Dispelling the Myths of Unschooling

By Cathy • November 21st, 2010

People see unschooling as limiting. But actually it is expanded learning. Institutionalized learning is limited.

 

Removing the Judgment

Recently, I sent a blog article into cyberspace entitled, “Life Lessons from a Nerdy Gamer.”  In that article, I mentioned that I chose to unschool my children.  This was not the theme of the article.  I offered it as a conclusion to explain why I saw value in electronic gaming when other people saw gamers as lazy and unmotivated.  I didn’t think much about it, unschooling has been part of my life for a long time and has become normal.  But other people thought my point of view was very strange.  Many labeled me an unfit parent (and those were the kind ones); others were just curious and wanted more information.  So this article is in response to those who asked for information, and it is also for those who judged since judgment is usually caused by bad information.

 

What is Unschooling?

People often assume that unschooling is a rebellious stance against education.  I cannot speak for everyone.  However, in general, the idea that it is against education is a faulty assumption that can be corrected simply by studying the word unschool.  The prefix un means not.  For example, someone who is unkind is not kind.  What is the definition of a school?  One could say that it is a building where people go to learn, a place where education is expected to happen.  Some say it is an institution for learning.  So unschool means not a school, not a building, and not an institution.

If you don’t learn in a building or institution, where do you learn?  Everywhere!  The world becomes your classroom.  The idea of learning at school tends to be limiting.  Our mind starts to associate learning with the building.  When that occurs, opportunities for learning are sometimes overlooked because the student is not in the proper building.  If we are bored when we are in the learning building, we may even try not to learn when we leave that building.  I speak from my own experience.  I was so unhappy in high school that learning became something to be avoided.

So unschooling means learning from life, learning from everything.  Seen properly, the unschooled child has much more educational time and opportunity than one who goes to a building for learning.  Children who attend school often turn off their brains when they come home—they are so sick of forced learning that they often move into an unlearning mode as soon as they exit the school door.   But learning for the unschooled is like breathing.  You don’t turn it off and on.

If you are playing a game, you are learning.  If you are watching television, you are looking for new ideas, improving your vocabulary, or discriminating between truth and mere beliefs.  If you want to know something, you get online or hit the library and research the answer.  Your learning is independent of a place, a time, and a teacher.  Consequently, it has no reason to stop.

 

Who Teaches the Unschooled Children?

In an unschool environment, everyone is a teacher; and everyone is a student.  The child teaches the parent/teacher just as often as the parent/teacher tutors the child.  This is the part that seems to be difficult for many adults.  Unfortunately, most people accept the belief that adults teach and children learn; and if a child does offer something that is not in conformity with the adult’s point of view, they are labeled disrespectful.  This is really a subtle form of elitism that turns children off from learning and stunts creative thinking.

When you have no limit on where you learn and no limit on who can teach you, your life becomes a constant quest.  Every moment has the potential to be life changing.

 

What Do the Unschooled Do All Day Long?

So what does an unschooler do all day?  They learn 24 hours a day.  They learn on holidays.  They learn during summer vacation.  They learn on weekends.

But, here is the key; no one tells them what to learn.  They get to decide that.  This causes the line between learning and play to become very fine.  My children did have loose guidelines created by the private school service that acted as our mediator for state requirements.  I’ll explain that later on.

In time, the children learn to follow their inspiration; and their choices get better and better.  You see, something inside of us knows everything we need to live our best life.  And everyone has followed that inner voice of inspiration to a successful conclusion at some point in his or her life.  The average person does that some of the time; the unschooled child attempts to do that all of the time.

I didn’t stand in front of the room and draw on a board.  However, if they asked a question, I’d answer it.  If they asked for lessons, I did my best to help them find the best teacher.  If they asked for resources, I often helped them search for good ones.  I also shared interesting things that I learned with them.  I invited them to classes that I attended.  I helped them complete the forms required by the state.  Without the limitations of the school schedule, we could travel to places of interest and experience places and people first hand.  I was a consultant regarding their education, not a dictator.

Learning was completely natural and effortless to my children as long as I kept my mouth shut and my mind straight; and believe me, that took some practice.  Remember, I was raised in the system.  I was terrified when I started down this road.

I realize that most of the people who judge me do so out of terror since humans have been conditioned to believe that different is bad.  People believe that if you don’t feed children information, they won’t learn anything.  In truth, we get what we expect from children.  Unfortunately, few teachers realize that.  They set their expectations way too low.

 

Adults are Afraid

As parents, we often try to force learning on our children out of fear that they won’t make it as adults.  Just take a trip to a museum.  Most parents are forcing their children to read every sign as the kids give the parents a look that says, “I hate you and wish you were dead!”  Forcing kids to learn only makes them shut off unstructured learning potential.

Often we went to a museum and my children found it boring because it was only about the past or the museum didn’t present both sides of the issue.  My kids wanted the full truth; they were future oriented.  But now we had an opportunity for a cool discussion and some creative thinking.  In short, unschooling makes you flexible.  Without an agenda, you never know what the lesson will be or how it will come about.

