Unschooling To University Book Project has been successful on Kickstarter!

UTU Chris cover5sig

I had to wait until my third child graduated university, and my fourth child was accepted, and now I am ready to launch this book:

Unschooling To University

Back this project on Kickstarter

Do you have a child that is unmotivated in school? (It’s not your child or the teacher’s fault!)  Are you worried that the school curriculum is not relevant in today’s society? (We still do not have mandatory coding lessons)  Do you think your child would thrive if you pulled them out, but don’t wish to homeschool? (Not everybody wants to!)

Now there is an alternative.  Learners can and do lead their learning!  Follow the paths of 30 kids who unschooled and directed their own learning and still entered universities and colleges, with over half in the STEM fields.

Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the e-book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!

A big thank you to everyone who participated in our Kickstarter Funding.  We did it!

The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Release date is September 30, 2018



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

10 Reasons to Get the Degree (or Certificate or Diploma)


When I went to public school, I disliked it enormously.  It seemed more like a maze to navigate intense social constructs, avoid bullying, constantly trying to fit in with peers, and mollify the teacher’s wrath. It was never thought of as a place of learning.  I never fit in very well, but did my best to “get through it.”

I didn’t think I was going to try university, but when I was 25, I decided to give it an honest go. I didn’t have good marks, but in the 80’s I got in with a 62% average. What a surprise! University was totally different than high school.  The difference was control.  I could control what I wore because there was no peer pressure to look a certain way.  I could control if I attended or not, what courses to take according to my interests, and what mark I wanted to earn with my efforts.  I could drop courses, and take new ones.  I could eat in class, smoke outside it (ok, it was the 80’s) and go to the bathroom whenever I wanted.  I was treated like a customer, not a child.  I loved it because I loved learning. I graduated with a 3.4 gpa.

As an unschooling family, I am dismayed to hear from others that post-secondary education is over-rated.  It certainly may not be for everyone.  And in this day when knowledge can be gained from anywhere, I believe that some rules in university must change, like the ability to challenge courses that learners already have self-taught knowledge in.  But I do believe in post-secondary education as one way of many ways to learn and should not be discouraged.  Here is why:

  1. Our world lives by credentials. We all have varying stages of learning, but everyone needs a benchmark – a standard that recognizes a certain level of knowledge and skills. I want the pilot who is steering the plane I’m sitting on to have a minimum amount of practice landing the plane safely.  I want the financial advisor I’m hiring to have some knowledge of expertise to guide me in providing myself a retirement without depending on cat food for meals.  I want my son’s neurosurgeon to be competent enough in putting his skull plates back together again after surgery so that my son is not brain damaged. I understand that people get their education through various ways, but we do need a standard way of measuring if people have acquired a level of knowledge and skills necessary for public safety.  I’m all for people challenging those standardized measurements whether it is an exam, landing a plane or completing surgery.  A degree is one standard measurement. We can get our information anywhere.  But we need to prove a level of competency. We may not agree with the importance attached to credentials, but so far our world lives by them, and our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world they will live in.
  2. Post-secondary education is now the new high school, due to credential inflation. More and more people are getting education over and above high school graduation, so post-secondary education is becoming the norm. A degree does not make one stand out.  If anything, it makes one blend in. Nowadays, people get a degree to be the norm.  The Master and Phd degree is now what a Bachelors degree was 30 years ago.
  3. A degree may not always be practical knowledge, but the one thing it does show is that the holder has initiative, drive and determination to finish something, throughout all personal, academic and financial obstacles. That is a big deal to prospective employers and can open doors to careers not even related to the degree.  Yes, there are many other ways to prove grit, but this is one of many and should not be discounted.
  4. Quite a few university professors have worked in the real world. They are the most interesting coaches because they are real.  They impart knowledge through their unique experiences, stories, hardships, joys and failures.  I agree that not much is learned from a person who translates their knowledge through books and has not truly experienced their field because they have lived in the sheltered ivory towers of academia their whole career. But those professors are few and far between.
  5. A degree is a sorting hat. Sad, but true.  If two people have equal knowledge and skills to do a job, accountability to one’s boss, shareholders, company and the public at large demands that the person with the piece of paper (degree, diploma or certificate) will get the job.
  6. Many practical skills are taught in a degree now. Mandatory work co-ops, projects and practicums are ways that learners gain those skills with hand’s on experiences. The days of just writing, reading and bookwork are gone. It would be even more personalized if learners can challenge exams if they have the knowledge gained outside the classroom.  Many secondary schools offer that option to self-directed learners and it would be nice if the post-secondary institutions would also offer challenges.  Even better, if one didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for the assessment of their learning, or for the challenge of qualification confer.
  7. A degree costs about $40k in Canada. This can be offset by loans, scholarships and grants as well as working part time.  Research shows that over a lifetime, the average person with a degree makes 1 million dollars more than a person with a high school diploma. That’s a pretty good Return On Investment.
  8. A degree can be earned while employed. I personally finished a degree in 8 years while working full-time and graduated debt free.  It took sacrifices, but it opened doors that would be closed in areas I didn’t even know about then. I got a job teaching Mom and Baby classes for our government health organization.  They won’t hire anyone without a degree.  It could be a degree in geology, or engineering, teaching, or basket-weaving, but it had to be a degree.
  9. If we truly embrace the philosophy of unschooling, our child determines her learning goals and paths, not us. If she wants to get a degree, are we truly supporting her learning by denigrating her educational goals? We have to suspend our agenda and support her. That is what self-directed education is all about.
  10. Lastly, we parents and caregivers cry when we see our child walk the stage at graduation. They have done the hard work to reach *their* goals and we are so proud to support them in any way we can!

