Instead – An Unschooling Poem

by ChristinaPilkington on September 14, 2011 · 18 comments

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I thought I ‘d do something a little different today. Since I was in a creative mood I wrote a poem.




Instead of waking up in a flurried frenzy of speed dressing, food gobbling and “Can you hurry, up please?”

we’re eating breakfast in our p.j.s, rubbing sleep from our eyes, and watching a video of dolphins on

Instead of flinging ourselves frantically into the car, or watching for a yellow bus to round the corner

we’re packing lunches in the backpack, deciding whether we want to see the Egypt exhibit first or check out the awesome whale skeleton when we get to the Museum.

Instead of watching faces disappear behind doors,

we press our faces closer in laughter and whispered secrets.                                                                                    

Instead of shoving food down mouths in one last attempt to finish lunch before the bell rings

we’re watching the birds pick up bread crumbs off our picnic table in the woods.

Instead of sniffling, sneezing, and breathing in the germs of our too-close for comfort classmates

we’re running through the sun shined air with friends, or pushing through the leaves, or making snowballs sail through the air.

Instead of being told that our questions can wait, that we’re off task, or that we need to stay focused

we ask a hundred questions a minute, jumping from subject to subject, or lingering for hours on those bits of knowledge that fascinate us.

Instead of doing worksheets, reading textbooks, or completing projects we haven’t thought up ourselves when we get home

we play together as a family: taking bike rides, reading together, telling each other our dreams, and just being.

Instead of living out the same routines, schedules and purposes of others

We’re driven by our own curiosity, spontaneity, and desire to reach for more.

Instead of wearing the same things, learning the same things, and doing the same things as others our own age

we’re surrounded by many different generations, living and learning those things that fill our souls and lead us closer to who we were created to be.

Instead of preparing for the real world

we live in the real world every day.

Instead of allowing someone else to direct our time and attention for most of the day

we’re taking responsibility for those ourselves: dreaming, planning, imagining, inventing, and living.

Instead of waiting for the life we’ve always wanted, or until someone tells us we’re qualified enough or have passed enough tests

we’re free to live the lives we want to now.


Photo Credit: Seth Lemmons

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  • wendi

    Beautifully written… so clearly expressed are the values that surface when we take on our own education and our own path.

    • christinapilkington

      Thank you so much Wendi!

  • Monica Vandeventer

    I am almost in tears. Thank You. Perfect.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks so much. I feel honored :)

  • Anonymous

    Very nice! I like the “we’re surrounded by many different generations, living and learning those things that fill our souls and lead us closer to who we were created to be” part!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks so much!

  • Lisa Gann McCarville

    love love love it!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks so much!

  • Susan

    I love this!! You’ve taken my own thoughts and feelings and written them down so perfectly :)

    • Anonymous


  • Jessica

    Why do you think that this way of living and learning is so threatening to some people? These things you mentioned are all things I am thankful for each and every day. My girls are happy, I am happy. WE are happy. WE are learning. I am struggling with some outside negativity that was dumped on me.

    • Anonymous

      I think in depends on the situation people are in. For a lot of families, the adults are not happy with their lives for some reason, and they think that their kids need to learn how to function in situations that don’t make them happy either. Adults who were not free to learn without school usually believe that learning is a chore- something you have to do, not something you want to do, especially in the areas of reading and math. Since they grew up being forced to learn, they usually can’t imagine why children on their own would want to learn the subjects or skills they hated.

      And I also think the idea of the expert is so engrained in our society, that it’s difficult to imagine how a parent, without “professional” training and certificates, can show their child how to read and do basic math – the same way it’s difficult to see how people can learn to heal naturally, or grow food or do a hundred other things on their own.

      I just pray we can move away from our current way of thinking about learning. Maybe when enough children grow up whole and healthy there will be enough “evidence” for society to move in the right direction.

      • Susan

        I agree with your thoughts here, too. People’s negativity is so frustrating to me! I truly believe that life and learning should be joyful, and I am trying my best to align our lives with that goal. It’s hard when other people want to denigrate that…but, I do think it’s because of their own fears and unhappiness.

        • Anonymous

          I think you’re right. People are often afraid of what they don’t know. It’s hard for me with my kids being small to find approval from others about our decisions on how we’re raising our kids, especially from extended family. But then I have to remember that the things that matters most is our immediate family relationship. Gentle parenting and interest-led learning has strengthened our family bonds and has allowed my children to use their creativity, imagination and knowledge in ways I would have never imagined possible.

  • Niki

    I love the final line, “We’re free to live the lives we want to now”. :)

    • Anonymous


  • Kelleigh

    Oh Christina! Just awesomely beautiful! I am printing it now! It will go on my wall as a constant reminder that the interest-led life is the only life worth leading…for everyone. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      I’m really glad you liked it. I really don’t write poetry that much, but I was in a particularly joyful and mushy mood. I’m just so thankful to be able to live and learn with my kids. I wish I could give that gift to everyone.

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