Unschooling To University

Judy Arnall describes Unschooling to University

The book, Unschooling To University, is now available at bookstores everywhere. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, just ask for it.

ISBN Print 97809780509-93

ISBN E-Book 97817751786-06

Order on Amazon.com

Order on Amazon.ca

This book explores the journey of the Team of Thirty, a group of young individuals who unschooled from 3 to 12 years each and were accepted or graduated at university, colleges, and technical schools.  10 went into STEM fields (4 into engineering), 10 into humanities and 10 into the arts. 22 have already graduated. Learn more about what unschooling is, why it is beneficial (61 benefits of unschooling), how to unschool and how unschooling fits with brain and child development stages. This 384 page book outlines everything one needs to know about unschooling and self-directed education worldwide.

Did you know there is a world-wide facebook group for Unschooling STEM?

Join Unschooling STEM

Welcome to Unschooling to University!  

Many unschoolers/self-directed learners often get asked the second most common question in home education, (after the one about socialization) which is “What about university?  Aren’t you messing up your child’s chances of eligibility?” This blog’s sole purpose is to assure you that unschooled children can go to college, universities, trade schools or the post-secondary school of their choice, if they choose to go. When the time is right for them, they will often choose self-directed education to help themselves earn the requirements for admission acceptance.

Parents do not have to be the teacher and “catch them up” unless they really want to. Believe me, my “math skills” end at grade 8 and I had 3 kids get accepted into STEM programs at university.  Parents do not need high school subject matter expertise.  They just need to be present when their child needs them, and help the child find the resources if asked.  Parents help the child self-direct their education by facilitating what they need. Most unschooled children reach an age that they wish to learn more and seek out tutors, online courses or simply teach themselves from the internet, Kahn Academy, and their jurisdiction’s textbooks.  Whether they learn the entire high school program, or just the final year courses to prove previously acquired learning, or even challenge the leaving or entrance (SAT) exams, children that are motivated are serious, focused learners and nothing will stop them.

As Peter Gray outlines in his 2013 study of 75 grown homeschoolers, those children with the least number of formal schooling years (either in a classroom or homeschooled), were more likely to go on to post-secondary learning.  That has been our experience in the homeschooling community as well.  The more time children had for play and self-directed learning, the more likely they were to continue learning and became motivated for greater stimulation outside the family.

The other myth is that unschoolers tend to choose more arts and humanities fields when applying to post-secondary institutions.  STEM options are also available to unschoolers. Many unschoolers find that the years of experiential learning from play, projects and travel help round out a solid background of understanding that numbers and formulas can build on when the child reaches their teens and acquires their abstract thinking skills from the development of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. They have real world applications for problem-solving with math and science tools.

We know that not everyone aspires to go to post-secondary schools, and that is fine.  We know that some families do wish to plan for that type of education and we aim to help them navigate the waters from unschooling and self-determining their learning during the “school-age” years to a more formal learning environment during the adult years.

Many of these insights come from our family of 5 children, in which we unschooled (self-directed education) the children anywhere from 8 to 12 years that they would have been in school. We had many family friends that also unschooled and I tell their experiences (The Team of Thirty) in the Unschooling To University book, now available for pre-order on Amazon.  12 of the 30 children profiled, attended university in STEM careers. Some went the high school (and self-designed) diploma route and some did not.

We are not outliers.  The gates to education are still there but the walls are coming down. We hope you enjoy our experiences, thoughts and insights to help you make informed education choices. We also welcome your questions. Yes, unschooled children can go on to post-secondary education and they are excellent learners and free thinkers.  We need thought leaders and world problem-solvers.  Join us!


#anyonecanhomeeducate         #letlearnerslead         #unschoolingtouniversity

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What do Kids do All Day if Not Directed by Adults?

What will unschooled kids do all day if not directed by adults? And what do they learn? What does a typical unschooling day look like?

Excerpted from Unschooling To University, by Judy Arnall

Children miss so many opportunities and discoveries when they are in school. They would get the chance to explore more things in life if their time were not constantly directed by adults. The key is trust. We must develop trust that our children will find things to do when they are bored. So let them be bored. Kids who are not used to people entertaining them, start to own their use of their time and embark on projects and inquiry to satisfy their curiosity. Many homeschoolers know this from practice. There is no way we are going to spend our days entertaining our children. That is their job! All we have to do is ensure they clean up their messes and make sure safety rules are followed.

Unstructured time worries people. They are uncomfortable without evidence of structure, especially externally imposed structure. But consider the following two ideas.

