How to Speak Non-Unschool Language

Do you ever feel awkward around people, when they ask you what you/your kids do for school? Sometimes wish you could just say you go to school, or do a packaged curriculum? I certainly do. I’m going to go through some strategies for talking to them about your lifestyle. I’ll break it into the kind of categories I generally see, but mix and match in ways that work for you.


Someone you’ll never see again:
For someone you won’t have to deal with (and thus you don’t need to go into much detail) there are, in my opinion, two ways you can go about explaining unschooling. The first is the most basic. Give a quick explanation, “I learn at home” or “I’m homeschooled.” Don’t go very far into detail if you don’t want to. You can decided what you say, but it’s not so important (at least for me) to thoroughly explain the situation.

The other strategy is a little more fun, but it’s also perhaps not the nicest way to explain it. But, in all honesty, it’s just describing unschooling. Things like “I don’t go to school” are good ways to start when someone asks where you/your kids go to school. I like to continue to insist that this is the case. When they (nearly inevitably) say, “So you’re homeschooled?” counter with emphasizing again that no, you just don’t go to school. I’ve definitely occasionally been made fun of with this method, but I also get a good laugh afterward. And sometimes you’ll have a really interesting conversation about what you do with someone you would have just seen in passing.


Someone you’ll see occasionally:

This is for someone like the doctor, an acquaintance, etc. One way is to just say you’re homeschooled. If they want any more information, you could list the things in ways that sound more like school. It’s a perfectly respectable choice, and certainly simpler, but frankly, it feels a little like lying to me.

So another option is to try to explain what you really do. Go into some detail about beliefs about learning from life and family oriented learning. Choose what you share and what you don’t, but hopefully they’ll begin to accept what you say. I like to think of it as a form of activism. I’m spreading the word about unschooling in a regular conversation. I might even recommend a book or website if they seem interested. But often they still seemed confused, in which case, I just try to ease into a different conversation and hope they don’t bring it up again next time we meet.


Someone you’ll see/talk to often:

For me, I would include relations, people in classes/programs I do, coworkers of my mother and friends I don’t see too often. Here is when I really start going in depth. I explain things that I may have tried in the previous section. I want them to understand and be interested in the things I do. Enough so that when I see them again, they’ll ask me what I’ve been up to recently rather than how homeschooling is going, whether I’m out for the summer, etc. Again, I treat helping people to learn about unschooling as an important part of what I do, so I love if they get excited about it and want to know more. But it all has to do with the person. If they seem unwilling to consider what you do, I’d talk more about the things I think they really would understand.


I’m not going to go into much detail about people you see on a day to day basis, because I would suggest continuing along with what I outlined in the third section. Of course, with all these things, you can decided to do what you like to explain and what’s easier to keep to yourself. And a couple more notes: I almost never bring any of this up unless someone else does first, it’s just a pain for me and I don’t see a reason to discuss it if they don’t want to. The other thing is, I’ve noticed that kids are far more accepting. All these things are more for adults, because kids normally just say, “That’s so cool. And it totally makes sense to me.”

I hope those strategies were helpful. How do you respond to people who ask? Do you like any of these ideas? Or do you prefer to say you’re homeschooled and leave it at that? Let me know in the comments!


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