Category Archives: Dear Melissa

What On Earth Do Unschoolers Do All Day?

I am often asked what exactly unschooled students do all day long. After all, they are not forced to comply with a particular curriculum or program. State standards and Common Core are not chosen by the parents. So what do unschoolers do all day?

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Unschooling is the practice of student-chosen, student-led learning. The unschool educational model encourages lifelong learning rather than a race to a finish line or a race to a test score. A parent who allows unschooling encourages a child’s interests even if that means the child is not doing book work and tests.

So what does a day in an unschooled child’s life look like?

Some unschool students like to be outdoors playing, climbing, and exploring. Other students ask for worksheets and classes. Sometimes children choose to use a computer game to learn coding skills all day. However, most children choose a mixture of activities. The idea is that parents support a child’s choices rather than the parents choosing for the child. This not only gives the student power to follow his interests, but also enables the pursuit of learning without the constraints of testing or a one size fits all curriculum. Read on to see a few examples of unschool life.

Example 1

Joey likes to play Minecraft. He joined a club so he can learn to code. He wants to create his own mod for the game. He also joined a club where he works on pixel art. He wants to design graphic t-shirts and create his own website. Joey recently went to the library to check out books about coding. His mom cannot understand coding, yet Joey has already mastered Java utilizing books, his classes, and YouTube.


Example 2

Elise wants to be a chef. She thinks about foods, recipes, and dish presentation all day long. She chose to take a class about making sushi recently. She then began a website with a blog. She now reviews restaurants, writes about new recipes she creates, and uses her blog to explain fractions to younger children. Elise found reading difficult when she was five years old, but by age eight she had renewed interest and read through several chapter books each day. Her mother chalks this up to waiting until she was developmentally ready and interested in reading. After all, everyone develops at their own pace.

Example 3

Trevor loves to be outdoors. He paints, sketches, takes photographs, and more. He also enjoys hosting small meetups with other students to discuss plants and animals native to his area. He often brings examples of leaves for others to try to name. He recently used his birthday money to buy a microscope and guidebook. Trevor now enjoys gathering soil and water samples, then deciphering what is in each sample. He hopes to be an environmental scientist one day. Trevor will begin dual enrollment courses at the local college once he is old enough.


As you can see, there is not one way to unschool. Unschooling does not mean doing nothing. Parents may be involved in supporting the child any number of ways. Paying for classes, having discussions, driving a child to the library, and other similar actions are supportive of an unschool education. Students choose. Parents support. That is unschooling. Unschooling is not a lack of education, but a lack of forced education where a student cannot choose topics and activities.

Check out my pre-recorded webinar or contact me below to learn more about unschooling.



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Dear Melissa – My Child Uses Bad Language. Help!

Dear Melissa,

I admit that sometimes I use less than proper language. Unfortunately, my daughter has picked up a few of my bad habits. Yesterday, I heard her say “shit” when she dropped a cracker on the floor. She is 7 and I worry that other people will judge her, and me, if I don’t do something fast. Help!



This is a fairly common concern of my clients. I tend to be the parent who considers all words acceptable as long as they are not insults. However, time and place can make a difference as to how you are perceived by others so I understand why a parent would worry about “bad language”.

The first thing I usually say is that children copy others in their lives. You may need to change your habits in order to change your child’s habits. Also look to those who are often around your family. It may be worth a quick chat to explain that you are trying to be careful of language in front of the child.

Some children like to get a reaction from you so if you flip out, they may continue the behavior because you showed that big reaction. If you feel it cannot be ignored, then have a chat about other ways to express feelings without using the words which some may deem offensive. I have made it a point to tell my own children to not use certain language if at a job interview, out in public, or when meeting someone new. You do not know what others believe about language until you get to know them so we try to avoid offending simply because we assume others believe the same as we do.

Another idea that has helped former students living with Oppositional Defiance Disorder is using a silly replacement word. Not only does this take away the issue of offending others, but it also often makes us laugh if we choose a funny word. Try using words like “snickerdoodle” or “well toast my marshmallow”. My students often collapsed into laughter when they used these words and then their mood was lifted and the issue of language choice was addressed.


Click here for more information about behavior and parent coaching services.

Click here for more information about behavior and parent coaching services.

Dear Melissa – Diaper Change Dilemma

Dear Melissa,

My child is one and a half years old. He rolls and runs away at diaper change time. I spanked him and it helped for a while, but now he is back to rolling away or running. What else can I do to fix this diaper change dilemma?

diaper dilemma

First, I am proud of you for recognizing that spanking is not a long term solution. A few ideas come to mind when I consider this issue. Perhaps your son is ready to potty learn. Sometimes children refuse diaper changes because they prefer to be naked or in underwear like “big kids”. Maybe your child would prefer to pull on a pull up style cloth or disposable underwear instead of you doing it. You can also try following a routine with a special diaper change song or rhyme. Some children enjoy routine while others enjoy distraction like making funny faces or talking during changes. When in doubt, take a break, then come back to the task. This may mean getting up earlier in order to arrive at work on time, but is worth doing. Thankfully this behavior will get better over time. If you stay calm and have a sense of humor about it, then your child will most likely do the same and then cycle out of this behavior.

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