First, children who need structure impose it upon themselves as their executive function grows. My 15-year-old daughter disciplined herself to go for a walk every day. My 17-year-old son hopped on the treadmill every day at 5 p.m. We have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times. The children read in the evenings, not during the day; daytime just doesn’t work for them. We take our vitamins and read the newspaper every day. Except for the teens, we go to bed most nights at midnight and get up at 9 a.m. Yet most people consider our day unstructured because we don’t homeschool or school. Just because the government doesn’t impose structure in the form of established school- day hours doesn’t mean that people don’t impose their own internal structure on their time. Ask any retired person and they will tell you that they are busy and that their days and weeks have structure, rhythm, and purpose.

Second, an unstructured day doesn’t mean that children will be up to no good. Children who are used to filling their time with projects and meaningful activities will not spend time loitering around malls, vandalizing, shoplifting, taking drugs, or having sex when adults are not around. The adults in their lives trust them to fill their time productively, and they have had lots of practice doing just that.

“We like to unschool because we actually get some time to do something else. If you go to school, you have to get up at 7 a.m. and then stay at school for 10 hours doing lots of math that you already know. Like, if you learned Division or Multiplication then you’ll have to answer a million more questions. Then you come home, do your math book, go to sleep, and then it starts all over again. While if you unschool, then you can learn math from other things. For example, I found an online computer game called Graal where my brother and I learned spelling, math and grammar. You also get plenty of time to play. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to homeschool.” [sic] wrote a 10-year-old unschooler, in a letter to the government.

One mom said, “We do things in four ways—I do things with her that she needs and wants to do (play and projects). She does things with me that I need and want to do (work), then we do things together (chores and errands) and we do things separately (I practice piano while she plays).” (Stephanie J, 2004)

My son Neil went to a high school for eleventh grade. He had more than enough credits to take two spares in school instead of the one spare that the school allotted to Grade 11 students. When he was caught up on homework, he would go to the library during his spares to sit and reflect. The adults were unhinged by this behavior. Why wasn’t he doing an activity instead of just staring into space! No wonder he came home to finish high school his way the following year.

Here are some activities my kids did entirely on their own because they were bored! This list might look very daunting. But there were also many, many days that my kids played video games nonstop! We eventually expressed our need for them to vary their activities, and they agreed to turn off the screens and look for something else to do. (See more on the educational benefits of video games in Chapter 18.) I’ve also indicated the subjects that each activity can teach, to show the reader how simple activities are educational without even trying to be.


What do they do all day? And what does it teach?
5 – 11-year-old children
M–Math E–English SC–Science SS–Social Studies A–Art D–Drama PE–Physical Education
Cook and bake M Play restaurant, factory, garage, etc. M, E, SC, A
Play board games M, E, SS Do household and neighborhood chores and projects M, E,


Make board games E, A Play postal person and deliver mail to members of the house E
Paint, sculpt, arts and crafts E, A Make potions and set up a shop SC
Make craft kits A Build carpentry kits from home improvement stores M, SC, A,
Sew, knit, or crochet dolls, puppets, stuffies, and blankets A Do projects and badges from Girl Guides, Scouts, 4H, Jr.

Achievement, Jr. Forest War- dens, Cadets

M, E,


A, D, PE

Do puzzles E, SS, A Play casino M
Build workshop projects M, SC, A Visit friends and have sleepovers E
Play Barbies, Polly Pockets, Pokemon E Garden SC
Build snowmen and snow sculptures SC, A Gave a demonstration or speech at a homeschool fair E
Make sand sculptures SC, A SC Watch videos: Pokemon, Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy SC, SS
Play Stock Pot Inn (paper dolls) A Make movies E, A
Make circuits SC Video record a homemade movie E, A, D
Read stories, comics, and reference books E Create a theater, mime, or puppet show and make

tickets, signs, scripts, puppets; sing, dance, perform skits

M, E, A, D


Make a dictionary, diorama, cookbook, list, map, mobile, mural, photo album, puzzle,

tape recording, time line, poster, animated movie, movie, etching, picture, TV program, dinner, trial, survey

E, A Create a dance, filmstrip, model, musical instrument, newspaper, cartoon, radio program, recipe, slide show, slogan and ad, board game, bumper sticker, petition, piece of art, questionnaire, experiment, new product, costume, display M, E,