History, for example, is usually written by the winners—it is a one-sided discussion that bores quick-minded, future-oriented children.  I didn’t recognize this when I got started down the unschooling path.  So we had to change history so that it became an opportunity to discuss choices and discrimination.  It wasn’t that we didn’t do history; we just didn’t memorize dates and meaningless facts.

 

Learning About Unschooling

How did I learn about unschooling?  My oldest son attended an amazing, top-notch school in northern Virginia (outside of Washington, D.C.).  He was second in his class and considered Ivy League material; but he was unhappy.  In my mind and heart, unhappy was NOT OK.  One day, I got a call from a teacher who said that he was not paying attention in literature class (mind you, he was in the fourth grade).  I asked what they were studying.  I forget the name of the book; but when I checked it out, I was appalled.  It was a story about black slavery, mocking blacks, and portraying them as chicken-eating people who said “mammy.”  He couldn’t understand the teacher because she was from the south and had a rigid point of view.  She saw the stereotype as true, and presented the story from that angle.

I told the teacher that I would not apologize for my child because he couldn’t relate to prejudice.  I let my son know that his humanity, his heart, had overridden his mind; and I was honored that he was that way.  I was thrilled that he was getting a “C” in the class.

That experience woke me up.  What if my son gained a great mind but lost his heart?  Oh I could not bare the thought of that.  For me, that would be a horrible failure for a parent.

As fate would have it, the next day a friend gave me a book called “Free at Last.”  I could not put it down.  A brilliant man, Daniel Greenburg, wrote it.  Daniel founded a school in Massachusetts called the Sudbury Valley School.  In this school, the teachers would teach what the students asked to learn.  They waited until the children asked to learn.  It turns out that all children love to learn, but they don’t learn on the same schedule.

I cannot express how much this book meant to me.  I owned a technology firm, and my biggest problem was motivating employees.  I realized that this book had the answer to my problem.  Motivation from the outside is only temporal.  Offer a person a raise or time off, and they work harder for a week.  Motivation from the inside is permanent.  The employees who loved their jobs described their work as play—I couldn’t get them to go home.  I wanted that for my children more than anything; I wanted them to be completely motivated from within.  It seemed like an amazing life goal that would work for everyone.

My son actually borrowed Daniel’s book from me for his next book report for this literature teacher.  She called and admitted that she had forgotten what teaching was really about.  I have to honor her for being open to learning — something not all teachers are able to do.  She gave my son an “A” for the class.

If you read “Free at Last,” one story will steal your heart.  Here is the Cliff-notes version of it.  One boy would go to school, grab a fishing pool, and sit at the lake fishing all day, every day.  This went on for years.  Each year, his father would go to Daniel and ask when he was going to motivate his boy to do something other than fish.  Daniel would answer (I’m paraphrasing), “When something else motivates him in the way that fishing does, he’ll learn that new thing; and he will do it with the same level of ability and enthusiasm as fishing.”  He pointed out to the father all the things that this young man was learning from fishing—skills like patience, observation of his circumstances and how they affected his ability to catch fish, and patterns of fish behavior.  The father backed off, and the child fished for yet another year.  One day, the fishing pole stayed in the closet, and the child asked to learn about computers.  Upon graduation, that child immediately started his own computer company.  A couple of years later, he was doing very well with his business and a nice-sized staff of employees.  As Daniel predicted, he found something else that lit his fire, and his internal motivation led the way.

When my oldest son finished sixth grade, I sold my own computer business; and we moved to the country.  I decided that I needed to reevaluate school. My oldest son knew more than the seniors in high school in this rural area.  My daughter hated school so much that she cried every day.  And my youngest son would surely have been diagnosed with something like ADD.  There was no school like the Sudbury Valley School so I decided to model the school in my home.  I found a private school that supported unschooling families in meeting state requirements, offering advice, and streamlining the documentation called the Clonlara School in Michigan.

I realized very quickly that I was going to have to button my mouth.  I was going to have to allow the children to choose what they wanted to learn and drop my beliefs about what they needed to learn.  I was going to have to deal with my fears.  And, it was never easy.  But it got results; and those results motivated me to try harder.

 

Learning Inner Motivation

In the first year, my oldest son nearly went insane.  Since nursery school, teachers told him what to do and when to do it.  He was institutionalized.  Now freedom was terrifying; he feared he could not make such a big decision.  If you are never allowed to make a decision, at some point, you no longer believe that you can.  He would cry and beg me to choose what he needed to learn.  I had to ignore his pain and trust that he would eventually choose.  After two years, he did.

