unschooled

It takes a village.

I have to admit, I am very fortunate. I have an extended family that supports and encourages our family decisions. Well, maybe at times, my brothers think I am nuts but other than that I am extremely blessed.Image

First my mom. My mom is nothing short of awesome. She gets me, she gets us. She is completely supportive of our unschooling ways and is there for me whenever I need her. Thank you mom. I know that many families do not have this support. I feel for you. Doing things that are unconventional, things that are against the grain takes guts. It takes more guts if you do not have a great support system. Unfortunately, my mom lives far, far away. I miss her a lot. My sister, my friends and my husband are all great partners in this path as well.

Second, my father in law. Now this is a little shocker for me. Not only because he is ULTRA conservative but his son, my husband, is his only child. But he is awesome. His upbringing was the typical authoritative, children are to be seen and not heard brand of child rearing. Authority is to be respected and unquestioned and education is of utmost importance. So for him to be not only accepting but embracing of our “hippy”, nonconforming ways is a great relief and display of understanding. He had his own son in an ultra-strict catholic school as a Imagechild. Yes, nuns, rulers and all. So for him to support us in this lifestyle is amazing. He does ask questions, he does have concerns but he also listens. He sees the results. He sees the love and he sees the joy. He even googled unschooling, on his own, and watched the videos and came to the conclusion that this stuff is probably okay. But mainly, he is open and he is willing to learn. Even after 70 years.

Support and understanding is so helpful in this journey. It is possible to go against the grain on your own but it would be so, so, so much harder. I really just want to say thank you to those who are willing to take the ride with us. To take the road less traveled and to trust the journey and to trust the children. It is a scary adventure when you don’t follow the crowds. Out of an estimated 56 million school age children, about 1.5 million are homeschooled. Of that number, at least 100,000 are believed to be “unschooled”. That means that 2.6% of children in the US are homeschooled and only about 0.2% of children in the US are unschooled. That is not a lot. We also had our 3 babies at home and only 0.72% of babies are born at home in the US too, so I guess we start out against the grain. And we were supported in that decision as well. Image

We are VERY lucky and we realize that. I often hear stories of families who do not embrace this journey and who sabotage parents best intentions. They do it, mostly, out of love and concern and trying to remember that can be difficult. Some do it out of envy too. They see a life of less stress, more understanding, more fun and more joy. And they want that life but feel stuck and scared.

Taking the road less traveled is scary. It can be lonely and it can be risky. But it can also be amazing if you have the right people in your corner. So thank you to my support team. You know who you are and if I can help support you. I am more than happy to help.

Choose love. Choose joy.

Learning to listen

Almost 10 years ago I started my parenting journey. I knew all the best practices, the dos and do nots. At first it was fairly easy, other than the excruciating breastfeeding. Ouch. But we carried through and that even got much better after the initial 6 weeks. We had a plan, a method and a picture of how we would live as a family, the things my new son would enjoy and the harmony and happiness we would all be embraced in.

HA!

For the first couple of years it went as planned. We didn’t have television in our house. We bought all wood toys, organic food and even organic clothes. We read books, lots of books. My son could recite “Russell the Sheep” at just over a year old. It was precious. ImageHe didn’t eat a lick of sugar until his second birthday when we let him taste the icing. But just a taste. Even the twos weren’t so terrible…but then we hit three. That is when this fiery, assertive, independent red headed child decided he had his own plan. He started shooting us with guns made of sticks, didn’t want to read any more books and plastic toys were like a tractor beam for my sons attention and desire. The flashy, loud ones were especially exciting. And things were thrown, balls, toys, rocks, you name it. He had his own way, that was becoming evident.

At first we pushed, he pushed back. Then we pushed some more, he pushed back some more. We did this for quite a while. Too long in fact. Until we started to….listen. And that was not easy. Here was this little guy, cute as could be. Freckles just starting to popImage up on his nose, much like is mothers. Stubborn like his dad. Okay maybe his mom a little too. An independent, determined, wild little child. And my “idea” of what our family should look like was vanishing before my eyes. He didn’t like the music I wanted him to listen to. He seemingly already preferred heavy metal, grunge rock and that love only grew as he got older. (He DID get that from his dad). Not the classical, mind-enhancing, music I preferred him to listen to. (Even though, truth be told, I didn’t like it either and preferred rock and alternative music myself). But dammit, we were going to do better for him. But what was that? Violin by 5? Reading the Harry Potter series by 7? Being the best soccer player on his team? Being a grade ahead of kids his own age to prove his brilliance? Yes. These were all things that we pondered. That we wished for him…or for us. Then we stopped. And we started to try to listen…to him.

He loved being ouImagetdoors. He loved animals. SO MANY ANIMALS. I learned to love snakes, bugs, even cockroaches. I know…ick. Okay maybe I didn’t learn to love them but I learned to appreciate them and see the excitement in his eyes. And I started to follow his lead. We bought nerf guns, remote control dinosaurs and ant farms. Because he loved them. He started to wear camo. We had lots of camo. We continued to read, but not as much. And instead we watched national geographic, mythbusters and animal planet. And he loved it. We bought science kits and did some of them, some of the time. We dug holes, planted trees, collected tad poles and had sword fights. We watched movies. With fighting! GASP! And we got closer. We had fun. He had fun.

We started to homeschool him and decided on our curriculum. For 3 years we did math sheets, phonics lessons, grammar, reading, writing and we fought. We fought and fought and fought. Sometimes yelling. Sometimes tears. Somedays were good. But more often than not we dreaded the worksheet days. The struggles. He had his own way and we stopped listening, because he turned “school age”. Then I came to the proverbial “end of my rope”. I was exhausted and he was only 8. It was either public school (which I knew deep downImage in my heart that it would destroy the boy I loved) or…unschooling.

So for a year now we have been unschooling. I have gotten my boy back. Do I still struggle at times with taking the road less traveled? Honestly, yes. But I also have the privilege of seeing kids, regularly, in the public school system, as well as teachers, and when I see the effects of the system on them, I know I am doing the right thing. And it certainly does help when I meet more and more teachers choosing the unschooling style of learning. But really is there any other way to learn? There are other ways to educate, to teach but to learn is something that must come from within, it must be useful.

Educate:

: to teach (someone) especially in a school, college, or university

: to give (someone) information about something : to train (someone) to do something

Learn:

1. To gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of through experience or study.
2. To fix in the mind or memory; memorize: learned the speech in a few hours.
3.

a. To acquire experience of or an ability or a skill in: learn tolerance; learned how to whistle.
b. To become aware: learned that it was best not to argue.
4. To become informed of; find out. See Synonyms at discover.
5. Nonstandard To cause to acquire knowledge; teach.
6. Obsolete To give information to.
v.intr.

To gain knowledge, information, comprehension, or skill: learns quickly; learned about computers; learned of the job through friends.
To learn is our goal. To learn through life. To learn through experience. To learn through love. To discover.
My red-headed, determined, “wild” now 9 year old. Is happy. I am happy. Is he learning? Yes. Every day. Is it conventional. No, not at all. Is it normal? No. But we never strive to be normal. We strive to be happy…and joyful.