Unschooling Ourselves: The Search for Joy and Fulfillment

My journey to unschooling started off when I was very young. It’s impossible to explain my own philosophy of unschooling without taking you through a brief history of my own schooling. It has shaped how I view education for myself and for my children more than any book or influential speaker.

Apart from the occasional alphabet lesson I gave to my oldest son, under pressure to begin “schooling,” I have never really liked the idea of school-at-home models. They always seemed to interfere with the natural progression of our lives, of fun, of freedom, and of true fulfillment through passions.

Geography has been one of my oldest son’s interests since he was 4

Not only would school-at-home steal time away from my children’s interests, it would also steal time away from my own interests. Curriculum seemed to hunker down children and parents in a monotony of schedules and textbooks, work pages, and artificial learning.

My Early Years

Even though I spent a large portion of my childhood in school, I had a good counter to that in my early home life. My earliest memories are of roaming the creek bed searching for turtles, and a dramatic encounter with an angry rattlesnake coiled around her eggs.

My earliest school experiences were relaxed, in half-day preschool and kindergarten, with plenty of play, songs, and games. The only thing I recall hating about school were the time limits. Just when you were really getting into something, time was up. It was a frustrating experience for a curious young mind.

My afternoons were spent in unstructured play and exploration. My cabbage patch dolls ever going along for the ride, we would roam the yard, barns, and fields.

I feel that my early years of freedom and play set the foundation for imagination and natural curiosity in my life.

School Over Passions

From kindergarten until fifth grade, I remember that school hours became increasingly boring and mundane, so much so that I shut my mind off from it all and lived in a continuous daydream.

I remember being placed in a “gifted” class, where for a couple of hours a week we were allowed at least a bit more “out of the box” thinking.

I loved reading, but didn’t seem to have the kind of time I wanted to read the things I was interested in.

In the fifth or sixth grade, I took it upon myself to create a class newspaper. At home, I taught myself how to use word programs to create tables and layouts, insert images and text, and create a nice looking newsletter template. My teacher thought it was a great idea, but there wasn’t really time for that kind of thing during school. I became the weird kid who was trying to suck up to the teacher.

It was always implied that my interests and passions weren’t as important as school work and memorizing facts.

Deschooling Myself

School became increasingly difficult for me as the years wore on. For one, the whole idea of school became ridiculous to me.

Teachers were controlling, only there for the money, or trying to impart some sort of doctrine upon me. Classes did not apply to daily life, or were so textbook-oriented or dumbed down that they just didn’t seem worth it anymore. What was the point of it all?

Eventually, I dropped out because of bullying. I still consider it one of my best decisions.

It took me years to recover from the effects of school and a broken home life, but eventually I was standing on my own two feet, with a diploma from a satellite school.

The best part of being school-free was the freedom to follow my interests, make choices, and learn from my mistakes.

I suppose I’m still going through the process of deschooling, but I got enough of a head start to know that school was not what I wanted for my children, at least until they were old enough to choose it on their own.

I know, from my own experience, that children learn best through their own passion and curiosity; that we should be in no rush to take kids away from unstructured and imaginative play; that academics should never be more important than joy and fulfillment in our lives.

I wish there was a pop quiz on happiness. Would we pass? Are we allowing our children and ourselves to learn and follow the things that make us happy and fulfill our lives? These things go beyond textbooks or income potential. If we are happy in what we are doing, and our priorities are set, the diploma, degree, and the salary don’t seem to matter as much.



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