I’m excited to share some information and thoughts around the survey I put out last month. Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to participate—I really appreciate it!
So, 336 people participated in the survey, anonymously.
The first question was …
Where do you live?
53.5% of the respondents were from the US, 14% from the UK, same from Canada, and 5% from Australia.
And 13.5% are from other countries including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Lithuania, South Africa, India, China, TaiWan, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Cayman Islands, Mexico, and Argentina.
And a traveling family too!
I love seeing the spread of unschooling around the world.
The next question was …
Where are you on your unschooling journey?
About 14% of the respondents haven’t started unschooling yet, they are learning about it to see if it is right for them. That’s wonderful! I love that you guys are curious and are actively trying to learn.
17% have been unschooling for less than a year, so, I imagine, most of you are actively deschooling. It’s an intense time, with mind-blowing a-ha moments alternating with panicky moments of “What am I doing??” Hang in there and keep learning, keep spending time with your kids, it will come together!
The largest chunk of our respondents, 41%, have been unschooling for between one and five years. I love knowing so many of you have made it through your first year! Most often, by this point, the panicky moments are fewer and further between. We’re comfortable with how well unschooling works for learning, and now we’re discovering how it weaves so wonderfully into everyday living—unschooling becomes a lifestyle. My conversation last week with Kelly Callahan is a great example. She has been unschooling for four years and is now seeing unschooling connections in practically every aspect of their lives.
That leaves 28% of respondents who have been unschooling for more than five years. And I love that you guys are here! Because our learning and growing is never done, and continuing to look at our lives through the lens of unschooling is a spectacular way to stay connected with our children, our partner, and the kind of parent and person we want to be.
What is your biggest unschooling challenge right now?
I got 329 answers to this question, thank you!
As I go through them in detail, one thing I’ve learned is I need a better way to help you guys find specific podcast episodes related to various kinds of questions! Someone mentioned that too, in answer to another question.
Not that there are definitive answers, but with over 100 episodes, there are conversations, thoughts and perspectives shared by my guests and I, that touch on so many of the unschooling challenges people encounter along the way—including a good number of the ones mentioned here.
But I realize there’s no reasonable way to find them! Who has time to click through to every episode to scan through the questions looking for something specific? I want to see if I can better tag and group episodes by topic or challenge so these conversations are easier to find.
In the survey, someone suggested maybe putting together podcast episodes with snippets of various episodes focused on a particular challenge. That sounds like it might be an interesting idea. Some of the episodes are deep-dives into a topic, but those topics also get mentioned in other episodes as well, depending on the guest’s experience.
Another piece of the puzzle may be that school has so ingrained the idea that once you do something, you tick that box and there’s no need to go back to it, that people don’t even think to go back to old episodes. But even if someone listened to the episode six months ago, if they weren’t having this particular challenge at the time, that part of the conversation probably passed them by. That’s not a slight at all, it’s how we learn—we pick up what connects to us in that moment we’re listening. So, I’m going to try get better at sharing earlier episodes on Facebook, to help people discover the many gems that are there.
And I know we’ve talked on the podcast about the value of revisiting information and ideas a few months later. Often you find that things make even more sense now and you gain new insights, because since then, you’ve grown and changed.
In the responses are also ideas for new topics and questions for me to tackle on the podcast, or on my blog, or maybe in a new book.
Thanks for taking the time to share your current challenge.
Then there were a few questions that are likely more interesting for me than you, like how people found my work, which of my books they’ve read, and how they like to read, meaning print books, ebooks etc.
The interest in audiobook editions was pretty much split down the middle. Which means that about half of you would like them, so I’m going to put recording them higher up on my to do list.
As for translations of Free to Learn, there were 9 requests for Italian, 4 for German, a couple for Japanese, and a few other languages. Including Klingon, which was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh.
The next question was whether the respondent listens to the podcast, to which 75% said yes, which is very cool! And for those who prefer reading to listening, I have the transcripts and newsletter summaries. I am keen to continue having the information and insights shared by the podcast guests available through both channels so anyone interested can choose their preference. The draft transcripts for the older episodes have almost all been done too! I just need to get them formatted and up on the website.
Next up …
Which kinds of episodes do you enjoy?
The top five episode types were:
- Individual topics with unschooling parents
- Q&A Round Tables, the monthly episodes with Anne Ohman and Anna Brown where we answer your questions
- Growing Up Unschooling, interviews with grown unschoolers
- Ten Questions episodes, with veteran unschooling parents
- Deschooling episodes, conversations focused on the transition to unschooling, often with newer unschooling parents
Unschooling Dads episodes were the runner up.
That’s great stuff to know to help me plan future episodes!
Speaking of, 169 respondents answered the next question about topics they’d love to see covered on the podcast.
Thanks so much for the outpouring of ideas! It’s energizing to be able to swim in so much inspiration! And again, some of the topics have been touched on in previous episodes, so, figuring out the archive discoverability piece will be really helpful for you guys, I think.
