Unschool, Homeschool, What School, Who School

My homeschooling experience often feels like I’m in the middle of a Dr. Seuss book filled with lots of confusing characters and creatures, all embarking on an outlandish journey culminating in something that actually makes sense in the end, all tied up with a great life lesson. I decided to homeschool Jaden and Rowan three years ago for all sorts of reasons, a few of which I will highlight here. Reason number one – mommy intuition. My gut was telling me that traditional schooling for Jaden, my third grader at the time, was slowly squashing his bright little spirit. Jaden is brilliant. No really, he is genius; those of you who know him understand what I’m saying. I’m not bragging about his brilliance, I had nothing to do with it. He is who he is thanks to nature and the awesomeness of the universe and because he just is, however; super bright children can often be the most challenging. With this in mind, when it was time for Jaden to start kindergarten, we opted for a Spanish immersion charter school (yet still part of the public school system) in hopes that this would offer the stimulation this kid’s massive brain would need. For the first three years of his public school career, it all seemed to be ok. I loved the community of families, loved the program, but what I did not eventually love was the constant structure and rules and guidelines of what exactly had to be learned coupled with the lack of freedom to explore what life is really all about beyond taking tests and learning how to memorize (useless) information.

Second, Jaden was not as happy as he had been when he wasn’t in school. It was as simple as that. His happiness had receded and it just plain sucks to see your happy, bright, amazing child lack a bit of the happiness that every child so deservingly needs! Third reason, there is this kid named Rowan, our youngest child. Rowan is not Jaden. Not even close. Rowan is also brilliant but in such a different way. You see, Jaden started reading at age 3. At age 3 I’m quite certain Rowan could have climbed Mt. Everest unattended successfully had we let him. Rowan is the conqueror of all things risky, scary, athletic, and crazy. Rowan is fun to the power of 10,000 and putting this kid in a desk for 6 hours a day would have crushed him. He has no problem with attention and he’s extremely in tune and in touch, for example, when at gymnastics practice, he’s one of the few kids that can stand and listen without spastically throwing his body about. However, have him SIT DOWN and WRITE IN BOOKS for any long period of time, forget it. Rowan has mountains to climb and cartwheels to do and kitchen countertops to balance on before leaping to hang from the molding on our walls. And no, I’m not kidding.

So those being our top two reasons to homeschool, we jumped into the world of homeschooling with both feet. Our first year of homeschooling was through another local charter school that is set up specifically for homeschooling families. With this model, we would check in with a Personal Learning Assistant (credentialed teacher) once a month to turn in assignments that fall into the guidelines of public schooling requirements. We were given curriculum from the school and had to do the necessary amount of work that all other public school kids are required to do but with way more freedom and time for exploration through learning rather than just sitting and listening or toiling through worksheets. This model worked pretty well for us but we still found it to be a bit too constrictive but the amazing thing was that we could get a days worth of school work finished in usually under 3 hours rather than the average 6 hours that most kids spend strapped to a desk in a school environment! However, this was also the year we started traveling and after dragging boat loads of schoolwork with us to Italy (to sit in a hotel and do worksheets instead of seeing ITALY??) felt totally backwards and strange to me. So, the next year we went totally rogue. We decided to unschool.

This was the craziest hippiest dippiest thing I have ever done but it was also incredibly liberating. Truly, it’s my own angst that I had to get over in order to feel ok with the lack of schedule. The lack of structure. The lack of SCHOOL! Rowan of course thrived with this model and it was amazing to see how much he learned minus a traditional “learning environment” but with Jaden, he didn’t seem to catch on as quickly. Jaden is my guy who wants to follow a set of rules, wants to cook right from the cookbook without any modifications, wants to read the rules of monopoly every time we play to make sure we don’t veer to far from the way the game was intended to be played so therefore I implemented more of a schooling type structure for him by using the online resource called Time for Learning. However, after our second year adventure of homeschooling and more trips out of the country, we decided to re-enroll into the homeschool charter school in order to give Jaden a bit more of what he craves with the balance of freedom he has to do his “own thing” while homeschooling.

So far so good, however I still miss the absolute freedom of letting my kids just be and to learn through living. We still have a massive amount of ways to do this, even with the more structured program of the charter school. It’s been interesting to see Jaden however, be a bit unsure about going back into the public school inspired homeschool program. I think the taste of freedom he received during our last year of unschooling has helped him ease up a bit on his need to always follow rules all the time and now, I’m not entirely sure what next year will bring for us. As of now we plan on sticking with the charter school and to the public schools curriculum that they provide, and this still provides so much more freedom than an actual public school,  so we can kind of “real school” and “unschool” all at the same time.

We also are working with an amazing teacher at the charter school who totally gets us and gets IT! She understands our lifestyle and our travel schedule and our free-spirited nature and is willing to let us have a bit more leeway with curriculum, which is especially important for Rowan’s style of learning.

