My Unschooling Experiment

While many families are busy with back-to-school preparations, my family is getting ready for our first year of full-time homeschooling. But it’s not your typical idea of homeschooling.

Instead of early morning wake ups, we’ll be sleeping in.

Instead of a set curriculum, we’ll be following our interests.

Instead of a schedule dividing subjects into periods, we’ll be exploring topics for as long as time allows.

Instead of grades and tests to meet standards, we will focus on each child’s growing ability.

I’m calling it The Year of the Untigering Mom, my year of experimenting with unschooling.

What is Unschooling

Unschooling is self-directed learning. It’s an educational philosophy that is built on the belief that all children are natural learners. Because of their innate curiosity, children thrive best when given a nurturing environment with the freedom to explore and play through activities that they initiate themselves. Unschooling is learning that is




Chinese translation?

“有没有搞错啊?!” Are you kidding me?!

The typical Chinese parent views education very differently. Learning is not “natural,” but learned. It can only be achieved through intentional study and hard work. The child is seen as unmotivated and undisciplined, needing constant poking and prodding (or worse) in order to move along. The parents know best and determine for the child what to study, what activities to be involved in, and perhaps even what major to choose in college. Instead of a rejection of standardized benchmarks, the child is expected to excel at and exceed them. Joy is not in the picture. The more it hurts, the better it is for you.

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So what does that mean for me to be a Chinese American unschooler? Is it possible for me to somehow reconcile these two seemingly conflicting value systems?

There’s so much about unschooling that I resonate with—the respect of each child’s individuality and interests, the trust in their innate ability and curiosity, and the environment of freedom to learn through the world and real-life experiences.

But as a Chinese parent, I also believe in hard work, perseverance, and parental guidance, even when the child finds it painful. I don’t want my kids to turn out as drifters or bums, unsure of their place or contribution in this world. I still value “success,” respect of elders, and consideration of other people’s desires, not just one’s own.

This year will be an experiment in seeing if these values can actually be compatible.

Is my Asianness at odds with unschooling? Or can it inform the way I unschool?

Do I have to denounce my Chinese culture and become an Asian hippie? Or can I reframe and expand my understanding of my cultural values?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stay tuned for more updates on my unschooling adventure!

What questions, fears, or objections do you have about unschooling?





  1. BethE

    August 14, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Sounds like an exciting adventure ahead, Iris!
    As an unschooling-homeschooling-mom-OF-SORTS myself I am excited to hear about your journey, especially within the cultural context within which you will be experiencing it.
    It’s definitely not easy to go against the norm, but I have found our own journey to be so worth it (so far!)
    Cheers to you and the boys!! (and hubby too!!!)

    1. Iris

      August 14, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Beth! Thanks for stopping by the blog! I didn’t know you were unschooling/relaxed schooling! When you have the time, I’d love for you to share with all of us about the benefits you’ve experienced because of this untraditional approach.

      1. BethE

        August 16, 2017 at 6:40 am

        Happy to share what I’ve been learning on my own journey! It is an on-going process for sure. I cannot say that I am a purest when it come to unschooling, but I’m a lot further along that spectrum than when I first started the homeschooling journey. I’m definitely eclectic and enjoying learning how to become more relaxed. While there are a few days of “what am I doing”-doubt-days, there are a ton of fun days that make the swim upstream worth it! 🙂

        1. Iris

          August 16, 2017 at 11:33 am

          I don’t think I’m quite ready to do full-on unschooling yet either. I’ll be writing more about that in the future, but it’s definitely a process, and any movement towards more freedom and self-initiation is a step in the right direction, imo!

  2. Crystal Banasiak Liao

    August 15, 2017 at 1:16 am

    I LOVE the idea Iris!! I cannot wait to hear all about it!!

    1. Iris

      August 15, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      Thanks Crystal! I’m excited, but nervous too.

  3. Susan Wu

    October 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Iris I love your blog! I’m on a similar path/journey to untiger myself (+ unschool the kids) and thought I was reading my own thoughts, only your posts are a lot more coherent!!!

    I’m a lot more of a tiger mom than I’d like to admit even though I put little emphasis on the academics. In truth, I have super high expectations for how the kids ought to be/act/behave and often resort to demand, coercion, force, yelling, and shaming, when gentle/kind/calm words don’t work. How’s that for not being a tiger?

    1. Iris

      October 19, 2017 at 12:27 am


      I’m so glad we can try to figure this out untigering thing out together! I think high expectations can be good, but our go-to tiger methods don’t actually help our kids achieve their greatest potential.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Anonymous

    November 13, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Hi Iris,
    If only every parent would just stop and take some time to think what they are doing to their kids and what they are actually teaching them, I hope they’ll realize it’s nothing even close to what God wants or intended for their children. It’s what the world and they themselves want. Though you might not know all the outcomes of your choices now, but you are certainly heading in the right direction. Don’t let your Asianess take you off course. You go ‘untigered’ mom!

    1. Iris

      November 14, 2017 at 3:20 am

      Thanks for the encouragement! I think both my Eastern values AND my Western values have potential to throw me off course, so I just have to aware of the influences around me and be mindful about how I listen to them. I am enjoying the outcomes I see through unschooling so far, though!

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  6. Mae

    February 3, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    I really like the idea of unschooling, but I don’t think many of us can do true unschooling. Also, not every child can do well with unschooling, especially those who want to compare themselves with their peers. But I do support the concept of unschooling and should corporate some unschooling into our “curriculum” if you will (almost like unit study). I really appreciate your courage and confidence to do unschooling. God bless!

    1. Iris

      February 4, 2018 at 5:18 am

      Unschooling is really just learning through life, so I do believe that it’s the most natural thing in the world for any and all children. And if my child had a desire to compare with others, that’s not something I would want to encourage. Kids can “thrive” and excel in the schooling environment, but that’s not necessarily what’s best for them. I wrote about that more here:

      I think it’s helpful to recognize that the obstacles to unschooling have more to do with our own fears as parents than with what is actually best for our children. I’m still taking baby steps myself and am not completely unschooling, but I know I want to move in that direction. Good luck as you find your own way as well!

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