A, D, PE

Write stories and illustrate picture books E, A Play at the park alone or with buddies or in groups PE
Scribe and illustrate books (before reading age) E, A Play badminton, catch, rollerblade, swim, ski and many other sports PE
Illustrate a story, diary, calendar, chart, collage, mosaic or collection E, A Host a lemonade stand M
Research items of interest on the internet and in stores M, E Go on field trips to city amenities, zoos, and manufacturing plants SC, SS
Make trains, castles, and cities from cardboard boxes M, E, SC, SS Collect cans and bottles for recycling M, SC
Make bumper stickers E Shop M
Collect items, research and organize them, and display the collection E, A Plan a journey M, E, SC, SS
Write a book, computer program, letter, letter to the editor, new law, news report, poem, song, story, essay, article, play E, SS, A Travel M, E,


A, D, PE

Volunteer M, E, SC,

SS, A, D, PE


What do they do all day? And what does it teach?
12 – 15-year-old children
Cook and bake M Do household, neighborhood, community chores and projects M, E,


A, D, PE

Play board games M, E, SS Clean rooms, help with home maintenance M, SC, A, PE
Make board games E, A Fix cars SC
Paint, sculpt, draw cartoons, make arts and crafts E, A Learn to maintain appliances SC
Make kites SC, A Build projects in workshops M, SC, A
Build snow sculptures SC, A Work on a lathe M, SC, A
Sew, knit, or crochet dolls,

puppets, stuffies, and blankets

A Run errands with parents to learn about consumer relations E
Do puzzles, sudoku, crosswords E, SS, A Visit friends and have sleepovers E
Go camping SC, PE Garden SC
Work out at the gym individually or in group classes PE Give a speech, demonstration, or evaluation at Toast- masters Youth Leadership E
Go for bike rides, walks; go rollerblading, skiing, skating PE Participate in interest-driven homeschool groups M, E,



Play computer and video games M, E,


A, D, PE

Go on field trips E M, E, SC, SS, A,


Program computers, design apps and websites M, E, A Host a debate E
Participate in social networks E Plan a training session E
Read books, newspapers, websites, blogs, and forums such as Reddit E Participate in a mock interview E, D
Write in a journal or learn a language E Play music MU


Write stories, novels, comics, blogs E Play musical instruments: guitar, piano, drums; play in a band MU
Research items of interest on the internet and in stores M, E Write music MU
Self-study with textbooks and workbooks; work out the problems and review the solutions in the workbooks M, E, SC, SS Participate in interest- based clubs such as First Lego League, NaNoWriMo, Computer Programming,

Writing, Parkour, Beakerhead, Sports, Karate, etc.

E, A,


M, D, PE, MU

Collect items, research and organize them, and display the collection E, A Work at a job outside the home M, E
Travel M, E,


A, D, PE, MU

Volunteer M, E, SC, SS, A,



What do they do all day? And what does it teach?
16 – 20-year-old children
Cook, bake, make beer and jam M, SC Do household, neighbor- hood, community chores and projects M, E, SC,

SS, A, D, PE

Paint and sculpt A Participate in home renovations M, E, SC, SS, A, PE
Work on projects that will strengthen knowledge and appreciation of the arts, environmental stewardship, community engagement M, E,


A, D, MU

Work on bicycles, motorcycles, cars SC
Play sports, work out, ski, skate, toboggan, ride bike, go camping PE Fix and maintain appliances SC
Attend formal online or physical classes of academic subjects or personal interests M, E,


A, D, PE, MU

Go to maker studios to work on projects of many kinds SC, A
Fix computer viruses and reformat hard drives SC Build a 3D printer SC
Program computers, scripts, java, video games; design apps and websites M, E, SC, A Run errands for parents: dry cleaner, bottle depot, craft store, supermarket, bank, etc. M, E
Read novels (both genders read about 3 hours a day, every day) E Visit and host friends for parties, gaming sessions, and events E
Read books, newspapers, websites, blogs, and forums such as Reddit E Give a speech, demonstration, or evaluation at Toastmasters Youth Leadership E
Keep a journal, or learn a language E Participate in interest-driven homeschool groups M, E, SC, SS, A, PE, MU
Write novels and short stories E Go to concerts, festivals, and day trips to local amenities M, E, SC,

SS, A, D, PE, MU

Spend time at the library M, E,


Mentor young or inexperienced person in an interest, such as coding, Latin, French E


Self-study with textbooks and workbooks; work out the problems and review the solutions in the workbooks M, E, SC, SS Take drivers’ education and learn to drive M
Visit relatives in distant countries, alone or with family M, E,


Teach themselves to play a musical instrument MU
When traveling with family or friends, visit the local cities’ museums, zoos, science centers, and cultural centers E, SC,


Participate in interest-based clubs such as First Lego League, NaNoWriMo, Computer Programming, Writing, Parkour, Beakerhead, Sports, Karate, etc. E, A, SS, SC, M,


Work in temporary office,

retail, or warehouse jobs

M, E,


Volunteer M, E, SC,

SS, A, D, PE, MU

Everything children do is educational.  Everything!