In future installments, I’ll tell you a bit more about what our homeschool days typically look like and who knows, maybe next year we will go back to our unschooling model and step away from the more traditional path we are currently on. I guess that’s the beauty of homeschooling in general. We can change what we are doing if it’s not working, unlike in traditional schooling, there’s not a lot of choice in that department. In the meantime, I’m grateful that my two charismatic, adventurous, very different boys have the freedom to be who they need to be, and let’s be honest, Dr. Seuss was a brilliant man and I’m totally ok being part of a crazy story with odd twists and turns, surrounded by wild unruly creatures, that always somehow end up with a happy and positive life lesson filled ending.

As always, enjoy!

Sarah Fragoso

Sarah Fragoso is an international best selling author of 6 books, co-owner of the Chico, CA based gym JS Strength and Conditioning, and founder of the Everyday Paleo franchise. Sarah is the co-host of the popular Sarah and Dr. Brooke Show podcast and she also conducts workshops and retreats on the subjects of nutrition, lifestyle and fitness.

Her message is from the heart and she carries a genuine desire to help other families looking for guidance. These attributes have contributed to her successes and provide the drive to keep the discoveries coming.

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  1. Very cool. Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to read about another side of your life.

    1. Thanks Mel! Super fun for me to share. Glad you are enjoying the new site!

  2. Lisa says:

    I’ve homeschooled my kids for the last 4 years. The first year was WAY too much like public schools. It was a classical model, which suggested a LOT of curriculum. It sounded great, but my daughter was not enjoying it at all. And now that I homeschool all three we have gone to a TJEd style, for the most part. I would call it part TJEd, part unschool, with a little Classical thrown in. All three of my kids are so different from each other and so they are going to thrive in different learning environments and the conveyor belt style of the public schools is not it. Good for you for figuring it out for each of yours. Homeschool is just as much of a learning experience for the parents as it is the kids!! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Lisa! You are so correct that homeschooling is just as much a learning experience for parents – I’m really trying to relax more and enjoy more and not worry so much about what they might NOT be getting because I realize how much MORE they are getting by being home with us!

  3. I homeschool our 3 sons for the last 5 yrs. It has been an amazing ride- currently 10th grader, 7th grader, and 5th grader. We use the ABEKA curriculum. Sharon love about homeschooling is there is no comparison from family family- it will look different for everyone!

    1. Not sure why it says Sharon, lol. Wanted to say “what I love”‘ lol

      1. LOL! I figured you meant something like that. 🙂 I also love how we can make our own setting at home exactly what WE need it to be and so can other homeschooling families – it just feels right.

  4. Allyssa says:

    I am surrounded by homeschooling mothers, and I definitely think it’s a really, really neat thing. I don’t have any children yet, but my goal is to homeschool when I do have them. My sister has been homeschooling her children for years, and they’re so incredibly smart and gifted. I have noticed when I tell people that I want to homeschool my children, though, I get a lot of really weird looks and/or comments. Have you experienced any of that? If so, how do you deal with it? Honestly, the opinion of other people and how they want me to raise my children doesn’t matter much to me, but it’s crazy how many people judge and think homeschoolers are “weird,” or that parents are keeping them from having a social life. I was homeschooled in high school and I was still plenty social. Thank you so much for these posts! I’m really enjoying learning more about you. Starting up this site was a really good idea! We’re all enjoying it. 🙂

    1. Oh, yes, I deal with that often. The biggest question I get is “how will they become socialized” which always makes me laugh. In the last three years of homeschooling we have traveled internationally 4 times, they have helped us open up a new business, they accompany us everywhere we go and engage in our interactions, we have tons of friends and a great community, the “socialization” they receive is much greater in my opinion than what they would receive in a school setting. I feel very lucky to be able to do what we do, not to say that going to school is a horrible thing, but homeschooling really works for us and it’s great to see my boys thriving.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. My oldest daughter is 11 and she really wants to homeschooling next school year. I have no idea where to start. I am self employed and I feel like it would be just one more thing to stress me out. I am totally open to the idea though. She’s going into the 6th grade and the gossip and bullying is already starting.

  6. Love it! My family chose to unschool until high school when my daughter went full-time and my son part-time. It’s lovely to find the perfect situation for where your family is. Best thing is that by listening to our kids needs, they become wonderful adults who really like themselves.

