What if I could raise my children to have intense curiousity? What if they became adults who’s self esteem was not only in tact but radiant? What if they chose their clothing not for the name on them but because it appeased their sense of style? What if all of their decisions were made with concern for the earth and humanity? What if they could be truly global citizens that not only said everyone was equal but truly lived that thought through their actions? What if they learned to learn, learned to love, and loved to learn? And what if we really could accomplish all of my ‘what ifs?’
I always knew that at some point I would be homeschooling my children because I always knew that it was in our future to travel as a family. I did not, however, know at what point in their education I would be doing it. Lan will be starting Kindergarten this year and I enrolled him in our local school last winter……then I came home and cried. Now this might be an emotion that many mothers encounter when they realize that their baby is all grown up and it is time for them to head off to school but for me it was more than that. All the way down to my core the situation didn’t feel right. Mike and I had many discussions about if we were doing the right thing. We decided it would be good for his socialization and we were sure he would have a great time there. However, my nagging feeling of unease did not desist. It was a few months later that the provincial government announced that kindergarten would change from half day to full day.
I know full day kindergarten is a godsend to many families who need to have two incomes to support themselves, but for me it was the straw that broke the camels back. Having my four year old, whose never gone to pre-school or daycare, away from our family for six and a half hours a day is just not something I am willing to do at this point. So out came the library card and the Internet and I searched for any information I could get my hands on for homeschooling.
When I came across the word ‘unschooling’ I was fascinated. The premise of unschooling is letting your child learn about whatever they are interested in. The parents role is more a facilitator than teacher. If they are interested in dinosaurs that is what is studied, and it is studied until there is no more interest or until they move on to another subject. There is no testing, no workbooks (unless the child likes to do them), no mandatory subjects. The objective is to keep the child’s natural curiosity in tact. Something which I believe schools fail to do. They are never forced to learn something they aren’t interested in and never interrupted when they have found something they are.
We have now enrolled him in a program called Self-Design. Mike and I were able to choose the teacher we want to work with and we will do weekly reporting logging our activities and interests. Our learning consultant then gives suggestions which we may choose to follow or not follow and then puts our reports into standardized ones for the Ministry of Education. This way he will still be ‘in the system’ but apart from it.
The more I learn about unschooling the more excited I get about actually doing it. What an amazing concept to let your child follow their bliss! In remembering my school days I shake my head about what I actually learned. Sure I got good grades but what did I learn? All that information I studied for tests was promptly forgotten after the test was written because, after all, I needed to make room in my brain for all the facts on the next test! But I did learn lots of other stuff. I learned to make fun of other children to make myself feel better or more important. I learned that other children making fun of me made me cower and pretend to be less than I am. I learned to shirk away from certain people out of fear. I learned how 12 years of school can do such harm to my self esteem that another 12 years later I am still suffering from its effects. I learned that there are some really amazing teachers out there but the majority of them down right suck. I learned to be bored.
I’ve had a lot of mixed reactions about my decision to homeschool. Some of the people I thought would be least supportive have surprisingly been the most. Some just shake their head and say something like “I don’t know how you’ll do it.” And then there are those who have engaged me in heated debates about it. The biggest concern seems to be the socialization aspect. We’ve been taught that proper socialization comes from sticking a child in a room full of 30 other children the exact same age. The more I think of this and the more I read on the subject the more I object to this thought. Proper socialization comes from experiences and conversations with people of all ages and all walks of life. In fact, after meeting some local homeschooling families I have been amazed at the social skills of the children! They aren’t afraid to talk to adults because they haven’t been conditioned that the only cool people to talk to are those the same age as them!
Another comment that sparked debate was “How will you prepare them from the real world?” My answer “Umm…. don’t we live in the real world?” Homeschooling doesn’t mean sitting at home day after day and sheltering my family from the world. In fact, our situation is the exact opposite. Not only will we be homeschooling, we will be worldschooling! Imagine all the things we will learn through osmosis traveling together! History, politics, culture, geography, language, food, climate, zoology the list is endless.
I am at complete peace with my decision to unschool and I am very excited to be starting it in a few weeks. I am so grateful that this is an option for me, we are so blessed that we live in Canada.