Thursday, May 13, 2010

Can a Single Parent Unschool? by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

When discussing unschooling here and on my facebook, I've been asked several times about whether a single parent can unschool.  I don't actually have personal experience with this, but perhaps this article by Jan Hunt from will help.  If anyone else has experience or advice on this issue, please share in the comments!

Can a Single Parent Unschool? by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

These days, many parents find themselves alone, whether by choice or by circumstances. Many of these parents assume that unschooling is not an option for them, but like many other assumptions, this can be self-fulfilling. Happily, unschooling in single parent families is easier now than it has ever been. With commitment, creativity and support, single parent unschooling can be not only possible, but very rewarding.

If a parent considers herself a resource person rather than a teacher, unschooling will be much more feasible. "Unschooling" (interest-led learning) is much easier and more enjoyable for both parent and child than a structured curriculum, and takes far less energy. This is likely to be especially appreciated by a parent who has the full responsibility of her children, whether he or she is a single parent or a parent whose partner travels frequently or works long hours. Without the unnecessary burden of a curriculum, parents are free to respond to their child in a more natural and far less time-consuming way.

Researchers consistently find that an unstructured approach is the most effective anyway – and the most fun for both parent and child. Instead of following a curriculum and hiring a tutor, many such parents instead hire household help. This gives them a break from tiring chores, and allows them more time to enjoy helping their child learn.

A major factor that makes single parent unschooling a viable option today is the increased opportunity of working at home. Many such parents have started home businesses, or have found contract work that can be done at home. Still others have found outside jobs that allow them to bring their children along. Many single unschooling parents receive government assistance for some length of time when their children are younger. While most such parents would be in a better financial position if their children were in school, they feel strongly that unschooling is best for their children, and they find ways to make it work.

For parents with small children, I often recommend a "mother's helper", a young person who can spend time with children while the parent is also in the home; this can allow uninterrupted work time. If a mother's helper is an unschooler, he or she will be available during the day, and is likely to have been raised in a similar environment.

Books and websites on voluntary simplicity and frugal living can also be excellent resources. Inspiring articles on starting and running a home business and home management can be found on the Natural Life website, and offers many helpful ideas and suggestions. The book Unschooling on a Shoe String by Melissa Morgan includes ideas for earning money, lowering expenses, finding affordable learning tools, and discovering low-cost field trips. The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs offers suggestions on money, housing, work, health, nutrition, and travel.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for single parents is the need for sufficient financial resources, time and energy. Supportive friends or family can offer essential emotional support, help, and encouragement. Unschooling support groups and parent co-ops are an invaluable resource for creative ideas and emotional support.

Jon's Homeschool Resources includes a list of support groups in many locations. The "Single Parent and Working" web page offers advice on unschooling for working single parents, and the "Unschooling While Single Parenting" mailing list offers a connection to other parents facing the same challenges.

While unschooling can be challenging and time-consuming for any parent, having a child in school can be even more so. My mother often asked me if I wouldn't have more time to myself if my son were in school. I told her, "No, I wouldn't, because I would always be on the phone to the principal about whatever educational issue had come up that week." In this way, I felt that I had more time than I would have, if school – and all of the demands that school puts on families - had been a part of our family life. Knowing that my son was free to learn in his own way and at his own pace, and watching him do so was a profound delight that made unschooling an easy choice despite any sacrifice. With sufficient determination, creativity, and support, single parent unschooling can be an immensely fulfilling experience.

More book recommendations:

Being There: The Benefits of a Stay-At-Home Parent by Isabelle Fox
The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn
The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
Mompreneurs: A Mother's Practical Step-By-Step Guide to Work-At-Home Success by Ellen H. Parlapiano
Staying Home: From Full-Time Professional to Full-Time Parent by Darcie Sanders
The Stay-At-Home Mom's Guide to Making Money from Home: Choosing the Business That's Right for You Using the Skills and Interests You Already Have by by Liz Folger
What's a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home? by Linda Burton
The Work-At-Home Mom's Guide to Home Business: Stay at Home and Make Money With by Cheryl Demas

Reprinted with permission from the Natural Child Project. Jan Hunt is the author of The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart (2001) and A Gift for Baby (2006); and the co-editor of the new book TheUnschooling Unmanual. Jan offers telephone counseling on attachment parenting and unschooling. To request counseling, order her books, or for other information, leave a message toll-free at 877-593-1547 or visit her website at

If you believe in what the Natural Child Project stands for, and appreciate all their amazing resources, consider visiting their site and making a donation!


breech said...

Thanks for this, now if my ex would just disappear so that I could unschool without worrying about losing my kids (anti-homeschooling judge that has reversed custody decisions because one of the parents chose to homeschool)

Post a Comment

Imagine this is a dinner party. Differences of opinion are welcome but keep it respectful or the host will show you the door. If you're rude or abusive, your comment will be deleted. This is "Woman Uncensored" not "Random anonymous jackass that needs therapy Uncensored". Feel free to get your own blog and rant all you want there.

Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That's how we're going to be - cool. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation...

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner