What We’re Reading: Sage Homeschooling (Rachel Rainbolt)

“Childhood isn’t naturally a race ; it’s a season of life.”

Rachel Rainbolt, Sage Homeschooling (51)

Rachel Rainbolt’s Sage Homeschooling embodies this principle as Rainbolt chronicles her research and personal experiences as an unschooled of her three children. She says, “Living life is the ultimate stage for learning . We have forgotten this . Our ancestors knew it , and it’s there deep in your intuition.” (141). Writing primarily for parents and home-educators, Rainbolt asks,

“Do your days feel like a series of demanding tasks and commitments or a breezy rhythm that you flow through daily and across seasons of life?” (81)

In the marketplace of homeschool ideas, unschooling has a unique niche. For some, “unschooling” is the derogatory way to describe homeschoolers whose curriculum isn’t quite up to snuff. Sage Homeschooling invites readers to take a new look at unschooling for the beautifully natural educational lifestyle it can be. Unschooling, a term coined by renowned education expert and homeschooling advocate John Holt, is “learning through living (experiential, interest-driven, and self-directed)” (quoted on page 25). Rainbolt puts it this way:

“Unschooling to them is not a rebellion against learning and education, but against the actual construct of a school or strict schedule of such — which is, in essense, my thoughts as well.” (88). 

Parenting coach Rachel Rainbolt, whose 15 years as a parent and her masters degree in Martital and Family Therapy lend her noteworthy authority, says she researchers and writes for the “frustrated and exhausted parents” those who want to pursue ““gentle, natural, simple,” but have lost their way in the noise of mainstream advice”. Sage Homeschooling is the fourth book in her Sage Parenting series. She also hosts a podcast and maintains a website that runs e-courses in parenting.

In Sage Homeschooling, Rainbolt shares her story of unschooling her three children and gives a beautiful glimpse into the world of wild and free learning. Her chapter titles reflect this process as she describes removing kids from a system that no longer works (she calls this “Deschooling” – Chapter 1), and fostering meaningful Connection[s] (chapter 2) with our children through Trust (chapter 3), Freedom (chapter 4), and Collaboration (chapter 5). Rainbolt walks us through how to set up our home Environment (chapter 6) to provide learning Experience[s] (chapter 7) that ultimately lead to our children’s Success (chapter 8). 

Sage Homeschooling is peppered with salient quotes from leading education researchers without feeling too much like a research paper. The reader gets the feeling that Rainbolt is well-versed in the research of education, without feeling like this is straight out of an academic journal. Rainbolt’s stories of the real life application of her methods does a good job to balance the academic with the experiential, making this book a quick read that has a memoir-like feel. 

Sage Homeschooling differed from other unschooling books I’ve seen in that Rainbolt – while still embracing the “wild and free”, “crunchy, hippy, outdoorsy side – does not disparage technology. Far from it actually, as Rainbolt encourages the use of technology in setting up the environment of unschooling. She says, “That image you have of your children lost in imaginative and innovative play in the woods with friends is not the antithesis of a utilization and mastery of technology . They are not mutually exclusive . That is a myth . Technology and natural play can be harmoniously complimentary.” (Page 120)

On a personal level, this book was very validating. In the wild and free community, technology isn’t always welcome. My own beliefs are that education prepares children for real life and our modern reality is composed largely of technology. To eschew it is to do our children a disservice. I loved how Sage Homeschooling provided a beautiful Yin and Yang concept of wild and free – where “natural learning” refers to more than learning in nature and encompasses the breadth of the children’s interests – including technology, like educational apps, coding, and research through YouTube, Google, and other modern mediums. 

Rachel Rainbolt shows how unschooling, rather than being antithesis of education, is the embodiment of freedom in learning, providing opportunities without compulsion that foster curiosity and an abundance of natural learning.

“If you want your child to grow into their potential , nourishing and stretching all sides of themselves , then you must provide the opportunity for that growth.” (132) 

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