In 2015, Chaunna and her husband, Justin, sold everything they owned and hit the road to give their kids the adventure of a lifetime. Over the last 4 years they’ve travelled to 5 countries and 46 of 50 states while homeschooling their two kids (now 16 & 8). You can follow their adventures at HappilyUnemployed.com or on Facebook.
What was the catalyst that lead you to choose unschooling for your family’s learning and educational needs?
My husband and I have an online business that allows us to work from anywhere. A few years ago we came to the realization that while we were very successful with our online business we were really unhappy. After much decision making, we decided to sell everything and hit the road. That was the biggest motivator. I would say a second motivator would be my disappointment in the school system and it’s focus on tests and attendance more than a success mindset and a desire for learning.
Prior to your venture into unschooling, did you have any preconceived ideas, beliefs, or notions about what unschooling entailed (positive or negative)? If so, have any of those beliefs or ideas shifted?
I hold a BA in Elementary Education, so I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of being able to teach my children, however the biggest struggle for me with “unschooling” was NOT having a plan. It was ingrained in me to look up the “requirements” for their age, make sure we’re meeting the standards, make lesson plans and document everything etc. I had a hard time just going with the flow of learning and forced specific skills because that is what the state listed for my child’s age.
I really wanted to reduce the amount of stress I was putting on my shoulders, so this past year, I didn’t buy a workbook, I didn’t make a monthly plan. I just took my kids to Barnes and Nobles and picked out some reading books. We took a look at where our travels were going to take us this year and picked out fun things to do along the way. We had no problem finding a daily science or history lesson. We read fun stories about the Oregon trail, and learned multiplication math songs. It was an amazing time. I really felt that this past year was a true “unschooling” experience for all of us (but mostly for myself)
What have been some of your favorite strategies, tools, or resources that you’ve employed to make unschooling a successful fit for your family?
We have 3 “systems” for unschooling.
1. Most of our learning is done at historical locations (sightseeing while road tripping) or at science museums. The whole family really enjoys the hands-on learning of experiences like those.
2. Another tool I use is an iPad. Both kids have one. The first year I homeschooled I had a workbook and a textbook for every subject, we had manipulatives, reading books… so. much. stuff. It was a struggle to get to it all, not to mention carry it all while traveling. The move to the iPad was one of our best decisions and really helped us apply minimalism to our unschooling routine.
The kids have “playtime” which is with any education app on their iPad, reading which uses apps like Epic for an unlimited about of reading resources, and then Good notes. We use Goodnotes to journal about things we do, places we go, what we’ve learned. (Don’t worry, we didn’t give up on hands-on learning projects… we just buy what we need when we need it and then donate or use all the supplies so we don’t need to carry them with us).
3. The last “system” really isn’t a system, but a reminder for me. It’s to teach our children to be inquisitive. In the beginning, my husband and I would exaggerate our expressions with a statement like, “Why would you do something like that?” or “I wonder why….” “Hmmmm, that’s interesting. Learning anything else?
Asking questions like this taught our kids to raise more questions about things. This spark in curiosity is all you need to go down the rabbit trail of learning in all sorts of topics. I know now that my job isn’t to “teach” them.. it’s to spark enough curiosity in a topic that both children naturally want to research more about a topic.
How has your family’s experience with unschooling been so far? Have you encountered any obstacles or challenges? What milestones and successes have stood out to you?
I would say the first year was rough. My son who is older and has more experience in the school system questioned me about everything. While my daughter who I started homeschooling from the beginning always had me as a teacher. I don’t know if it was the school experience or just a personality clash, but it was insanely easy to teach my youngster and a constant battle teaching my oldest. The only advice I have is to show that your goals are aligned with theirs (do less school “work” and have more fun).
Truly “unschooling” and not carrying around workbooks was a huge milestone. I can’t tell you how nice it is that both kids carry all their “school” in their backpacks and I no longer need to lug around a 30 lb Rubbermaid bin full of “stuff.”
What questions do you receive most often about unschooling your family and how do you address those questions?
“But how are they socialized?”. I get asked this at every conversation about homeschooling. I explain that in every city the children are in have RV parks full of children (especially in the summer), we’re a part of RV facebook groups and can meet up with other families homeschooling their children, and we do still participate in extracurricular activities like camps. And our best resource is actually public libraries since they have weekly activities for kids of every age.
Other questions are typically related to graduation and if they can go to college. Which of course they can, but we’re not currently focused on that. Since my husband and I are both entrepreneurs, our children are learning how to build businesses as a part of their schooling.
I think the last question I get from every conversation is, “How can you afford to travel the US and “unschool?” I typically explain that we built an online business over the last 10 years which allows us to have a flexible lifestyle.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your unschooling journey?
I would say for me it’s seeing my children share stories of our adventures. When we meet up with friends and family they go on and on about silly adventures, scary experiences, and cool sights. I love hearing their perspective on our adventures.
Another perk is actually spending as much time with them as we get to. It’s summer now and both kids went away for at least 7 days (my son for thirty days). Having time away from them showed me how much fun we really do have together.
What advice would you give to someone considering unschooling or just beginning their unschooling adventure?
Dive in and be fearless. My husband liked to joke that “I’m the rule follower” and the “checklist queen.” It’s hard for me to “just wing it.” But we have learned to just have fun. Find fun places to hike and explore, go to new experiences, look up the history of a building 100 years ago. Having a true sense of wonder for the world around us has made unschooling so rewarding for everyone in the family, not just our children.
What key skills and traits do you feel unschooling has instilled in your child/children/family?
Independent learning, a natural curiosity for the world around us, a conversational understanding of a variety of topics. But more importantly, when they don’t know something they can’t just leave it at “I don’t know.” They’re both so much more independent in all areas of their lives, not just in learning, which is the biggest trait I notice when they’re with other children similar in age.
What has been one of the most powerful insights you’ve gained from unschooling?
Don’t let the outside world put so much stress on you. They don’t deserve that power. You have the power to give your children the ability to “live their best life.” Do it.
What do you feel is one of the biggest myths about unschooling?
I think that there are two..1. That unschooled kids aren’t socialized. In this technologically-advanced world we live in, you and your children have plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with others. 2. Homeschooling is hard. It’s only hard when you are trying to live up to the outrageous opinions of others or comparing your style with the style of others. It’s your program, build one that fits your strengths and just run with it. You will get better with time