Join me on a journey of curiosity and empowerment or as my ‘ohana calls it, unschooling.

Before you think unschooling means my keiki must be illiterate, lack social skills, and structure, or will be unsuccessful, let me quote John Holt who coined the term unschooling in the 70s: “We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions—if they have any—and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” 

“Mom, wake up it’s a beautiful day for fishing.” My son, age 2, with bright eyes and excitement to begin our day. We turn on some music, sing, and dance while we measure the ingredients to make pancakes. He learns ratios, addition and fractions. 

We sit down to eat and talk about fish, tides, moon phases, styles of fishing, different fishing poles that help catch specific fish, and how important fish are to the ecosystem. He learns history, geography, generational knowledge, and cultural practices. 

Finally, it’s time to go fishing but we get to the beach only to find we forgot bait. My son assures me it’s no problem because he knows the perfect bait he can catch, oama. He catches a black crab, takes the meat to catch an oama, puts the live oama on his line, and casts out his dunking pole. He learns that it’s not the lack of resources, it’s the lack of resourcefulness that stops you from being successful.

As we wait for a fish to take the bait, we talk story with Aunty who’s always at the beach park and she shares her wisdom from a lifetime of fishing. My son learns respect for his kūpuna, values that could never be taught in a book, philosophy, and the idea that you can learn something new in minutes that took a lifetime for someone else to learn.

Still no bite, so we draw words in the sand and talk about the sounds of each letter. 

“Fish on the line.” He runs to his pole and begins reeling up his fish, before it reaches the shore he already knows it’s an omilu by the way it’s fighting. He descales it, guts it and we go home to enjoy a delicious lunch. 

Unschooling is about trusting in our keiki’s natural curiosity to learn and empowering lifelong learners. All we have to do is open the doors to deepen their knowledge and get out of their way. 

Raised in Lāhainā, Haley Celeste Miller is passionate about unschooling, generational healing, essential oils and being a mom.