Inside: Certified teacher Marla Taviano had no intention of homeschooling – her kids had other plans. After her kids begged her to homeschool them in 2012, she discovered unschooling and never looked back. Now that her youngest is out of high school and Marla’s unschooling journey is finished, she’s sharing her reflections on over ten years of unschooling.

I first “met” Marla through her short self-published book, an unschooling manifesto.

It was the first unschooling book I ever read, and the one I went back to again and again (and again) – even before I was officially unschooling.

Her writing style felt like I was talking to a friend over coffee. Her words got me through my darkest homeschooling days, my longest wobbles, my greatest fears.

That little book was quite honestly my anchor for a few years.

During the pandemic, I randomly reached out to her on Facebook, and I actually became friends with the author who helped me so much! She later helped me navigate faith deconstruction, much like she helped me navigate unschooling years much earlier.

Marla never joined unschooling groups or dove that deep into unschooling. She didn’t write all that much about unschooling either, other than that one little book.

And now she’s “finished” unschooling. Her youngest of three is 18-years-old.

I don’t know about you, but I find such solace listening to unschooling parents who unschooled all the way through and don’t regret choosing this unconventional path for their kids. I look to them for encouragement.

So I decided to reach out to Marla and see if she’d be willing to share her reflections on unschooling and any encouragement for unschooling parents.

She said yes, and she didn’t disappoint! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

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Marla’s Book an unschooling manifesto

An Interview with Marla Taviano, Author of An Unschooling Manifesto: Reflections & Encouragement

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Before we get into the questions, you can find Marla on her website It’s Me Marla. Writing is her life’s calling!

Her latest books include a poetry trilogy on her faith deconstruction journey. Unbelieve, the first book in the series, was exactly what I needed to read when I was in the thick of it.

If you are currently wrestling with evangelical Christianity in the tumultuous political climate that is the United States right now, pick up a copy ASAP!

And don’t forget to grab a copy of an unschooling manifesto. While Marla is working on a rewrite, it’s still a refreshingly honest, encouraging unscholing read that’s cheaper than a cup of coffee.

On to the interview!

You Might Also Like: Choosing to Unschool – Why A Teacher Chose Non-Traditional Education

Marla Taviano's unschooled daughters sitting at a beach overseas.
The Taviano Sisters

Q: Tell us more about your family—when you started unschooling, etc. 

Hi! My name is Marla. I’m a writer/poet, an editor, and a recently divorced mom of three young adult daughters: Olivia (23), Ava (21) and Nina (18).

I started homeschooling in 2012 when the girls were in 6th, 5th, and 1st grade. They attended public school before that. 

I didn’t use a curriculum, just pieced together a bunch of free or cheap resources, and it very quickly morphed into unschooling for a lot of different reasons—my personality, their personalities, our strengths/weaknesses, and what was going on in our lives at the time. 

Q: How did you hear about unschooling? Why did it make sense to you?

That is a great question. I should probably go back and read the ebook I wrote in 2014 (an unschooling manifesto) to help jog my memory—ha!

I do remember reading a book called Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich that really resonated with me.

I’ve always been kind of a free spirit and a rebel, not wanting to do things the conventional way. I never joined any unschooling groups. I didn’t really even know any other unschoolers when we were doing it.

Our family went to 52 zoos in 52 weeks in 2008-2009, if that gives you an idea of our weirdness. 

I also have a degree in elementary education. My first year as a teacher (1998-1999), I taught a class of 12 “gifted and talented” 5th and 6th graders and, for some reason, I was given a whole lot of freedom. So I basically unschooled them.

I’m friends with several of them online these days, and they still make comments about how it was one of the most memorable years of school for them. We had so much fun—and I know they learned a lot.

Related: The Best 12 Unschooling Books for Rethinking Education

Q: What did unschooling look like in your home? How did it change over the years?

We went from loosely doing “school” at home to literally doing nothing resembling any kind of school. We just did life.

Each of the kids did some courses on Khan Academy at some point (of their own volition and without my help). My youngest probably did the most.

The younger two read a ton of books. My middle daughter spent (spends) a lot of time at the gym getting strong. All three of them are brilliant cooks – I haven’t made a meal in years.

My oldest worked as a graphic designer in Cambodia during her high school years. The older two drove motos in Cambodia. They all learned how to read and write Khmer (the Cambodian language).

They’ve also been to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. They volunteered for several humanitarian organizations, including one our family founded—the Bamboo Libraries. 

The biggest change along our unschooling journey was where we lived.

