Radical Unschooling: The Gift Of Mindfulness

Radical Unschooling is a very present-based philosophy. The focus of our life is on happiness and pursuing our interests with reckless abandon together. We totally immerse ourselves in our passions every single day and we do so in the Now. Children very naturally live in the present, so living this philosophy feels good and right to them. They rarely worry about the future in the way that most adults in our culture do and in fact, do not understand the constant preparation that kids in school are forced to live everyday.

It’s interesting to me that our culture constantly puts a focus on our children’s future.  Our kids are trained from toddlerhood to live in the space of preparation, instead of enjoying the moment. Then, we spend years as adults trying to undo this conventional  mindset through yoga, meditation and self-help books to convert us back to our natural way of being, which is to be more present and living in the Now.

I feel that Radical Unschooling is the most natural, Zen way for children to live – for anyone to live for that matter! When we never take this default way of being mindful away from children, they never have to go through all that so many of us have to as adults just to get back to the state of being that feels so good and so fulfilling. It is so important to notice when we are rushing kids through their daily experiences just to get to the next thing on the list. Are we rushing them through dinner to get their bath done? Are we rushing through their bedtime story to get them to bed on time? Are we rushing and planning our lives with our children away all for the sake of a schedule? Our children know when our agenda or schedule is more important to us than they are in the moment. This deeply affects our connection with them. If we are feeling rushed through our daily routine when we are interacting with our kids, it may be a good time to reflect on what is important in life. The house can wait. Our email can wait. Our list of to-do’s should never come before modeling mindfulness and putting everything aside for our children in the moment.

You do have to have a great deal of trust living in the present. It has taken me some time to allow things to just flow for our family from day to day. Once a year, our state requests evaluations of our children’s progress. It is during this time when I do a lot of reflecting and writing about all that my children have done as Unschoolers. Amazing to those living a conventional life, our children learn and progress far more than children in school, even from an academic perspective. We never “teach” them the traditional subjects taught in schools, yet they learn reading, writing, math, science, history and so much more, just as a side effect of living their bliss in the present moment, every single day!

Our children have a depth of happiness and self-worth that I did not know until I was an adult, just through having the freedom to be present and mindful. Through Radical Unschooling we never take away the natural born state of simply being from them. Their inner guidance is respected, trusted and never silenced by my worry about their future. Does this sound neglectful or mindful?

I know in my heart that that happy moments lead to happy days, happy weeks, happy months and happy years. A joyful, fulfilling life overflowing with self-love is the result of a childhood pure and unfettered by someone else’s future-based agenda. Being mindful isn’t something that our kids will ever have to learn in the way that most of us do today. By keeping our focus on happiness, connection, mindfulness and love, we give our children the greatest gift that they could ever receive – their WHOLENESS.



  1. Yeah!

  2. Great article, thank you. Very much needed for me as a newbie unschooler who still has the instincts of a schooler and controller (learned from my dad).

    • George,

      I am so glad the article was helpful to you on your path to Unschooling! Thanks for your comment and let me know if I can ever help you out with information or support.


  3. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about living in the moment and how much my son has taught me to do just that. Since his birth three years ago, I’ve had brief periods in which I tried to institute a strict schedule of mealtimes or naps or bedtimes, and he has always resisted. Schedules and routines are the default advice people give you when your children are small, and perhaps some children thrive on those things, but my son does not. He’s very much a “go with the flow” child, which means bedtime varies every night and naps are rare, and he eats when he’s hungry (imagine that!) I’m not sure why I’ve been fighting this aspect of his personality–it must be in his DNA because I’ve always resisted strict schedules too. It’s so important that we give our kids what they need, not what we think they need, and my son needs the freedom to be himself. He doesn’t need me taking away the pleasure of the moment because the clock says it’s time to do something else!

    • Lisa,
      I’m happy to hear you are “going with the FLOW”! Actually, all children want to be free and be guided by their own needs. I do not think that some children thrive on a schedule, it is just that some children submit to the control of others more easily. It sounds like your son is a very strong person who is confident and able to communicate his needs. So glad you are respecting and listening to him!
      Thanks for your comment Lisa!


  4. Hi Dayna,

    I love what you share and it resonates with me. I am not exactly unschooling, but seeking to apply the principles of this freedom that you are speaking of in our home and family life… Sometimes with some success. Other times failing miserably!

