Why We’re Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop |

Why We’re Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop

admin April 4, 2016

A little over two years ago, I had an idea for an unschooling-themed coop.  There was already one in my area, but that group met once a week, all day, and offered classes that seemed awesome for teens and tweens — and not a great fit for my family (which, at that point, consisted of 4 kids from age 10 months to age 6).

I really had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t know what my family would need, educationally.  I didn’t really know what our options were.  I tossed my general ideas out to a bunch of different local people, started talking to them, and we formed a leadership team to create the coop.

The leadership team changed hands several times.  The coop grew.  The form and structure we put in place, stuck.  Many families were happy with it.

But I realized that wasn’t, and neither were my kids.

Why We Struggled

A handful of months into our second year, my kids started complaining.  This year had more structure than the previous year.  They had to choose classes, and were expected to be in those classes and paying attention.  There was no option to ‘not’ go if they didn’t like the offerings during one session.  There was no real break time.  My kids didn’t like having to go to specific classes.  They asked to do something else.  Or leave.

I don’t like fighting with my kids over things that are completely unnecessary.

Yes, I have hard-and-fast rules about car seats and seat belts in the car.  Yes, we make careful choices about food.  Some things, almost exclusively health and safety issues, are simply what they are.  If it’s not one of those issues, I don’t choose it as a battle.

Part of the reason we are homeschooling, and unschooling, is so that learning isn’t a battle.  This group was no longer making sense for our family.

It was tough to choose to walk away, but the other group members mostly were happy with how it was.  Some even wanted more structure.  (The group offers parent-led crafts and activities, weekly themes, and more in a hands-on way.  Many parents let us know that they enjoyed the structure and used the themes for at-home extensions, where they learned even more about the topics.)  That’s all well and good…for them.  But not for me.

I did a lot of educational research, looked into Sudbury schools a lot, talked to my kids.  I asked if they’d rather have a different style group, where they had more freedom — or if they’d rather just stay with their friends.  Both my older two said they’d rather have the group with more freedom.  (Pretty neat that they chose what works for them instead of only thinking of friendships!  That’s the kind of stuff I want to encourage.)

Another mom and I decided to start a new, true radically unschooling coop.

Why We're Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop pinterest

Why We’re Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop

It’s radical, for sure.

The group has no classes.  No teachers.  No curriculum.  No grades or groups.

The kids themselves get to choose everything.  We provide the space, time, and materials, and they do the rest.

We aren’t separating kids by age level.  We’re not even differentiating between preschool and elementary.  We will be offering them a wide variety of art supplies, craft/sewing supplies, computers, board games, blocks, Legos, cooking/food, woodworking, outdoor toys, etc. and they will be allowed to do whatever they want — in groups of their own choosing, or independently.

There are no arbitrary rules.  The kids are allowed to talk freely, move around, run, yell (as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else’s work), take bathroom breaks, get snacks or water, etc. whenever they feel like it.

Sounds a bit crazy?  It really isn’t.

Kids are human.  I know that’s crazy.  But they are.

As an adult, you have much more control over yourself — even at work.  You can stop and use the bathroom usually whenever you want to, even if you have to ask someone to cover for you for a few minutes.  Most adults can keep drinks or snacks with them, or get breaks every couple hours to get them.  Most can chat pretty freely with co-workers as desired.  They’re more autonomous.

Kids can do it too, with an adult presence and guidance where needed.  That’s all this is about.  The basic rules about respect for people and property will stand — kids can’t hurt others, break things, disturb others’ work, and so on.

We’re really excited about this radically unschooling coop.  And other local families are excited, too!  There’s something amazing about exposing kids to lots of different ideas and materials and letting them be creative in their own ways.

We’ll be getting started in just a couple months.  We decided not to wait, because, why?  The “traditional” school year is Sept – May, but we’re not traditionally schooling, so we’ll do what suits us.  We’re breaking free of all the ‘usual’ ways of doing things.

Have you ever participated in a radically unschooling coop?  Or any other type of coop?


