The Question that Changed How We Homeschool

Sometimes a comment, a question, a quote can strike so very true, in just the right moment, that it forces me to think, question, and change course.

It’s happened multiple times throughout the years.

I’ve shared how reading When the Queen Rides By changed my thoughts about how I supported my husband and my thoughts towards working from home.  The timing, the content, the message was pivotal for me. It was an “ah-hah” moment, where I realized that this was the key to something I was struggling with.

In February 2012, an innocent question sparked a similar shift for me, in how we homeschool and in how we as parents interact with our kids, and what we expect from them.

I was sharing with a group of fellow homeschoolers on learning differences, learning styles, and factors that influence how children (and adults) learn and process information. And because it matters to the learning process as well,  I touched on the wide variety of teaching/homeschooling styles. As a result, one mom got hung up on the idea of “unschooling”  and asked me to explain it more.

I found myself saying, “I’m not an unschooler, or rather, those who unschool would not consider me an unschooler…” and proceeded to give a brief example of learning in an unschooling environment.

At the time, that night in February 2012,  it was totally true.

True unschoolers, especially radical unschoolers, would not have considered us an unschooling family. We most definitely were in the relaxed, eclectic camp.

But, the next day, that changed.

Answering that one question made me question why.

Why were we not unschooling?

I love the unschooling model, always have.  And more than that, I  believe in it.

We unschooled the early years.  Why not now?

Years ago it was to honor Greg’s request that school look and feel at least some like he expected school to look.  But that no longer rang true.

Later, it was more to “fit in” in our conservative homeschooling community.

We  customized a variety of different styles and curriculum: unit studies,  Sonlight, Connect the Thoughts, Robinson, etc.   Being heavily influenced by Marie Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and John Holt early on, my bias was towards gentler, literature-rich, hands-on, experience-based learning.

I searched and searched for options and solutions that allowed me to customize the kids education, allowing them to follow their interests, and meet their own learning “styles”. And it only confirmed my analysis and belief that teaching does not equal learning and one size doesn’t fit all.

Despite the curriculum and the schedules, often we fell into what I called our “unschooling days”; we’d drift back to our roots, to what we knew worked and felt most authentic for our family.

It was difficult for me to tell the kids they couldn’t pursue their interests because it wasn’t on the scope and sequence.

How could I tell Z that he needed to learn 4th grade physical science, when he really wanted to know how to create oxygen and gravity on the spaceship he was designing in his head.

How could I tell Josh he needed to wait to learn about how to run a business until he was older, when he wanted to earn money now?

Or tell Kgirl that Japan would have to wait until we got to it…

 It just didn’t make sense.

I knew that they learn so much more, have a much deeper learning experience, when they are able to pursue their interests when they have them – when the passion, the motivation, and the interest spark.

That night, as I proclaimed myself “not an unschooler”, I realized that in my heart of hearts, unschooling really was the answer – the answer to the challenges we faced with Z, the answer for the quandary I faced with homeschooling high school, the answer to the dilemma we faced on reconciling what the scope and sequence says to what I know real, true, passionate learning to look and feel like.

That night, I came home, and asked Greg, “I think we’re going to unschool from now on. Is that okay with you?”

He laughed and asked, “how is that different than what you are doing now?”

So from that moment on, a new leg of our journey began, embracing unschooling in its entirety – letting go of assignments, schedules, required curriculum, and popular opinions – and embracing the unique and amazing path before us.

I realize this is not the right path for everyone, but for us, it’s the perfect path for this season of our journey.

Learning is EVERYWHERE, it’s all interwined, and it’s all there for the taking. Unschooling is much less about the absence of textbooks or tests or curriculum, and much more about the presence of everything else.

Es & Z at the Downtown Aquarium, Houston, TX

If you are curious and are not completely sure what unschooling is, these are excellent intros:

Unschooling by Jennifer McGrail (and her FAQs)

The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling by Leo Babuata

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Classroom by Mary Griffith (amazon link)

 

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4 Responses to The Question that Changed How We Homeschool

  1. Jennifer says:

    What a beautiful description you’ve written of a difficult, painful process. At least, it’s difficult and painful for many of us! LOL We’ve dabbled in unschooling but so far are sticking to the eclectic camp with piecemeal curriculum and no firm schedule. Good for you! It sounds like a perfect choice for your family!

  2. Katie says:

    Hi there! Just popping in to say how much we’re enjoying having your blog on our high school homeschool blogroll at LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com. I hope it’s sent some great new traffic your way. I wondered if you could help us get out the word about LHSHS on your blog too? We have a dedicated button on our About Us page: http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/about-us/. And we’ve added a ton of new content recently. Drop by and check it out if it’s been a while since you visited. Look forward to seeing you there!

    Katie

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  4. What’s your take on the eclectic homeschooling method mentioned. I’m eclectic, rigid scheduled to meet state requirements but cried my eyes out when reading this because unSchooling is deeply within me.

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