How Will They Learn About The Real World?

-Living a joyful unschooling life doesn’t mean that nothing unjoyful never happens-

Dealing with disappointment today.

Half term seemed to be upon us early (INSET day, I guess) and our attempt at going bowling was thwarted. ‘Have you booked?’ asked the lady on the desk. Booked? Why would I need to book? I’ve never needed to book before!

They were full up with no room for us at all. Disappointment followed.

We walked into town and Bean (aged 5) wanted to go under the road through the underpass, but it was flooded. Despite his best efforts to come up with an idea of how we could get through (some of them very plausible if it had not been for Pumpkin (aged 4) and Plum (aged 1) in the buggy) we needed to find an alternative route. Disappointment followed.

We went to the library only to find we had hit Baby Rhyme Time. It was exceptionally busy, and we couldn’t get through. Disappointment followed.


These words are taken from a post that I wrote exactly ten years ago.

Because life isn’t always roses!

There are some folk out there that think that just because your child doesn’t go to school they will be shielded from every bad thing happening. It shows up when they ask questions like, ‘how will they learn to interact in the real world if they don’t go to school?’ Or comments like, ‘school will teach them to be tough’.

Granted, my children don’t have to stay anywhere that there are people who make them feel uncomfortable and they are able to find places and spaces where they are safe.

My children don’t have to perform to get praise or be made to feel like they have worth in this world.

And when disappointment does come their way, they are not left on their own to navigate their emotions or find genuine solutions.

They may not be big problems like adults face like unemployment, debt, or ill health but these childhood experiences of disappointment are precursors to much larger life experiences. How you come alongside your child in these moments matters. How you hold them and support them through it gives them a blueprint for how to navigate the same feelings when the situation is much graver.

Your child doesn’t need to be in school to experience the difficulties of life.

Life will offer enough moments of disappointment itself. Maybe it will be the flooded underpass, that is your regular route, that you are unable to take today. Maybe it will be the ice cream that they dropped in the park. Maybe it will be the death of a pet. Maybe a friend will move far away. Maybe the dog chewed their favourite toy.

Learning to navigate difficult situations is an important life skill, and some children have more experience of it than others. It doesn’t mean that we need to deliberately put them in places (school) in order for them to be exposed to difficult situations. It doesn’t matter if your child’s current upsetting situation is them not being able to have the coloured cup that they need, or they have broken a bone. I guarantee you that your child will experience challenges, disappointment, and deep sadness at some point, without you needing to create tasks or fabricate situations for them to be faced with disappointment.

Living a joyful unschooling life doesn’t mean that nothing unjoyful never happens.

Below is the remainder of the post that I began with. Things that happened on the same day as the string of disappointing events.

Remember choose joy, work through disappointment.


Bean and Plum and mummy went into the garden again this afternoon for an hour and a half. Bean wanted to water the garlic he planted yesterday, and we swept the paths and put some compost on the vegetable patch. We played football again and this time we had a goal each. Bean kept winning so he pretended to get distracted by spotting wild and crazy animals in the sky so that I could score a goal. Totally lovely. Then we cut back some of the shooting raspberry canes and Bean sat and cut up a few canes with the secateurs and devised an entire plan involving making toys from the canes and selling them. I cleared some of the lingering dead bind weed and was reminded of our annual struggle to curb it from taking over the garden.

Pumpkin still remains energy-less and looks grey, hence why he was in the buggy for our town trip. He lay on the sofa for the afternoon and had a sleep when we were in the garden.

And Plum. She has spent most of the day in the sling or sitting on the floor with her brothers or charging around holding on to the furniture but she goes at such a great speed. She’s enjoying standing up without holding on to things and claps herself every time. She blew a kiss to Bean this morning too.

So alongside the disappointing things there was joy, connection and peace. And I’m glad that we get to do this together and be there for the good moments and the hard ones too.

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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