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Whether you’re just starting out, unsure about your homeschooling “method,” or struggling along the path, these 12 tips may be just what you need to help you focus on what really matters. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned over the years about learning and unschooling.

1. LEARNING IS UNPREDICTABLE.

Learning happens when the learner is ready – not just because a bell rings or a parent says to turn to page 37. Instead, it’s when learners are engaged… and usually that’s when they’re playing.

2. IT’S NOT A RACE OR A COMPETITION

Ditch the notion of class rankings or bell curves. Go as quickly or as slowly as you desire.

3. 18 IS NOT A MAGIC NUMBER

A switch does not flip and suddenly a teen has arrived in the land of maturity. Don’t let an arbitrary age determine anyone’s readiness for anything. Don’t feel rushed to “be finished.” See #2, there’s no finish line.

4. RELATIONSHIPS ARE DIFFERENT

Without “schoolwork,” kids have time to spend with people and get to know their interests. No one has to be rushing around (I’m sensing a theme here, aren’t you?) The locker mate, the desk proximity, or the first letter of a person’s last name does not choose who their friends are that year.

5. LET GO OF FAMILIARITY

Success at learning is directly related to how quickly one can get out of that school-think rut.

6. EXAMPLES POP UP – DON’T MISS THEM!

The more you watch, the more you will see your child learning – in so many unexpected ways. This will help you trust the process more.

7. RESIST THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIETY

Middle of the night (or day) panic attacks can happen because most of society want to remind you that the process/your child/YOU cannot be trusted to know what’s best to do next.

8. AHHHH….SLEEP!

Adjusting sleep schedules can totally change attitudes. Body clocks change over the years. Stay flexible and tuned in. Read up on how teens need sleep in a a different way than when they were younger kids.

9. “PUNISHED BY REWARDS”

Alfie Kohn’s book with this title is still relevant today. Arbitrarily creating rewards and punishments for getting a child to comply can often do more harm than good.

10. THE ARTIFICIAL – AND UNNECESSARY – USE OF SUBJECTS

Dividing the world into separate subjects that must be worked through systematically does not help a child transition to adulthood. Real Life weaves all sorts of “subjects” in and out and back again.

11. THE PERFECT PLAN

Oh, Perfectionists! You’re going to struggle here. Looking for a curriculum can be a way to procrastinate simply getting started. You have all you need – your child standing in front of you, is full of verbal and nonverbal clues as to the next steps in your path. Watch. Listen.

12. CHEERFULNESS AND CURIOSITY

Try to approach life as a cheerful adventure. Stay curious about your world, your child’s world – whatever is crossing your paths. Your attitude will have a direct influence on how the journey will go. Have fun, hold on, and enjoy the ride!

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