Radical Unschooling Reading: The Long Hard Road To Trusting Your Children

All of my children have learned how to read, in their own time with support and facilitation. If my children ask me how to spell something, I spell it out for them. I don’t tell them to go look it up, themselves. I am here by their side as a resource and I am up and down dozens of times throughout each day to assist one of the kids in something they are researching, playing, reading or creating.

All of our children have come to reading as a tool to help them get more of what they want in life. Reading isn’t something feared or pressured into them to do sooner than they were ready.
The actual process of natural reading takes years and learning to read wasn’t something that had any kind of time-frame. The process was natural and evolved over time.

I have read to all of my kids since they were in the womb. I read chapter books and short stories. We had board books and activity books, nature books, science experiment books and everything else in-between. Our bookshelves overfloweth! We subscribe to magazines based on their interests and passions. Our family is surrounded by the written word. Learning through immersion is one way in which Unschoolers learn to read naturally.

The ages in which my children learned to read are hard to pin down, as it was such natural process, much like learning to talk. It happened slowly, over time. Devin, Tiffany, Ivy, and Orion all know how to read now and I look back on their individual processes as a beautiful time in our lives. I will never tire of hearing, “Mom! How do you spell the word, ‘circumstance’?” or “Mom, what is this word – r-e-n-d-e-z-v-o-u-s?” I will forever cherish the years in which they all learned the tool that is used to bring such joy and expansion to their lives.

Being that they all learned later than children in school, the first books that they chose to read were based on their interests and not books they were forced to work through because of a curriculum or age recommendation. The first book that Ivy read over a year ago was, “The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell” by Marilyn Manson. Ivy enjoyed hearing about Marilyn Manson’s childhood and his life journey to get to where he is today. This book is not something you’d envision to be a child’s first book, that’s for sure.

I did a lot of research before buying it for her and had some serious discussions with Devin, Bonnie, and Ivy before she read it. (Bonnie had read it before and knew that some of the content was intense and sexually focused). I have had conversations with Ivy about what the book is about, as Marilyn Manson had a unique and cringe-worthy childhood in many areas of his life. The book is also powerfully inspiring and compelling to hear about how he went from an unpopular freak when he was in school to the captivating rockstar that he is now. Supporting her in choosing this book was a journey, but in the end, I am so glad that I did the inner work necessary to support her, instead of forbidding her.

Radical Unschooling isn’t a journey for the faint of heart. It isn’t a role for a parent who is fearful or who isn’t willing to dig into the deepest parts of their soul and do the inner work necessary to heal from your past. Being able to support my children in their choices, even when they push my personal boundaries is something that I have worked on diligently to not be triggered by my own issues when something intense or controversial comes up in our lives.

Facilitating a life of freedom for my children hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth every moment with them. Living a life by their side, helping them learn and grow has been such an incredible journey. Being judged, criticized, laughed at, shamed, and even threatened has just been part of my life living out loud, standing behind my children’s choices and their rights. Never in a million years would I have thought that my sweet little daughter’s first book would be this one, but here I am – standing on the edge of this incredible experiment of giving a child freedom and respect. Thanks for coming along on our journey.


  1. Thanks for this post and for your inspiring stand on peaceful parenting. My question related to learning to read at whatever age is appropriate for each individual child (which I understand and support) is how have you and others found correct spelling to happen? I also happily answer any questions on how to spell words but quite a few words are still misspelled in writing after learning to read. Does correct spelling follow with more and more reading? I wondered about others experiences with this? I know nowdays with so much technology there is spellcheck but I still feel a grasp of spelling is important. Have you found this a part of natural learning or has any extra support been needed by anyone (at kids request as well as parents)? Many thanks!!

  2. Loved reading this and it is just perfect timing for me personally. I ended up home schooling my now 9 yo after his struggle to demonstrate and meet expectations in a mainstream classroom in K and 1st grade, and yet what he failed to show on paper with writing or knowing letters/alphabet, he skyrocketed verbally with conversation and the interest in people and the world around him. Our initial time together at home was full of worry from me, and struggle in my mind that he was unmotivated. And yet after a year of laying off, unschooling for his 3rd grade year, we have landed this year, technically fourth grade, with his engagement in several areas he is passionate, and his motivation, growth and maturity in areas he used to struggle. He also has warmed my heart in his appreciation of what his days look like (unschooled) and how much I have “saved him.” “Mom if it weren’t for you I’d still be reading magic tree house books at school, instead I get to design super cars, work with CAD software, follow science youTubers, and immerse myself in Percy Jackson audio books.”

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