This week I’m sharing part 3 of the audiobook edition of my book, The Unschooling Journey: A Field Guide.
One thing I love about looking at our unschooling lives through this lens is how intimately it connects us to the human journey, which can help us feel less alone. Recognizing that yes, other people really do go through these stages and struggles and they come out the other side. We will too, even if we don’t yet know how our particular path may unfold. It’s fascinating how universally human the journey is. How, through the journey, we find our connection to humanity. But that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
So, last week, we dove into stages three, four, and five. Here’s a brief recap to remind us where we are:
As we enter Stage Three, Finding Our Guides, we’ve chosen to accept the call and embarked on our unschooling adventure. And, as with many tales, when we begin our journey in earnest, a guide appears. Mythologically speaking, guides tend to be elderly—think Dumbledore and Obi-Wan Kenobi. But in a fun unschooling twist, I discovered the most important guides on my unschooling journey were my children. I came to see that, for me, fear often began to take root in my thoughts when I had become a disconnected from my child. I would get stuck in my head, leading to more disconnection and more misunderstanding, which then fertilized my growing worry and a downward spiral ensued. Eventually, I’d remember to look at my kids again. My guides. I’d see them playing with such determination. As we engaged more, I’d see their joy and enthusiasm. I’d notice the new things they’d learned since I got pulled into my head and away from them. They brought me back to what I already knew: unschooling rocks!
In Stage Four, Crossing the Threshold to Unschooling, we find ourselves matching wits with the threshold guardians. I noticed I felt challenged in three different areas, which so interestingly aligns with the three heads of Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Greek mythology who stood guard at the entrance to the Underworld. Head #1 tests our our resolve to leave the ordinary world. Often it’s family and/or friends questioning our choice to not send our kids to school. Head #2 tests our worthiness to enter the new world. As we engage with more experienced unschoolers—online or in person—chances are we are going to feel challenged by new ideas. We can feel like we’re being rejected by the new community we so excitedly want to join. And head #3 is more recognizable: securing permission to homeschool. It can be tempting to approach these gatekeepers adversarially, but they serve a useful purpose: to ensure we understand the applicable education laws/policies and legal implications of our choice to homeschool.
Stage Five, Embracing Beginner’s Mind, is all about transitioning to a learning mindset. As we begin this stage, for all our excitement about entering this new world, we’re also still fearful of letting go of the old one. We want the two worlds to mesh. We seek out compromises. We sign our kids up for classes, just not in school subjects. We encourage our kids to engage in skills that schools prize (say, writing), but in non-schooly ways (“Why don’t you write in your journal today?”). What we need is to find the courage to left up that second foot and leave the ordinary world behind once and for all. This is our metaphorical point of no return. This the last stage of the departure phase of our journey symbolizes this transition: it describes the hero’s figurative death in the ordinary world and their rebirth in the new one.
This week, we enter the Deschooling phase of our journey and find ourselves on the aptly named Road of Trials. In stages six and seven, we are asked to confront some fundamental truths about learning and parenting—and they look very different than they did in the ordinary world.
Remember to bring the fresh eyes and child-like curiosity of beginner’s mind with you!
Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey framework, ‘The Unschooling Journey’ is a weave of myths, contemporary stories, and tales from my journey. It’s not a “how to” book—no two paths through the world of unschooling have the same twists and turns—yet having a general sense of where you are on your journey can bring valuable insight as you navigate the challenges that will inevitably appear. I share this book as a field guide to the stages and characters you are likely to encounter in some form on your unschooling journey.
And the print edition is also a journal! In the print edition, you’ll also find plenty of room to document your journey along the way. Hema’s illustrations are printed full page for you to colour as you contemplate your journey, there are journal pages for writing down your experiences and clarifying your thoughts, and even blank pages for doodling and sketching.
You can purchase the print edition on Amazon, or find it on most other online print book retailers.
And for listeners who prefer interview-style episodes, this week I’ve selected episode 96, Ordinary Unschooling with Anna Brown and Pat Robinson, first released in November 2017. Anna and Pat have both always unschooled their children—we talk about the idea of “unschooling success stories,” the impact of the conventional “independence agenda” which starts very young in our culture, the incredible value of ordinary unschooling days, and lots more.
I think it’s so valuable to consider what extra-ordinary goals we might be contemplating for our children and why. There is much kindness, grace, and contentment to be found in the ordinary.