    Anyway, I have a question about the scheduling. I can relate to rushing the kids through dinner to get to bedtime, etc. My husband works fulltime and usually gets home between 5pm and 6pm. It’s important to him to eat with the kids as part of our family time. My kids are 2 and 5. I feel like I am monitoring their energy and hunger and tiredness levels, and trying to meet all those needs (time with dad, food, bath and sleep) within a ridiculously short period of 2 to 3 hours. If it gets later than, say, 8pm before the kids are in bed, they can get super cranky, then I don’t get to bed til much later, and DH and I don’t get any quiet time together.

    So I quite consciously ‘rush’ through these times. As in I am very aware of the time and keeping things moving.

    I’d like to be present and enjoy the moment, which is what I suspect my husband wants with the kids too… But I don’t want to be left with an overtired whose toddler losing it when I’m also looking forward to some quiet time.

    I suspect that for our family, for now, the schedule is fairly important. But I’d like to be able to ‘enjoy the moment’ within it…

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about this…

  5. Hi Dayna,

    This is a beautiful post that I needed to read right at this moment…a thousand thank-you’s! I have a question: I am still learning how to balance everyone’s need to be in the moment…so what do you do when one child’s “moment” requires something different than another’s?


  6. This post made me cry.

  7. Oh god this post made me cry too. I have four kids, (one tragically died two years ago) and my two eldest started in mainstream school at 4and a half. Gulp! It makes me weep now. We transferred them to a Rudolf Steiner school 3 and a half years ago which was a breath of fresh air. My two youngest are now at the kindergarten and love it.
    BUT, we rush, we hussle to bed, I clock watch constantly, I feel sad I have to cram things in at the weekend, or just not do them cos the little ones are too tired.
    But my eldest boy, now nearly 13 has always struggled with school (on and off) Last night he went to his free running session which he adores, and was up very late. He begged to be let off school this morning, as he was so tired, and I made him go in. From what, guilt fear, doing what’s expected of me? Ireally want to rethink.Thanks for an inspiring post I’ll be back!

  8. Bijay Raj Bastakoti says

    Hello Dayna,
    I have always been a bohemian at thought. I do not believe in a lot of things, but I do not ignore the effects they have on our daily lives, and the reason they are there. There are things that I agree, and disagree with your view of the world. I think you reflect the paradox of the world as it is.

    I couldn’t agree more on how a good family life is needed in this machine world. The way you give freedom to your kids is almost natural. I do believe not all kids are chiseled for schooling, but one way or other, they should have a form of learning for themselves. I appreciate your way of life, because it is yours and yours to decide how you wish to live, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Trust me, you are very convincing; I’d probably accept your ideas very easily if I did not think the way I think. I just have a few questions that I dearly seek answers for, from you. Here I go:

    1) You say schools are like prisons. Do you think “family,” “society,” and “the world” are prisons too, given that they too have their limits regardless??

    2) I was always a rebellious student, but I still remember what a teacher told once, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” What is your thought on the statement? Please do express what your plans are to make your kids as smart as or smarter than traditional schoolers, or it is for them to decide their plans in the future.

    3) Please reflect on “time and tide wait for no man” and tell me how long do you think they are going to take to decide their goals in life, or they are just going to live the nomadic lives humans left ages ago to come where we are NOW.

    Dayna, if eternity was the age of my life, I would not hesitate to adapt to the life you say as “living in the present.” Provided that, humans have advanced so much to come to this stage, and knowledge being emitted in the same manner for thousands of years, I have my reservations on this matter. However, I do believe there should be a change in the educational system to address the loopholes.

    Excuse my criticism!


  9. Vashti Merz Samuel says

    This is the best reason for radical unschooling I have ever heard.

  10. We decided to homeschool this year quite abruptly. I have researched many hs philosophis and unschooling appeals to me the most as the best for our daughter and family. We also live in NH. How does unschooling work with the annual evaluations, etc. required? We are currently using the district as the “participating agent” but that doesn’t sit well with me and I would rather go another route. Is it possible to switch to a different “agent”? Would you recommend one? Can you share your experience in those 2 areas? It would be most helpful.

  11. Recently, I have started visiting your blog while I drink my morning coffee. It has been a game changer for me in the last week. I often question our choice to stay in pajamas most mornings and not join the traffic and rush outside the door. Then, I do something like find a $60 hotel room at the beach on the off season and my children and I run away for a few days. No tests to study for, no homework to make up, no worksheets to fill out but boundless learning and LIVING.
    Your words are so inspirational and reassuring. Thank you!

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