When you ask veteran unschoolers, most of them will say that one of the hardest parts of unschooling is deschooling yourself as a parent. A huge help to me was going to a local homeschooling conference last month where I heard Sandra Dodd and Sue Patterson speak, and heard stories of long-time unschooling families who were doing well and enjoying it. Hearing all those success stories gave me the reassurance and confidence to really dive into this head-first. I also feel like I had this shift– unschooling sounded so great and wonderful, but it couldn’t possibly just be that easy, right? To get to just hang out with your kids learning cool things together every day? But that seemed to be the regular day-to-day of all these other families, and I started believing that perhaps this too-good-to-be-true idea might actually be real.
So I’m feeling pretty confident about it now, though I’m sure the doubts will creep in from time to time. It’s tough to fully unshackle yourself from arbitrary standards of What You Should Be Learning At X Time when everyone else lives by those standards and views them as gospel truth. I think I will have to make up a list of article to read and re-read as needed to reassure me when I begin to question. ; )
One thing that’s been very helpful for me is that D keeps showing me signs that unschooling really is the best path for us, certainly for right now. I don’t know how much of it is just his age, or difficulty with transitioning to new life after we moved this summer, etc, but he is in a phase where he really resist being forced into doing anything he doesn’t want, or even of me trying to teach him things if he didn’t initiate the interest.
Last week he had tried a game on the ipad that was about identifying US coins. The game as kinda crappy, so I pulled him over and tried giving him a short lesson on coins from our spare change jar, just on their names and values. He scoffed and stormed off, annoyed. We had a chat after that about more polite, appropriate ways to express his disinterest in an activity, but even so I felt hurt and discouraged, feeling like I will never be able to “teach” him anything.
Fast forward to the next day…. I had left the coins and jar sitting out on my desk, and the next day D comes up to ask me something and he sees the coins… and he asks me about them. And we went on to talk about them and their value, and then to get all the coins out of the jar and counted up the pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters, and he added up the total value of all that change (just over $2). We also discovered a bunch of foreign coins mixed in, so we go to talk some about how other countries use different money, and it is worth different amounts, and how exchange rates vary, etc. The whole thing didn’t last that long, maybe 20 minutes, but it was fun and we both loved it.
That was a huge lightbulb moment for me, to stop trying to “teach” and instead focus on strewing cool and interesting things in his path, and then follow his lead. I really don’t think we could do “regular” homeschooling, with a curriculum– it would be a nightmare. I also can’t imagine having to force him to do homework after being at school all day (or forgo the homework, putting him in that awkward spot of not respecting his teachers or their expectations). So in many ways, this feels like a godsend.