I am an unschooler, and so is my family. Please, indulge me for a few moments while I explain.

I am an unschooler. I believe in my child's ability and desire to learn. I believe that she is an intelligent, capable human being, and I believe that when the time for her to learn a certain thing arrives, that she will learn it.

I am an unschooler. I do not believe in force feeding my child a bunch of useless facts and rote learning that will be forgotten next week, next month, next year. I am confident that when my child learns a thing, that it stays learned, because she chose to learn it and put her entire being into discovering what its secrets and mysteries are.

I am an unschooler. I refuse to force my child to grow up before she is ready. I will not put her into situations where she is forced to compete instead of play and learn. I cannot push her to achieve and in so doing lose sight of the child in the quest for rewards.

I am an unschooler. I encourage my child to be a self starter and self aware. I guide her gently and offer assistance when she requests it. I do not tell her that she is doing it wrong just because that isn't how it was taught to me.

I am an unschooler. I threw away the clock years ago. I do not believe that a child can learn to read only between the hours of 10 and 11, or 1 to 2. Our days are a crazy quilt of activity, ranging from a day doing nothing but drawing pictures or playing computer games to doing fifty different activities ranging from staring at a snail to counting the number of rice grains in a cup.

I am an unschooler. Our textbooks include old catalogues, junk mail, and encyclopedias. Our on hand science materials are made up of a beaker, some magnets, and a few goldfish. We create our learning materials and we buy them. We find them in fields and in flea markets. We see the educational value in everything, because children will learn from anything that you hand them, even a Barbie doll. Please don't try to force your curriculum on us. We don't need it.

I am an unschooler. Our family has its own moral values which we share openly among ourselves, and with those who are genuinely interested. We do not want to have our souls saved, or our lifestyle condemned. If you wish to be our friend and share our journey, we welcome you, no matter what your philosophy. All that we ask is that you allow us the space to be ourselves just as we will give that to you. Share with us, please, but don't ram it into us?

I am an unschooler. My child has many friends of all ages, and from all walks of life. She is not a person to be pitied for her "isolation". She is a person experiencing the best that life can give and enjoying it to its fullest. She is happy, healthy, and well adjusted. She is bright, eager, and intensely interested in her world and universe. She is incredible, and she is a source of amazing joy and interest to everybody who knows her.

I am an unschooler. And I am glad to be one.

Afternote, added July 28, 2005

I wrote this piece when my daughter was five years old. She is now 14. We homeschooled her until the beginning of her seventh grade year, when we realized I would be having to move out of California and nobody would be home to teach her, and because she wanted to experience regular schooling. Child led means child led. If they want institutional schooling, they should have the chance to try it.

I was sent a skeptical message that nobody can learn calculus by counting rice grains, and that unschooling may work at the youngest ages, but not the oldest. This is horse shit. No child starts out with higher mathematics. And as to older kids being able to learn through unschooling, I point to David Colfax's kids, all of them unschooled clear through their youths, no formal schooling ever, three of them with Harvard degrees, the fourth a farmer who chose not to go to college.

Additionally, my daughter spent two years in junior high school where the curriculum was what? Fractions and decimals. She is starting high school in the fall, with AP calculus as one of her classes. She learned geometry, algebra, trigenometry and pre-calc where? At home. With what method? Unschooling. Tutored by? Her high school drop out mother. Amazing. But you can't learn higher math such as calculus through unschooling, don't forget.

My husband is currently chasing his PhD in mathematics and is a mathematician of sorts. His acceptance list for doctorate programs is longer than my arm. He tells me that my daughter is a mathematical whiz and probably would not have been such if she had been forced to fit into some ridiculous mold early on. He also points out that calculus, being the manipulation of very small quantities is, in a lot of ways, much like adding up large quantities of very small things, such as grains of rice (integration), or dividing very small things by each other (differentiation). Finally, he mentions that he and Richard Feynman, among myriad others, learned calculus on their own.

Guess whose opinion I believe on this?