Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | February 28, 2014


Little Tracy Stuck in School!

Little Tracy NOT Learning to Ski!

So I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have the courage to post it ’til today.  It takes my Homeschooling is NOT School at Home post one step further…

So, it’s official!  I am ready to shout it from the rooftops:  WE ARE UNSCHOOLERS!  If you don’t like the term unschoolers, feel free to call us child-led learners.  No more of this Waldorf-inspired talky-talky.  Waldorf education is lovely.  But, it’s just not our path.  OMG.  I feel so free!!  FREE!!  I have been trying to figure out why I just can’t commit to the Waldorf curriculum…wouldn’t that make everything easier?!  The reason why Waldorf isn’t a match for us is exactly the same reason why school-at-home with Sonlight (a religious homeschool curriculum) isn’t a match for us:  both have a set curriculum.  Both have a rubric of information/skills that children are expected to master by the end of each year.  I don’t want that.  I don’t need that.  I, an adult with a Master’s degree, could not tell you the capital of every US state.  Kind of embarrassing to admit, yes.  BUT important to admit because many years ago, I got that box checked of on my 5th grade report card!  But ‘ya know what, it didn’t make ANY difference in my life.  I should have spent 5th grade learning how to ski instead of learning US geography because I wouldn’t have forgotten how to ski!  I wouldn’t have to sit in the lodge, saving all the skiers a seat for lunch!  I’d be out on the slopes with ’em!!  But I sure forgot most of those capitals!

INTEREST is truly a prerequisite for learning.  I don’t have a citation for this.  I just have 39 years of life experience to support the statement.  I had no interest in the state capitals back in fifth grade.  So I memorized and quickly forgot the facts.  But now, as an adult, I am very interested in children’s books about adoption and anyone on the street could tell me about a difficult situation their adoptive family is experiencing and I could suggest a really appropriate, helpful book.  No one made me spend hundreds of hours researching this topic.  I did it because I care deeply about the topic and so I will retain the information forever.

Now let’s look at my seven year old case study:  Keira.  She is a gifted artist; always has been.  But she didn’t do much drawing over the past couple of years.  I wished that she would as it calms her.  But now that she is home, settling into herself, she is doing so much drawing.  She illustrates stories!  She draws her emotions (primarily by drawing ugly, monster-like pictures of her mother when she’s angry at me!).  And remember back in November when I’d blogged about how she didn’t want to do anything?  Learn anything new?  Well…now she wants to do everything.  She wants a ballet class and a fashion design class.  I told her to pick one and she’s a bit outraged.  Why just one?  She wants to do both!  This is great.  CHILD LED LEARNING.  It actually is a better name than unschooling.  But unschooling has more of a “f— the man!” kinda ring to it.  And I am SO feeling that tone.  I am reading John Taylor Gatto again.  This guy could get knitting grandmothers riled up over public education!  And boy am I riled up!

So this seems a perfect opportunity for me to share a wonderful resource will all of you, my loyal OFF KLTR readers:  The Alternatives to School Website.


1.  Children are beautifully designed, by nature, to control their own learning.

2.  Forced schooling is not good for children

3.  Real alternatives already exist and have been proven to work.

The site explains that, “By trying to make children learn by placing them in highly controlled school environments for longer and longer periods of their lives, modern schooling became an industrial process that is totally different from the way children naturally learn and grow. Many parents recognize this and eventually also discover that learning is natural, but schooling is a choice.  At this stage, there are three main alternatives to schooling: home-based learning*, democratic schools, or community resource centers.

Check out the site.  It’s awesome!

*Many, many thanks to Kerry McDonald (City Kids Homeschooling) for so beautifully representing home-based learning on this important site.


  1. Thank you for this, Tracy! I’m inspired, and am more and more drawn to finding a way to make this path work for our family. Thank goodness you’re paving the way. 😉

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Tracy! I love being involved with And while I don’t ever claim to be representative of all unschooling families (there are as many ways to unschool as there are unschoolers), I do try to add the perspective of a family with young children attempting all of this. -Kerry

    • That is the beauty of unschooling (and homeschooling in general), isn’t it — there is no one right way to do it! I think that may explain why homeschooling works so well for such diverse groups of people!

  3. Amazing, Tracy! Good luck with the girls and their development. Very inspiring when I browse the blog :). I know I wasn’t meant to learn the way I was taught. Hopefully your girls will have better opportunities and grow more as a result!

    • Bella! Always so nice to hear from you!! Thank you so much for your kind words. You’re so sweet! BTW, I checked out your site the other day, too. It looks awesome!! You do such amazing work. I can’t wait for our next photo shoot with you!! xo, Tracy

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