Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when child turns four

Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Four. The age that most children in the UK enter the school system. The age I’ve been dreading.

Until Jakob turned four, nobody was too bothered about our decision to home educate. They thought that we would ‘come around’ or ‘see sense’. I knew that once he turned four the questions, the comments, the criticisms and the concern would escalate. I’m not sure why, out of all our parenting decisions, that this seems to be the one that causes the most upset in the family. I suppose it’s because home education is alien to most of them. I don’t blame them, I’m sure I had similar feelings once upon a time, before I actually researched the prospect.

The thing is, the negativity wears me down, it makes me doubt myself and feel like I’m wrong about what is best for my children. Wrong to let them have their own choices and opinions on how they should be educated. I knew that once Jakob was old enough to be in school I would be under pressure.

Pressure to teach rather than facilitate learning. Pressure to do rather than be. Pressure to socialise rather than play together.

Jakob turned four in May. This meant that in September everyone his age started school. Jakob didn’t. Whilst everyone around us was starting new and exciting adventures, going out buying uniform and stationery, getting ready for ‘the big day’, posting those ‘back to school’ photos online – our lives stayed relatively the same.

The first day of school there was a buzz of activity around us, both online and in real life. The school traffic resumed, cars parked up and down our road, parents were either sad or relieved (depending on who you asked!). Not for us. We woke up, ate some cereal, did some drawing… continued with our usual daily activities.

I have to be honest, I felt a little unsure of myself. Shouldn’t we be doing something? He’s school aged now, maybe I really should be cracking open the textbooks. Maybe unschooling is just as much of a crazy notion as my family make it out to be? In fact, is home education altogether really the right path for my children? Is Jakob going to be happy? Fulfilled? Motivated?

Questions filled my mind, and doubts shadowed me. But as the days rolled on and the season changed from an unusually hot late summer to a bright but chilly Autumn I knew we had made the right decision. Not because anything had changed, but because it had stayed the same. We continued to be what we had always been, doing the same things we’ve always done – playing, drawing, reading, exploring, cuddling, talking.

I always find that Autumn is the season we really connect with nature, and this autumn was particularly special. Not only was Jakob going to forest school every Friday but we had endless outings, wandering through woods, exploring parks and nature reserves, connecting with each other and the world around us.

The more time I spent with my children, the less I cared about other people’s opinions. The pressure of others ceased to bother me. I realised what I had inwardly already known – we had been doing it right all along.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

    • Always an Artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.






  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!



  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.



  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.



  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.



  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?



  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.







  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.



  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.



  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.



  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.



  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.



  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.



  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.



  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.



  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.





  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!





  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.



  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.



  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.



  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.



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  1. says

    It is SO important to be in tune with what your family needs, and it sounds like you really have accomplished this! I think its wonderful to be so secure with homeschooling and facilitating your children’s learning!

  2. says

    I loved reading this post, because I feel that education doesn’t always have to be institutionalised. And it definitely doesn’t have to start at a particular age. I may not homeschool, but I will try to give my son a wholesome education.

    On another note, I’ve been meaning to participate in this carnival for quite a while now. Maybe next month!

    • says

      Yes definitely, I’d love to read your post :) And as I just said to someone else I truly believe it’s more about the parents own values than home Vs school x

  3. says

    Very well written post. And encouraging. Being a family that firmly believes in homeschooling and me barely beginning to learn about unschooling, I needed to read that it’s ok. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. says

    I think whatever you do as a Mum there is a certain amount of guilt involved! Going with your instincts generally helps you to see you are doing it right! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  5. says

    As a parent any negativity and constant judgement gets to anyone, so can totally understand how it must be for you with such an important decision…but i am so glad you did what you think is the best for you and your child. He looks so confident and happy! I am great believer in natural parenting, even though my daughter goes to nursery …I admire and share homeschooling values as its the first place in the world where they learn the basics of survival in the world so why not other stuff! Well done you xx

    • says

      Thank you for the comment, I completely agree and I think it’s less about home vs school than the parents own values and it sounds like your daughter is lucky to have such a great mum :)

  6. says

    What a fantastic post. Good on you for staying strong to you principles. It sounds as though you’re doing exactly the right thing for your family. The final photo just about says it all!

  7. says

    How inspiring that you’ve found your feet and are feeling confident in the choices you’ve made. I find it really hard to stick to my convictions and have the confidence to say, this is right for me and my family. Your little boy is lucky to have such a strong mother.

  8. says

    The negativity gets to me also. I start to question my instincts and what I am doing. The hardest to deal with is the “old school” parenting philosophies that do not quite make sense to me in today’s world and in natural parenting. I have a binder of printouts that support my parenting decisions and inspire me to keep going.

    • says

      I completely agree with your whole comment! It’s like you managed to put into words what I think on a daily basis! The binder is SUCH a good idea, I think I’m going to have to make one! x

  9. says

    Wow, four seems really early for everyone to be pressuring you to *school* your child! I understand, though — even though I know plenty of homeschooled preschoolers (3-4-year-olds) around here, the first question any strangers asked us about my son when he was that age was what preschool he was in. Now that he’s 6 and in first grade, which seems so official, our unschooling is really grating on some people (ahem…our moms…cough). But life and learning just continue on, and I know we’ve picked the right path for him. (By we, I mean including our son, because he’s the one doing most of the choosing!)

    • says

      I completely agree, my cousin actually managed to get her son into school part-time at 3 after a lot of arguing! I couldn’t imagine wanting them to be in school now… let alone at 3! Great comment – thank you! x

  10. says

    “The more time I spent with my children, the less I cared about other people’s opinions.” I think this is definitely true – the more we hone in on being together as a family and listening to our hearts, the more likely we are to make decisions that we aren’t going to regret.

    What an inspiring blog you have – particularly, if you don’t mind me saying, considering how young you are! Lovely to have found you through this carnival :-)

  11. says

    It is really hard to go against the tide especially if you feel that you don’t get the support from your family for doing so. I hope over time that they do realise it is the right decision for your family.

    I too wrote about children needing and wanting things to stay the same, I think it is really important especially when they are young, my youngest was born in the exact same month/year as your eldest like him, my eldest knows nothing other than being at home. We love it too!

    Lovely post, thank you for sharing :)

    • says

      Thank you for the lovely comment! You’re right, and I hope we do get a bit more acceptance/support one day but we will survive either way! x