He chose to learn mostly through sports.  He would master a sport and then drop it for another.  He had a single digit handicap in golf, taught and competed as a snowboarder, played an intense game of tennis, worked as a personal trainer, became a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and became a self-taught dancer.  He studied the workings of the body and the mental connection to movement.  He learned that he could have fun with a man of seventy or a twelve-year old child equally since they were both humans.  He learned that if he judged his opponent or himself, his game suffered.  He learned how to manage his mind and mute his critical voice.  He studied the effect that music had on his level of play.  I could go on and on.  What he really learned is that he could master anything if he wanted to.  The pure voice inside of him was pulling him on a path as fast as he could go — a path that I could not have predicted if I was Nostradamus.

I now observe this phenomenon in every child that finds a passion.  They will learn and grow at an amazing rate of speed.  In fact, Daniel Greenberg found that when you waited until a child asked to learn math, they could learn the entire first through sixth grade curriculum in six weeks.  We also found that to be true.  That leaves a whole lot of time for fun or learning other things that never get addressed in school.

My daughter focused her study on natural horsemanship.  I wrote about her in my article, “What is My Heart’s Desire?”  

My youngest son led me to the gamers.  But he also loves to cook, participates in many sports, and edits videos for his brother and friends.  He loves everything about business and wants to be an entrepreneur.  He began unschooling after kindergarten.   So he knows nothing but following his heart.

He and I used to play business games all the time.  We’d eat at a restaurant; and instead of engaging in small talk, we’d talk about how we would get more people into the restaurant on a Tuesday night.  We’d evaluate billboards for their effectiveness.  We’d watch “The Apprentice” together and discuss how we would do the task.  On the surface, we were eating and watching television.  But in truth, we were both learning and growing.  And let me tell you.  I was in business for many years, and I once worked for the top accounting firm in the world; often, he had better ideas.  At fifteen, he got his first job as a cook in a grill.  He would share his ideas with the restaurant manager; and the manager said he could not believe what this kid knew about business.

 

Isn’t This Obvious?

Now I must share with you that I thought everyone knew what I’ve described in this article.  My friends would tell me to write about my experiences, and I could not think of what I would say because it seemed like common sense to me.  I was completely blindsided when people started commenting after “Life Lessons from Nerdy Gamers,” insinuating that my children didn’t do anything but play.  I forgot the stereotypes of those educated in nontraditional ways.  We did encounter them all in the beginning.  But in time, people got to know my children, and they realized they were wrong.

In truth, people who met my children would often say, “You must be proud of your children.”  No, I wouldn’t say that I’m proud of them — that is not the right word.  Pride implies that they did something special or have some special esteem.  They really just follow their hearts — something which should be much more normal.  My children didn’t learn what to think; they learned how to think.  But shouldn’t that be normal?

I admire my children.  I still learn from them every day.  I respect them.  I enjoy supporting them; but I’m also very honest with them.  And I can be quite tough on them if they start following the crowd and forget their hearts.

 

What I Learned

In return, my children have taught me to be more patient, more loving, and much more passionate about life.  They have taught me that the people who command the most respect in the world are often the least deserving of it.  The people who are the most educated are often the most unwise.  And most important, they have showed me that an elitist on any topic is damaging to everyone around them.

They explained that I needed to stop being afraid of elitists and realize they are just trolls (that is their term).  If we think we know it all, we have lost our heart, our compassion, and our love.  We are no longer a real contribution to society, regardless of our title, special ancestry, or degrees.  A learner is not less than waiting to be fully cooked; they are interesting and ever expanding.

 

An Unschooler Never Really Graduates

You see, traditional school ends at graduation; unschooling becomes a way of life, a passion that never ends.  I didn’t decide to take my kids out of school; I was inspired to expand their learning to include a much broader classroom.

Before I close, I must say something about socialization.  People think that children who do not attend school are anti-social.  My children are terrible at the typical social norms.  They are authentic, not superficial.  They are kind, not judging.  They don’t tolerate manipulators or people who just want to be right.  They are able to enjoy their friends, but they also enjoy time alone without feeling lonely.  They don’t think you are too old to be a friend because you are over thirty or too young because you are under ten.  If that is the definition of poor social skills, then they have them.  I can assure you they do not miss having good social skills.  The typical “How are you? I am fine!” way of relating is highly overrated.

In addition, there are very creative programs for unschooling available.  While my children did not physically attend school, they did take yearly exams and scored consistently above their age group.  They were in a flexible program and have a diploma and a transcript from a private institution documenting their self-designed curriculum. They went to sports events with friends at the local high school; and two of them went to the prom.  Thus, they never felt deprived.

 

On Being Unique

I once heard a saying that really sums up unschooling.  “If two of us are thinking the same way, then one of us isn’t necessary.”  I don’t know who said that, but it is hard to find that in a classroom where everyone learns exactly the same thing, especially if it is only for meeting standardized testing requirements.  I’m not against school.  I, myself, have a Ph.D.; but I know from my experience, that Daniel Greenberg was right.  He was a man ahead of his time; and I respect and admire his courage and trust.