    1. So great to hear that you were able to unschool all the way to high school! That’s our goal as well, and it’s exciting to think of the road ahead. 🙂

  7. Vanessa says:

    This was an exciting post to read! I’ve followed you over the years and had no idea you were homeschooling! We homeschool and I’ve been right where you’re at- my oldest seems to thrive on structure as well but still needs lots of input in his education. He also needs a lot of stimulation. We did the charter route in CA that supports home learning but with the increasing assessments and required assignments, we decided to let it go. We now live in an area where that option doesn’t exist and I’m glad. It simply wasn’t a good fit for my gifted, intense guy who needs a lot of stimulation and structure but not busy work.
    Have you looked into Athena’s Academy? Or Gifted Homeschoolers Forum? Both offer classes that kids can take based on their interests. My son LOVED the Beyond Percy Jackson course on Greek Mythology that incorporated contemporary lit series Percy Jackson a few years back (at age 8). G3 also offers classes. I find these a great way to offer structure but allow my son to choose what to study.

    1. Hi Vanessa! No, I haven’t looked into Athena’s Academy or Gifted Homeschoolers Forum but I’m going to right now, super excited – thank you!!

  8. Audrey V says:

    Good for you!! I have 2 boys, my oldest is a freshman in college and my youngest is a junior in high school. I thought many times about homeschooling because my oldest was never challenged in school. He is super bright and the teachers had no incentive or time to let him learn more once he had met the standard for that grade. He was told to read a book once he finished his work, and he finished his work so quickly that he spent most of his time reading. Thank goodness he liked to read. But I’ve always felt that he could have gone so much farther with his school work than he was allowed to do. I feel like our schools are based on mediocrity and not excellence.
    My youngest son has always had trouble reading and our schools never addressed the problem, despite my repeated pleas. In hindsight, we never homeschooled because we live in a very rural area, and school is the main social interaction. But I applaud parents who make the plunge. No one knows your child like you do, and you have to do what’s right for your children. Go you!

    1. Thank you so much Audrey! It’s quite an adventure, but so far so good! 🙂

  9. Fellow homeschooler here as well -ages 12 & 10! 🙂 Love that your kids have been able to travel abroad and help with your start-ups. Definitely an education you can’t get with traditional schooling. Fyi, Mensa fo kids is a great website for lesson plans, resources, and ideas for gifted kids, (for all kids quite honestly).
    I have enjoyed your blog and recipes for years now and I really look forward to hearing more about your hs’ing adventures!
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much Amy! I’ll for sure look into the Mensa For Kids site!!

  10. Kelly says:

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing! I would love to explore homeschooling with my kids. I get completely overwhelmed trying to wade through the different curriculums. How do you find the right fit? I am not interested in a faith based curriculum. It feels like the majority are.

    1. Hi Kelly! As mentioned in my article, we are currently enrolled in a charter school which is part of the public school system but is for homeschooling families but I think next year we may go back to doing our own thing. My boys enjoyed Time for Learning which is an online based curriculum (not a faith based curriculum) and I like the flexibility of the program, and you can pick the grade levels appropriate to your child’s ability, not their age. I hope that helps, keep exploring and also check out these links as well as we tend to lean more towards the “unschooling” approach:

    2. Andrea says:

      I’ve found most of my secular materials here:

      It’s a very active (and free) board.

      Good luck!

      1. Thanks Andrea, I haven’t seen this yet either, excited to check it out!

  11. Melissa says:

    I’m really enjoying this new space you’ve created Sarah and love hearing more about your family overall, even though the food stuff was always good too. I work from home and have two young children (5 and 3) in preschool. I currently don’t have any plans to homeschool them, but I can say that reading honest accounts like yours makes it seem less intimidating. My oldest is a homebody and she would probably love homeschool but my youngest is SUCH a people person. He thrives in a crowd and with other kids around to play with and learn from. I would worry that he would be more suffocated home with me than in a traditional school setting. Who knows what the future will bring, but I plan to really try to watch/listen and learn from my children and follow the path they lead me down. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Melissa! I firmly believe that kids in a school setting and also who are homeschooled can both absolutely thrive! I think having a parent who is intuitive and trusting of their children makes sure of this, no matter what your schooling or unschooling choice might be. Go with your gut and trust in your kiddos and love them deeply, that’s the majority of the battle. I have found a lot of resources in our area that allows my kids to be around other children who are also homeschooled and they also are in activities like Karate and gymnastics so they can build a community within the things they love to do so there are always options to be around a group of others even when homeschooled. Best of luck to you and keep in touch!

  12. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to hearing more about this topic. I am at the start of my search when it comes to homeschooling. I am going to look into CORE, is that the program you are at? We may be forced to go homeschool if the vaccination bill passes in California. Any tip or places to start researching would be greatly appreciated. My daughter who is in 4th grade is just like your Jaden. I worry that I will not challenge her enough, she is so bright. My Liam would be just fine being homeschooled. Thank you again Sarah for your insight and wisdom.

