Friday, July 26, 2013

Unschooling: It's Personal

Whenever people ask me about "this unschooling thing", it's gotten to the point where I'm pretty darn quick to clarify that *I* was unschooled, as was my younger sister. 

I guess I want people to have that perspective before the discussion really gets going, because conversations usually go one of two ways.  Genuine curiosity -or- curiosity of the "look at that train wreck" variety. 

You know the kind...the hang their head out the car window gawkers, the neck craners, the "don't take this personally, I love the whole 'idea' of unschooling, BUT I want *my* children to grow up to..." - fill in the blank. educated.
...get into college.
...know how to read.
...learn to do things they don't want to.
...not be lazy. able to get a job.
...handle a schedule.
...respect authority. well-rounded.
...make goals and achieve them.

Whoa! Just go ahead and back the bus up right there.  

I want those same things for my children. My parents wanted them for me and my sister.  What's important to recognize is that are many paths that can be taken in order to reach those goals.

My sister and I began our homeschooling journey back in the olden days...otherwise known as the 80's.

With the exception of "pretending" to do A.C.E.'s PACES worktexts the first year (talk about train wrecks), we were homeschooled using an entirely interest-led, unschooling approach - me from 9th grade on and my younger sister from 4th grade all the way through high school.  

Me with my parents and grandparents at my graduation open house.
Check out the awesomeness that was my hair.

We both went on to college, obtaining degrees in our fields of interest. Some of what we did looked pretty moments. Most of what we did looked nothing like anything resembling "traditional".  

At the time, my parents weren't aware of any "label" for how we learned back then. We simply did what we did. My mom and dad always gave a very simple explanation of how we homeschooled...that they encouraged us girls to follow our interests.  And that we did. Passionately. :)

I think I turned out okay. Normal. Mostly, anyway.  I'm certainly not a train wreck. 

Me with my lovely baby sister.

Because of my personal experience with unschooling, I feel pretty confident and secure in how my own children learn. I'm secure in the knowledge that 90% of what parents stress about and push their kids to do academically in the name of "homeschooling" is entirely unnecessary.  I know that the same goals can be achieved. That you have complete control over the how and why. You can change things, drop stuff...tweak it all. That at any point in time, for your own reasons, you can take a step back...and wait. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you can take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your children - and let them *be* children. I feel passionately that you can partner with your kids, give them freedom, flexibility and control when it comes to their learning, and they will turn out more than just "okay". They will flourish. They will thrive. 

Backing up to that list from above...

I've had a good number of people ask curious, well meaning questions about, share their personal opinions on and even offer warnings about the failures in and dangers of unschooling and the more relaxed, interest-led homeschooling approaches. Now, I absolutely love sharing about my experiences. Love, love, love. But I am not so much interested in defending or debating what, how and why we do what we do.  If you're genuinely curious, GREAT!  I'll share with you about unschooling and interest-led learning till your ears bleed!  Once I get to rambling, you'll wish you'd never asked! 

Just know that if you'd like to share your opinion on how unschooling won't or doesn't work - be prepared. 

I'll take it personally...because for me, it's definitely a personal experience.