Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Guest Post: Our Path To Unschooling

I just can't get enough of these guest blog posts! I can rattle on about the flaws of education policy and the merits of self-directed education--and I do!--but nothing compares to the real-life stories of the families who have chosen this natural learning path. Don't you agree? 

If you would like to add to the conversation and share your family's personal story away from schooling and toward unschooling, please email me at: kmcdonald@post.harvard.edu. I hope to hear from you! ~Kerry

Now, here is today's natural learning story from Rebekah at Modern Simpler.

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I can still remember sitting at my very first round table discussion and learning about the concept of unschooling for the very first time. 

I had come to the discussion to learn more about different alternative school options as well as homeschool options for my then three-year-old son. We were still a year away from considering preschool, but wanted to start early exploring our alternatives. I learned so much that night, from listening to ex-public school teachers and librarians who had left their jobs to homeschool their own children, from people using Waldorf and Montessori styles at home, and from one woman who was doing something I had only heard of in passing called “unschooling.” 

She talked about their days, of exploring, how her son was doing all sorts of interesting things, her concerns and her joys with the unschooling experience. She also talked about the fact that they used NO Curriculum. No curriculum? NONE?  None. Later, over dinner with a friend I expressed my interest in the concept of unschooling, but also expressed my feelings that “I could never pull that off” because I was just “way too Type A.”

My son is now five. I have lived in research and the practice of unschooling for several years now and I can tell you that I am every bit as Type A as the minute I began this journey. The only difference? I know that being Type A and homeschooling do not mean that I need a curriculum. I have created rhythms and schedules in our home--that work for both the young people and the adults--that are centered around everyone’s own interests, fully without curriculum.

My husband and I entered into thinking about our son’s educational journey with the idea that we would first give public school a try. If our son didn’t like it, then we would switch to an alternative school or to homeschooling. That all changed after his preschool experience. We learned a lot through that experience about what didn’t work for him, but also what didn’t work for us. His last day of preschool started out rough, the same as the last few days had been going there. He was stressed about going--he had even been stressed on days that were not school days--and even on the weekends. After a few weeks of preschool, my husband and I talked and decided that we would try one more day and if our son really wasn’t into it, we would withdraw him.

At drop off that day, he cried and cried (which was not his norm--he tended to run in all excited, and end up crying about an hour later). The conversation that I had with educators that day was what sealed the deal for me: this type of education and school system were not for my son or for me. Upon arrival, the teacher coerced him to go in and see what the kids were doing, and I, seeing how upset he was, told him I would wait outside the door for him if he decided he didn’t want to stay. After he went in, the director came down from upstairs and not so politely told me that if I wanted him to stay in there I would have to leave. I stood firm and told her that I understood the whole "out of sight out of mind thing," but that I had told my son that I would wait for him and that was what I was going to do. 

She said nothing, but didn’t need to; her eyes were shooting daggers. Why? I wasn’t following the “rules” of how you are supposed to “do Drop-off.” Needless to say, my son came back out, crying and wanting to leave. We stopped at a playground on the way home and he ran around, happy as a clam. I felt freed from the stress of doing something that I felt in my heart he didn’t want to do, or simply wasn’t ready for.

We never looked back.


On our journey thus far we have had some challenges, but mostly the experience we have on a daily basis affirms our feelings about our choice to unschool. We love it. The more that school systems become more rigid and test-driven, and in my opinion, disrespectful of young people, the more I believe that this is the most respectful and fulfilling way for my young people to spend their days. They flourish, learn, grow, interact, and are free to explore each and every passion they have. They live life fully, the way it is meant to be lived. 

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Rebekah is a writer, herbalist, and mom of two young boys. She happily lives the unschooling life with her husband and their sons in New Jersey. She writes about all things unschooling, books, outings, and family at Modern Simpler.

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