Unschooling Parents (Not School Teachers) Best Equipped By Nature to Guide Learning

20 March 2011 Categories: Blog, public school, unschooling

This evening I read the first sentences of an online article speaking of teachers in almost fantastical, iconic-like terms, painting a picture of nurturing, loving caretakers wiping away children’s tears, inspiring the passion of youth and shaping the future. I felt the indignation and frustration of years of working with children ages 3 to 18, whose spirits, bodies and psyches have been mangled by traditional schooling, often at the hands of teachers.

Contrary to the sentimental, somewhat maudlin cultural imagery of school teachers pouring out selfless nurturance, tending to the needs of youth or lighting the passionate fires of inspiration in grinning, alert children, the youth I have worked with and met over the years have painted me a very different picture. And it ain’t no Mary Cassatt. For six plus hours every day traditional teachers indoctrinate, control, coerce, punish and regiment. They deny children their basic physical and emotional needs, hold children hostage against their will, stifle creativity and freedom of movement and force-feed them irrelevant, dull, boring theories and biased “facts” prefabbed by the government. They ooze ubiquitously into children’s home and free time with homework expectations that strangle play, exploration and family time. When children cannot tolerate the terrible, developmentally inappropriate environment of schooling, teachers are often the arm of the school system that coerces parents into believing their children are “disabled” and are thus in need of chemical restraint (aka: “medication”).

To give the obligatory “so-as-not-to-offend” disclaimer, yes, there are gem teachers; those rare one or two per school who help youth survive the institution. I had a few myself and they have the honor of still being discussed with fondness by me to this day. They were gems because they were not like school teachers, they were rebels. It was precisely because they were unschoolish that they were gems. They encouraged laughter, playfulness, fun, unconventional thinking and a little subversion of the system. And they always allowed youth to use the toilet and the water fountain. Aside from these rare gems, however, far too many traditional school teachers perpetrate boredom, regimentation, rigid arbitrary rules, subordination and bodily pain (denial of toilet breaks, food, hydration and movement… and in 20 states, infliction of corporal punishment) on children day in and day out.

Attachment Parents are the learning facilitators and mentors to emulate. They “get” Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs” instinctively. Maslow illustrated with a pyramid the priority of people’s holistic needs. He proclaimed what nature already knew, that human’s basic physical, emotional and safety needs must be met before any higher level functions, such as meaningful learning, can evolve and metabolize. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs” is a basic concept every public school teacher was required to learn in college child development 101, but apparently forgot once they were faced with a roomful of squirmy or apathetic youth to control and “teach”.

Attachment-focused parents are, by nature’s bidding, the people on the planet best equipped for the job of guiding, protecting, inspiring and guiding children for the first 18  years of their lives. The primary priority of attachment-focused parents is their children’s happiness. This is contrary to the primary focus of school teachers, which is to control a large group of youth and force them all to conform to the school’s rules, grades, whims, curriculum and factory value system. Attachment-focused parents who unschool focus on love, connection and their children’s physical, emotional, social and creative needs. They prioritize play and fun and allow their children’s interests to guide the learning and living process. Learning is not separated from living in attachment-focused unschooling families because they understand that learning is about play and passion, not pain and tedium. However, teachers believe children’s basic needs are “privileges” that can be withheld, manipulated, regimented and denied. They view play as a waste of “educational” time and seem indifferent about tethering youth to “homework”  after an exhausting six hour school day. What loving attachment parent would deny children use of the toilet, food and water? What loving attachment parent would want their children to be miserable, exhausted, bored and held hostage for the best hours of the day?

Nature’s intent is for children’s true teachers to be their families, friends and communities, the way unschooling, attachment-focused families live daily. The parent-child attachment and bond should be celebrated and held sacred, as it was for millennia, in the way our culture now sanctifies schooling and school teachers. It is only when children are free, when they share a deep connection with their families, when their holistic needs are met, when they follow their own innate passions and interests that there is true joy, inspiration, learning and innovation. Children learn, develop and grow best when they are embraced by the loving nurturing of their families, the playful fun of friends and the enriching opportunities of their communities. The future of the world is deeply shaped in a compassionate, peaceful and profoundly creative manner at the hands of youth raised in this freeing, joyful embrace.

14 Responses to “Unschooling Parents (Not School Teachers) Best Equipped By Nature to Guide Learning”

  1. Kelly 21 March 2011 at 12:20 am (PERMALINK)

    I think this post is brilliant. But I have known many teachers who have spoken out against how they see children managed (because that’s what it is, management) in school. I think those teachers are less rare than your “gem” theory. I think many of them don’t have a view of how things could be different. So they see the problems you evidence, but they don’t see the full functionality and amazing environment of the life learning child and family.

    Your larger point about the systems of school I find entirely apt. I think you’re brave to write about it. School is a sacrosanct subject in the US, even as it is clear the model continues to fail.

