NOT-Back-To-School: Unschooling is Nature’s “Curriculum”

27 August 2012 Categories: unschooling

Back-To-School? Or Nature’s Intent for Learning?
(Laurie’s son, Brycen, joyfully exploring the wonders of nature)

I revel in the embrace of summer, when children are again a part of the community and a part of the natural landscape! It brings me such joy to see children jumping in the waves at the ocean, running through a wooded trail, exploring plant and animal life, digging in the sand, climbing trees, creating artistically in the community or leaping from boulders into a rocky basin gorge. I reflect with warmth and love at how September for my unschooled son has always been a relaxing and relieving time- yet another month to extend the joys of summer; the beginning of another cycle of him living and learning in freedom.

However, for the majority of the children in society, the “Back-To-School” nightmare seems to get an earlier start every year. Many schools are forcing children to return to school in late August, two weeks earlier than when I was a child. In mid-July, advertisements on TV, the radio, online, in stores and in junk mail flyers begin threatening children a month too soon about the impending dread of school. It strikes me as very passive aggressive that our culture takes a condition that most children find so distressing- being confined against their will for nine months of the year- and throws it in their face relentlessly during the second half of their summer time.

Last year, I wrote a three-part post about how the mainstream media presents “Back-To-School” with as much fanfare as if it were a holiday– I discussed how such media saturation perpetuates a cultural myth of school being an inevitable duty of life to which families must succumb. Perhaps more concerning is that even independent media sources, such as natural health, natural parenting and natural family living magazines, present traditional schooling as if it is positive, necessary, inescapable and obligatory.

By mid-summer, sharp photos of children holding notebooks and pencils, wearing freshly purchased clothing and awkward, posed grins plaster magazines, supplements and free monthly papers. The pages are packed with light, upbeat (and trauma-oblivious) articles about “preparing” children for “Back-To-School” routines.  Whether the magazines are mainstream or natural family living, the same “Back-To-School” article themes recycle every year:

  • Lessening the trauma of “The First Day of School” (yes, some articles actually admit that school is traumatic, yet push school anyway!),
  • Getting your children’s bodies back on a “school schedule” (despite how unhealthy this is for your children’s bodies),
  • “Easing” (downplaying) the anxieties your children feel about school (as if being confined to a chair in a concrete building for six hours a day, being forced to be in conditions that are completely opposite of everything that nature intended for a child’s body, mind and emotional development, isn’t something anxiety-inducing!),
  • Getting ready for “the homework battle” with your children (rather than getting ready to advocate for your children’s need for play and free time),
  • “Dealing with” peer bullies (while ignoring that being subordinated by disrespectful adult bullies is what causes peer bullying in the first place), and
  • Packing “healthy lunches” (while ignoring unhealthy school rules that won’t allow your children to eliminate bodily wastes, exercise or have snacks and drinks when needed).

All of these school-submissive articles miss a critical point: None of these traumas of separation, “preparation”, anxiety, unhealthy school schedules, ridiculous rules, homework and bullying are necessary because schooling isn’t necessary!

The carefully selected stock photos of happy-looking children give parents the impression that “Back-To-School” is good for their children and that children should be agreeable to surrendering their freedom, playtime, bodily integrity and basic needs in order to conform to the factory-process of schooling.

Parents, it is time to tune into parenting instinct rather than media conditioning! Traditional schooling is developmentally inappropriate at ALL ages and hurts children on so many holistic levels, including physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, intellectually, neurologically and even sexually. Traditional schooling disrupts and injures the parent-child attachment relationship which is meant to be intact until the adolescent child reaches adulthood on his or her own timetable. The thousands of school children diagnosed with behavioral “disorders” and learning “disabilities” and subsequently drugged with dangerous chemicals are evidence of these facts.

Would you rather your child be stuck inside a classroom? Or free in nature’s wonders? (Laurie’s son, Brycen, in awe at nature’s possibilities)

Nature Has the Answer: Unschooling!

Nature doesn’t put out monthly magazines, newspaper supplements or grocery-store-freebie-rack circulars with articles about children and learning. Nature doesn’t put out cheery office supply store flyers and frenzied clothing store commercials to advertise its NOT-Back-To-School offerings. However, nature has the same educational advice for September 2012 that its had since the first child appeared on the planet: Let children play.

In other words, nature has always “said”, let children at all ages live and learn naturally, in freedom and in joy, through exploring, creating, investigating, observing, collecting, inventing, musing, dreaming, running, leaping, jumping, climbing, shouting, singing, laughing and being. Nature has always intended that children of all ages spend their time primarily in the loving embrace of close parent-child connections, family bonds, mixed-age friends and involvement in a vibrant community.

