Why We Dared Leaving the System to Leap into Learning Beyond School

Why we decided to leap into homeschooling and learning beyond school at LisaNalbone.com. Fern unfurling.
Dare to be different. Let your learning unfurl.

Why did we start homeschooling?  What kicked us over the edge of fear into being willing to try something different? To go against the grain? It wasn’t just one thing. (It never is, is it?)

Of course, there was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but if I only cite the straw, then you won’t know the whole story.

Before “the straw” I recognized that Dale needed something different because

  • He was frustrated and got angry easily.
  • He talked negatively about learning, school, and himself.
  • He seemed less happy, joyful, and motivated.
  • He told me that he “got shot down” when he was excited about an assignment, went off on a creative tangent, and did more than what was “required.”
  • He started doing the least amount of work possible to meet a requirement.


He told me.

After investigating other schools and finding the same kind of problems, we looked into homeschooling and unschooling.  At first, it seemed too extreme a solution, but once we acknowledged that the problem of Dale coming to hate learning was extreme as well, we started considering it in earnest.

What helped move us to say “yes”? We went to the annual HomeSchoolers of California conference where we found:

  • Lots of people homeschooling
  • Lots of different ways to do it
  • Lots of opportunities for connection for Dale and the whole family
  • Lots of resources
  • Lots of families who had homeschooled whose grown children were happy, functioning adults  with jobs, pursuing higher education, or self-employed
  • Lots of people who were defining success in their own terms
  • Lots of folks unafraid to be themselves and follow a path that was right for them

Still, we had doubts about leaving institutionalized education. But then we thought about some of what we were considering doing just to stay within that system, like my taking a full-time job 20 miles to the west to pay for a private school 30 miles to the east. And we thought about emotionally scary things like the increasing teen suicide statistics and how our exuberant Dale, the Tigger of the family acting more like Rabbit or Eyeore. And then Dale himself asked us what our real values were and whether we could reclaim our courage, the courage to be different. Given all that, it seemed that we should make the leap.

Were we scared? Yes.

Did we know what we were doing and love it right from the beginning? No.

But we figured it out as we went along. It was a big shift and definitely nerve wracking at the beginning, especially because I felt on display in our small town because of my past role as a local public school teacher. But it was also exciting to meet new friends and try new things and we were lucky to find a local group doing cooperative activities.

What I did love immediately was the change in my son.

His enthusiasm and motivation were back. He was more himself.  He was happy.

And that made all the uncertainty worth it. And then we realized that learning how to figure things out, reflecting on what’s working and not working, and making changes—all things we were forced to do as new homeschoolers—are great life skills. These were skills that would benefit all of us as we moved forward through our schooling life and beyond.

And then we started to realize the other benefits of homeschooling. Of course it meant that Dale had time to try new things and to figure out who he was, what he loved to do, and how he learned best. But beyond that there were unexpected benefits: having more time together in the few short years before my child launched into the world. And learning new things together. And modeling skills for Dale and then having him model adventurousness and persistence for me. Homeschooling was a wonderful gift for all of us.

Those are my reasons, beyond that unimportant camel-breaking straw, for stepping into learning beyond school. I’d love to hear yours.

Learning and Laughing at GirlEmpireCon

GECcollageGirlEmpireCon promised  a jam packed day of learning, inspiration and fun.  And they delivered. I learned so much from the girls, the other speakers and the great organizers.

I was honored to talk to the girls  in the morning about  UnCollege Gap Year, Hacking Your Education and the power of choice and options.  In the afternoon I shared  my perspective for how-to choose to create a life you love.

GirlEmpireCon founders, Alex Ellison and Ashley Jennings care about empowering young women and building community in their hometown of Reno. What were they hoping to accomplish with their one day conference?From their website:

“It’s time young people take ownership of their education, formal and informal. We want every girl to leave Girl Empire with the tools, confidence and connections to take charge and make her own rules,” Ellison said.

“The job market is changing all the time. It’s time that we prepare our girls to succeed in any field, instead of setting them up to fail in a field that might not exist in five years,” Jennings said.

Jennings and Ellison found sponsors, collaborators and speakers to put together an exciting day of learning.


There  were so many nuggets and lessons to take to heart. Here are a few captured on twitter:

“Just because you try something doesn’t mean you have to do it for the rest of your life.” –

Next up: Alex Ellison with on finding the hidden gems in higher education.

“What do I want to do, and how can I make it happen?” –  @uncollege

“How many of you are on Instagram? You’ve already started telling your story.” –

. with speaking about Reno’s startup scene. “Some days I work 14-16 hours, some days I work two. I can choose.” 

w/Mrs. Nevada & showing young girls how-to play big today

Kelsey Blotter, Gold Award, talking about her experience with .

“The only way to learn that job is to do it.” – on doing apprenticeships, whether you’re at trade school or college

  embracing one’s weirdness to stand out in the right ways

 . art is an element of everything we do.

“You can choose to create a life you love.” – gives the closing keynote at

I also learned  lots about what I shouldn’t do while holding a microphone, balancing notecards and trying to signal the person, thank you Laurel, taking care of the slides. This wasn’t the first in my life that my Italian heritage and tendency to talk with my hands has gotten me in trouble.

I learned what a profound gift it is when people give you their attention, engage, and show you that they are listening to and taking your heartfelt message to heart.

Thank you GirlEmpireCon for allowing me to share my heart and framework for choosing to create a life you love.

I’d love to know, what learning would you like to share?  What choices are you making to create the life you want?

Tell me on twitter @lisanalbone or email me  at Learningbeyondschool@gmail.com

Review:Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

There are so many things I love about this book. From page 7,

When we talk about project-based homeschooling, we are moving beyond knowledge and skills and probing underneath for the machinery of learning. We are thinking less about the specific facts that will be learned (radius of Mars, exports of Peru) and more about what makes a person want to learn and how we can help them become adept at doing the things they want to do.

Rather than filling our child’s educational plate and saying, “Eat up. Trust me. This is what you need,” we hand them the menu and say, “Order something that looks good to you.”

Resource Review of Project Based Homeschooling, Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert at LisaNalbone.com

I agree with Lori Pickert’s take on  mentoring self-directed learners and learner-centered education.  I love that she addresses the big picture by looking at learning and how we choose to model our values and gives very practical, tangible steps you can take to begin the process with your children.  She also has  great series of articles on PBH for grownups.

Give the book a read and  you can also enroll in  her upcoming PBH Master Class and take a look at the many other resources she has to offer at her site. I have not taken the  PBH Master class, but have heard and seen rave reviews from both new and seasoned homeschoolers and unschoolers. I participated in two email based classes she offered this summer, on journaling and drawing, and they were excellent.

Lori provides great resources with her  blog posts, forum, classes,  Tip-Sheet, and conversations on Facebook and Twitter. I only wish they had been available back when we began our unschooling journey.

She says it so well. From page 147,

“When you devote some of  your learning time to helping your child pursue  his self-chosen work, you help him become project-oriented. You help him become deeply acquainted with his passions, his talents, his interests.  You help him find out what he can do with those interests.

You support your child’s pursuit of his own self-chosen work, and you equip him with the thinking and learning tools he needs to succeed. You create a system that promotes meaningful work and the means to achieve it.

This is not a one off experience. It is a way of thinking, learning, working and sharing. It is a way of living. “

Is it time to hand your child the menu?   Yell Yes!


Just to be clear, I am recommending Lori, her book, and classes on the strength of her work. There is no financial reward or affiliation.