When I first heard of the philosophy of unschooling, it immediately stirred something inside of me. I could sense an innate truth within it and my heart both eagerly and timidly reached out to grasp it. But my mind? Well, my mind took a little longer.
You see, my mind needed evidence. Logic. Proof. And while those things can definitely be found in unschooling, they’re not black and white. The proof in the pudding of unschooling is not standardized, it’s individualized and it flows like the Spirit. The evidence you have of your six-year-old reading might not materialize the same way with my six-year-old because we’re all different and have different interests and develop at different paces.
I remember, in my early struggling to understand and trust this mere theory, asking a grown unschooler if she could tell me what she learned in, say, third grade. I’m thankful that she didn’t laugh right in my face. I now understand that grade levels and labels mean nothing in unschooling. I hope that one day when my daughter is asked what she learned in fourth grade she has the patience and grace to respond kindly.
One of the first things I noticed when I began researching unschooling were two words: trust and faith. And that’s the long and short of this thing, really. Just like our faith journey started without physical proof, but an inner stirring of truth that we couldn’t deny, so it is with unschooling. You feel the truth of it long before you’ve seen the evidence.
I know that’s a lot to ask – to embrace and trust something that you can’t feel, see, or smell yet. But it’s the only way to grow. Trust first and then wait for the evidence to pile around you. Now that I’m a little farther down the road, I can personally understand what I couldn’t wrap my brain around in the beginning. For that reason, I truly empathize with people at the beginning of their unschooling journey. They’re asking the same questions and trying to contemplate the same issues that I was not that long ago.
So what’s my number one advice for new unschoolers?
- Calm down.
- Focus on relationships.
In that order. Start with these three things, and the rest will become more and more natural. And I promise, further down the road your paradigm will have shifted enough to finally allow the connection between your heart and your brain to speak to you the proof that you just couldn’t grasp in the beginning.
*image by Fernando Rodrigues