We started unschooling in a house in the Ohio suburbs, then moved into an apartment (low-income housing with a lot of refugee neighbors who became good friends), then moved to Cambodia, now South Carolina.

Oooh, another big change was that I deconstructed my evangelical Christian faith over the past decade. My beliefs have changed quite a bit (understatement) since I published an unschooling manifesto in 2014, which is why I’m working on a rewrite.

Taviano sisters, Christmas morning picture in front of Christmas tree.
Taviano Sisters (L to R): Ava, Olivia and Nina

Q: Did your kids ever choose school? If so, tell us more about their experience.

We started homeschooling in the fall of 2012, and quickly transitioned fully to unschooling the following school year.

We lived in Cambodia from 2015-2020. We moved back to the States in March 2020, and my youngest decided she wanted to go to public high school.

Of course we had no idea that the whole world would shut down because of a global pandemic, so her school experience began virtually. When she had the choice to go to in-person school, she chose to stay virtual. 

After two years of that, she was depressed and stressed and decided to drop out.

She didn’t drop out because it was too hard for her – she had a 5.2 GPA in Honors courses. She just felt like what she was learning was pointless.

She was also struggling with a lot of other things at the time. She decided to get her GED when she turned 17.

She’s talked about college but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money without a specific passion/plan, so we’ll see.

Q: Did you ever have doubts or fears about choosing to unschool? How did/do you get through them?

Of course. But no more doubts and fears than I have about anything else.

Of all the things I’ve doubted and feared in my life, unschooling isn’t very high on the list. The past few years have been rough (and also really beautiful), but I don’t “blame” unschooling for the hard. 

We moved across the world. There was a pandemic. Their dad left unexpectedly in September 2020, they found out he’d been cheating for years, and they haven’t seen him since.

That on its own is a lot.

Then you’ve got injustice and war and crises all over the world and rapidly changing climates and technology and hormones and brain development. Phew. 

Anxiety, fear, and doubts are kind of a way of life for a lot of us these days, no matter how our kids are schooled.

Q: What are your kids doing for work now?

Olivia is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. She has a part time job at a bookstore and is working on her dream job: being a tattoo artist. She’ll need to get some certifications but will be largely self-taught. 

Ava got her GED and her personal trainer certification and is working at the gym (also her dream job). She also works as my personal assistant.

Nina just got a job as an attractions attendant (giraffe and lorikeet feeding, carousel, rock wall, etc) at the zoo, which feels very fun and full-circle since she’d been to 52 zoos by the time she turned 3.

I can see Olivia being a tattoo artist and Ava being a personal trainer for life, but I’m assuming Nina will move on from the zoo at some point. I’m excited to see which path she chooses.

Q: If you could go back, what would you do differently, if anything?

Honestly, nothing. All of it shaped us into who we are today.

I mean, ideally, my husband wouldn’t have cheated and left. We wouldn’t have struggled financially. There wouldn’t have been a global pandemic.

Each of my kids at some point or another has expressed something along the lines of “I wonder what my life would be like if I’d gone to school…” But more often than not, the unconventional life they led is one they wouldn’t trade.

We’ve made some pretty awesome memories over the years and we have a lot of fun reminiscing!

Marla Taviano With Her Daughters & Son-In-Law

Q: What encouragement would you give unschooling parents today?

I’m glad you asked for encouragement, not advice. Encouragement I can do.

1 – Try not to compare. Don’t compare yourself to other moms, your kids to other kids, your kids to each other. We’re all so different!

2 – Mental health is SO important—way more important than success or whatever else.

3 – Try not to get sucked into a spiral of worry/anxiety/fear. It’s so hard not to, but it will suck the life out of you (ask me how I know).

Q: Is there anything else you want to share about unschooling?

Yeah, I’m not an unschooling evangelist. I’m glad our family made that choice, but I don’t try to persuade others to follow our path – not that it would even be possible to live the life we lived.

It’s also a huge privilege to be able to unschool! A lot of people don’t have the luxury of working from home like I did. We never had much money, but we mostly had enough.

I’m also a big supporter of public schools and free education. Some of my very favorite people are public school teachers, and I think they’re heroes.

If you want to try unschooling, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, no worries. Your kids are going to be okay.

Just be you, do your best, and that will be good enough. Love wins.

Read Next: Unschooling Ideas 2023-2024 – 8th, 6th, 4th, 1st and Pre-K

Any questions for Marla? Drop them in the comments, and she’ll try her best to answer them!


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  1. I’m so glad you reached out to me when you did, June! You’ve been a great friend, and I love what you’re doing here in this space. Thanks for inviting me to share part of my family’s story!

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome! Thank YOU! 🙂

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