ipad with Tiktok ban article on screen.

Inside: A potential Tiktok ban forced me to think long and hard about how to use my limited time and energy as a wannabe political activist, but honestly tired work-at-home unschooling parent of five. My answer was to keep on unschooling – it’s my most effective form of protest.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted with an overwhelming majority to ban Tiktok. 

The bill hasn’t passed the Senate yet, but I was angry and disheartened and disillusioned all over again.

But it’s not a ban, June, it’s just forcing them to sell. Yeah, but since Tiktok will probably refuse to sell, it might as well be a ban and this feels suspiciously like something another country would do (you know, like that really big country in Asia?).

Instead of passing any other legislation that would actually make a difference, this is what the most ineffectual Congress in decades decided to come together on? Really?

But, June, haven’t you said Tiktok isn’t the best for your mental health? 

Yeah, in the past year, not so much. But that’s mostly because you learn real news that mainstream media isn’t focusing on about what our government and big corporations are actually doing – or plan to do. How our present day America is so very unlike the America I learned about in school.

For me, injustice is enraging and depressing and “I need to buy passports for my entire family like yesterday” anxiety-inducing.

Rewind to two years ago and Tiktok got me through a time in my life I honestly wasn’t sure I would survive. 

It’s amazing algorithm connected me with people who knew EXACTLY what I was going through and had gone through the same thing years before me. Tiktok helped me feel less alone. 

It’s also been a fantastic source of learning everything from history to science to politics to people’s actual lived experiences.

And if they can ban this app, what’s to stop them from banning whatever apps they want to, whenever they want to?

Yes, I tried calling my congresswoman – fat lot of good that did me. Thanks a lot for voting “yes”, Susan. And you too, Jeff Jackson, you too.

So after this week, I was fired up, ready to channel all my energy into protesting all the things (Tiktok is really just the tip of the iceberg)until I was reminded that there’s one reason – make that five – that I really can’t.

Ivan Illich quote on a post-it on bulletin board, "School is the advertising agency that makes you believe you need society as it is."

Here Are a Few Ways Unschooling Is a Form of Protest and Resistance (I’m Sure There Are More)

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I call my aunt-in-law (is that a word?) to rage vent, and she reminds me that I probably can’t march and protest right now.

Something to do with having five kids home full-time and working from home? And did I mention that I’ve got the energy of a snail lately? 

Oh, and anxiety, the regularly heaping plateful of anxiety that is only kinda sorta managed by running three days a week.

She sympathizes with my rants, and then she gently reminds me to take care of my family and to go wash the dishes. 

Because no matter what’s going on in the world, there are seven people living in this house and therefore, there are always ALWAYS dishes. 

(Sometimes, I cheat and buy paper plates, even though I wrote a whole post about easy ways to cut back on waste. Cries in climate change: I’m sorrrrrry, planet!) 

And as I’m washing the dishes and lamenting my inability to do anything significant in this messed up world, it hits me that there is one thing I CAN do: keep on unschooling my kids. 

Because unschooling in itself is a form of protest, it’s own little form of resistance. 

How? Here’s three, to name a few.

“The core purpose of compulsory schooling is to prepare young adults to be servants of those who already have political and economic power.”

The Honest Teacher

You Might Also Like: The Pros and Cons of Unschooling – Some Brutal Honesty

1. Unschooling ignores all the “shoulds”.

I’ve touched on all of this already, but unschooling breaks pretty much all the “shoulds”.

Want to learn algebra, but you don’t know how to do multiple-digit multiplication? You can do that! Kahn Academy can help.

You don’t want to be taught reading from some random curriculum and want to learn on your own with nothing except me reading aloud to you every day and you seeing written language everywhere, including subtitles? Great!

This was in fact how my fourth child learned how to read, and he continues to make progress just from reading real sentences in everyday life. Not some kind of ridiculous story about how Nat the Cat sat on some dude’s hat…because WHY?

You want to learn spelling through straight-up flash cards and doing a typing test every day or reading a physical book? Let’s do it.

Most adults would say, “If you want to learn this, you need to learn this other thing first, and there’s a curriculum for that” – to which my kids would say, “Nah, bruh,” in their Gen Z lingo.

And they jump around and learn in any order they want to – because they can. Besides, when you learn something because you’re interested and you actually want to, it usually sticks.

Traditional school trains us from a young age to accept that there is only one way to do things. There is only one path to success, and the powers that be know what that path is. 

Also, NASA studies show that creativity starts dropping rapidly after age 5…right when kids start school. 

Coincidence? I think not.

You Might Also Like: Unschooling Spelling – How Kids Learn to Spell Without School

Ivan Illich quote on colorful background, "School is the advertising agency that makes you believe you need society as it is."