    “Children learn, develop and grow best when they are embraced by the loving nurturing of their families, the playful fun of friends and the enriching opportunities of their communities.”

    I love the way you put this. In the US, many “community members” want children institutionalized in school/daycare as much as possible.

    • Heather 21 March 2011 at 12:15 pm (PERMALINK)

      the CULT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION (as I’ve named this laviathon) scares me. I have two teenagers who went through junior high to private school and high school at public. But I have two grade school kids that I can’t afford private school and I’m at my wit’s end. What do I do???????

      • Laurie A. Couture 21 March 2011 at 3:06 pm (PERMALINK)


        I’m so glad you asked me that question of what you can do to protect your children from public school, because helping parents find alternatives to traditional school is my passion and my specialty!

        The best thing you can do is to unschool all of your children. Junior high and high school are very destructive places for children.

        My YouTube channel has six videos listing how you can unschool your children: http://www.youtube.com/user/LaurieACouture

        You can certainly read all of my blog’s previous posts to learn more about allowing your children the freedom to learn and live joyfully without schooling.

        My radio show, The Free and Joyful Childhood has a lot of great info about what you can do: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laurieacouture

        My book, Instead of Medicating and Punishing is packed with info about unschooling and other alternatives to traditional school: http://www.amazon.com/Instead-Medicating-Punishing-childrens-acting-out/dp/1932279970/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1300734170&sr=1-1

        And I offer consultation and coaching for families who are wanting to find alternatives to traditional school or who are starting up with unschooling: http://www.laurieacouture.com/services/

        As the proud single Mom of a 17 year old son who unschools, I know first hand that there is a way if we put our children and their needs first! :)


    • Laurie A. Couture 21 March 2011 at 2:57 pm (PERMALINK)


      Thanks you for your support and comments. I agree with you that the gems are rare and the gems who subvert the system in favor of natural, free learning/democratic schools/unschooling are even rarer. I have met a few teachers (usually retired and usually those that work with the youngest children) that agree that some aspects of public school are unacceptable, but few who are willing to stand up and subvert the system. The few who are the gems I spoke of would be able to help children the most by advocating for democratic schools like Sudbury Valley or Albany Free School or advocating better yet for unschooling. The idea of school reform is a dead horse that has been beaten for a century by people who have no idea that the origins of public school were insidious and fascist. There is no way to reform a system that was designed deliberately and precisely to subjugate children and create a docile, malleable populace who would proudly “take their place” in the factories, mines, mills and military. Schools do exactly what they were designed to do. They have dulled and dumbed down the intelligence and creativity of our population to a stunningly low level. Compare modern books for adults (written as if the adult has the reading level of a young child) to that of literature from the 1700’s and early 1800’s, pre-compulsory school. To expect enlightenment, joy and passion from a system hell-bent on treating children like subhuman hostages is not possible. To expect “reform” from a system invested in turning people into mindless buying machines who will not dissent or subvert the government, is a joke.

      Thank you also for pointing out which quotes you liked the best! :)


      • Kitty 30 May 2011 at 12:06 pm (PERMALINK)

        I think your points about the education system preparing the masses for work the way the powers that be want is correct. Another similar phase of development I believe this occurs is at birth and during the first 5 formative years. I have read and it is my theory that one of the reasons for discouragement of breastfeeding and attachment parenting, the introduction of schedules for formula feeding, crib sleeping and separation of the mother and baby at birth as well as during these first years is meant to prepare children for this kind of school system and work.

  2. Brycen R.R. Couture 21 March 2011 at 6:55 pm (PERMALINK)

    Amazing, as usual, Mom. You PWN!

    -Love, Brycen

    • Laurie A. Couture 21 March 2011 at 7:21 pm (PERMALINK)

      Dear Brycen,

      Thank you, my sweet boy, your feedback always means the world to me! <3

      Love always,


  3. Kelly 23 March 2011 at 2:35 am (PERMALINK)

    “The idea of school reform is a dead horse that has been beaten for a century by people who have no idea that the origins of public school were insidious and fascist.”

    You’re right about that, too, even if many people feel incredibly uneasy about this fact.

    Your mom does, indeed, PWN.

  4. TX administrator 12 April 2011 at 8:58 pm (PERMALINK)

    I believe that your notion of ‘unschooling’ holds no regard for children of poverty who may lack direction, stability, nurturing, consistency, or other basic human needs. For these children, our public school is the place where these are provided; the safest, cleanest, most stimulating, most fulfilling, and happy part of their day. Many of these children often deal with a daily disappointment that we try to alleviate at school. After all, education is the key to breaking the cycles of generational poverty in this country. I am certain that students learning to comply, cooperate, collaborate, adjust, create, forgive, expand, and acknowledge is not the same as being fascist and insidious…especially when the backpacks, breakfasts, lunches, clothing, medical attention, and school supplies are being handed out freely to all who need them. My school is glittering with gems, both young and old alike.

