Back to unschool.

There is no first day of school. Back to unschool. | Clean.

There is no first day of school. Back to unschool. | Clean.

There is no first day of school. Back to unschool. | Clean.

These shall be our "first day of…" photos for the year.

The first day of school is always an interesting day for me as a homeschooler. Especially as an unschooler.

My facebook feed is a parade of back-to-school smiles from kids I know well and kids I don't know well.

From coast to coast and beyond.

Back! To! School!

And it's exciting. And beautiful. And I get butterflies in my own tummy for those little ones off on this grand adventure, many for the first time.

But over here, it's just Tuesday.

There is no school to get back to. No photos to take of us lined up at the bus stop.

Just us. In our jammies. Making tea and doughnuts.

If I'm being honest it's a little bittersweet.

Because I'm actually someone who had a pretty great public school experience growing up.

And so somehow I'm hardwired to the rhythm of September and "back-to-school".

The new notebooks and pencils, the I-hope-I-like-my-teacher jitters, the backpack and the lunchbox, the I-hope-my-best-friend-is-in-my-class longing, the big bus rumbling down my street.

And for my kids that all so foreign.

It's something they've heard about from their friends and read about in books. But it's not their thing.

Their lives have very much remained unchanged since they arrived. It's our life and our life learning, day after day.

So there's no "first day of 6th grade".

There are no grades at all.

(I actually just had to do the math to determine what grades my kids would be in where they going to school. First and Sixth as it turns out.)

And August and September aren't really so different from one another except that the tomatoes are coming in.

And I love that. With my whole heart. I count it on my very short list of blessings each day.

But like any parent, I want to make the best choices for my kids.

And so my shadow self whispers in my ear, "Are you sure? Are you totally sure of this path? Because everyone else is doing something different."

And I'm thankful for that dark little voice.

Because I hear it. I dig in. I ask questions. I roll the idea around in my head.

What would it be like if we made a different choice?

Because personally I don't think school is bad or judge anyone for their choice to send their kids there.

It can be a wonderful experience! Just as homeschooling can.

But it has to be a fit.

And so I hear that little voice, year after year, and then I always remember what brought me to this path.

I look at my kids and I ask myself, "Are they thriving? Are they learning? Are they on fire and loving life most every day?"

Heck yes.

I truly can't imagine how we could be happier.

And so we begin another day. Another season. Another year.


At home.


And as I am each September, I'm so thankful for today.


You might also enjoy this, this, and this.


34 thoughts on “Back to unschool.

  1. Marisa - Grace Mothering says:

    Same here! Though I do totally get into buying fresh art/office supplies for their interest-led projects. I also take a photo of them on the day everyone else starts to mark a new grade, because they like to know for when someone asks them. I have 4 kids K-6th this year! Where did the time go?

  2. amy says:

    We homeschool…..or unschool….whatever it is…..we learn year round… there never is a break….per say….and like you all we love it that way! I do buy new pencils, paper and art supplies…..more for myself than the boy…..mainly so I can get my new box of crayon smell fix…..sadly….I do this with playdough, books and pencils too…..The never before opened smell is intoxicating….lol!

  3. Holly says:

    We unschool, too – a second grader and then I have an almost 4 year-old. i don’t know anyone else IRL that even home-schools. It’s really nice to read a post like this. I get the whispering voice sometimes too.. just like that! Especially with having a 7 year-old that STILL doesn’t want to read. I feel better. Everything is just as it should be.

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. We do a blend of unschooling and a focus on reading the classics. It’s a hard time of year for me as well – seeing everyone else’s back to school photos! Great to be in good company..

  5. Morgan says:

    Yes, every year I face the “are we doing the right thing?” Queston. But today my boys are done with our “formal” schooling by 10:30 am, free to go chase toads, draw, read or whatever, and I breathe deep. Relieved. Yes. We are doing the right thing.

  6. Val says:

    I’ve seen your kids at the Energy Fair in Custer. They are wonderful kids and absolutely are thriving. By the way, what kind of ducks are those? We have 2 males and 1 female just like that. When we got them at the feed store we were told they were Pekins but I don’t think that is right.

  7. Amanda Rose says:

    I loved this so much today. As I sat in my circle of mama friends this morning, all of whom are sending kids off to some form of school today, I felt so alone in my vision for homeschooling. I read your “Learning to Read” post, and I have to ask:

    Do you have a network of either in-real-life or online friends who support you, “get” you, go through this with you?

    How do you keep out those voices, real and imagined, who tell you that what you’re doing is dooming your kids, all while you *know* that this is the best for all of you?

    Basically: How do you get through the windy days of doubt?

  8. Amber Paris says:

    THAT is the key- you are all thriving in your choices!
    we’ve always enjoyed local “not-back-to-school” picnics/parties at this time of year- something to help US celebrate this time of year.
    today my 7yo, 4.5yo and I observed frogs in the woods behind our house, stumbled upon 4 horses in the pasture next door, made caramel for the apples coming off our trees by the barrel-full, made homemade clay and proceeded to make “fossils” which we cut apart and reassembled, and now they’re practicing sentence writing with magnetic poetry on the fridge…all of this kid-led and we’re all content and happy…and yes, certainly thriving on our first day not back in school.
    so happy “not-back-to-school” for you and your littles…it’s a wonderful life!

  9. caroline says:

    This was nice to read. I have a three year old and it seems like we are the only parents not sending our three year old to preschool! We are really up in the air with deciding if we will homeschool/unschool, fortunately we still have two more years to figure it out, but I know it will go by quickly.

    Also, our son is an only child, so a bit of me feels a pang of guilt keeping him at home by ourselves all day, although we have some great friends around (who will likely be in school), and I’ve heard a great homeschooling network around where we live.