2. Unschooling opts out of mindless consumerism. 

Do you remember the whole Stanley cup phenomena that was a really big deal around Christmas 2023?

That 9-year-old asked for a Stanley cup for Christmas because, as it turns out, they were being made fun of – possibly bullied – for having a knock-off? At the age of nine.

I’m convinced that schools are little capitalist training centers, raising up the next generation to keep up with the Joneses.

“School is the advertising agency that makes you believe you need society as it is.”

Ivan Illich

Peer pressure is the absolute best incentive to buy things you don’t need, after all. Things you didn’t even want before you knew that Regina George and the plastics had them. 

And the homeschool world is not immune. 

Curriculum companies make a fortune off of homeschoolers, and if you’re pursuing a traditional, step by step learning path, maybe it’s a good thing that there are so many options?

But as I mentioned earlier, when you unschool, the traditional curriculum doesn’t work so well. Because often your kids just want to learn things in their own way, often “out of order”. 

Heck, education is not immune to consumerism. 

Did you know that standardized testing companies make a fortune and are completely unregulated? 

Turns out, they aren’t really measuring learning, after all (but we knew that). 

And have you seen the cost of college lately? That public schools are STILL relentlessly and blindly pushing kids towards, using the “you need a degree to succeed and make more money and have the house and the white picket fence” line? 

Except now, we all know (because of Tiktok) that pretty much no one can afford the pretty houses even with a college degree – maybe just the fence? And we’re all swimming in student loan debt for that degree we bought that didn’t, in fact, guarantee us a job, so we know better. 

I’ve seen so many comments saying, “I’ve learned so much more on Tiktok than I ever learned in school.” And it’s all organic, follow your curiosity, unschooling-style learning.

I’m sure the powers that be don’t like that much either. 

(Minimalism also opts out of consumerism – not so great for capitalism, either.)

3. Unschooled children are not easily manipulated or controlled.

My unschooled kids cannot be bribed. They cannot be cajoled into doing something they don’t want to do. 

They’ve been set free from something that for most children is inescapable: school. 

AND they’ve been set free from school-at-home, where the parent fills in for school and tells them “you must learn this because I think you should.”

From being forced to learn things they’re not really interested in at the moment because some adult said this is what you need to learn, in this order, one foot after the other.

Why, kids ask? “To be successful.” But why? “Ummm…to be, um…successful.”

Unschooled kids define success for themselves. And people who define success for themselves cannot be controlled. 

They don’t need to accept blindly adults giving them lame reasons why they need to know the pythagorean theorem. 

Maybe they will, in fact, need that theorem one day, and I’m confident they’ll happily learn it when they have a good reason to do so. 

But the futuristic “maybe in this random imaginary scenario, you’ll need to know this” doesn’t cut it for them.

Unschoolers also typically don’t use punishments and rewards to control their children (schools do), so they are SUPER DUPER uncontrollable. 

Doesn’t that mean they are out of control? No. It means they are intrinsically motivated to do and learn things for their own reasons. 

And in 2024, you better have a damn good reason for doing just about anything. 

Because all the old adages just aren’t cutting it anymore. Tiktok taught us that.

Related: What Is Unschooling? The Most Misunderstood Homeschool Style

scrabble and bananagrams tiles strewn on coffee table.

So I Will Keep on Unschooling My Kids Because for Now, It’s My Most Effective Form of Protest

I’ve never been the one with tons of energy. Even when I didn’t have kids and was working forty hours a week and volunteering for a church, I couldn’t do what everyone else could. 

I had a “lower capacity”. God, I hate that phrase.

But you know what? Maybe lower capacity isn’t such a bad thing after all. 

Maybe it means that I have to be very intentional about how I use my limited energy. Maybe it means I channel all the energy I have into doing just one thing well. 

RIght now, I cannot use my very limited energy on political activism – not if I want to be the best unschooling parent I can be.

So I will keep on unschooling: I will give it my all. I will do my darndest to be the resource curator, fellow learner, gentle guide and connected, present parent my kids need me to be. 

I will vote. And maybe occasionally, I will call my senator. 

And while I’m doing that, you’ll probably find me simultaneously washing the dishes because: multitasking. 

(Or not…because I’m sure kids screaming in the background about who goes first in Mario Wonder probably doesn’t help me be taken seriously by the “semi-annoyed that I need to take one more message about the Tiktok ban” senator’s assistant.)

What did I miss? What other ways is unschooling an act of resistance? Share in the comments!

Read Next: This Teacher Chose to Unschool Her Own Kids (& Leave Traditional Education Behind)


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