Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | October 31, 2014

Unschooling and Husbands

fidelity halloween

Girls at Rob’s Office Halloween Party

To give you a little history…homeschooling was my idea.  I did hundreds of hours of research on the topic.  I lost countless hours of sleep deciding whether or not to take on the (seemingly massive) undertaking.  And it was only once I was certain that I wanted to try homeschooling that I pitched the idea to Rob.  Because our family situation was so difficult when our big girl went to school, we had to try something.  Rob knew it.  I knew it.  So, he agreed to give homeschooling a shot.  He wasn’t sure about it.  But, neither was I.  We both saw homeschooling as our option.

As I continued to research homeschooling that spring/summer, I felt more and more inclined towards unschooling.  But, it wouldn’t be until we were about six months into our homeschooling adventure that I would officially  proclaim:  we are unschoolers!

While I was doing all of this research and leaning towards unschooling, my dear husband made a decree so ridiculous that it left me speechless.  He told me that he was looking forward to seeing my lesson plans and discussing them each week.  I just looked at him in disbelief!  He was planning on playing the role of principal?  I was going to report in to him?  This was just so absurd on so many – every! – level.  Once I got my voice back, I told him something to the effect of, “Profanity!!, exploitive!!, profanity!!, no f-bomb way!!, exploitive!!, exploitive!!, profanity!!, f-bomb insane!!”.  He took his dream of being a homeschool principal off the table.

And so…we had a pretty great first year of homeschooling.  Our family grew stronger.  Our children grew happier.  Our big girl now loves to read.  She sews and draws and bakes beautifully.  She’s built friendships in our neighborhood and homeschool community.  Our little girl gets lost in her imaginative play…is a wonderful builder…and is developing a vocabulary that both surprises us and makes us laugh ’til we cry each day.  So…I was under the impression that Rob and I were on the same page.  We were blissfully unschooling our family.

And then, this week, my husband made a statement that blew my mind.  He said that he wished he could be here to see what we do all day (while he is at work).  What?!  Seriously?  He lives here!  He is home a lot.  For dinner every night and all weekend.  His musing knocked me off balance.  What does he think?  That I ring a bell every 40 minutes to recreate the feeling of school?  That when he leaves in the morning, I run upstairs and throw on slacks and a blouse to look the teacher role?  That I have a secret lesson and grade book hidden under my pillow?  What the f*ck?!  We are unschoolers.  He knows this!!  We’ve had long discussions about this.  Or perhaps I’ve had long monologues about it and he’s tuned me out?  Apparently, the latter.

After a few days of walking around in awe of his statement, I was able to sit with it…and I think that unschooling – the idea that kids are learning all the time, just by living and playing in the world – is still too far outside of the societal norm for him (even though we are doing it!).  Maybe those 12 years of Catholic schooling irrevocably beat into him that rules must be followed!  Maybe going into downtown Boston everyday and working with moms and dads who send their kids to daycare, school, aftercare, and afterschool/weekend activities day in and day out is too much peer pressure for him?  But the thing is…we are already doing it!  We’re successfully unschooling.

Society says that you have to sit in a classroom in order to learn.  So the idea that you could sit at a kitchen table to learn feels somewhat plausible to society at large (and my husband).  Kids could learn at a desk…or a table and be taught by a teacher…or a mother.  Okay.  But learning just by living?  By playing at the park and in the living room?  By going to the library and playing soccer?  It’s actually kind of amazing (and scary) how well schools indoctrinate us into believing that school is the only way that children learn.

My husband knows that whatever we are doing is working.  But he’s still hanging on to this hope that I do something magical (when he’s gone) so that society’s definition of education – a teacher filling her students with information – might still hold true.  But it’s false.  I don’t ring a bell.  I don’t wear slacks.  I DO let my kids play.  I DO pay attention to what interests them and give them opportunities to pursue those interests.  But I’m their guide, not their teacher.

So yes, I am frustrated with my dear husband.  But he has never claimed to be on board with unschooling.  Homeschooling, yes.  Unschooling, not so much.  But what can I do, other than thank Rob for this opportunity to reaffirm that we are unschoolers.  And, our children are happy and healthy.  Our children are motivated, self-directed learners.  We are doing things differently, but that’s okay.  In fact, it’s pretty awesome.


  1. Hilarious! I wonder if he just meant that he would love to be present more during the day to see all the fun of unschooling? I know that my husband wishes he could be home more because he so enjoys our unschooling life. At any rate, I’m sure Rob will get increasingly on board with unschooling as your days of natural learning continue… 🙂

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