I see a lot of questions about transcripts, so I thought I'd put this out here. I decided to register with The Farm School as our umbrella program in TN for the "high school" years, in part so that I could do exactly this, and generate a transcript as we went. At the end, if we want, The Farm will create a diploma for us. The transcript is generated via a simple online program - I'm sure there are tons of the darned things, but the one they use is homeschoolreporting.com in case you're looking for one. One of the handy features is that when you go to type in a "class" it gives you a long list of suggested high school classes so you can use something that sounds nice and normal. You can also assign grades and credits if you want.

So this is what the transcript looks like for Morgan's "freshman year of high school":

English 1
Math- logic
Computing - graphic design
Physical education
Ancient history//World Geography

But we're unschoolers, right? So how the heck did she manage that? Do we do online classes or something? Nope. Not a bit of it. I keep an eye on the sorts of things she's doing - what she's reading, writing about, drawing, watching, playing - and I take notes on that when I think about it. Then around the turn of the "semester" I look through my notes and see what would be a good fit. I compare what high school say students learn to what colleges assume high school graduates retain, and I take that pretty heavily into account. I'm not interested in holding my kid to a superior standard, just providing a reasonable "translation" of natural learning into a simple, lowest-common-denominator sort of format.

Mostly, it's pretty easy. Natural learning really does lead kids in all sorts of wonderful directions! It even leads to a fair amount of intellectual rigor in terms of questioning sources, analyzing information, expressing ideas clearly, even examining the ethics of decision making. It does because natural learning isn't about doing just enough to pass a test, it's about following the rabbit trails of curiosity and discovering where they lead. So that even when the "subject matter" derives from fan fiction and video games rather than textbooks and approved reading lists, curiosity itself leads kids to develop the kinds of mental skills that schools work so hard (and often with such futility) to impart.


3yo limits and learning

I'm having trouble finding balance. My oldest is 3 and we lifted limitations about 3 or so weeks ago. Complete anarchy took over and it was more stressful than my husband and I can handle.
We allowed food in the living room; food was constantly thrown over the floor, smeared on couches and walls. We stopped making her clean up so she stopped helping. She has full blown screaming tantrums anytime we need to leave the house. Once she realized she could eat anything, she ate onl...y candy for a week straight. We couldn't continue this way and put limits back. We rent so can't have a free for all on our floors and walls. We just eradicated ants by my cleaning alone and there's no way I can enjoy my children and clean every crevice my toddler finds to put food in unless I stop sleeping

Hi, S! I remember when you posted a couple weeks ago – so you decided to go back to limits and “start over”? Sometimes that's easier when you've made the mistake of lifting all the limits at once. It does tend to create chaos when kids are only used to external controls on their behavior – it takes time for them to learn what to do without them.

Unschooling isn't so much about “setting/maintaining” boundaries with kids as it is about communicating and helping them explore. Boundaries exist already! There are the laws of physics, the very real limits on your time and energy, finances... so very many limits in life! One of the things that we can do, as parents, is help our kids move through a world of limits without feeling... strangulated by them, as it were. Limits don't have to be end points, they can be chances to make decisions and solve problems. That's a big part of the freedom unschooling offers. It's the freedom to be thoughtful as a parent, rather than obstreperous.

So it can help to think in terms of articulating limits and helping kids negotiate them. For example, of course you don't want food rubbed into your carpets and upholstery! But young children are very tactile, they learn a whooooooooole lot through touching, feeling, and even doing things like squishing and grinding. They're wired to process exactly that kind of information. So it's a good idea to offer your 3yo lots of ways to play like that, now that you know it's an interest. Finger painting, for instance, maybe with other things mixed into the paints for fun. And yes, by all means do it someplace like the kitchen that can be cleaned up easily – that's a good example of articulating a limit: let's keep the mess in the kitchen. Unschooling doesn't mean you never say no ;) It means thinking through your reasoning and finding options.

A three year old isn't equipped to negotiate the whole world on their own – and they don't really want to. They want to feel like they're capable and have a sense of personal power, though. They want to be able to make choices about things that are interesting or important to them. And as you've seen, they don't really have much in the way of complex reasoning ability yet! Their understanding of the world is still very surface level and direct. That's why they have parents ;)

Keep in mind that any kind of limit on a wanted thing – whether it's a real limit or something you “set” - is going to make that thing even more valuable. That's natural and even good to an extent. Think about eating the first strawberries of spring, for instance, or some holiday food that you can't really get any other time of year – there's a kind of specialness. And when that special thing is also framed in terms of good-vs-bad it can be a guilty pleasure. Again, that's not to say limits are bad, just that they're real things with real consequences. One of the reasons unschoolers try to avoid setting extra limits is exactly because of those consequences.

In the short run, settle back into life with the limits that previously made sense to you. Think about what seems to work and what it means to “work” - what's working? Is it really working or are you arguing a lot with a 3yo? Is your kid trying to explore something and your “boundaries” are standing in the way? Can you modify those boundaries? Maybe they're not really boundaries, just expectations you have that may or may not be realistic. Expectations are something you can change. Maybe there's a boundary that's not what you think it is – like food in the living room. If you add a table, and keep the food on the table, you might be able to achieve your goals in a different way. Limits, boundaries, aren't end points, remember, they're chances to problem solve.


learning about tiredness and sleep and rest

Neither of my kids has ever had a bedtime. My daughter also stopped napping when she was just over a year old, so for awhile we had some Very. Long. Afternoons. with a very unhappy little person.

It helped me to remind myself that my kid was in the process of learning about tiredness and sleep and rest, as things in themselves - things over which she sort of had control, and sort of didn't at the same time. And the way children learn is often through experimentation. They don't appreciate being told what to learn or how to learn it ;)

I think that's why kids get so frustrated when adults say "you're tired, you need to sleep" - they don't want to be handed our pre-digested answers, they want to figure it out!

At the same time, it helped me to remember that, generally speaking, people don't like to be miserable. But people also don't like being told that their unhappiness is a sign of doing something wrong. "You're tired, you need to sleep" can come across that way - like saying "if you weren't such a bad driver, you wouldn't have gotten into this accident". Even if it's entirely true, it's the sort of thing that doesn't feel kind or helpful in the moment! So it's really, really important to find ways to be helpful from your child's point of view. And most of the time, that means looking for ways to make it easier for them to do their thing, whatever that is.

That doesn't mean "just letting" kids flounder around in exhaustion, though! It means using our amazing adult superpowers of thinking ahead and planning around the fact that we're living with a little person who's in the middle of learning about rest and fatigue. So yeah, creating routines that help a kid settle down might be part of that... if that's something your kid finds helpful. Or finding ways for a kid to blow off a lot of steam in the evening, if that's more helpful. Or, if you have a kid who's tired during the day, either because of not getting enough sleep the night before or because they've stopped napping, finding ways for your kid to have some more restful time that lets them recoup some energy (and you, too!).

If you've "put" kids to bed in the past, the whole process may be harder for awhile because they're not as open to trusting your motives. You'll need to work harder to prove yourself by avoiding judgmental statements like "you're tired" and instead looking for ways to help your kid cope as kindly and gently as possible. To that end, it could help to brainstorm some things that would help your kid chill out before they're falling-apart tired. Make a list and post it somewhere so that you don't have to try and think when You're falling-apart tired