Inspiration, when nurtured, will always create the perfect, unique learning experience for every student.  Even in the classroom, if inspiration leads the way, the experience is improved for all.  It truly is time to stop teaching children what to think; and instead, support and appreciate them for how they think.  I’m not an unschooling evangelist.  I don’t expect others to do what I did.  I don’t impose my beliefs on another, and I never tell anyone they should home or unschool.  I honor every child and every path.  I know that some children love school.  I would never tell them to quit as long as what they are doing is working.

However, if a child is labeled a problem, has gifts that can’t be nurtured in the classroom, or hates going to school, nontraditional schooling can offer a solution.  They may just have no problems other than they are unique.

I wrote this article (and my Nerdy Geek article) so that others might have a chance to see and appreciate that there are many different ways to learn that are fun and effective.  If nothing else, parents can use unschooling ideas during times when school is not in session to get more involved with their child’s learning experience.

Every year, I gave my children the right to return to school.  They never did.  If you ask them if they made the right decision, I guarantee you that they will say yes.  I never thought I’d march down that path with them.  But I’m so glad I did.

You see, I learned the greatest lessons of all.  I learned that when my children didn’t learn, it was because they couldn’t see the value in the subject.  They realized that memorizing things you’ll never use is wasting your mind and taking up bandwidth that could be put to better use.  Consequently, I had to get honest and assess if my ideas really were valuable or if society merely said they was valuable.

Often society was very wrong; and I had to learn to swallow my pride and let the children know that they were right and the adults were wrong.  I learned that when my children did things that didn’t make sense, it is because some part of me didn’t make sense.  In fact, memorization is only necessary when common sense and intellect are at war.  I learned that man made grammar, spelling, and history; but something greater made the child.  It just seemed wrong to trust the man-made stuff.

A kind word, a gentle touch, or an authentic vote of support can speed up learning exponentially.  But most of all, I learned to love life, to see the world as a place where you can learn and grow in every moment.  I learned that the best places to learn, and the most important lessons, are free.

If you think children need to be taught to learn, then explain to me how virtually every child in the world that has a cell phone (and I travel all over the world) can text at the speed of light, and none of them have taken a class.  Gamers rarely read the instructions.  They know they can figure it out, and they do.

I came to realize that my limiting beliefs that my children needed to learn certain things caused them to need to learn those things.  If I just talked to them like they already knew the subject, they often did.

My thoughts that learning was hard or took a long time became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In most cases, a few hours with someone who genuinely knew what they wanted to learn was like a download of the entire curriculum.  The key word is genuine.  A false teacher is ineffective and slow; you can’t fake it until you make it with kids.

I think the most important lesson I learned was that children are not born with religion, they are not born with prejudice, they are not born memorizing machines, they are not born with hate.  Adults teach them those things.  And it is never too late to teach us old dogs some new tricks.  If I can learn, anyone can.  I just hope the kids don’t give up on us.

 

Cathy Eck is the founder of Gateway To Gold.  She has studied the ancient mystery school teachings for decades. She is passionate about cracking the code of life’s greatest mysteries and translating the ancient wisdom in a way that is practical, simple, and empowering so that everyone can remember their true Self and live a perfect life. 


Comments

Really thought provoking stuff here. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

By gatewaytogold on November 22nd, 2010 at 7:37 am

Thank you for reading it and sharing. Cathy

Cathy, you know what really happened to school? The government became involved. When i started teaching in the ’80’s, the classroom environment was child-centered and teachers teaching to the individual. Now, it is a data centered classroom, test scores are what matters. Why? Legislation. Teachers don’t like it, but legislators decided teachers needed to be held accountable and data collection was the solution. If I had a child today, I would unschool, definitely.

But, Mae seems to LOVE school. I will have her read this blog when she gets home today. I’m sure her comment will be insightful. Enjoyed reading this, as usual. kc

By gatewaytogold on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Oh Karen,
Thank you so much for writing from the teacher’s perspective. I do recognize that being a teacher has become just as unfun as being a student due to regulation, data collection, and testing. That only pushes the good teachers to quit, making it even worse. I didn’t feel qualified to speak for the teachers, but I had them in mind as I wrote about my children’s experiences and how they were learning to value the mind over the heart. In third grade, my son came home and said, “Mom, I hate school.” I asked him why and he said “My teacher doesn’t hug me anymore.” I called the school and asked if it was punishment. She said, “No it is regulation. A teacher in VA can’t touch a child over the age of 7.” Maybe someone with influence in the system will hire Daniel Greenberg as a consultant. It would be wonderful. Thank you for your support. Cathy

Wow, this stuff is amazing. We walk around day to day with blinders on. Your writings have helped me open my mind to the universe.
Elaine

By gatewaytogold on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thanks Elaine,
You are such a great supporter. Much love, Cathy

Wow! This is a great article. I recently found this site through a link in a Starcraft forum that your son posted and I found those insights interesting. Despite that, the gaming article, though presenting interesting insights, contained things that I believe many gamers understand about themselves. This article, I believe, is much more interesting.

