When I think about how life has changed for us as unschoolers, there are a number of obvious ways that I can point to, but there are also many more subtle changes that have crept into our lives as we continue to “deschool” from traditional ways of thinking. How we measure the success of our kids from an educational stand point undeniably needs to be re-evaluated. We don’t rely on tests or any standard measure of knowledge. We recognize that learning happens best when we’re interested in something and, as such, kids (heck, all of us adults too) learn different things at different paces. Using any standard measure of knowledge on an unschooler plainly goes against the alternative approach to education. That’s the obvious bit.

If we aren’t measuring our kids against these standards, how do we measure their success? Rather than look at test scores or “age-appropriate” benchmarks, you’ll find that a lot of unschooling parents ask questions like “are my kids thriving?” or “are they happy?”. We ask these questions because we know that if the answer is yes, then learning is happening. Because (repeat after me) learning happens everywhere, all the time, and all forms of learning are equally valid. This was my mantra in early deschooling days.

So, we can now measure how successful our alternative educational approach is: if my kids are happy and thriving, they are learning and unschooling works. But what if we actually just take off that end part of the statement? What if the measure of success doesn’t have anything to do with learning and we can just stop at the happy and thriving bit? What if the goal isn’t to capital-S Succeed, but to find joy and passion along the way?

This is a more subtle way that unschooling has changed my perspective of what success means: I find that I’m no longer concerned with the kind of career my kids will have in the future, how much money they’ll make, or how high they might climb on the corporate ladder. I just want them to be happy. To thrive. And if they decide (like me) to not buy into the capitalist system or 9-5 grind, well heck, I think that’s just fine. If they can find a life that prioritizes joy, rest, well-being, etc. while still meeting their basic needs, then I think they’ll find happiness. In fact, this is the kind of environment that we aim to create at home right now, so if they can continue this lifestyle into adulthood – one where they are happy and thriving – I feel like unschooling will have been a success.