Brycen and his friend are frozen with respect when they discover the largest tree they have ever seen.

Nature has always intended that children’s time be balanced with the solitude to metabolize deep thoughts, insights, feelings and experiences. Nature has always made clear that the needs of the body and the psyche are to be met when when the needs are first experienced.

Through the phenomenon of play, nature has the only “curriculum” sophisticated and advanced enough to simultaneously meet the holistic, learning and developmental needs of all children at all ages. When children follow their own interests and passions and have intense fun in the process, they learn, excel, achieve, grow and develop to their highest potentials!

Memorize from a textbook? Or experience from real life? (Laurie and her son, Brycen, explore one of the largest trees in their state)

Unschooling’s “curriculum” of play and child-directed learning is congruent with nature’s intent for children. Despite its growing popularity, however, unschooling isn’t a trend, a philosophy or even a “style” of education. Unschooling is simply a new name for ancient wisdom. Learning through interacting physically, emotionally and mentally with the natural environment, following interests and passions, or, playing, is how children lived for thousands of years.

With the onset of agriculture, adults began to interfere with childhood by forcing children to work for them. At the dawn of civilization, adults also began to force children to train and apprentice for military and religious purposes. At the height of industrialization in the mid-1800’s, the United States government began confining children to developmentally inappropriate, prison-like schools in order to produce obedient military, factory and labor forces. In the consumeristic new millennium, most citizens are addicted to material objects, electronics, digital media and junk food. The obsolete, 1800’s-style obedience training system is still maintained to ensure the perpetuation of a global society of heavy consumers, workers, political soldiers (of all types) and media watchers.

Despite what the trendy commercials and smiley magazine articles tell you, school isn’t about your children’s education, learning or healthy development. School’s entire purpose is to separate your children from you, their families, friends, communities and from themselves in order to train them to take their place in the global marketplace, as both workers and consumers. “Back-To-School” should be appropriately renamed “Back-To-The-Conditioning-Cell”.

I encourage you to look past the grinning stock photos, bubbly commercial actors and flimsy, child-denying articles and realize that “Back-To-School” isn’t a holiday, a celebration or a fun time for children- It is a marketing goldmine for those who profit from the materialistic, academic and social anxieties it triggers.

“Back-To-School” excitement is short-lived. Soon, children long for the freedom of summer again. Unschooled and homeschooled youth are able to relax, play and enjoy friends and family year-round.

After the September fashion show fades and the bland tedium of nine months of schooling solidifies, most children will be longing for every weekend, snow day and vacation week they are allowed… And longing for next summer!

Live the joys of summer all year long! This September, celebrate NOT-Back-To-School by allowing your children to experience the exciting, inventive, freeing, fun and playful experience of unschooling, or, learning naturally. Revel in the adventures you and your children can find in nature and in your community and be sure to connect to your local homeschool groups.

My six free So You Want to Unschool Your Child or Teen? videos can help you get started on your family’s unschooling journey. My unschooling coaching services will provide in-depth personalized support to both new and veteran unschooling parents with every step of the unschooling process, from start to graduation.

14 Responses to “NOT-Back-To-School: Unschooling is Nature’s “Curriculum””

  1. Deanna Scibilia 27 August 2012 at 9:34 pm (PERMALINK)

    Excellent post Laurie!

  2. debra mann 27 August 2012 at 10:52 pm (PERMALINK)

    RIght on, Laurie!!!!!

  3. Jenny 28 August 2012 at 10:29 am (PERMALINK)

    Love what you said about bullying….linking it to bullying from adults. I’ve never heard anyone come out and say that before–always pushing it away, blaming it on the “culture” of the school, or the lack of professionalism granted to teachers. Granted, I have a lot of teacher friends, and they do their best. But, they system itself is set up in a way that simply doesn’t honor humanity, at the top or at the bottom.

  4. Christine 5 September 2012 at 10:41 am (PERMALINK)

    I tried pulling my kids out of school this semester. They spent the month sleeping until 10, playing video games and being bums. That’s not an education.

    • Laurie A. Couture 5 September 2012 at 7:39 pm (PERMALINK)


      Referring to your children as “bums” is not Attachment Parenting. I’m not sure what kind of environment you were providing, but unschooling is nature’s intent, as long as the parent is providing an environment in line with nature’s intent. If you pulled them out of school for one semester and were expecting anything other than detox from years of school, then it sounds like your expectations were not realistic. Sleeping until 10 is typical for American adolescents. If you filled the day with fun activities (such that I mentioned in the article), opportunities to be a part of the community, do family activities, joining homeschool groups and being outside in nature, they would not be focused on video games. Why do you have video games and TV in the house if you don’t approve of it? The detox period after children have been under the control of schools for so many years will be long. The parents’ responsibility is to build parent-child closeness and connection and opportunities for the children to discover and engage in their passions. We don’t do any TV or video games in our home. I hope you commit to unschooling. Please consider reading my book, purchasing my video offered on my website, reading my blog (I have an article about unschooling without TV and video games) or hiring me for unschooling consultation and coaching. I offer many options to help families get started and to maintain a positive, fun learning environment.