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Healthy Families Are Always the Best Learning Environment


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15 Problems with Testing Unschoolers and Homeschoolers


img280Excerpted from Unschooling To University, by Judy Arnall

Listen to the podcast:

15 problems with testing unschoolers and homeschoolers

Testing is the most common form of assessment in schools. Yet it is problematic in un- schooling  and homeschooling because of the unique content and delivery method of education in the home and not a classroom.

1.          Unschooling learning is neither compartmentalized nor linear— the very forms in which tests are designed to measure; exams test the wrong outcomes

The Concordia University (Chang, 2011) study measured not what the 12 unschooled children learned, rather what they didn’t learn that the government thought they should be learning. We could say the test was measuring different objectives.

Unschoolers don’t follow subjects or a school year. There are too many areas in science and social studies, history, geography, languages, and art to test children. Unschoolers who choose an area to learn about don’t go looking for a test in that area to measure their learning achievement. There is no point. As well, it would be unfair to subject unschoolers to grade-level exams as they may not have chosen to learn about any of the topics tested on the exam. Learning is constant, across all disciplines. Only school chops learning into subject areas, periods, and school years.

Mothers worry if their children are taking enough vitamins for health; governments are concerned about whether the children are learning. Mothers don’t measure the vitamin A in their child’s body every week to see whether it has been absorbed, nor should teachers have to give tests every month to test learning. Parents know that over the period of a month, their child will eat a variety of good foods that with give him the nutrients his body needs. Similarly, parents know their child learns. The trajectory of educational progress is often more like that of a butterfly, rather than that of a bullet. It is neither straight nor linear. It has plateaus and hills and valleys that depend on the child’s development, age, interests, and personality.

Many times, learning is invisible. Learning takes place even when there is no output or measurable proof; when children do not write exams, make a product, or write an essay, there is no output to prove the learning. But it does not mean learning has not taken place. That is why recorded parental observation should be considered a valid, and valuable, assessment tool, as it is often the only one parents have outside of the learner’s self-assessment.

2.          Assessment changes the learning

When assessments enter the picture, the nature of play changes. As soon as outcomes are targeted, the play becomes directed and is no longer free or spontaneous. If children know they will be tested, they will focus on the material they will be tested on instead of enjoying the learning for its own sake. They learn to allocate their time and energy. They don’t “waste time” learning what will not be on the test. Nothing kills the enjoyment of reading a good novel faster than knowing you will have to write a book report on it!

Children cannot explore new subjects or delve deep into subjects because measurable outcomes must usually be met under significant time constraints. Marks do have their place, but should they determine curriculum, or should curriculum determine the marks? Many teachers complain that “teaching to the test” takes a lot of time and places unnecessary constraints on true learning, in that it curbs meandering and discourages natural curiosity. I agree.

Even option courses have grades. Why? The purpose of options is to stimulate a child’s interest in an area. It’s a low-stakes way to try out something new. If a child knew he wouldn’t be marked, he might take more risks in learning and strive to meet new chal- lenges.

Unschooling promotes true learning that is free of the bondage of marks.

3.          Testing takes a lot of time and is stressful

Testing in schools is expensive and time-consuming. It takes time away from actual teaching, which is the main function of schools.

4.          Testing becomes the content and may not be the best way to learn

How do teachers know that they’ve nailed it? They read children’s faces. When they don’t have that feedback, in online learning, for example, they give a lot of assignments to provide the necessary assessment component. My son took a Grade 10 Physical Education class online. It consisted of 50 hours of writing assignments and only 75 hours of recorded physical activity! Clearly, the school did not trust the children to do the physical activity and they needed a way of evaluating them, so they assigned them 10 quizzes, three essays, two projects, and mandatory marked written discussion. The writing component of the online class was far more difficult than it would have been in a physical class. This does not make sense. Teachers and parents know that kids are learning when they are engaged and enthusiastic.

5.          Tests assess teaching ability at the learner’s expense

Teaching and learning is like throwing and catching a ball. Teachers know when a child catches it by the excitement on their faces. But it is hard for teachers when they throw  a ball and a child does not even try to catch it. In school, the responsibility for learning must be on both: the teacher ball-thrower and the student ball-catcher.

