Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thoughts on unschooling

A lot has been swirling around in my head regarding educational philosophy over the past several months and the path that we have taken, one definitely less traveled. We have been attending a group nearly every Friday that is composed of mostly unschoolers. I have often called myself "eclectic" because even when we studied using the Charlotte Mason method, we would often spend days and even weeks just doing as we pleased and that made us all quite happy.
We really do prefer the natural learning that takes place in an unschooling environment, but that seemed so scary for some reason. Cultural programming, public school propaganda, fear of the unknown, etc. and now thankfully I am ready to let go of all of that and really do our own thing.
We attended an unschooling conference two weekends ago called "Life is Good" and I saw firsthand the joys of natural learning and why I have been drawn to this path. I am recognizing how controlling I am/have been and I don't like it. I've always considered myself a fairly relaxed parent and maybe compared to much of our society I am, but we have a long way to go! The wonderful thing is that I have some really great friends who unschool that are great examples as we have turned our focus to this new path.
One thing that really draws me to unschooling is the opportunity for children to learn how to make decisions for themselves. I see so many people around me having an extremely difficult time making decisions, and I realize that the more I allow my kids to make their own decisions, the more comfortable they will be in doing so.
I'd like to share one thing that happened while at the conference that really helped me to see my controlling nature.
Aidan was playing DS with a buddy and the rest of us went in to see Kimya Dawson perform. Gil, Ealom, and I were sitting there laughing and enjoying it so much, I just knew Aidan would like it also, so I ran out to get him. Well, Aidan wanted to continue DS with his buddy. I started to try and convince him that he would really enjoy the show. Ginger Sabo was sitting nearby (it was her son Aidan was playing with) and she just said something along the lines of, "He can be here, it's no problem", in a very kind and calm voice. I had to think about that for a split second, but in that moment, I knew that she was right and I knew that he'd be just fine and that's exactly what this whole philosophy hinges on; letting him make that choice. I felt this wave of calm come over me as I thanked her and went back to the concert without Aidan. How wonderful that he could decide what was going to be the best place for him to be at that moment. So many times we don't know what we want. Why exasperate that problem by controlling a kid's every move?
Another challenge was becoming comfortable with the term "unschooling", since it seemed perhaps negative to me, with the "un" and all. The ah-ha came when I was telling my friend about the kids and I drying some herbs to make tea with and she asked me, "Is that for homeschool?" In response, I heard these words just came out of my mouth, "No, we were just doing it, not for school...just because we wanted to do it...we don't even DO school, uhm, we, uh, well, we unschool."
All of a sudden it had just clicked for me and all of these ideas suddenly made sense, the term unschool suddenly had meaning to me and I "got it". School has nothing to do with what we do, it's lost it's power over me. Wow! Big ideas.