    I had a so-so experience with public school growing up. Now, some aspects of public school downright horrify me, but I do not want to make the choice to home/unschool based on fear, ya know? It’s a lot to take in, and figure out…

    Anyway, I’m totally rambling.

  10. Rachel Wolf says:

    Three words: find your people. I do have a network of other homeschooling friends. Some with older kids, some with younger; some following curriculum, others unschooling. All of us connected with the common thread of finding our own path off the main road. Where do you live, Amanda? I bet you could find other homeschoolers somewhere in your region. Know that you aren’t alone! Even if you don’t find people in your town, online is a great place to connect. Try There is a homeschooling forum there I believe.

  11. amy says:

    Holly~It’s universal….Someone~should bottle it…hmmmm….Rachel~I sense a potential untapped huge money making scheme for “someone” who just happens to be in the business…..;)

  12. Emily says:

    Hear hear! My biggest fear as we head into our first year away from public school is that I am not going to see that spark in my kids eyes….love your post.

  13. Emilie says:

    Teaching the youth aside……do you have a doughnut recipe? I’ve been wanting a doughnut for so long but can’t bring myself to buy one at the store, or a pan for that matter. But maybe with a little Lusa encouragement I will start makings own. Thanks!

  14. Sheila says:

    I agree with Rachel: Find your people!! I remember when my oldest was of kindergarten age and all of his peers were off to school. I felt really alone. Their moms were my only “mom” friends – and 7 years later – when all those same kids went off to middle school – we are still friends. However, I now have my homeschool friends as well. People who know my daily reality. This did not happen quickly or easily, but it did happen.

    I wrote this about doubt in homeschooling
    Maybe it resonates, maybe it doesn’t. But just know everyone has those voices.


  15. Kate says:

    Do your kids ever want to go to school? My kids aren’t quite school age, but a lot of their friends are going to school this year. Our culture is so school centric, but I’m not excited about the schools where we are. How do you help your kids feel they are in the right place?

  16. Erin @ Mama in Progress says:

    We school year round and have the same thing- everyone else is posting back to school photos and I just shake my kids’ hands and say “Congratulations- you’re officially in the next grade now!” and they say, “grade what?”

    We do some outside activities that are sorted by grade so they are familiar with the terms, but it doesn’t really mean anything. They don’t really get that there’s a difference between 1st grade and 5th grade, but do know they are different. At some point I’ll really explain it so they aren’t totally out of the loop.

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Kate,

    So far my kids havent ever asked to go. They love the idea of staying home, waking when theyre rested, learning what they are passionate about. To be honest, having a few friends around who grumble about school helps them feel blessed with what they have. That being said, they might want to go someday. And while I have friends who have handled that in very different ways (public school, boarding high school, private school, and not allowing them to go) I suspect I would let them go. Because we unschool after all. And its all about following their interests, needs, and goals. Im not sure Id take that approach with a four year old, but at 11 certainly. Finding a community of homeschooling friends helps, too.

  18. a little crafty nest says:

    Rachel…your honesty and realness are always so refreshing! Yes, the wondering if this path is the right one can wiggle into the back of the mind sometimes. But taking a moment to pause and reflect on the values close to the heart and being honest if they are being met for everyone involved is a constant rhythm here.

    As for public school…I also have fond memories growing up of the first day of school photo. Dressed in my best to mark the new beginning. Last year when my oldest was beginning the grades at home, (we had been homeschooling for Kinder already for awhile which was nothing more than singing, and handwork and home life rhythm), I wondered how to make it more special. To make a memory for my son, and my other kids. So we did what we do all around our property…we planted a tree. A Learning Tree. My boy picked it out (wouldn’t you know it was an apple tree) and he dug the hole and now we have a photo to take in front of the tree every year. Sometimes, there is a gift of new pencil crayons hanging from the tree. Or something to sketch underneath its branches. Just an idea for others who want to mark the beginning of homeschool.
    xo Jules
    P.S. Just in case, you can find it here

  19. Kate says:

    Thanks. I guess I’ll have to make some more homeschooling friends. 😀 I’d love to give them the choice when they are older, but the school that they are told about is not the school that I hear about from other moms here and it’s not a culture I want my kids in for the time being.

  20. Brynn says:

    I used to have pangs of doubt when I realized how those standard traditions were lacking in our household. Until my son brought it to my attention that mid-June is strawberries (for me it is the end of school), and early April is the garden (not Spring Break), and the beginning of September is huckleberry picking and harvesting the last of the firewood (not school starting). Up until then I hadn’t seen all the traditions which mark his life-seasons. I’d been so focused on how un-normal we were as un-schoolers that I had completely missed all the traditions we had. I bet yours are there, too. It could be a “first week of not school” activity.

  21. Charis says:

    We too are not-back-to-school. My ten, seven, four, and one year old are carrying on life as usual. It was harder this year because a few of my oldest’s friends are trying school for the first time and we are trying to help my daughter adjust because they were a big part of our homeschooling tribe. My seven year old is only slightly interested in reading and since my first taught herself at five, I am hearing the little dark voice worry a bit in my head. I shoo it away. Our fall tradition is an equinox potluck and only then will I succumb to the thought that summer is leaving. It is encouraging to hear other families forging their own paths too.

  22. jai says:


    I was wondering if you woul do a post on sibling fights and how you deal with it at your house. Our kiddos are the same ages and this is an area where I, not having any siblings, struggle with. I love your approach on everything else so I thought I would ask. thanks!

  23. Tamara says:

    I would love to hear how you decided to unschool and how you manage self care when you’re with the kids so much more than you would be if the kids were in school?

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