    1. Hi Katie! Yes, we currently are at CORE, and I love our PLA (personal learning assistant) Rebecca. However, if SB277 is passed, you wouldn’t be able to have your kids at CORE either because it’s considered a public school. I think you will be able to challenge your 4th grader just fine with homeschool, even the brief time since I have written this post, I feel so much more a peace with the fact that we might not be doing CORE again next year, knowing that Jaden is bright enough to challenge himself and I trust his learning process. Here are some great books to read that I think will help, I’m currently reading the first one and it’s awesome:

      Being that you are local, please email me anytime if you have any more questions!! or

      Good luck!

  13. Ginger Breon says:

    Hi I am a homeschool mommy of a kindergartener in the state of PA. May I ask what state you are in?
    Thank you!

    1. Yes, of course! I’m in CA.

  14. Andrea says:

    Yay! I have been hoping you would write about your homeschooling experience! I’ve been homeschooling my now 3rd grader since halfway through 1st. He is much like you describe Rowan, ALWAYS on the go. He came home crying on his second day in first grade when he found out that they would only have 1 recess instead of 2 (he really thought he was being punished for something), and that his 1 recess would be taken away if he didn’t finish assigned work. Ugh.

    We now spend our days outside as much as possible, taking any work that we’re doing along with us to whatever park or forest we’re hanging out in that day. It can be a wonderful life and I feel very lucky to be able to do it.

    Enjoying the new site!

    1. Hi Andrea, that brought tears to my eyes reading about the disappointment of 1 recess instead of 2. I know I would have broken my Rowan’s spirit if I sent him to school and like you, I feel so lucky to be able to homeschool because I know it’s not possible for everyone!

  15. Laura says:

    Thank you so much for sharing more about your homeschool experience. I’ve thought about sending a question about homeschooling to your podcast, but I never did. I look forward to hearing what a typical day for your family looks like! It may be the extra nudge I need to take the jump.
    On an unrelated topic, your books have been so helpful to me. Not quite two years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease. My doctor said I needed to go on a Paleo diet, gave me a recommendation for The Primal Blueprint, and sent me out of the office. I got the book, but just didn’t have the physical or mental energy to get through it. I was honestly at a point where I thought I was never going to be better and I was ready to die. Then, I stumbled onto your first book. It was just enough information to get me going without overwhelming me. I really believe it saved my life. I still have a ways to go, but I know I can get there now. Thank you for all you do!

    1. Hi Laura, thank you SO much for your comment!! I’m so so glad you found my book and that you are on the road to recovery. You have my support – so whatever you need, just ask! And yes, stay tuned for more homeschooling posts coming soon!

  16. Lisa C. says:

    Great post! I am also heavily considering homeschooling my daughter when she turns 5. I whole-hardheartedly disagree with a kid sitting at a desk for more than……20 MINUTES, let alone 6 hours!

    I am confused by your comment about how you forego the charter thing altogether last year…did you follow any curriculum at all? Or just let them learn through living, and they weren’t given any worksheets, formal lesson plans at all? I guess I’m confused about that part of your post. Surely, they need some type of curriculum to receive a high school degree by the state?

    1. Hi Lisa, Yes we did follow a set of on-line curriculum last year called Time for Learning but I mostly let them learn through living. When you have your own private school, which is legal here in CA, you can set your own guidelines so there is not state mandated curriculum or testing that you have to do.

  17. I’m so excited that you are sharing your homeschool experience. We have been homeschooling in TX for 2 years now and have no intentions of going back to PS. My son (9 years) has positively come alive in a setting where we can get our work done in 2 hours and spend the rest of the day outside on bikes and scooters or at the park. Just today, our homeschool playgroup collectively ditched school to spend the whole afternoon at the park because there is rain in the forecast for the next week. Homeschool recess ROCKS.

    The list of reasons we decided to homeschool was a mile long, but honestly, it boiled down to the fact that PS just felt wrong. We were sending our 7 year old to school for 7 hours a day and he was bringing home an hour of homework. And the only thing challenging about it was overcoming the fatigue of having a full-time job at 7 years old. BEST decision we have ever made was to bring him home and let him learn while still being a kid.

    I look forward to reading more about your journey and experiences. It has taken us a couple of years to find a groove with schedules and curriculum (do you ever REALLY find your groove with curriculum?) but it has been a fun journey.

    Best of luck to you guys!

  18. Joe Mercadante says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m very excited about this new blog. Our three girls are homeschooled (unschooled) and I’ve been curious about your experiences since the first time I heard you mention it on the podcast.

    I know it’s not the focus of the retreat, but maybe we’ll get five minutes to chat about some of this kind of stuff when I’m in Chico. Either way, I can’t wait.

    See you in a few weeks.


    1. Hi Joe! So glad you are enjoying the new blog – I am too! 🙂 Yes, we will absolutely have time to chat about homeschooling during the retreat! We will have plenty of down time at dinners, etc. to talk about anything and everything. Look forward to seeing you very soon!

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