In this age, when many required core high school courses can be attained by writing exams to demonstrate self-directed knowledge, there is no barrier to post-secondary education.  Loans, grants, scholarships, and part-time jobs can also help. There are many benefits to post-secondary education. Don’t rule them out. When the learner is truly ready, the education will appear.

Posted in Democratic Parenting, High School Children Ages 15-18, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Community Spirit Begins at Home

Many unschooled children do not do “chores” mandated by parents.  Instead, they live in a home environment where contribution and appreciation is freely given among family members of all ages, both within the family and within the bigger community.  The result is children who *want* to help out and feel good about what they can do.  Young children want to help their parents from the time they can walk. Welcome it by inviting them to help, and watch it grow! Feed their contributions by expressing verbal appreciation. By the teen years, they will be shoveling the neighbor’s walk, building the neighbor a lawn border, sorting food at the food bank, picking up garbage on the river bank, and volunteering in the community for no other reward than the good feeling of making the world a better place to live.

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

STEM Classes for Kids: Do they help or hinder curiosity?


Spice 2009 090Someone posed this question to me the other day: “My daughter is showing increased interest in math and science.  Should I enroll her in STEM day-camps, after-school classes, or extra-curricular activities geared to STEM?” Which got me thinking, do children really need to be taught STEM learning, and do formal classes in STEM help or hurt children’s curiosity?

When my son was two years-old, he loved those metal coiled, rubber tipped door-stoppers that went twaaaannggg. He would play with them while lying on his belly on the cold floor, and the sound drove us crazy, because he would do it over and over again. He needed to reinforce those learning pathways in his brain, and he was accumulating experience of the door stopper workings, so that twenty years later, he would have first hand knowledge of the sound oscillations in his electric engineering class when he had to do the paper calculations.

As an unschooling mom to 3 children who chose STEM careers, I would say that you don’t have to enroll him in anything. In fact, it may even be harmful to do so, in that the lack of experimentation could stunt his interest. Not all children take instruction well. Some children just want to follow their own agenda and experiment with their materials and ideas. Instead of prescribed classes, here is the best way to raise a child interested in STEM:

  1. Say “Yes!” as much as possible. If he wants to build a potato gun, say yes. If he wants to take apart appliances or take the lid off the toilet to see how it all works, say yes. If he wants to attend a Maker Faire, take him. If he wants to open up a potion shop in your kitchen, say yes. If he has 7 train sets and wants more, get him more. If he wants to set up a workshop in your garage, say yes. If he wants yet another science or building kit, say Yes.
  2. Buys lots of Lego, K’nex, Meccano and blocks. Let him combine toys. Nullify your need to sort and categorize. If he wants to put the playdough in sand or water to see what would happen, let him.
  3. Let him spend as much time on computer as possible. Kids need to play video games to learn to code them. Don’t limit screen time. Getting to know a computer and all that software can do takes time.
  4. Take him to science centres, zoos and aquariums all over the world when you travel. Buy seasons passes to the local ones so he can go as often as possible.
  5. Never shut down a question. Model, “Let’s find out!” and take the time to help him get what he needs to find out.
  6. Host special interest clubs at your home. Minecraft club, coding club, or a Beakerhead or First Lego League project can provide peer knowledge, fun, and social time as well as incredible learning from peers.
  7. Take him to Kids Project Days at building supply stores. Many are offered for free. Be sure to back off – let him build the project! Hammering in nails crooked is a great moment in learning physics and should not be taken over by the parent. STEM education embraces mistakes, not avoids them. Perfection is not part of STEM; the learning is in the process.

The only thing you have to practice with him in your parenting is problem-solving, because the world of STEM is all about creatively solving problems. This may involve risk and mess, but it is free and has unlimited possibilities. Don’t limit the exploration except for extreme safety issues. Even with reasonable safety issues, use the opportunity to teach about safety precautions and managing risk. Children are going to experiment with fire and water, and they critically need limits and supervision. Better they do it while you are around and not behind your back. (More about “The Power Plant” later!)

I am skeptical of all the classes and extra-curricular classes that are often structured and have very little creativity involved, popping up to cash in on parent’s homeschool funding, or childcare budgets, and/or their anxiety that they should do more to encourage interests in STEM. Many of the extra-curricular classes are just like “more school.” I was having a discussion yesterday with my engineering son and he said the one element that helped further his interest in STEM was having the “control.”  In STEM classes, the control is not with the students; it is with the teacher.  In order to experiment, one needs to have the control to manipulate things, make hypothesis and plans, and especially carry out plan B. Lack of control is a big turn off, and kids take back control by losing interest in formal, structured, and planned outcome classes.

