Why we want to unschool, alternatives to school and revisiting our pre-kids thoughts


Exactly 5 years ago I wrote a post called “Kids should learn through play – Why I would never put my kids in schools”. The post was done around 1,5 years before we got our first child and even before we started planning having kids.

One thing is having principles and dreams, another is living it and doing the hard work it takes. I wanted to re-visit the article I wrote 5 years ago and compare those early thoughts with how we feel now with real life and practical experience.

I won’t hide the fact that my very early thoughts on alternatives to school came from disliking the traditional school system, my own experience with that system and the feeling that the system is completely outdated and broken. In the last 5 years I have come to the conclusion that my focus has to be on the positive things in the lifestyle that we proactively choose and design and less so on what we are saying no thanks to.

I still think that the system is completely broken and I still have all those opinions I wrote about 5 years ago. I’m still a little pissed that there is no normal, broadly accepted alternative to having +20 kids sitting still all day in a classroom.

Some of these real-life experiences, combined with our thoughts on education in general, makes us even more sure that we have taken the right direction. As mentioned, one thing is having some dreams another thing is doing the work. That we still feel so sure about this lifestyle in the middle of the hard work is really a great feeling and for me it has been a great lesson in trusting my intuition more.

There are plenty of positive things to mention, but let me highlight a few of the things we like about free learning and life without daycare and school:

When I wrote the post in January 2017 my head was not full of specific solutions and alternatives to normal school. It was still so far out in the future, so I didn’t have to have all the answers. We still don’t, because there is no single, correct answer. There are hundreds of ways to live, but as the kids get older we probably need a bit a bit more of a steady community.

Some of the ideas we have come by, imagined and think could be interesting for our family to try is:

5 years ago I would not have been able to predict how day-to-day would be and if we could actually walk the talk. Combining being full-time with kids and work is hard. We don’t just want to make a living, we have ambitions that we are 100% going to fulfill. At the same time we could change our live completely in a few weeks and send our kids in daycare. So if it feels hard, an easier solution is readily available.

For us it feels like a true adventure. A real adventure is something that gives you a deep sense of purpose, but a real adventure is also HARD. 5 years ago we had some dreams. Now it feels like we are living that dream and that we are on one big adventure that will just get wilder.


  • Roxane Maar

    Really great insights and thoughts which I fully share with you. You know – some years ago I really wanted to join an adventure with Refuga as I really liked the concept, but never got to it because startup life took over – perhaps our paths can cross this time as I’m finding my own family having the same questions and thoughts about this as yours..🙌

    • Nikolaj Astrup Madsen

      Hi Roxane! How fun to have a reader here who remembers Refuga!! It would be great if our paths would cross. We definitely want to meet more people who are having some of the same considerations and questions about kids!

  • Jessica Lin

    Hi Roxanne, Great post–thank you for sharing your insights. We are also thinking about a microschool so I will keep watching your posts to see what you come up with. I was fortunate to find a group of homeschoolers near us who meet once per week for a field trip. Not everyone is an unschooler but because our sole focus is exploring the world around us, we have a kindred spirit that keeps us connected. In our case, we are each responsible to plan one field trip every 6 weeks (there are only 6 families) and it’s entirely up to us. Our kids have a blast and we adults have all become fast friends!

    Another great resource we found is Elephango.com. The kids have their own accounts connected to mine so I can assign things to them but for the most part, I just let them explore and set up their own study lists. They love it and I have been pleasantly surprised at how the learning is set up without quizzes and tests but projects and creative ideas. I have a feeling an unschooler was involved in developing it!

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