I have a lot of different thoughts, both as drafts here and in my journal. But I'm tired tonight. So I'm going to go ahead and finished a post I started a while ago about Unschooling. And actually now that I've decided to do that, I can't think of a more appropriate topic for my second "Monday Awakenings - Life is Good." (Coincidentally, did you know that one of the unschooling conferences is called Life is Good? I can't wait to go to one of those!) Finding Unschooling has definitely been the biggest awakening in my life. I can honestly say that without any hesitation. One of my thoughts when I first started reading about it was, "huh... how come *I* didn't think of this on my own??" It's so simple at it's core that it seems obvious. And I'm a *smart* person, goshdarnit! I should have been able to think of this myself - I was the Valedictorian of my high-school class for goodness sake! (Which I find more and more ironic the as I embrace a new direction that may never include school. I actually almost get an ashamed feeling inside now thinking of it - something to explore and expand more on later. Also, now that I think of it, this may highlight how school doesn't exactly engender critical or creative thinking... but I digress)
For a year or more after I discovered Unscooling I was ON FIRE for it. It was like I was blind and now I could see and I really, REALLY wanted to shout it from the mountaintops (ok rooftops - but that condo we lived in was pretty tall!) I would be up well into the night reading about it. Mike would get irritated for a long time when he saw me reading, and tell me to, "Stop reading that crap!" (Hence my dedication to him today - love you honey!) Luckily, I am not that easily dissuaded. We've both come a long ways - he is super supportive of the kids and me, and I've gotten better at presenting things to him. Also I didn't start broadcasting far and wide that Unschooling was the best thing ever since sliced bread, which I am thankful for because I probably would not have been prepared for the conversations that followed. I did feel a bit guilty keeping it a secret though. I mean it's so amazing, wouldn't everyone want to know about it??
When I first came across the word "Unschooling" my curiosity was immediately piqued. I had never heard of such a thing and had no idea what it meant. Thank goodness for Google! I did a search, and much to my husband's chagrin, a new world opened to me. It was one of those things that once I knew about, I couldn't go back. My life was changed.
What is Unschooling? I'm going to try and put in words what it is to me and then follow up with some links that explain in other people's words. Basically, Unschooling is a kind of homeschooling. But instead of creating a miniature school in your home, you continue your lives together with your children in the best way for your family, without considering how things are done in school at all. I suppose that is where the "un" comes from, in that, schoolish ways of thinking and doing things do not impact your own way of life (as much as that is possible).
Unschooling to me means living with my family in a way that supports each person and their interests and growth. It is NOT "child-led" or "parent-led", instead it is about partnership. Other things that unschooling does NOT mean:
It is not leaving the kids on their own to learn.
It doesn't mean that my kids will never learn things kids in school learn. (Can you follow that one? Double-negative much! Well, you get the idea - in a more straightforward manner - My kids *will* learn many of the same things that school kids learn, they will also probably differ in a lot of areas, but really all people do, school or no school - ok ending longest run-on ever..... NOW)
Here are some good links to explore if this is still to vague:
Definitions of Unschooling
The Unschooling Philosophy
Demand Euphoria's perspective
Unschooling Me - How to Unschool
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much information out there that it really would be redundant for me to try and "define" what Unschooling is. And besides, even though I've been reading about it for 4 years now, I am really still a newbie. Technically this is our first year "unschooling" since Marisol is 5 years old. The best part of reading about experienced Unschoolers has been to define what principles are most important in guiding our family's life. Unschooling philosophy, for me, is much more than just homeschooling my kids. It is a complete way of life. I'm glad that I discovered it so early in my children's lives because although the concept behind the philosophy is simple (people, children included, are learning all the time), embracing what that can mean for your family and life takes longer. I have found that I grasped with my mind very quickly what Unschooling means. It all makes sense to me. However, the "doing" can be more difficult as you learn to let go. I like the analogy of holding onto balloons you can find in the sidebar here. An example in our life of a concept I grasped very quickly mentally, but had difficulty embracing fully in my heart, was not limiting TV. This is a "balloon" that I have repeatedly "let go" of only to grab the string as it floats away from me, bring it back towards me to hold onto, and then let go again. Lucky for my children, I have been able to keep many of my struggles (mostly) internal. I'm hopeful that this will lead to them having more clarity and less baggage (or balloons!) as they grow to adulthood.
Reading about Unschooling and people who are living this kind of lifestyle has impacted our life in so many ways. Most of the concerns that people have when they first hear about Unschooling are the same and they have also been addressed repeatedly in many different forums (yahoo lists, blogs, books etc.) So instead of defining Unschooling and addressing common concerns, I plan to write about how unschooling looks in our family's life. Learning is not just about school "subjects" (and in fact many Unschoolers try not to break things down in this way, because all learning is related). Learning, and therefore Unschooling, occurs in all aspects of our lives including sleep, eating, use of media, and relationships.
Watching our kids learn is one of the most amazing things in the world. This is true for all parents. What continues to astound me in our first "official" year of homeschooling, is how and what Marisol learns every day WITHOUT ME CONTROLLING IT, in any way. I feel very lucky that I started learning about Unschooling when Marisol was still a toddler because we've been able to see how she continues to learn and grow - yes with our love and support - but with absolutely no formal "teaching". I'm trying to put snippets of what the kids are up to over at Everyday Adventures which will be a great place for me to "record keep" as the kids get older.
If anyone (especially friends and family) is really concerned now that I've TOTALLY lost it, please don't worry about us. One thing I'm learning more and more as a parent that nothing is ever set in stone or guaranteed. We are always willing to reevaluate, and of course, listen to our kids. We would never stop them from going to school if that is what they want. I actually loved school myself and know that for some people it is a wonderful place. For now though, we have a different vision and direction for our family. I would love to hear others' thoughts. Is anything awakened in you? Also, experienced Unschoolers, please chime in and if I am way off about anything, please correct away!
Have a great week everyone! I know you will learn something new every day ;-)