Saturday, May 12, 2012

Inspiration for my Unschooling

I sway back and forth in my head between homeschooling and unschooling Rowan. I love the idea of unschooling, and how it give a child more autonomy over their learning process. I tend to think that my predeliction to choose homeschooling instead of unschooling is a controlling instinct. So I waiver- assuming that I will unschool unless I see obvious deficits that need to be addressed. Anyone who has experience with either model and has something to say, please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

On top of that conundrum, I am considering part time preschool. My son is so social and gregarious that I wonder if I should start homeschool AFTER a preschool experience. He loves seeing other kids so much and talks about all his friends incessantly. A good preschool would give him the social time that he needs while freeing his father and I to get stuff done (without worrying about Rowan not learning anything).

Why am I not giving my son the experience that I had, in a decent public school? After all, I was a public school teacher... Frankly, my experience does not exist any more- even in the school that I attended. I am often horrified by stories coming out of public and private schools these days. The bullying, the metal detectors and locker inspections, the teaching to standardized tests, the inequality of schools within a state based on class and race, and the drilled forced compliance and obedience that often is the focus more than exploration and inquiry. And that makes me confident that homeschooling or unscholing is a better option for my son.

So I know what I do not want, but what do I want? Recently, I read a great article that talks about the positive reasons to homeschool, instead of focusing on the negatives. And it got me to setting goals for my education of Rowan.

There are so many things that I want for him. I want him to be a free thinker and to love learning. I want him to get the best education, regardless of current politics that affect the currricula du jour. I want him to challenge and question everything. I want him to love to read- for pleasure as well as learning (and to see the two as intertwined), and not dismiss it as a "girly thing". Indeed, I don't want him hyper-indoctrinated into the "boys do/wear/act like this and girls do/wear/act like (the "opposite"). I want him to be creative and expressive without being ridiculed for it. I would love for him to play music, to dance, to take martial arts, to be a visual artist, to love science and the natural world, to understand people's history and the world around him, to value diversity and experience it every day, to travel, and to love life. I want him to be happy, healthy, and wise. A school room just seems so restrictive, given that tall order! I want the world to be his classroom- so I want to travel the world with him.

Every once in a while, I read about an awesome kid and think, "I hope that Rowan does something like that one day." Like this boy, who loves history and isn't afraid to challenge authority. He is a great role model for my son.

What are your educational dreams for your child? How are you working towards them?


  1. We're in a place with good public schools so unless there are serious problems we will go the public school route. However, we're in a state that start standardized testing in kindergarten, so I plan to pull him from those. Possibly until he's 9 or so. Bennett LOVES preschool. He's super social and we're been lucky to have great preschool experiences. Right now he's in an arts based preschool for 2.5 hours 5 days a week. If he could choose he'd stay all day. But.... that time will come and I'm happy to get time with my kids. But, I need that 2.5 hours in the morning - as much as he does!

  2. I'm a twenty-three-year-old former homeschooler who will graduate from an art college with a diploma (one step below a degree) next month.

    My parents initially tried the unschooling approach, which didn't work for me, as I ended up doing nothing. We then switched to a combination of homeschooling and unschooling, which worked: we covered the core subjects, but if I expressed an interest in another subject (most notably world religions), I was encouraged to dive head-first into learning about that subject as well.

    Homeschooling also gave me the freedom to do other things that I wouldn't have been able to do: when I wanted to learn to play the violin, the teacher that my parents chose (who is a very good violinist and teacher) was one who lives about an hour and a half away.

    I didn't start college until I was a mature student, which is twenty-one or older. Because I didn't have the advanced math that the GED requires, having only covered the stuff up to grade eight because we knew I wouldn't need anything higher (I never wanted to be a scientist, engineer, or anything else that required advanced math), I wasn't able to write the test. However, because I wouldn't have been able to write the GED in the summer, I would've written it at twenty. However, I agree with my mom, who believes that a lot of eighteen-year-old college/university students (in Canada, the two are different: unless they are part of a university, colleges don't grant degrees) aren't ready for post-secondary schooling. I wasn't, as I was very confused about what I wanted to be "when I grew up" and about post-secondary.

    As for the question of socializing (which ALWAYS comes up when talking about homeschooling), I started volunteering with my mom at a vet clinic at age nine, and have volunteered off and on since then. I was also a member of the local Boys and Girls Club. When I was a toddler, I went to a "play group". Socializing/being around other people is different for us homeschoolers, but I don't feel I've missed out on anything: in fact, I think my friend-making skills are better BECAUSE I have had to work to find friends. And I don't limit myself to just having friends around my age. I've spent a lot of time around adults, and from an early age was very comfortable around them--sometimes I was more comfortable around adults than around people my own age. I learned to express myself in a grown-up way long before I WAS an adult.

  3. You are a great mom to be thinking about all of these things, worried about what's best for Rowan. That's our natural instinct as a parent. I am an unschooling parent to a now 13 year old boy. We started when we were 10. In some unschooling circles, I feel the need to apologize for that. But frankly that's ridiculous. It happened to be our path and we are aware enough in the moment to do what works for us now, and when it doesn't make adjustments. As an unschooling parent, your job is to be there, support your child and fascinate their interests. If Rowan want to be in a social setting or a play group, then put him in that kind of preschool vs. an academic focused one. Follow what your child is giving you the lead to do, based on his desires. There is no wrong or right way to do things. But my piece of advice to you, is to be flexible to change and try something new. You can be an unschooling parent in your approach even if you jointly decide the best thing for RIGHT NOW is participate in school.

    Be kind to yourself and you're doing an amazing job!!!


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