Meet Cindy

Hi there! My name is Cindy Englan Wentz, your host and veteran unschooling mom of two grown, comically messy, college-educated kids. The biggest questions I’m sure you have are: Who am I? Why should you trust me? Where did I learn all that I know?

My backstory: I enrolled my kids public school starting in the late 1980’s. One child was labeled “gifted”, the other “slow”. I was a hands-on parent, fully convinced that if I pitched in and played an active role in their K-12 schooling, it would make all the difference. I was a classroom assistant, fundraiser, Odyssey of the Mind Coach, Vice President of the PTA/PTO, Teacher Appreciation Week organizer, front office helper, nurse’s station helper, a Gifted and Talented Program assistant, you name it. Things began unraveling in the first weeks of kindergarten, and slowly got worse. Still, I hung in there, sure things would improve. I was so wrong.

In the spring of 1993, my oldest overheard me talking to another mom who was planning to pull her four children out and begin homeschooling. He got the bright idea I could do that, too. My answer was a sputtering “Are you crazy? I can’t do that! I’m not certified, I’m not religious!” He said, “Mom, I’m serious. If you send me to middle school next year, I’ll run away.” That stopped me in my tracks. A couple weeks later, the President of the PTA/PTO and I took a tour of the the middle school. We were informed there was no real curriculum. The Principal actually laughed at us. Middle school, she explained patiently, was NOT about curriculum or academics. It was for learning to socialize and transition into high school.

Three years of learning to pass notes in class, giggle, gossip, get crushes and figure out how to get up the nerve to call a girl on the phone? You must be kidding.

At this same time, my oldest got his younger sibling onboard with this homeschooling idea. So now I had two kids bugging me every day: we’re doing this …. right, Mom?

Fine, I’ll look into this crazy thing. I read dozens of books, attended a Rookie Workshop for New Homeschoolers hosted by Cafi Cohen, attended several support groups meetings, park days and events. I asked a hundred questions of every parent I met. Gradually, I began to get excited. I began to think maybe I could do this. Then, a bombshell dropped just before spring break. The district was changing the curriculum to Goals 2000. Goals what? The PTA/PTO President (Julie) and I attended a district meeting to participate in the discussion. She pulled out a tape recorder so we’d be able to give the correct info to the parents at our school. But the presenter stopped the meeting. She told Julie to put it away. My friend smiled and explained “we just want to get it right.” The presenter said NO. Confused, my friend shut it off and put it in her purse. Three administrative types in dark suits surrounded us, and escorted us out of the building. We couldn’t even stay and listen! The next morning, we were both locked out of our kids’ school. We were told we had to have permission to enter. We each needed an escort to stay with us the entire time we were in the building. Julie and I were told we were “subversives” and couldn’t be trusted anymore. For pulling out a tape recorder at a meeting? Seriously? Yes.

That was it. Finis, done, outta here. There was something really fishy here.

Within a few months, the same things happened to other parents who had the nerve to ask questions. They pulled their kids out to homeschool/unschool them too. It became a mass exodus.

Unschooling appealed to us the most. By the fall, I was ready. Or so I thought. But when push came to shove, I panicked. I need curriculum! I need textbooks! So we begged some and borrowed. I made lesson plans, sat my kids down every morning, and had them do lessons. I bought a blackboard, a pointer, chalk, workbooks, teaching games, you name it. This lasted six weeks. My kids were only borderline cooperative. I was exhausted from filling in planners and grading papers every night. What happened to unschooling, they asked? This is just like public school. I finally threw in the towel, admitted they were right, and we began unschooling.

Only there’s no roadmap on how to unschool. Or homeschool. No rules. No teacher’s manual. Nothing to tell me what to do next. I was terrified. I made so many mistakes. But the kids hopped in the driver seat and took over. They taught me how to unschool. And they bloomed and blossomed, leap frogging over me. I wasn’t the teacher. I could barely keep up. THEY were the teachers. Me, I was just along for the ride.