As well, most classes are geared to under-aged kids and liability issues will limit all the cool stuff that kids want to do. In school, the most my kids ever did was experiments with baking soda and vinegar.  Boring.  Parents at home, can accept the liability and their kids can do much more under their supervision.

As one mom said, “I couldn’t agree more – my son who is now headed off to study physics at University hated his online high school physics courses but loves physics. I would like to think it might be because we owned balls and hot wheels and elastic and marbles and … and that I sat in the driveway (as the safety monitor) while he lit things and launched things and built things that rolled and put his little brother in them and pushed him down the hill and I let him jump in elevators and watch Youtube videos of other people doing crazy things for the first 9 years of schooling. It all made high school physics easy but very dissatisfying. He is now looking forward to being able to study at a much higher level and with people passionate about this area.”

If parents have a child geared to STEM, they will know it. Sure, some classes might be fun, but fund what the child wants to do, not what some advertisement says they need. This applies to any gender! If the class is awful, let him quit. You don’t want to turn him off of a STEM interest with boring, limited, mediocre, controlled classes that will stunt them instead of empower them. Get them access to what they need, supervise the scary stuff, show them how to clean up, and get out of their way!  Einstein didn’t have STEM daycamps or extra-curricular classes!

By Judy Arnall, Excerpted from, Unschooling to University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. http://www.unschoolingtouniversity.com

Posted in 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

Self-Directed Kids Don’t Miss Out on Learning Pro-Social Behaviours


Children raised in self-directed environments are kind, giving and empathetic. Just as school is a community, so is a family who unschools. They don’t shield themselves from the world, but do their part to make it better. The difference is that unschooling families can choose what areas they think need help, rather than what the curriculum or government dictates. Families who volunteer together, head out to vote together, and help their neighbor when-ever they can, entrench the practice into a regular family ritual and they do much good in the world.

Posted in High School Children Ages 15-18, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“Wait until they have to get up early for a real job; then they will be in shock by the real world.”

So my son started his first day of school. He is age 19. He has his first experience of agendas, exams, deadlines, and a structured class. He has been unschooled for grades 1-12 and taught himself various high school classes through online and self-directed in preparation for a career in STEM. Last week, he began a 4 course load at university in sciences. He has to get up, take the bus, and attend a campus of 30,000 other kids. He has 4 courses and each has a lab which is a pretty full schedule. He went from sleeping in until 1 or 2 pm and playing video games with studying 1 or 2 courses at a time, to a full schedule outside the home.
You are probably wondering how he is adapting. Well, when kids need to do something that they want to do, they learn and adapt. I can’t say it was easy, but last week was okay and this week is hard with all the labs starting, but he is stepping up to the plate. He sets his alarm, gets to the bus stop on time and puts in a full day.
That is the key point in unschooling. I can’t tell you how many times people would say to me, “Wait until they start school (or work) then they will have to get up at 6 am and won’t they be in for a shock.” Kids step up to the plate when the time is right and it is required of them and they are motivated to do it. We don’t have to “train” kids in a work ethic when they are young, so they will have it later when they are older. This is the whole point of homework in schools, which is so misguided. Kids can learn when they need or want to learn and the time is right for them.
Posted in Elementary Children Ages 5-12, High School Children Ages 15-18, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, University Children Ages 18-25, What is Unschooling? | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Screen Time Mitigates Summer Learning Loss


SummerThis meme has been floating around my groups and I have to say that I totally disagree with it. First, I am the worst model of this. Email comes first in the morning with my cup of tea. Every person has to find a routine that works for them.

Second, it sounds so dictatorial. Real relationship parenting starts with a conversation of concerns. I wouldn’t have a list like this for my husband as it is too disrespectful and neither would I have it for my children.

Third, the list defeats the intent. I can see a kid getting through this list in a half hour and then spending all day on electronics. When the parent’s protest, the kids says, “I followed the rules!” All the things on the list should be done without an expectation of reward.  Kids naturally like to help.  It will come with age and maturity, not bribery.

Fourth, children naturally develop self-control as they age. They naturally decide when and how to get dressed, shower, tidy their room, help out with dishes, and clean a room.

Fifth, as an unschooler who has never put limits on screen time when my kids were older than 6 years (there are lots of research that show children under six are at risk for language development with increased use of electronics), I see no problem with hours and hours on screens. The kids learn so much from the internet and playing video games. I do encourage the kid’s self-discipline to build in some exercise time, in their day. They are already very creative on screens with making memes, mods and stuff. Summer learning loss never happens when kids are allowed access to the internet – in fact, they have the time to learn what they truly want to learn, not what the government dictates what they want to learn. Here is a good article on why kids should be on screens all summer!  https://www.ucalgarymag.ca/issue/spring-summer-2017/article/unlocking-skills-power-brain-games

University of Calgary magazine article

Posted in 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