Because who wants to go to school? No one. Really. Well, me…but I’m weird that way.
A long time ago, I read a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. Some of my response is still here: http://audsandens.blogspot.com/2011/02/all-above-average.html
I’ve always loved the idea of school. I wanted to go to a school like Anne of Green Gables did. I wanted my teacher to be Miss Stacey. And I did have a few Miss Stacey’s in my life – just not enough of them. When I first started homeschooling my kids, I wanted their homeschool to be like what I thought school should be like.
I stood at the head of the dining room table. We said pledge. We pulled out our books. I taught lessons. It felt like playing school. And it felt kind of dumb and posed. After a while, we all started to dread “doing” school as much as well used to dread going there. If you’re home, why pretend you’re in a school? What’s the fun of being home then?
So I read a little. I met Sandra Dodd and other great unschool advocates (online – not in person). I started to ask the kids what they wanted to learn. We went to the library and found books on those things. Then we went to the store and bought supplies to make those things.
I didn’t help much. I’m a great guide. I would make a great guidance counselor. I excel at helping people find and use resources. As the mother of unschoolers, this is my greatest strength. Well, that and I like to do crazy things like drive around the country in a school bus, run dogsleds, and take flying lessons.
In this article, a teacher asked students if they thought their school was like a prison.
ONE YOUNG MAN STARTED THE DISCUSSION WITH SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF, “WHY IS SCHOOL LIKE PRISON? WE DON’T HAVE ANY FREEDOM HERE. THE TEACHERS JUST ORDER US AROUND, AND TELL US WHAT TO DO, AND IF WE DO ANYTHING THEY DON’T LIKE, WE GET PUNISHED FOR IT.”
Alfie Kohn said: “One is repeatedly struck by the absurd spectacle of adults insisting that children need to become self-disciplined or lamenting that ‘kids just don’t take responsibility for their own behavior’—while spending their days ordering children around. The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”
We unschool not because I don’t think children should be educated. I unschool because I don’t think education is something you can force on a person. How much of your high school history do you remember? I loved history and reading and literature, but I only remember well the things I learned by snagging interesting looking books off the bookshelf at school and then hiding them under my desk to read while the actual class was going on.
I remember distinctly, though, the feeling of being locked up for days at a time. I know my kids will be bored sometimes. And they should be – we all get bored and have to sort ourselves out. But I don’t want them to be forced to be bored with no way to unbored themselves. I LOVE that my kids search YouTube for projects to do – or come up with all sorts of things completely on their own. Like forts and puzzles and games. I frequently come home from work and see that they’ve made up their own board game or have invented a new device for something or another.
Sometimes, they just spend all day hanging out and reading books from the library. We recently saw dolphins on a trip and Kiara is now marine animal obsessed – learning biology and animal behavior while Seamus loves to build with Legos and create everything from tablet holders to robots or whatever.
And yes – we do math. I also email the kids writing prompts and come home to wonderful stories and drawings. Their dad takes them on field trips and to homeschool group and let’s them bake or earn money by working in the yard.
I want them to learn responsibility by being responsible for things, not being told what responsibility is and then getting ordered to be responsible. I want them to take charge of their learning not inform them of what they should learn. But I also help. My kids aren’t just left to their own devices, floundering around, directionless. We suggest. We share. We buy books and show them things. We buy telescopes and robotics kits and snap circuits and art supplies and say “Here. Try this.” Or don’t.
We drive around. We go to new places. We ask a lot of questions. We watch TV. We watch movies. Then we ask more questions.
We hang out together.
We learn to resolve conflict by hanging out together.
We play games.
We eat – a lot.
And we are almost always together. And when we’re not, we can’t wait to hear about the adventures of those who were away.
We unschool because we want to live our lives not constantly be looking forward to them.