Three short years later, my oldest was so above and beyond me, and wanting to know so much more, the only place he could it was to enroll in college. He was 14. The youngest student the college had ever admitted. My “slower” child did the same. He started college at 16. He received his BS from the University of Colorado — in Applied Mathematics, with Honors. This is the kid who refused, absolutely flat-out, would NOT do Math until he had to take his college placement test. He proceeded to teach himself and take a couple of remedial Math courses at the college. So when you ask yourself, but can I do this unschooling thing? Yes, you can. I’ll launch you, give you a ton of guidance and great ideas, and your kids will teach you the rest.

Comments

Meet Cindy — 10 Comments

  1. Hi Cindy, I am a bit late to the game, but am considering unschooling my daughter for her senior year of high school – I would like to make an appointment for a consult.

  2. Hello Cindy,

    Is filing a notice of intent Mandatory for unschooling or only for homeschool?

    If it is Mandatory how late can you turn it in without being in trouble as the parent? This is all with the assumption that appropriate education is happening but paperwork hasn’t been filed. Can that parent just turn in the notice of intent to an umbrella school and show proof school has been happening. What does that corrective process of paperwork filing for 3rd grade look like? Are there consequences to filing midway through the school year?

    • Homeschooling and unschoolng are one and the same, from a legal standpoint. A NOI is mandatory for both, via giving it to a school district or enrolling in an umbrella school. Your school year begins and ends whenever you want it to, so midway is fine. There is no ‘corrective process’ per se, but if you don’t file or enroll, you’d be charged with truancy and have to answer to a judge. I suggest two things: that you purchase a copy of my Colorado Homeschool Law in a Nutshell, which will answer all your legal questions, and enroll your child in the West River Academy umbrella school.

      Warm Regards,
      Cindy

  3. Hi Cindy! We are planning to begin unschooling our 17 year old senior this year and I have no clue where to begin. She primarily needed her electives and I believe one more English/math class to graduate. Any guidance is SO appreciated!

    • Angela, I do apologize for not responding sooner. My sister suddenly passed away in late June, I was in another state dealing with her affairs and my hosting company had a glitch forwarding my messages to me. All at once. Geez. Anyway, if you’d like to unschool/homeschool your 17yo, your curriculum is up to you. Once a student reaches the age of 16 and is no longer enrolled in public school, the state and county have no jurisdiction over or interest in their education. You probably have this answered all ready (and again I apologize), but what I would do is 1) decide if she wants to go to college, and where, and what her major would be. Ask the college what she’s missing in her academics to qualify for acceptance. 2) if she doesn’t plan to take part in secondary education, just look at the curriculum for your district (or any district for that matter). Let her pick and choose what’s interesting to her, what intrigues her. Whatever it is, go with it. She’ll be doing it anyway once she graduates, so why not use that as her “course of study” (curriculum) now? 3) Also, look she could look for internships, apprenticeships or volunteer positions. Any and all would be just as, and likely more effective, as any planned curriculum. Lastly, have you read my Colorado Homeschool Law in a Nutshell? In there, I remind you that per Colorado statute, YOU are her teacher, principal and school district. YOU and SHE decide together when she’s ready to graduate. Unschooling has nothing to do with typical school schedules. She could be ready now, or in January or next April. She’s the boss of her present and future. You just facilitate transportation and paperwork. If you’re in need of a phone consultation, please contact me at Cindy@RMEC-online.com. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Cindy

  4. I would love to learn more. I live in Lakewood CO and would like to find a parent group, play dates ect. I need help starting.

    • Hi,

      Many apologies for the late reply. My sister suddenly passed in June, and my hosting company had a problem forwarding my email. Have you read my Colorado Homeschool Law in a Nutshell? I’d start there. It’ll answer 98% of your questions. I also have a support group page where you can look for support groups in your area.

      Cheers,
      Cindy