It has presented an alternative to education I hadn’t considered, but I find a few things I personally (and I may be completely wrong) believe to be false: the educational system does not allow for effective teaching, some beliefs on social interaction, and the dis-importance of structured learning.

Let me personally just say that I find it impossible for a top-notch school to be like that in later years. I myself go to a school that is seen as being one of the best in Canada (and occasionally ranked as the best), yet my education up till grade 8 was unspectacular. There were fairly similar incidents to that with the southern teacher, but they were less extreme (one of the worst was a new teacher who was too strict for most people). It was in the “senior” school where the school truly shone. Grade 8 was when academic streaming and electives came into action. The academically motivated moved into classes with those similar and were challenged not only academically but also creatively. The streams are Provincial-Star, Provincial, Honours, and Advanced, in order of difficulty. For the sake of showing the possibilities of the system, know that I am in the most advanced classes possible. The teachers are interested in their subjects and, because the top classes can finish the material of a three months in two weeks, often teach what the students wish to teach. For example, one of my (British) math teachers, who felt we were getting too cocky, taught us about logarithms and log table. He gave us an O level exam from fifty years ago and every one of us failed because we were too used to using calculators.

The course selective (elective) system was extraordinary. I remember that in that year I was allowed to pick six courses spread over the entire year for whatever subjects I choose. Though there were the required courses of Math, Science, History, English, a Language (Latin, Japanese, Mandarin, French, German, or Spanish), Physical Education, there was a great amount of diversity of timetables. This is an example of the great amount of freedom we had. There was also a required after school games activity which could range from recreational table tennis to the more traditional competitive football.

Nor does any of this stifle creativity or kindness. Due to other circumstances which I believe will take up too much room in this already lengthy post (but I can go into if desired), there is very little bullying and far less competition than would be expected in a competitive school. We are taught to be modest, polite, and introspective. Service clubs and almost weekly charity initiatives only aid this. Speaking of clubs there is a wide variety with the ability to start new ones if they strike your fancy. Clubs also have out of school activities which teach that the school is not the only place required to learn.

None of the above was to show the elitism of my school or how much better it is than others. It was only to show that it is possible for school to be good places to grow and learn as a human being. Anyway, on to the next topic: social interaction.

Many of the things that the article talks about in regards to socialization are things I believe to be false at times if one wants to succeed in the world. My mother is in a business that relates to people, even though if you knew what it was you might not think so. She has to be superficial when she talks to people she may dislike in order to not lose business. She has to judge people in order to gauge their trustworthiness. She has to tolerate everyone and treat everyone kindly. She has to say the typical “How are you?” because sometimes she may not remember someone enough to say something. In terms of Christianity, which I accept that many people may not believe to be a rational argument and therefore include it only as a footnote, the bible says to love thy neighbour as thyself even if you think they are manipulators and to turn the other cheek even when you may be not authentic in doing so.

Lastly, structured learning is important. As a gamer myself, I often read the manual because just by playing I cannot learn everything. In terms of Starcraft, there are control schemes that would not be clear if one solely begins playing. Hotkeys, alternate hotkeys, keyboard shortcuts, options modifications, and complicated techniques like the “backspace trick” for Zerg are all non-intuitive. Knowing more about computer programming than everyone in my school after some self study, I find myself going to online university lectures for more education. Not only that, but directed learning ingrain facts. A person usually stops being interested in a topic after the point of required memorization approaches but that memorization if often the most important part. A person who reads the bible can understand the gist of Christianity, but in order to share it a memorization of key issues in needed.

This bit of writing is not in any way meant to insult unschooling. For some people who truly do detest school for whatever reason yet are intelligent and motivated enough to guide themselves it truly is the best option. But there are alternatives in schooling to the structured, rigid, boring format usually seen. If you get this far, thanks for reading my semi-rant. Wow, this is long. I should really be studying for my Math and French exams.

By gatewaytogold on November 25th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Thank you for writing. I think a few things might be interesting for you to consider as you ponder these ideas. I offer them because I see some great potential in you and would like to encourage you to take your thinking even further. First, note that unschooling can include schooling–it just often doesn’t. It is a mental thing that people start to associate learning with school. You, it seems have found a great school that incorporates some unschooling ideas–congrats on that. You described the freedom in choosing your classes, etc. again a concept that unschooling embraces. Traditional schooling often thinks that the student doesn’t know best. So I don’t see you as disagreeing with me at all.

Your writing is kind, yet direct. I admire that. It shows that you have not lost your heart in school. You exhibit many of the qualities of an unschooled person. I have a Ph.D. (so I obviously spent some time in school); but like you found cool schools that nurtured my heart and my head. The kindness in your school was also in the Sudbury Valley School that I discussed–it is function of the heart not being lost at the expense of the head.

