Unschooling

OUR JOURNEY TO HOMESCHOOLING

My oldest son initially went to school. We had considered homeschooling, but he had gone to preschool with some very good friends, and also made others there of course. Everything was gearing up towards school, especially towards the end, with visits to local schools, lots of the teacher centred times at preschool focussed on school prep, and so on. All his preschool friends were also preparing for school, and we decided that it would be unkind to keep him home. We felt that he would be lonely, and miss out socially. (Little did we realise that there are SO many homeschoolers and the social opportunities are endless.)

Twelve months later we moved about seven hours away from where we had always lived, to spend some time at a christian community, which also had a very small school. We knew all the teachers well, being as they were also community members, and our boys were very comfortable with them, too. It would have been weird not to send them! I had a sense of frustration and disappointment, however, that the school didn’t explore or implement any alternative educational methods or philosophies. I’d been previously interested in Montessori and Steiner and thought it was crazy that they were running a small independent private school and had the opportunity to do things really differently, yet persisted with traditional teaching styles and materials. (Even then my mind was beginning to think outside of the box.)

My oldest son, Travis, seemed okay in that environment, although interestingly, when he first started school he was in the “top group” for maths, and within the first year he was in the bottom one! Something clearly wasn’t working!

My second oldest son, Brady, was a sadder story. He changed from being a vibrant, vivacious, spirited child with lots of “spunk”, to a “good boy” who sat very quietly, did his work, and complied with the system. It sounds good, I suppose, and he was every teacher’s dream, but it was different for us. We saw his spirited bubbliness slowly fade away.

Five years later, in 2005, we moved back to the big smoke, and the boys went to a big city school. This did not go down so well!! We were only going to be living there for 12 months, and Brady was begging to be homeschooled. He hated the big classroom and playground full of kids and felt totally overwhelmed and underimpressed by the whole experience! We decided, based on the fact that we’d be moving back to another rural location in 12 months time, that he would really benefit from a year at home with us. Whilst for many people, one of the big question marks about homeschooling is Socialisation, for us, it was one of our primary reasons for doing it! We could see him being swamped by the masses of children in the playground, and had previously noticed him misinterpreting social cues in group settings, so we felt that it would be beneficial for him to spend the year mixing with a smaller group of homeschooled kids, with my assistance and presence as he navigated some of the complexities of groups of children playing together. We assumed he would simply return to school the following year when we were living in a rural area again, with smaller schools.

Within a few weeks, our oldest son realised we were having more fun than he was at school, so he came home too! Twelve months later we were still living in the big city so we just kept going with it. Two years after moving to the city, we moved again, but by this time it had become a lifestyle, and it really didn’t enter our minds to return the children to a school environment.

By this time, our youngest son was due to start school, so he simply didn’t go. Two years later, his little sister didn’t go either.

Neither of the youngest two have ever been to school. And I’m glad. :)

OUR JOURNEY TO UNSCHOOLING

When I was a child, I dreamed of being a teacher. I also dreamed of being a mother.

When my children came home from school to do home schooling, I thought all my dreams had come true! I was going to be able to fulfil both of my dreams!

A week later, I realised my boys didn’t want me to be their teacher. They wanted me to be their Mum!

A homeschooler I met had wisely advised me not to invest in any expensive home schooling curriculum, based on the fact that people often later find that it’s not a good fit for their family or a particular child, so fortunately I hadn’t wasted thousands of dollars!

I was incredibly lucky that our country’s Home Education Association was running a course for new home educating parents, starting the very next week, so I jumped at that opportunity.

Firstly, I discovered that home educating families include their younger children in their life too. I had expected that I’d have to find childcare for my two children that weren’t yet of school age yet, but the mum whose house the course was being held at just laughed and said, “Oh no! You don’t need to do that! Bring them along with you; everyone else will!”

I also discovered that there is more than one way to live this home schooling life. I’ve heard it said that there are as many approaches to home education as there are families doing it, which is probably true. I had been drawn towards Montessori, Unit Studies, and Charlotte Mason approaches initially, but it was at this course that I first heard about the idea of ….. UNschooling! And suddenly I realised I’d discovered the very thing that made the most sense to me.

I learned that schools are a fairly new invention, that curriculum is big business and doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with helping children learn. It does have a lot to do with trying to put information into children’s heads.

I learned that learning is as natural as breathing, and that in much the same way children naturally learned to walk, talk, eat, use a toilet, play sociably etc, they could also learn to read, add up, and learn about the world around them.

And so, after one week, we began the process of deschooling.

Our unschooling journey had begun!

I devoured the amazing information at sites like Sandra Dodd‘s, Joyfully Rejoycing and, later, Living Joyfully. I joined Yahoo groups and later Facebook groups, and I connected with other unschoolers all around the world. They have continued to be a lifeline to me as I walk this road less travelled, and I hope that, through this blog, I can also be something of a lifeline to others seeking to understand this seemingly strange phenomenon called Unschooling.

Check out some of my thoughts and some of what our unschooled life looks like, at the following places:

Unschooling (Un)defined
Unschooling 101
Unschooling Thoughts
Unschooling Life
Unschooling Teens
Radical Unschooling

Feel free to share your thoughts!