler brings. I work rotating shift and flex hours, so I’m often around during the day to be present with my kids. I’m used to always being the only dad at our play groups and activities. Peter Gray’s writings were one of our first introductions to the unschooling philsophy, and we’ve taken inspiration from others like Sandra Dodd and John Holt, among others.
It is immensely rewarding seeing how my kids learn so much all on their own with little or no outside forcing. The computer and their imaginations have been their greatest teachers. I agree that learning should have intrinsic worth to the learner and not be coerced. However, I disagree with Skyler’s stance that if one is pro-unschooling, one must necessarily be anti-schooling. You can be pro both. It just depends on the person, the school, and the situation. Some people need more structure and mentoring than others, and schools can provide that. Especially during their formative years, kids need good role models. Ideally, they would get these at home, but sometimes those models may come from elsewhere, even school.
Your discussion of joy really struck a nerve with me. While I count my family’s unschooling journey an overall success so far, we have hit a significant rough patch for the past year or two. The joy has been sucked out of our household due to various factors, and as a result, I think a pure unschooling approach isn’t working well for our kids right now. My wife and I just aren’t in a position to help nurture good habits and a joyful outlook on life for our kids right now, and as a result, they have languished to a certain degree. I can tell because I see how much they light up whenever we go to a more structured activity or play group. This is a reason why we’re considering sending them to a small charter school next year. It may give everyone the breathing room and perspective needed to rediscover joy in our lives and decide the next step.
Again, thanks for this podcast.
Pam Laricchia says
Glad you enjoyed the episode, Brian.
And I love how your children’s needs are a top priority and you’re considering whether an alternative school might be a better choice for them, for now. In the meantime, if you find play groups etc light them up, try do that more often. Maybe chat with them here and there to get their perspective and feelings about the atmosphere at home and about the prospect of trying school.
When things are challenging, pulling into ourselves is a pretty natural reaction. For me, I know when I noticed myself doing that and consciously tried to open up more with the kids, life usually began to flow a bit more freely. Age appropriately, of course, but they can sense shifts and tension, so they often intuitively know something’s up.
Best of luck to you and your family, Brian!