Regarding socialization, this may be valuable to you although it is extremely hard to explain in words. But I think you may be a bit confused on this issue. The Christian do unto others happens to be what I saw in the gamers (at least the ones I ran into–I know there are exceptions). What I found is that the traditional social conventions came as a result of the thoughts that other people can’t be trusted, etc. (You mentioned many of them in your comment.) If you take away the thoughts that people can’t be trusted or they don’t like you or you need to be nice, then the thoughts below that arise; and if you can let them go as just beliefs, not truth of the people, you don’t need to be nice, you are nice. People at their core are kind, loving, and beautiful–they are the golden rule. Much of education and religion assumes that humans are sinful bullies that need to be tamed and tolerated. In my experience, nothing can be further from the truth. But we get what we believe in life. This is a huge topic, and I devote an entire website to letting go of our beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. But you have brought up an excellent point because this is where most people get stuck–they learn to see a world that is unkind and they try to fix that with socialization. Thus you get the nice persona instead of authentic conversation.

I got this insight in the business world. I was an entrepreneur of a technology company. One day I had it with being nice/superficial and decided to be authentic. My business grew tenfold in that year (in profitability). Not one customer left. I started getting customers from unexpected places. I, myself, was shocked. But you see, on the surface people don’t trust nice people. They are afraid they are hiding something. When I became authentic, and said what I saw, the good and bad, the business community realized I could be trusted and they came to me. People like an open book because they know where they stand. I dropped my entire advertising budget in that year. I worked half as much and made much, much more money. This was the biggest lesson of my life and much of my motivation to unschool. Why? Because while I learned the lesson in the business world, I got the idea from watching my children interact (who were very young at the time and had not yet learned social conventions).

If you look closely, you will find that most people that have only grasp the Golden Rule mentally are actually doing to others what was done to them. In the strictest sense, we all want to be trusted, yet we don’t trust others because they are not like us. We all want to be loved unconditionally, but we hardly ever see one who does it (and most of those people probably attend churches and traditional schools). People (and many of the teachers you described in traditional schools) are really saying “do it my way and you’ll be good. I’ll love you when you are like me.” But what I see in children, dogs/animals, and remarkably in many teens and even in a few adults are people who say “I’ll love you even if you act unloveable. I’ll treat you the way I hope one day you will treat me.” If people put that idea first, and knowledge second, the world would change in an instant–the bullying you mentioned would stop. But unfortunately, at least here in America, bullying and clicks still exist–far too many of them.

Knowledge and education are not bad; but they must come second. The true nature of the person, their unique expression, must come first. If a school doesn’t get that, it is not a good school–it is hurting the child not nurturing them.

As I drop my ideas of people, they change in time. It sounds strange that it would be that way, but we all react to the intentions and expectations of other people. And, it is much easier said than done. Physics is finally starting to demonstrate this concept. Science is catching up to what the heart has known all along. But as you said, that tends to happen more in advanced education. I hope that others read your comment and search for schools like you have found. They are out there; but often people don’t know that. I’ve met many Canadians who think like you–I think you guys are on to something.

Thank you for writing. I wish you much success. Cathy

Hmm, I think we vary in fundamental beliefs. Because I linked to this site to see the gamer post, I haven’t actually seen the fundamental ideologies because I believed this was a basic religious site. After reading through the site, I can say this. I don’t believe that our beliefs shape what reality is. I believe that reality is constant regardless of what our beliefs are. I don’t believe that people inherently know what is right for themselves. I believe that people sometimes do know what is best for other people. The only core ideology that I believe is that it is important to let go of false beliefs, but what constitutes false in my opinion is not every win-lose situation, but something that has a better alternative. I think your interpretation is interesting and I will undoubtedly consider it further, but I tend to follow a more rationalistic (by that I don’t mean better, I mean that described here: lesswrong.com/lw/31/what_do_we_mean_by_rationality/) view.

Anyway, yours is an interesting site with thought provoking ideas. It doesn’t currently suit my beliefs, but that could change in the future. Best of luck too you.

By gatewaytogold on November 25th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

You are an amazing person to comment in such a kind way on something that is not suited for you. You demonstrate the ability to walk in someone’s shoes for the experience. That is so rare.

I don’t desire to change or convert anyone. I just share something that has worked very well for me and many others. And I’ll be honest, there was a time when I would have thought myself strange. There is a wide range of what one can consider false (win-lose is also arbitrary in many instances)–I like to give people room to go as far as they want. At the same time, I honor their personal choices completely. So thank you for demonstrating open mindedness and kindness. Best of luck to you as well. Cathy

By Michel Charite on November 25th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Something that concerns me is: how are unschooled children supposed to learn math? It’s not always plain visible but it’s kinda the driving force for many things.