In unschooling, it is only the learner’s responsibility.

6.          Tests often don’t tell where areas of weakness are

A single number or letter mark does not tell a story when a teacher assesses a student; many biases can positively or negatively influence a test score, such as misunderstanding the meaning of a question.

Most institutions or programs will not allow a student to review their marked tests to see where they need to improve to move on to the next level of learning. This is wrong. All test-takers should be allowed to view their mistakes and at the very least, be shown the correct answers to show them where they went wrong. A grade of 80% is great—but it doesn’t tell them how to correct the 20 percent of the questions they got wrong.

There is great value, however, in using tests for self-assessment. If a child wants to start a math program and needs to determine his level, a test is a great tool. The resulting mark is insignificant; it’s importance is as an indicator of the optimal starting level for the student.

7.          Tests are often geared to future students, not current ones

Standardized achievement tests allow schools to plan improved delivery and content for the next year’s crop of students, rather than current students. Consequently, the test results may not correctly evaluate learning.

8.          Tests often measure the ability to take tests, instead of measuring the learning

When my children began taking tests at 12 years of age, they needed instruction on how to mark the bubbles and not get lost on the bubble sheet. They needed guidance on how to gauge and budget the time allotted for the test and how to reduce pre-test anxiety. Often, test questions are formulated so poorly that the learner cannot decipher what is being asked. The problem is the test, not the learner’s knowledge.

Unschooled children are not used to tests and may do poorly even when they know the content, simply because they are not schooled in the testing procedure. One of my sons had a bad experience that illustrates this. Going into an exam, he was not told to reset his calculator before the teacher cleared it, essentially sabotaging his configurations. His math test answers were incorrect because his graphing calculator was in radon mode instead of degree mode. Obviously, the test results did not accurately reflect his knowledge.

9.          Testing must cover a beginning and an end

Learning doesn’t end or begin. It doesn’t start in September and end in June. It goes “off track” naturally. My children learned the most during the summer months, when they had access to a broader range of books and videos from the library. During the “school year” we were busy running to outside activities, groups, and play dates, and we often didn’t have much time to read a book in a hammock. So, if the kids had been tested  in September, they would have shown a great increase in knowledge since June. By the same token, June testing would show less progress. As well, there are dry spells when kids don’t appear to learn much academically, and that is okay—after a dry spell comes a tsunami of provable academic learning! Testing cannot possibly capture the ebbs and flows of meandering learning.

As well, testing has time limits. Very few events in real life are timed. The stress of a timed event can impact the learner and prevent her from successfully outputting her knowledge, resulting in an artificially low mark.

10.     Academic testing only measures the learning during a particular chunk of time immediately prior to testing

Testing does not measure knowledge retention a few years after testing—that is to say, it is not an indicator of true, intrinsic learning. If leaving-school achievement tests were given to adults two years out of school, they would almost certainly fail them, unless they were actively working in the field!

11.     Tests teach values

Test questions are very school-biased and give a child the impression that school is “normal” and homeschooling is, therefore, “abnormal.” His learning experience and that of his homeschooled peers is not reflected in the questions. My daughter took a Grade 3 Math exam and figured out, at age eight, that over 70 percent of the questions featured “boy” scenarios. What does that tell her about math and girls? Because parents rarely see the test that are given to their children, these biased embedded values are rarely caught.

12.     Testing measures subject matter content only

Testing does not measure the fundamental soft skills essential for success in life: initiative, honesty, creativity, problem-solving, or interpersonal communication skills. Children may be highly gifted in intelligence areas such as music, art, dance, drama, sports, movement, and other personal skills that cannot be measured by testing. Heavy emphasis on test results in core subjects tells children who excel in art, humanities, and sports that their intelligence is inferior.

13.     High-stakes testing promotes cheating

When my kids went to university, their exams were weighted at anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the final course mark. When I asked why so high, the explanation was that cheating in course assignments was rampant, and that it in an exam environment, it was easier for administration to control cheating.

14.     Grades can damage self-worth and self-confidence

Grading compares a child to others, rather than evaluating her own progress. Grades hurt self-esteem, especially in children with special needs and learning disabilities that have many alternative aptitudes, intelligences, and abilities. As Thomas Armstrong and Howard Gardner note, there are at least eight ways to be intelligent. School tests only measure two: linguistic (English) and logical (Math) abilities.

