Unschooling and the Fear of Failing

I heard a lovely interview on the radio the other day with a man whom I think is brilliant. He is Sugata Mitra and he won the TED Prize to work on something called S.O.L.E. projects. Which stands for Self-Organised Learning Environments. He believes that children learn very well by themselves, with a computer. Look him up if you can, as he and his project I think are very interesting. The interviewer said something along the lines of  ‘Do you know that a lot of people think that what you are doing is crazy and that it may fail, what do you think about that?’ and there was a beautiful pause in which he said ‘I think I may be inclined to agree with them and I listen well to my critics as I would be a fool not to but it doesn’t worry me’ I liked that it didn’t worry him. I question what success and failure actually are anyway. Is success landing the right job and getting a lot of money for it? Or living within your means and feeling incredibly happy and at peace with who you are? Or, maybe it is a bit of both, or neither?

I was at drama school with about five actors who are incredibly successful and famous now. One of them was in my year and we were good friends. As I was scraping by to make a living, I used to measure his success as an actor, you could say, against the inner yardstick of my failure as an actress. I remember being freezing cold, so much so that my hands had gone stiff. I was walking home from a job where I had laboriously spent the day painting small square boxes white and getting paid barely anything. As I looked up, I saw his beaming face on a lit up poster. If I remember correctly he was jumping to the side wearing purple or it may have been gold, he was grinning from ear to ear, I was not grinning. To my credit I still had the ability to see the absurdity of it all in that moment, and thought one day I may write about this. In the eyes of society, he was a huge success, and he is a great actor and I love him regardless of whether he is famous or not. But in terms of living, I ask the deeper question, what on earth is success anyway? Is it maybe money, stability, having a ‘proper’ job or even being famous?  

I don’t think so. To me those are not the things that bring happiness necessarily.

So do I have a fear of failing around the kid’s education?

No, I don’t. Deep in my heart I feel that this is right for them and that is the loud strong inner voice I choose to listen carefully to.


This is an excerpt from ‘Jump, Fall, Fly from schooling, to homeschooling to unschooling’ which you can buy here.

Or directly from us as an e book here.


This painting above (inspired by Jackson Pollock) was done by our three kids when they were very little, I loved it as it was about 4 metres long and as much paint that is on the paper is about as much as was on their small bodies.