By gatewaytogold on November 25th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Good question. There are many fun ways to learn math. There are many computer games devoted to math. We used cooking and also building things (which requires measuring). We had a little hand held machine that made learning addition, subtracting, multiplication and division fun. We drew geometric shapes for geometry and observed geometry in the world. I worked as a CPA at one time and so all my kids learned accounting as they helped me with the family business. The key is that if they see something is useful, they will want to learn it and then they learn it very quickly. None of my children were much for trig or calculus and none wanted to be engineers or scientists so they don’t miss that. Math is actually easy to teach as it is the fundamental foundation for everything in the world, whether nature or buildings. But, the old way of teaching math is very slow. I told my children what I wanted them to figure out and then I watched as they did so. They never did it the way that we learned as kids–they did it about ten times faster. I never bothered to show them the old fashioned ways–they wouldn’t have been interested. In short, I found that math is so obvious to kids that if you ask them to solve problems, they build confidence and figure it out on their own. The key is to start easy and work up so the confidence builds as the difficulty builds. Hope that helps. Cathy

By Michel Charite on November 26th, 2010 at 2:44 am

Yeah it does, and I agree. The way math is taught these days is very bad. I only really got to learn about math in high school and even then I was just sitting on my ass doing nothing most of the time. Though the fun math really starts at university. Lots of stuff there should be given at highschool imo. One of those examples would be complex numbers.

Why complex numbers? Someone asked that in class. His answer was very short and effective, whenever you have a sin or cos in your formula that you can’t work with, you can rewrite it to something you can use using complex numbers. As cos represents the real part and sin the imaginary part of a complex number. I don’t even remember what sin and cos formulae I had to learn in highschool as I use complex numbers to solve any issues with those now.

And that’s just an example, there are a lot of tricks you can get from motivated math teachers which are hard to find in high schools. Heck some people have math teachers that have no clue what they are talking about.

Anyway, to what degree did your children learn maths? Did they learn all the stuff that “normal” beta kids would learn?

By gatewaytogold on November 26th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for that cool example. When we get insights about life from something like math or start to enjoy its fun aspects, we can’t stop wanting to learn more. That is hard to explain to someone that only memorized math. Calculus and trig are very spiritual in nature. No one gets them when they approach them as rules. If you approach them like an Einstein would, they make sense. You get them because you are standing in the right frame of mind. That is the key. But in a school it is very difficult for a teacher to put the students in the frame of mind to get such a subject so they just memorize it. Kudos to you for making that leap and seeing the truth behind the subject. You brought a great insight to this discussion. Cathy

Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!

Wow.. I’m truly touched by this article, Cathy.

I came across your blog because I’m a gamer, play Starcraft and read your Nerdy gamer article. When I saw you wrote about unschooling, I had to read.

I can’t tell you how much this to relates to me as a person. I started going to a different school in 6th grade, a private catholic school, and then moved to another public school in 7th and 8th grade. I was always and self motivated when I was younger. Whenever I was passionate about something, I took it upon myself to learn it. All of that seemed to fade away as I moved into high school. I distinctly remember pleading to my mother that I no longer wanted to attended public school and wanted to become home-schooled. For whatever reasons, that never happened, because it wasn’t the “social norm” I suppose. I was brought up with the catholic religion, which I never agreed with, but I was constantly forced into these types of things as a child.

This article says everything that I KNEW when I was younger, but couldn’t get it across to my parents. I didn’t want to be dragged through the ropes and be groomed just like every other child out there. I knew that I had the capability to learn what I was passionate about and that would be enough be support me once I entered the real world.

What makes it worse is that I grew up in a christian white supremacist community where anything beyond those beliefs are considered wrong, and often guided by fear of whats different. My father is someone who is filled with worry, fear and guilt. He lives like this everyday of his life. I have tried so hard to open his mind to better understand me as a person and to see the world through a new perspective, but nothing seems to work. It’s as if he’s filled with this fear of developing your own beliefs and questioning something that you may not agree with. Needless to say, It’s still a work in progress in getting him to understand me.

I’m 24 years old now, and I feel like some of the most important years of my life were stripped away from me. When I was 12 years old I taught myself computer animation. This was done by trial and error, gathering resources on the internet and a passion to learn what I was doing. I now have a degree in computer animation, but the motivation has faded. The passion is still inside, I can feel it stirring, but it’s like someone stripped it from me. As soon as animation became “work” it’s like I completely shut off. I was no longer doing it because I loved it. I was no longer doing it for myself. I was being told to do it and felt like my work was nothing but to meet the requirements of someone else’s expectation. I want my motivation to come from within like it used to, not manifested from an outside force.

I really wish this article was around when I was going into high school. Regardless, I am still going to pass this onto my mother (she’s a much more open minded and spiritual person than my father) in hopes that she will realize how I felt all those years ago.

I will also pass this on to my Brother. He’s a father of four. His oldest son, Evan, is seven years old and I can see the changes in him since he’s started going to public school. These are not welcome changes in my eyes. I feel a lot of the outside influence encountered in public schools can have a real detrimental effect on some children, and don’t want to see my nephew become influenced by anything other than his own heart.

Thanks very much for this article, Cathy. I was a truly great read that touched me deeply.

By gatewaytogold on December 2nd, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Wow, your comment touched me deeply. And you write beautifully. I’m posting an article on the Mayan Calendar later today. I think that will explain so much of this for you especially in your relationship with your dad. He is seeing life from a totally different perspective (an ancient perspective) and is stuck. You just have to realize that you are not his problem. You didn’t do anything wrong. The best chance you have of waking him up is in succeeding in following your dreams and proving that life is supposed to be fun.