15.     Learning can be assessed through many forms other than testing

Assessment of portfolios, projects, photographs, physical evidence, observations, and self-reflection are valid to prove learning. However, this form of evaluation can make it difficult to compare one student to another—a required element in our environment of mass delivery, standardized curriculum, and conveyor-belt education. Bias is embedded.

One teacher may reward an essay with an A—another might evaluate it quite differently. The best assessment, always, is the learner’s self-assessment.

Do we test for social, emotional and physical health?

There are four dimensions to a  child’s  development:  social,  emotional,  physical, and cognitive. As a society, we do not regularly or mandatory test a child’s physical, emotional, or social health to ensure that taxpayers are getting a reasonable return on the funding of parenting programs, health care delivery, or even child benefit payments. We leave it up to the parents to monitor child’s health in those three dimensions and ensure satisfactory progress from six to 18 years of age. To demand that parents subject their children to a “well-child” check-up every year in exchange for continuing to receive their child tax benefit would be considered undue interference in the private realm of parenting. We have to trust that parents are not giving their children ACES. So why are we so concerned with testing a child’s cognitive health every year? Are they learning? Are they keeping up with their cohorts? And why is it important that they keep up  with their cohorts in learning? What is wrong with personalized learning that allows comparison only in relation to a child’s own progress?

As in healthcare, government regulation and interference in unschooling should be non-existent.

Trust parents

In 99.9 percent of homeschooling families, parents have their children’s best interests at heart and their well-being firmly entrenched as their first priority. We have to trust that parents know their child best in all four areas of development and give them the ultimate say over their child’s education and cognitive development, in the same way we trust them with their child’s emotional, social, and physical development.

No marks until high school or beyond

Test-taking is a life skill and we all need to learn it. We take tests for driver’s licenses, yoga teaching qualifications, swimming and karate levels, and post-secondary admittance. But do we need to start when kids are six years old? No. At that age, they don’t need to endure the stress that testing causes; they will learn test-taking skills when they need to. The first tests some of my children wrote were the non-mandatory Grade 6 government achievement tests in Math and English. Some of them did not write a test until Grades 9, 10, or even 12, in some subjects. They caught on quickly when they needed to. High school is plenty of time to learn and polish their test-taking skills.

Grades were also unknown to our children until high school. Believing that self- evaluation was the best form of assessment, we asked our children from time to time, “What was interesting about that? What did you learn from…?” We did not record their responses. We asked questions to start them down another line of thought. Our record keeping consisted of keeping track of the resources we offered to the children,

not what they produced with them. Much of the time, they didn’t produce anything that looked “schooly.” How do you write, in educational jargon, that the kids put on a puppet play over their bunkbeds? When they produced something interesting, we took lots of photos and videos. Those are things I still treasure today, and always will.

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Screen Time Research: Who To Believe?


Many parents worry about screen time, especially after reading the latest study that involves children their children’s ages. However, how does one sort through the myths from the facts? It is becoming increasingly difficult.

Screen time addiction was not listed in the DSM-V (the main diagnosis manual for the medical community) because the health community can’t determine what amount of screen time or type of screen time constitutes addiction or harm. The evidence is not yet conclusive and until we have long term good meta-analysis evidence, no one can state how much is harmful. Opinions are all over the place because they are based on random studies, many of which are poorly done. What is a parent to do?  Until we have good evidence, moderation is the best practice.

What we do know, is that children in stable families, with low ACE scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are less likely to be susceptible to any the 10 addictions, including screen time, no matter how much screen time they have.  Families should aim for a balance of screen and real-time interaction with the priority on face-to-face relationships. For more information, this website is based on the research of 49 neuroscientists across North America.

The Brain Core Story

Here is a graphic I presented in one of my parenting groups recently. Addiction is at greater propensity when children experience toxic stress during childhood.  Toxic stress stems from the 10 ACES listed in orange. Research can’t provide good evidence yet which genes are activated by toxic stress, especially those children with addictions that run in the family. Screen time is deemed to be closest to the characteristics in a gambling addiction, but it still has unique qualities.

The brain science of addiction

Best practices for parents?  Build close relationships with your children. Avoid toxic stress in the family.  Enjoy screen time in moderation.

Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Unschooling Explained on CTV Newsclip

This CTV Canadian newsclip positively portrays successful unschooling by profiling two families each with young children and teenagers.



Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unschooling and Brain Development/Learning Stages

In this webinar, we will discuss how brain development and learning stages fit with unschooling and self-directed education.


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Unschooling 101

This article was first published in Tipping Points, the magazine of Alliance for Self-Directed Education

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Posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , | Leave a comment