From Public School to Unschool: Part 1

Just about everything I believe about education has changed in my first year of homeschooling.

I’ve thrown myself, full throttle, reading, thinking, delving towards the truth I know is at the bottom of this educational pit somewhere.

I’ve been challenged to reconsider everything I’ve previously thought about education. I’ve questioned every model I’ve ever personally experienced.

And it’s caused me to stop trying to keep up with the educational Joneses. You know the ones. Bless them, the super-organized mommies that somehow plan for and practice every subject under the sun. That teach Latin and homesteading and very elaborate and detailed lessons that weave their art through their history through their English through their spelling curricula. While hopping on one foot, holding a baby.

I halfway tried to do this at the beginning of the year.

I hopped. I held. They cried. I yelled.

And I found myself asking, “Does this matter?”

Does making them do worksheets about comma usage matter, if it’s going to end with them crying, and me ripping chunks of my hair out?

Does sitting to do a pre-planned lesson about Sumerians matter if they’re not going to listen because they’re not interested and I’m going to get frustrated because they won’t listen because they’re not interested?

I’m a baseline kind of gal. And for me, it comes down to protecting my loving relationship with my kids. Because I’m already not that good at it. So throw in a bunch of junk that doesn’t matter between me and them, and things really get messy.

I want to teach my kids things that I think are really important. Things they’ll need in their life. Particularly of a spiritual nature.

I feel like that is the job God has given to me as their parent. So if something else is getting in the way. Well, frankly, that thing has to go. The end.

The philosophy of life learning, as I understand it, states that kids will learn what they need to know. What they want to know. They will pursue things passionately that they are interested in (as I have done with education methods) and learn things from a myriad of “subjects” in that process. It also assumes that if you simply provide access to learning tools, kids will pursue them of their own accord.

Now, I’m with the rest of you. At first my brain said, “SNORT! Ooookay, whatever, crazies! If I wait around for my kid to want to learn, I’ll be waiting a looong time.” Or the ever present, “If I let my kids do whatever they want, they’d just play video games all day!”

But the more I thought about it, I realized my knee jerk response was one that had been programmed into me by my own upbringing and “education.” It wasn’t actually based on truth, or experience, per se.

In fact, my own experiences and observations in life add up to a wealth of evidence that the traditional schooling model is the one that doesn’t work (for many). It crushes creativity, brands students with a letter grade worth, and tests the fool out of them on things that they won’t use, for the most part, for the rest of their life. And often times, once someone emerges on the other end, they feel pretty bad about themselves as far as their intellect is concerned.

I think there’s this assumption out there that there is a magical core set of information that children must know before they are grown or they will eat with their hands and beat on their breasts for the rest of their lives; that if we just force them to be exposed to enough of this core information (while telling them they’re terrible at it) they will achieve at least enough enlightenment to keep the lights on at their cave one day.

Well, what if we were wrong? To be continued …

~ Jessica

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