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  1. Hi! What a fabulous plan! This sounds exactly like a progressive school I was fortunate to attend for about a year or so in Memphis, TN in 1976-1977-1978. It was called A Learning Place. Grades 1-6 I believe. Each student had private math and English meetings with their instructor whenever you liked, by appointment. Each student worked at whatever grade level was appropriate with these two instructors. They had classes, but you could choose to attend or not. Technically, you could play outside all day, but few students chose that regularly. Art, Tuesday and Thursday at 2. Spanish, Monday and Friday at 11, etc. I fondly remember many teachers and our discussions. This is the essence of learning, learning for learning’s sake- it feels great!!! It’s a trait I continue to nurture even now.


  2. Hmmm. . . I cannot eat at my desk at work, take breaks every couple of hours, use the bathroom whenever I want, or chat freely with co-workers. I have never seen my doctor or dentist eating while meeting with me, teachers, receptionists, sales reps, etc. all have lunch times not snack as you go times. The only break is lunch (when there is time), and, unless it’s an emergency, the restroom is used at lunch as well. Chatting with co-workers also happens at lunch. Conversations during paid time are about work. Please tell me what professions have the ability to eat, use the restroom, take breaks, and chat at will. Maybe I will make a career change! 🙂


    • Become an entrepreneur. That’s how you get all of that freedom. Wish you the best with your career change!


  3. Obviously not every job is like that, there are varying degrees of autonomy and authoritarianism.

    And clearly, they should be like this. But, corporations don’t always understand that.


  4. We are second generation unschoolers. We began in 1987 and have continued with our 3 kids, now ages 17, 13 & 12.
    In response to the comment by Savannah, I have been a Paramedic for 21 years. My coworkers and I have a great time at work. Although there are times when bathrooms and meals are not immediately accessible, we love our job. Husband is a Police Officer & EMT. Same scenario. Snacks and toilets available should the need arise. Sad that an adult thinks they are locked into such a restrictive and thankless job!


  5. I love this idea. I was moments away from opening a private school when it began to feel like everything I did not truly believe in. Now I am creating a unschooling co-op with the similar ideas and reasons. I don’t believe that children should be so stifled. Learning is exploration.


  6. What Savannah said. What this group apparently wants is to create socially awkward people with lacking knowledge! Sounds like an excellent idea. I wish it would work, but the current world simply doesn’t work that way.


    • So strange that you think one group of people is “socially awkward and lacking knowledge” but another group is not, simply because of their general philosophy! Although honestly, with ‘manners’ like yours, I’m quite happy that I’m not sending my children through whatever socialized you. 🙂


  7. This is beautiful! I was recently part of starting a Sudbury type school and it has just fallen through! I’m so sad but I’m thinking this sort of thing might be the perfect substitute. I’d love to hear how it has gone, if you have used a building or homes, etc.


  8. I love this and found this article by searching because I would love to do this too. I would love to ask questions if you feel up to emailing me.


  9. Reaching out… struggling with my little and our region.


  10. I am very interested in finding out how your co op is working? I would like to explore the possibility of running one in my community.
    Thank you for sharing,


  11. Hihi,thank you for sharing. How is your co-op doing now? I am considering starting one in my community. Thank you.

    With appreciation, Eva


  12. I love the idea. My kids are 7, 4 and 11 month in a new town. We unschool. I want to join a local co op. Classes look fun but they are divided by age and subjects. My main reason is that I want to meet new people. However my oldest doesn’t want a group class where she follows someone else’s rules and a class structure. She says she can learn that at home when she wants. And told me the only group activity she would do is soccer. My 4 year old won’t stay with other people if I’m not there. I was googling If unachoolers did co ops and found this article. I love it and inspired me. I wish I could do something like that when i meet new people here.


  13. How has this gone? Since it’s not taking place every day, as in the case of a Sudbury school or other such environment, how do you house the materials that you mentioned? I’m just trying to think of the logistics of having such a wide range of materials for a co-op that only meets once or twice per week, if that makes sense. Great idea, though! I found your post when I searched unschooling co-ops, as I’ve been mulling over this concept for some time now, as an option for us for next year, or even maybe next semester. Thanks for sharing!


  14. Is there an update to this blog? I’d love to hear how it is going?


  15. Love to learn more about how this co-op goes! Sounds like a great idea.


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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