The most common reaction from viewers is that this this a ridiculous parenting choice.
In fact, it doesn’t feel much like a parenting choice at all. More like unparenting. The parents were called out as lazy, selfish, and worse.
In one clip from the show, small children are serving themselves ice cream and popsicles in the middle of the night — no need to ask for permission or for help, as these kids have no restrictions on what they can or can’t do. Of course the kids are up to all hours and eating junk food! They are not going to self-regulate or choose healthy snacks. For most people watching the show, it’s difficult to see kids without any restrictions. We’re so accustomed to setting limits and boundaries, sticking to mealtimes and bedtimes.
Many people wondered how this is legal. School, or at least a structured education, is compulsory, right?
We try to have an open mind, but when we see a 13-year-old reading at the level of a 6- or 7-year-old, it’s hard not to judge. Are the parents neglecting their kids’ basic needs? How will this turn out for them in the end?
In Archie’s case, his father and grandparents are not on board with unschooling at all. In fact, his grandfather has arranged a private tutor to teach Archie basic literacy skills.
The parents on the show rail against how they are judged by closed-minded people, but then they turn around and do a fair amount of judging themselves.
One episode shows a family enjoying time in the playground while school bells ring in the background, signaling the start of the school day for most children in the neighborhood. The mom describes school as a prison where children are “penned in.” Why would other parents send their children off to such a terrible fate? Because they don’t care, and don’t want to take care of them, is the implication.
In one episode, siblings Skye (13) and Finlay (12) decide that they want to try going to school.
Gemma, their mother, supports their choice, but not really. While she allows them to do a three-day trial, her subtext to her kids is that school is bad, restrictive, and even weird. Finlay is excited to buy a school uniform and Gemma can’t stop talking about how restrictive the blazer is, how terrible it is that the kids are forced to wear it, and how kids even have to ask permission to go to the bathroom while in school. The children, who are excited and nervous, are surely picking up on their mom’s loud and clear message that school is a bad place for children. When the kids return home after their first day, Gemma calls them aliens. Unsurprisingly, in what may be the biggest disappointment for viewers of the show, both kids decide school is not for them.
But not all the responses to the show are negative.
The children, for the most part, do seem like great people. Skye and Finlay in particular are articulate and bright. This is likely why it was such a blow to the audience when they decided not to continue in school. Finlay especially seemed excited about it. He likes structure and routine. He’s often seen folding and putting away his clothes, and talking about craving social interactions with other kids. Viewers were hopeful when he went off to school, but instead of any encouragement from his mother, he only received thinly veiled disappointment, and he buckled.
Some of the harshest critics of the show come from the homeschooling community…