EU132: Deschooling Two Cultures with Iris Chen


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Deschooling Two Cultures with Iris Chen

Iris Chen is a Chinese American unschooling mom who was born in the US, grew up in the US and Canada, and now lives with her husband and two boys in China. She’s been unschooling for about a year and began sharing her experiences on her blog at I’ve really enjoyed reading her posts, and I was excited when she agreed to come on the podcast. We dive into why her and husband decided to move to China, her family’s move to unschooling, unschooling in China, deschooling expectations around achievement, feeling like an outsider in both Chinese and American societies and lots more!

Questions for Iris

Can you share with us a bit about you and your family?

I love how you describe your blog,, on your about page: “Untigering is a blog about my adventures of trying to be parent in the tension of my Chineseness and Americanness. It’s about me moving away from being a typical tiger mom, but still wanting to hold on to my cultural heritage. It’s about figuring out what I believe about identity, family, and success as an outsider to both societies.” Let’s start with your shifting definition of success. You and your husband were well on your way to fulfilling the “American Dream” when you guys did a complete 180. How did that come about?

And then you had children. How did you discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like?

I’m really curious about unschooling in China. Can you share a bit about your experience and the pros and cons you see?

You have a great blog post about the value of letting go of expectations, especially ones around achievement. When a child dives into an interest it’s so easy for us to start envisioning that as their lifelong passion and career, like we need to rationalize to ourselves that it’s okay to let them have at it. Maybe we try to convince ourselves we’re just being supportive, but it can quickly backfire, can’t it?

I’d love to talk some more about your experience with the tension of feeling like an outsider in both Chinese and American societies. Can you share your thoughts around the process of weaving together your cultural heritage with what you’re discovering makes sense to you about children, learning, parenting, and family? What does that look like for you?

You recently published a blog post titled, ‘Unschooling as an Asian American is an Act of Resistance.’ I thought it was a great piece and was hoping you’d share your thoughts about it here.

What is your favourite thing about unschooling right now?

Links to things mentioned in the show

Iris’s blog,

Scott Noelle’s podcast episode

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education

Peter Gray’s article, Kids Learn Math Easily When They Control Their Own Learning

Iris’s blog post, Pros and Cons of Unschooling in China

Iris’s blog post, 3 Unschooling Expectations and Why We Shouldn’t Have Them

Idzie Desmarais’s blog post, In Praise of The Unexceptional: Because Unschooling Doesn’t Have to Be Impressive

Iris recently went to see the play Soft Power

Iris’s blog post, Unschooling as an Asian American is an Act of Resistance

Iris’s Facebook page, Untigering: Adventures of a deconstructing Tiger Mother and Facebook group, Untigering Parents

Iris on Twitter, @untigeringmom

Episode Transcript

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