|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
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
Books and websites on voluntary simplicity and frugal living can
also be excellent resources. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs
offer many inspiring 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.