Adventures in unschooling a toddler-February 2017

Adventures in unschooling!  February 2017 toddler edition

“Mommy learns what unschooling is”


This week my toddler took all of her crayons and put them into the hole of a pool noodle!  

She’s 18 months old and she started doing this on her own when she was having free-play aka mommy was doing dishes.  I realized what a great fine motor activity that was and that I had actually been planning a similar but more complicated activity that I found on pinterest, using straws and an empty parmesan cheese container.  I hadn’t taken the time and energy to actually prep aforementioned awesome activity.


So, I hopped onto pinterest, as any good mom would do and I came across this term,



You’ve probably already heard it, but it was new to me.


Basically the idea behind unschooling is that children are naturally curious and we just let them learn by exploring their interests.  


I love this concept because sometimes the “education” that we push on children for their benefit actually has the opposite effect by making them frustrated and not want to participate in anything labeled “learning” or “education.”  I know few children going through traditional schooling anywhere who would say that they enjoy it or that learning is fun.  


Am I planning to exclusively “unschool” my child?  

No.  There are some things that we have to do in life that may not be the most fun.  I want her to have some basic knowledge and skills that may not fall into her “interests” and I want her to be stretched to learn to do things that aren’t initially exciting.


However this experience really taught me a lesson!  My child is already curious and has a desire to try things, learn things, and explore the world.  Probably the greatest educational gift that I can give her is to not squash that spirit!   So I will give myself a break and let her learn by playing, copying and trying things.  There will be lots of times that I need to step in and be intentional in teaching her, but she is learning so much in her playing-I’m going to enjoy watching her unschool!

Want to read more about how my ideas on education have changed since having a toddler?  I wrote about it here

What have you noticed your children learning on their own?  Do you incorporate any unschooling into your education plan?

How having a child changed my views on education





I have always valued education very highly. I excelled in book learning, structured school environment and pleasing my teachers. I wanted to teach elementary school from the age of 8! I pursued an education degree in college, constantly touting the benefits of reading to children, early education, reading skills, and the importance of college preparation from a young age. Every job that I had in college was education based: I tutored college students, taught preschool, and wrote elementary lesson plans. I also read about educational theories for fun, and loved the challenge of working with different children and helping them get to that “aha” moment on a particular topic. I continued after college to get my teaching credential in California and had a natural, God-given gift to teach.

When I was assigned to do my student teaching at the elementary school that I attended, it was a dream come true. That dream quickly turned sour (as you can probably guess from the title that you clicked on to get here!) While I expected to have too many students, low pay, too few resources and a lot of work to do, it was so much worse than anything that I could have imagined.

Honestly, if you know a teacher, give her a hug or send her some chocolate and flowers because she truly has a difficult and undervalued job. The students that I had were great! The real deal-breaker for me was the treatment of teachers by administration and parents. I became jaded quickly and I decided that the public school classroom was not the right place for me to utilize my passion for education that still remained.

Note: the teachers that I worked with were actually amazing and I am still in contact with them, they are truly excellent educators and the fact that they work well within the environment where everything is against them shows that shows their true love for their students and their work.

I sort of fell in to postpartum doula work on accident (helping families adapt to having a new baby) and between that and nannying young children, I felt that I was still able to educate new parents and toddlers, while controlling my work environment and schedule. While many in my life looked down at my decision to abandon the career that I had pursued for so long at the last moment, I knew that I was not about to start what would have been miserable for me even though it would have paid more.

I loved this season of my life

and education was still a huge part of it. I read classic novels to 1 year olds, created “lesson plans” to demonstrate and practice with new parents how to use an infant carrier or give an infant a bath, and got to read to children and see them excited about counting to 3 or knowing the color yellow. We did art projects,went to music class, and taught new mommies how to properly prepare bottles.

When I had my own daughter,

I expected to think and feel exactly the same way as I did as a nanny, or even value education more! But truly, that all went out the window.

I still want my child to learn things and have skills, but I care so much more that she LOVES learning. I still want my child to read well, but I care so much that she ENJOYS reading. I want her to have a great foundation in practical math, but I care even more that she knows the LOVE of the Lord.

And all of those great activities that I did with my nanny kids (art, structured and unstructured play, crafts, messy activities, outside time, water play, reading) seriously, no one has time for all of that!

At first I felt guilty that I had done more projects and read more books to other people’s children than to my own. I actually came to my husband crying that I had given my best to my nanny kids and didn’t have enough energy left for my own beloved daughter! But in time (and with my husbands encouragement) my mind was changed.

The first step

was to throw guilt out the window because Stephanie the nanny doesn’t have to do laundry, get up in the night, go to appointments, make dinner or even prep the baby food, doesn’t sweep the floor, walk the dog, do the shopping, and leaves at 5:30pm and gets 9 hours of sleep every night and weekends off. Stephanie the mommy obviously has those other homemaking tasks and no time off (but I don’t want time off either)

The next step

was to really think and talk with my husband about what we want for our daughter to know when she reaches adulthood. For us, the priorities are all about the Lord! We want her to know the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the goodness and fullness of God, His forgiveness and that He is just.

Next would be how to treat people with love and kindness, gentleness and respect.

Third would be a love of learning and reading, if she can read and is curious, she can learn more about what she is interested in and enjoys and will continue learning for her entire life!

Last would be basic practical skills and facts to be able to file taxes, write a resume, calculate her grocery budget, cook, clean, write a professional email, music, basic government, and some other things like that.

And I realized, none of those goals involve paint.

I had heaped so much pinterest-mom guilt on myself that involved tempura paint and truly, it has nothing to do with what is actually important to me. In trying to do what was “good,” I neglected what was important.

I also neglected my child’s needs and preferences.

She doesn’t like reading books. I’m pretty sure she’s a kinesthetic learner and wouldn’t thrive in a traditional classroom anyway because she sat through an entire board book for the first time this week and I may or may not have cried because there are 4 other babies in this world who I had read 100 books to by this age!

Now having clear goals for our child’s education, we can take our time and take deliberate steps to teach our child.

We still paint, but not because we should, we do it because it’s fun!
I let her watch me read my bible and I tell her about what I’m reading      We watch veggie tales while mommy drinks coffee.
I offer to read her books and if she says no, it’s okay.
We dance while we fold laundry, maybe we count the socks.
We go to the library, but we only play with the toys
We play outside with rocks

And for today: it’s enough. In fact, it’s more than enough.