  5. Lisa 10 September 2012 at 2:51 pm (PERMALINK)

    I appreciate that you shared your link on the Primal Homeschooling site. Even though I am not looking for coaching it was good to connect with you and your materials. You have written very eloquently what I feel deeply about as well….and nature knows best.

  6. . 4 October 2012 at 3:08 pm (PERMALINK)

    Human beings by nature are curious and have the desire to know the unknown. We learn by doing, we learn from our past experiences, we learn from our travels, we learn by socializing with others. Best of all, we are learning all of the time in life (most of it outside of school).

    School overemphasizes academic “subjects”. Much of it is highly impractical and not applicable to real life. It’s not very useful. The way school “teaches” us is not the proper way of “learning”. Much of school is forced silence in a room and sitting in rows the entire period facing the board. This is a very passive way of “learning”. It just teaches conformity. Grading and tests stunt the natural learning process and kills our curiosity and creativity.

    It takes years to undo the effects schooling has on an individual and takes longer to regain that natural love of learning!

  7. Leonardo Baez 18 April 2013 at 10:16 am (PERMALINK)

    What do you suggest for the thousands of single mothers that have to work and go to school?

    • Laurie A. Couture 18 April 2013 at 12:45 pm (PERMALINK)


      As a single Mom myself, I would suggest that they contact me for a consult so we could work out a plan specific to their circumstances. With a plan, most single parents either immediately or within a couple of years can remove their child from the public school and either unschool or enroll their child in a more humane environment than traditional public school.


      • Rebecca 22 April 2014 at 8:05 pm (PERMALINK)

        I am a single mother in grad school and homeschooling. I dropped out of a PhD program in favor of doing 2 master’s degrees back to back in order to have more time at home with my daughter and to create a work from home business.

      • Ginny 20 June 2014 at 6:06 pm (PERMALINK)

        I’m a single mom as well, working from home as an author. Its hard, and I’m not gonna say I don’t accept my family’s help! But its easier than watching my little boy die inside every time I sent him to school.

  8. Beverly Paris 22 April 2014 at 1:36 pm (PERMALINK)

    I am not against Nature’s Curriculum, but when should they get a menial job to prepare for a future income? Or do they live under Mother’s wings forever for support?

    • Laurie A. Couture 22 April 2014 at 2:42 pm (PERMALINK)


      Why would you recommend that a child get a “menial” job? I think you are missing the point of my article. A child can choose to get a fulfilling job whenever he or she is ready to do so. Often homeschoolers start their own businesses or choose jobs that incorporate their skills, abilities and interests. My son started his own business at age 12, he has been a performing musician since age 14 and he also chose to get interesting jobs to supplement his income. None of the jobs he’s held have been “menial”- they have all been enjoyable, enriching and related to his interests. It is the drudgery of public schooling that causes people to believe that our purpose as humans is to get menial, joyless and mind-numbing jobs rather than doing work that is in line with our passions and gifts. To force youth to “get a job” just to try to make them feel miserable so that they will accept a miserable lot in life is anti-life and far from the principles of Attachment Parenting. I do hope you will take the time to read my book, “Instead of Medicating and Punishing” as well as my other writings so that you will have a better understanding that the purpose of childhood is for you to nurture a secure parent-child attachment relationship and for children to live and learn in joy.


  9. Katie 23 April 2014 at 3:41 pm (PERMALINK)

    This article so clearly summarizes what I feel about that awful ‘back to school’ time of year. I’m in my mid 30s and I still feel anxious every fall. I remember that feeling of dread and nervousness that would set in around early July and am so grateful that my son won’t have those same memories.

    My son would be going into kindergarten this coming fall, if we were sending him to school. It’s been interesting to watch families we’ve been friends with since his birth as they transition their children to school. My heart breaks a little for these children. Most of my friends seem to feel bad for their kids and yet they still force them to attend school. I have another friend that is so ‘supportive of public schools’ that she forces her daughter to go besides so many obvious signs of severe anxiety. This young girl also suffers from severe headaches and a very controlling behavior towards food. She’s a beautiful, kind and creative 11 year old. I want to cry every time I see her and I want to shake her mother. What are we doing to children and why do so few people question the norm?


Leave a Reply