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Role with Jo Watt


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“My responsibility, the only thing, is to be as kind as I can . . . and the other things will all come from that.”

Today I’m here with my friend Jo Watt of the blog and Instagram Girls Unschooled, talking about our role as parents on a natural learning path. Jo is a former teacher turned unschooling mum of 2.

Adventure of the Week

This week I talk about our adventure day with friends, including Jo and her girls, at the fantastic Lynwood Community Pool, and how West managed to hold onto gratitude in the face of disappointment.


Language: What language resonates with us to describe our role in our children’s lives as unschooling parents. I like “guide,” Jo likes “mum,” and we both agree that it’s about the relationship.

Responsibilities: What we see as our responsibilities under the parenting approach that we take. Jo says for her, it all boils down to being kind and everything else is a bonus. I see our responsibilities as meeting needs (both the natural human needs that so many have lost sight of and the individual needs that are unique to each of my children), honoring our connection, providing a safe and stimulating environment, offering information and experiences . . . when I think about my role with my children, I have a picture in my mind of being present beside my child on a walk while they talk with me, point to things that pique their interest, occasionally leap into my open arms. It’s less about doing things to them, and more about being with them. Collaboration is one of my favorite words. They collaborate with me writing their own story and we collaborate together in writing our family’s story.

Evolution: How our role evolves over time. We have to keep our compass firmly set on connection and kindness, tap into flexible creativity, and hold a posture of open-minded curiosity.

Role Modeling: How we see role modeling playing into this conversation. We touch on how mirroring holds us accountable and we cover how living our best life as our best self, while in connection with our children, is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

Challenges: What challenges we sometimes experience in this role, including figuring out how to be in connection with our children and everyone’s emotions, full time, outside of replicating the dynamics we grew up seeing or see around us. We also talk about the weight of carrying the mental load and the up-front energy investment of gentle parenting and unschooling. We round this out digging into a conversation about childism.

Rewards: What the rewards and benefits are of embracing this role. The joy of sharing a positive relationship, time for wonderful adventures and/or unbusy downtime, and freedom from the worry and pressures of schoolish concerns. We get to hold the space for our values and priorities like connection, honoring the strength-based uniqueness of each member of our family, unbusyness, etc. We all get to be ourselves, with our needs met, genuinely enjoying each other as human beings.

Q + A

I posted in my Sage Parenting Tribe on Facebook that we were going to chat about our role and asked, “What is your role as a mother on this natural parenting and learning path and do you have questions about that?”

We respond to, “What do I do or say when other parents are looking at me to play a role I choose not to play? For example, watching and smiling as my kid runs up the slide with judgmental quips from the other parents that ‘Good boys and girls only go down the slides.’”

Dive Deeper

Instagram: Follow Jo @girls_unschooled, follow Rachel @sageparenting, and follow hashtags like #unschooling and #sagehomeschooling to connect with like-minded community around your role as an unschooling parent.

Blog: Jo’s shares all she learns on her journey with her girls at Girls Unschooled.

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I work from an island in the Pacific Northwest, where I live wild and free in connection with my hilarious husband and three growing sailors in our fixer upper on the beach. I authentically live this healing work out loud raising my own neurodivergent family (inner child included) and draw on my decades of education and experience (I've done all the nerdy work so you don't have to) to guide a revolution of overwhelmed parents just like you to feeling at peace within yourself, consciously connected with your children, embraced by a supportive community, and enjoying a values-aligned life you love.

Gentle parenting, natural homeschooling, & simple living mentor

I'm Rachel Rainbolt

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