Next, I asked about the Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit and over 50% of respondents said they were interested in more information. That’s awesome and here’s your opportunity! Summit registration opened TODAY! You can find all the information at childhoodredefined.com. I’d love to have you join us for this Winter’s Expedition.
And lastly, I asked if there was anything else they’d like to share, and 226 people generously answered.
Many of you took the opportunity to share your appreciation for my work, and I was so touched. Thank you. It’s great to know that you’re finding my work helpful on your unschooling journey. That is what I LOVE to do.
There were a few that I thought would be interesting and/or fun to talk about.
Someone asked about my Myers Briggs type. Haha. INTJ. To me, unschooling and the unschooling journey are both amazingly complex systems and the systems thinker in me just LOVES trying to make sense of them! I’ve spent three years now working on my next book, The Unschooling Journey: A Field Guide, which looks at our unschooling journey through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. It’s been fascinating work and I’m SO excited to finally be releasing it soon!
Another person shared they found the podcast by googling something like, “How can I find more joy in my life.” How cool is that??
A number of people mentioned they really enjoy the newsletter summary of that week’s podcast episode, which is good to know because they take at least a few hours each week to put together.
A couple of people asked about whether I’d be interested in coaching online. For me, I know it’s not one-on-one, but the Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit is basically my take on coaching.
I love sharing information and insights about unschooling through the podcast, my books, and my website. And you’ve probably heard me talk on the podcast about how there’s intellectually understanding unschooling—that’s the first step—but then there’s that next step—the real, personal work of actually bringing it into your family’s everyday lives. That’s what Anne, Anna, and I focus on in the Summit. And we’re there, engaging with the participants in our private Facebook group, answering any questions that arise as they work through the content, and as they go about their days with their children. We dig deep in there. Again, you can check it out at childhoodredefined.com.
One respondent shared, “In 2009 we lost our always unschooled 19-year-old to a seizure in his sleep. Nothing could have made me more grateful for our unschooling life and all the time we had together.” I’m so sorry for your loss. And thank you for sharing a great reminder that we don’t know how long we might have with our children, and that spending our time with them in joy NOW is so meaningful—they are a real and whole person from the moment they’re born.
Someone asked about videos. The Summit has videos! I’ve been getting more comfortable with video and this year I plan to record some of the talks I’ve given over the last few years, as well as newer ones I’ve written for online conferences and events.
Another person mentioned they’d love the podcast to be less scripted. That they enjoy the natural flow of the Q&A and feel the other episodes would benefit from a less structured format. I found that so interesting!
Just to share a little behind-the-scenes, the only shows I make notes ahead of time for ARE the Q&A episodes. I usually spend 2-3 hours prepping for them, contemplating the listener questions and making detailed notes—often it takes some mulling things over before possibilities and insights arise.
For the interview episodes, yes, I spend at least that amount of time prepping: contemplating the topic, researching the guest, writing the questions, and arranging them in an order I think will keep the conversation flowing. But then, I’m done. Once we get on the call, I like to let the conversation flow wherever it wants to go, so, I don’t have any prepared notes for those episodes.
That said, how other people experience the episodes isn’t wrong. It reminds me that I create the work and once I release it, it’s out of my hands—I have no control over how people connect to or absorb my work. And I don’t want to. And, all of a sudden, my work is feeling closer to art than ever before.
One last comment I wanted to share. One respondent wrote, “I’d love your interviewees to be people who live and love unschooling, I know a couple of your interviewees in real life and although they have picked up how to talk the talk pretty well, the depth of living unschooling is not there.”
I appreciate the point and it’s one that I’ve contemplated ever since I started the podcast, because I don’t know the majority of guests personally.
But as I thought it through, I realized that we are all on our own unschooling journeys. And, as I mentioned a bit earlier, the first part of the journey is about intellectually understanding the principles of unschooling and how it works—which means being able to “talk the talk.” To know what they are walking toward.
I strive on the podcast not to have conflicting information about the principles of unschooling nor about ways to develop the strong, connected, and trusting relationships with our children that help unschooling thrive—I don’t want to confuse people.
But the next stages are about learning how to weave that understanding into the reality of our everyday lives. That takes time. And that is where I try to help the podcast shine, talking about what we’re walking toward on our unschooling journey and sharing the treasures found, the mis-steps taken, the insights revealed, and the skinned knees that happen along the way as we explore this unschooling path.
Sometimes our actions fall short of our ideals. Sometimes, because life—and the people in our lives—are always changing, there are times when we’re struggling to re-connect with our children, to get back in step with the dance of our relationships. So, I don’t think someone needs to be near the end of their journey to have valuable experience and insights to share.
It is a solid point though, thanks for mentioning it.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our wonderful community!
And thanks again for those of you who participated. 🙂