    • Laurie A. Couture 29 April 2011 at 2:27 pm (PERMALINK)

      TX Administrator,

      I find it interesting that you find your school to be glittering with gems. It isn’t surprising to me that an adult who perpetuates the system would say that. As oppressors of children, adults can easily believe that they are gems. I’m sure many people who have servants, employees, prisoners and others shackled under their authority consider themselves gems, too. It is my hope that your school really IS glittering with gems; if so, it is a rare public school indeed!

      Poverty is a very real and severe problem. It is a tragic consequence of civilization, industrialization and our culture moving further and further away from nature’s intent for humanity, including nature’s intent that children live and learn in freedom. I have worked in highly impoverished communities racked by violence in my years of working with families. The fact that people are impoverished does not take their basic human rights away from them however– To live and learn in freedom is a basic human right by birth. Because a child is impoverished does not give anyone the right to imprison that child.

      If you wish to truly help children and families suffering in poverty, offer the children a democratic learning environment that looks nothing like traditional public school, but that is modeled after The Sudbury Valley Free School or The Albany Free School. Allow children to direct their own interests and make meeting children’s physical and emotional needs, play, parent-child bonding, physical activity, free-choice, invention and following passions the ultimate priority. If your school is bedazzled by gems, then this should be a natural task. If you are simply confining children to the usual adult-driven curriculum and rule/punishment/subordination/obedience paradigm, then you are perpetuating the cycle of poverty by preventing children from thinking critically and following and reaching their own individual passions. The goal should be to assist families in being able to provide a loving, nurturing, enriching home environment. It is sad indeed when school is an improvement over the family.


      • Nadine Lee 1 August 2011 at 12:00 pm (PERMALINK)

        I think that is a rally strong point, Laurie, that just because a child is living in poverty, does not give someone the right to imprison them.
        I do not believe that education is the answer to ending poverty. It all boils down to so much more than that. What causes it? The solution may lie more in the problem.
        We are talking about very deeply hurt and lost individuals and families. People that have lost their sense of community and meaning.
        They need healing, which means love and compassion and understanding. I have yet to experience and love or compassion or understanding in the public school system.

  5. Angela 6 June 2011 at 1:37 am (PERMALINK)

    Wow Laurie – great post! You’ve put into words many of the feelings I have about school. I put my sons through public and two different kinds of private schools before I realized that I may never find a school in which my children would be safe and treated with respect. Bringing them back home has given us the time to reconnect, heal and bond. I just wish that it wasn’t such a cultural expectation that one send their child to school, and that every parent knew that there are other options. Actually it would be great if school were presented as a last resort for parents who don’t want to, or feel they can’t, keep their kids home.

    Great work!

  6. Arti Aryal 31 July 2011 at 2:18 pm (PERMALINK)

    Just another comment in support/agreement.

    I also agree that it’s incredibly harmful to our children when traditional school systems or individual teachers ignore what you refer to as the laws of nature’s intent (or “science/biology/psychology” as I tend to think of it but it seems that we mean the same thing). I just think it’s wrong to confine children to a desk all day when research already shows that young people’s bodies are evolved to be in constant movement (and outdoors). It’s wrong to make teenagers wake up before sunrise when we already know that their bodies need 9.5 hours of sleep a night and are programmed by circadian rhythm not to fall asleep until well after midnight. And we don’t need research (though we do have it) to know that it’s just immoral for the government to forcefully confine a person of ANY age, only to restrict that person from being able to use the toilet once confined.

    I wrote about my legal theories on such civil and constitutional rights violations inherent in traditional k-12 schooling while I was in law school, and as a new graduate I am excited to be allowed to share my ideas soon and hopefully help others by doing so. However, I also believe that the system can never be properly reformed and that the true solution is simply pulling your kids out of school. (For example, the system that currently allows teachers to restrict children’s access to toilet facilities and water fountains in the first place will still be in place, even if laws and successful education reform measures eventually outlaw that particular form of mistreatment.)

    I just don’t know how to justify teaching our children that come hell or high water, they must do whatever it takes to quash their earnest longing to explore the things that excite them (instead of pre-calc/white history/etc.) because the government says so. I think it’s a dangerous lesson that stifles creativity, free-thinking, and individualism. The best preparation for the real world indeed is not one that trains people to be obedient automatons, but one that enables children to learn who they are, because that’s how they find a life path that’s meaningful to them. Traditional schooling does not encourage that kind of introspection.

    Though I have indeed had a few amazing teachers (even in the Prince George’s County public school system!), as you’ve noted, they served to help rectify/undo/re-teach some extremely harmful lessons I’d learned in school until that point.

    So ultimately this comment was really just meant to say that I am in deep appreciation for the work you are doing, and am very grateful that someone like you is out there making people question their very widely-held and cherished beliefs in order to better our youth.


Leave a Reply