You can get back your love for computer animation. You have clearly identified the problem. When learning, or even something as cool as computer animation, starts being about meeting other people’s expectations instead of being an expression from the heart, we lose interest. Most schools today are all about pleasing others for a grade. Following your heart usually gets you in trouble. The ones that thrive in schools (and hated my nerdy gamer article) love to please others. They have the right mix of gifts and talents that others see as right. They are obedient and comfortable with conformity. You are not like that, but that doesn’t make you bad or wrong. It makes you unique. Our true inner motivation arises from our true Self (our heart’s desires). So when we stop listening to the heart, our motivation disappears. I would look at ways that you could move out of animating other people’s projects and start to develop your own projects even if only as a sideline. At one point, I too felt like school stripped my love of life away from me. But I did get it back by constantly choosing my heart’s desires over what I was taught. And my own parents and family had huge issues with my choices for quite awhile. Animation is such a powerful tool for bringing joyful and entertaining messages to people. And your message would be well received because so many feel as you do. I suspect that your gift to the world is actually hidden within your experience.

I did find my happiness as I relearned to follow my heart. I so wish the same for you. Thank you so much for writing. Feel free to contact me anytime. Cathy

I want to add something as an afterthought.

My family was never very wealthy. We didn’t have tons of extra money to dedicate to things, and I do believe it may be part of the reasoning for me not being able to home-school as a child.

How did you begin with unschooling your children? Some families may not have the resources to home or private school their children, or they may not have the free time to dedicate to it.

Are there any resources out there for families who wish to unschool their children, but don’t have the money or time to teach themselves?

By gatewaytogold on December 2nd, 2010 at 3:36 pm

That is a wonderful question. The first step is to make the leap to the unschool state of mind. As I said, the child first learns that school and buildings don’t have to be connected. The second step is to allow their own self-motivation to arise. It can take time as it did with my oldest son. Once those two things are in place, the parent plays a very, very small role. The children ask for help when they are stuck, but they get used to figuring things out on their own. In time, they rarely need help. I know this sounds odd, but often the parent at this point starts to feel unneeded and wants to interfere. But as I mentioned in the article, my job was to observe and trust them. Many co-dependent patterns are formed in traditional home schooling and even traditional school. So in short, I knew what my children were doing, but unlike homeschool I rarely did it with them. And I never did it for them. That all being said, I think that anyone could unschool. I have heard of mothers who work outside of the home working together to share a person to supervise during the day, creating mini Sudbury Valley Schools. As far as expenses go, ours were minimal. We used the internet extensively, subscribed to netflix for documentaries, used libraries of all sorts, and took lots of inexpensive field trips. If my husband and I traveled for some reason, we brought school along for the cultural experience. I hope that gives you some ideas. If you have the desire, don’t let time or money stop you. Cathy

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I simply read through the complete article of yours and also it was quite fine but since I’m more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out! I love what you guys are continually up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve additional you guys to my blogroll. This is a great article thanks for sharing that informative information.. I will check out your blog frequently for a few latest post.

By gatewaytogold on January 19th, 2011 at 11:15 am

Thanks Galen,
I am considering videos and audios as well. I agree that videos are a great way to learn and share info. Keep checking back, and thanks for spreading the message of my blog. Cathy

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

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  • Beliefs! The Lies that Blind You!

    The word belief has the word "lie" within it, hinting at its purpose.

    The word belief has the word lie within it because every belief is a lie. We lose ourselves when we confuse beliefs with the truth.

    As we let go of beliefs, we change our minds. As we change our minds, we change our relationships. As we change our relationships, we change our world.

    The most loving thing we can do is to drop our beliefs and judgments about others and set them free. When we free others, we also free ourselves.

    Positive thinking is not something that you need to do; your true, authentic Self IS positive. Find your Self and you will never have a negative thought again.

    Used properly, your emotions can lead you down the shortest path to your authentic Self. Denying or suppressing them is a ticket to hell.

    No matter how ornate your mask, your true Self is much more beautiful. Be Your Self!

    Many will attempt to fill you with their truth; but real and lasting transformation is about letting go of your beliefs and unveiling your OWN truth.

    Esoteric means hidden. Esoteric wisdom means hidden wisdom. Esoteric healing means to heal by finding the hidden cause.

    The ancient wisdom keepers lived their lives based on the law of cause and effect. They never fixed a problem because a problem is an effect of a mental cause. Today, we call the mental causes beliefs.

    In modern times we've become so good at projecting and suppressing our beliefs that we hide the causal beliefs even from ourselves.

    We often confuse our beliefs or opinions with the truth. This causes our problems to become chronic or permanent.

    If our mind believes something is true, it won't let it go. We first have to discriminate between true and false (beliefs). Then we can let the beliefs go. What remains is the truth.