One family’s stellar and inspiring unschooling story

What unschooling has done for all of our children is give them the time and inspiration and resources to follow several passions deeply.

My two oldest have chosen to go the intensive academic route in their high school years. If you have read any of my posts on the High School forum, you probably know how “successful” my oldest daughter was in her plan to gain acceptance to selective colleges & win big scholarships from them as well. [Daughter] earned a perfect 800 on the SAT Verbal (twice!) and over 700 on the math. She scored a whopping, almost unheard-of, 35 out of 36 on the ACT — despite the science section
which really spooked her for a while! She aced many AP exams. She was accepted to 11 selective to extremely selective schools and won the highest academic scholarships at all of them. She has just finished her 2nd year at Kenyon College in Ohio as an Honors double major in History and Music (flute and voice), with a minor concentration in Russian — on full scholarship of $35,000/yearly for four years. She is also an avid baseball fan, sings in operas, trained through advanced ballet and swimming, loves to play card games, knows everything there is to know about computers and building websites, etc.

And we unschooled.

My son is 16 and will be a junior this coming fall. He has taken several advanced level Calculus and Physics courses at our local junior college recently (earning A’s) and plans to continue doing so. He studies for
many AP exams. He scored a 780 Math/730 Verbal on his SAT I and plans to take the new SAT in the fall along with the ACT. He is heavily involved in the Civil Air Patrol and promoting quickly. He is a certified
lifeguard and will soon begin working toward his pilot’s license. He loves to write — he has a novel just about completed and has won national honors in several history/peace/science writing contests. He
works in a plant nursery and at other odd jobs (like higher math tutoring for his fellow college friends and science experiment classes for younger homeschool kids in our community) and earns money for his own car insurance and gas as well as saving for his upcoming college tour. He has been asked to take charge of the Bible Study and outreach program on the local college campus. He wants to major in Aerospace Physics or Aeronautical Engineering. He plays the French Horn in orchestra, is a great juggler and magician, as well asan expert chess-player and fencer.

Yet we unschooled.

My 14 yo daughter is an extremely talented musician, creative writer, and artist. She has won many honors in these areas already. She recently wrote, produced, and starred in a 2 1/2 hour dramatic play that our 23-member county homeschool drama group performed to
huge acclaim; the script centered around the life of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Union soldier, nurse, and spy.
Deedee is currently carrying on personal correspondence with several well-known, bestselling authors (including Terry Brooks and Christopher Paolini, for those of you familiar with them). She plays in orchestras and bands (bassoon and oboe), excels at advanced tap dancing and fencing (when her knees aren’t bothering her…), and has been running a wonderful weekly entertainment program for a local nursing home for years. She teaches piano lessons and basic drama to younger homeschool students in our area. She produces beautiful watercolors and amazing charcoal renderings. And she makes a terrific burrito as well.

Though we unschool.

Ok, I won’t bore you with the long, drawn-out details of my five other kids’ lives, but let me just say that they are all very different and yet all finding and following their own passions. I know that word can sound melodramatic and overused, but I’ve never found another one that fits nearly as well.

My kids have never studied any grammar at all.

Ditto for spelling — except for one year early on for each of them when I combine it with phonics study in as funny and fun a way as I possibly can……..

We never touch a math textbook until 7th or 8th grade level — and then we use them very carefully.

There are TONS of relevant, thought-provoking magazines everywhere you look around here.

We have 48 large overflowing bookcases crammed into our house. They only hold GREAT books. My kids could tell you the titles, precise locations, and maybe even authors….?! of all them. We definitely are
bookaholics. Barnes and Noble employees know us all by name. I think they know my driver’s license number and expiration date, too.

My kids love to talk, debate, analyze, etc… They love me to read aloud to them. They love to read aloud to each other. (Do you notice a pattern here???)

They love music. Besides band and orchestra and occasionally choir, last semester [son16] and [daughter] and their drama group performed the old Disney musical “The Happiest Millionaire.” That was a hoot – but very well done actually.

My older kids stay up late together. They like each other. They love going to church. They are independent thinkers. (Quite!!!) They have no desire to “hook up” with anyone from the opposite sex (my oldest daughter tells me I shouldn’t have used that exact phrase — sorry…) as they have PLANS for their lives. They laugh and shake their heads sadly at their acquaintances who are now giggling and wasting time on
“crushes.” They find this line of thinking a purely foolish waste of time. But they are, in their own individual ways, highly social and quite well-liked in the community.

My kids are all my friends — as well as my kids.

Probably mostly because we’re unschoolers.

I still like to get away from “the madding crowd” at times. I am a loner myself (don’t ask how that is possible when I chose to have so many kids…). But I LOVE my kids and LIKE my kids and LOVE our homeschooling, unschooling lifestyle. Mostly because it works so well for whatever type of personality and interests my various children have. My #3 and #4 children will probably NOT follow the intensive,
advanced academic route. They are both very creative in many ways, very good with people, and will probably end up going the junior college route, transferring to a local state college to finish their degree (IF they want and/or need one) and then opening their own business — perhaps a ballet studio or a catering business or a combo fencing/art/music/dance/cooking studio that they work together — who knows? I don’t.

But because we unschool, I know they will have the ability and the drive to succeed at whatever they choose to do. And they will LIKE what they are doing, too. Which I think is pretty important.

I have not touched on values and religious beliefs here because I was focusing on the educational “method” we have followed. But unschooling definitely gives you a lot more TIME with your kids to actually talk about real issues in the world and in their lives — since you’re not eating up your time filling out workbooks and writing book reports and doing endless math drills and keeping tedious journals about everything you’re “doing” for school…..

Hope this long (sorry!) sketch of our family has helped to flesh out a little this thing called unschooling. I know the term has a bad  reputation; I used to raise **my** eyebrows at it … until I realized we were DOING it! Unschooling has certainly made me able to relax and be Mom — and then watch as my kids really enjoy their learning and eventually take charge of their own educations.

Most of them are still slobs though.

Probably because we unschool.


— Courtesy of Ivy Rupani

1 thought on “One family’s stellar and inspiring unschooling story”

  1. Thanks for sharing this very inspiring story.
    We live in Thailand and have 3 young boys aged 8,6, & 3 who we started unschooling about 4 months ago and already seeing remarkable changes and a variety of skills and developing characteristics that are very encouraging. We’re rapidly evolving with this method and had some great support but reading articles like yours is just super inspiring and gratifying. Well done to all of you for your stellar achievements.

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