Prelude to a post

Patrick is making me blog today. He and Libby have taken the two older girls to Hawaiian Falls and the one thing he asked me to do was to sit down and write something. Well, actually, he was a little more specific. What he asked me to write about was our (my?) decision to “unschool” Daryl this year. We’ve had a few heated discussions about this subject over the last few weeks – once it sunk in for him that this was really going down and it wasn’t just talk anymore. Our latest discussion was yesterday, and while it didn’t turn into a fight, it left me feeling vulnerable, defensive and a little bit misunderstood. Patrick suggested that I start blogging about it, and while Crazy Mind tells me that he just wants other people to echo how crazy this venture seems to him, I know that what he really wants is to keep the dialogue open and to receive feedback from other people. But before I can start writing about the unschooling model, I have to write about the journey that led me to it in the first place. It’s kind of boring, but it’s where I have to start.

This all started with a really rough 4th grade year for D and our decision to request a transfer to another school in the district. When our transfer was denied, I had to decide whether it was worth it to fight the administration’s decision, and this led me back to questioning why I wanted the transfer in the first place. The more I talked about this with other parents (mostly at the and listened to the reasons why other families were asking for transfers, I realized that, while there are things about our neighborhood school that I don’t like and would like to see changed, my biggest issues with the school are fundamental ones, ones that will follow us no matter what school we transfer into.

Right about the time I discovered we didn’t get our transfer request, I had a conversation with one of my pre-natal yoga instructors about homeschooling. Elizabeth has two school-age boys and describes herself as an “aspiring” unschooler. Now back up for a minute: I’ve been talking about my desire to homeschool since before we had children and, up until this point, most everyone has looked at me like I’m completely crazy when I have talked about the possibility of it, especially the people who know how insanely busy our lives are already, and folks who have an inkling of the personality of our oldest child. My conversation with Elizabeth stands out to me as a pivotal turning point because she is the first person I can remember talking to about homeschooling that articulated her absolute confidence that this was something I was capable of. I don’t know if she was the first person to express such confidence or if this was the first time I was ready to hear it, but either way, it was huge, because up until that point, I really didn’t believe that I had what it took to homeschool my kids. For the first time I felt empowered to make my own decision about what was going to be right for us, like I was suddenly plugged into a power that I had hitherto denied myself. I could read the pros and cons, I could read about different educational models and philosophies and I could make a decision based on what I felt was going to be right for us. I could make an informed decision instead of making one from a place of fear or powerlessness.

This launched me into a reading binge that lasted most of the summer. I started on the Internet, reading homeschooling and unschooling blogs and forums. I quickly came up with a long list of books to get from the library. Then I picked up a book off the bookshelf of a friend of mine, John Holt’s How Children Learn. Somehow I had not seen his name on any of the reading lists I came across, which is strange because he’s basically the patron saint of unschooling. How that bit of information escaped me I don’t know, but I’m glad that I started reading it before I knew what a huge part he had played in the unschooling movement because it allowed me to read most of it without any preconceived notions about what he was saying. How Children Learn is now one of my most favorite parenting books, right up there with Saints Faber and Mazlish. : ) Where was this book ten years ago?!

Somewhere in the middle of reading Holt, I knew that unschooling was the next right thing for us to do. I felt an incredible peace about the decision, too, which is unusual for an indecisive type like myself. I had read about it, talked about it, written about it, prayed about it – I had done all the things that one is “supposed” to do before making a major decision. What I’m still shaky on, however, is explaining to other people why unschooling feels so right to me. It runs contrary to most traditional beliefs about what an education should and must look like. But this isn’t the first time I’ve done something that everyone else thought was crazy. Most people think having my babies at home is crazy, and so far that has worked out beautifully. People thought Patrick and I were nuts when we separated a few years ago, and that turned out to be the best thing we could have ever done, bringing gifts to our marriage I never dreamed possible. Unschooling might not be the long term answer for us, but I feel sure that it is what we are supposed to try with D this year, and hopefully I’ll find more ways of talking about it as our journey continues to unfold.

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~ by jenzai on August 24, 2008.

4 Responses to “Prelude to a post”

  1. I’m glad Patrick talked you into getting back to the blog, and just wanted to say, Yes! Go! on your decision to un-school. I’ve always regretted not just taking my kids out and doing it on my own (I did, for a while, teach home-schooled kids biology in the Heard Museum). By the time I got up the courage, I was back in grad school full time and my children didn’t want to leave their friends. But if I had it to do all over again, and if they hadn’t had their marvellous Montessori experience before public school, I’d certainly have done things differently. And in terms of your faith in yourself–I can’t think of anyone who’s better prepared to take on the task than you are. So enough with the self doubt.

    You’ve inspired me to post on my new “Owl of Athena” blog about home schooling. Don’t hold your breath, but I’ll let you know when it’s up. In the mean time, hang tight, be well–and let us know how you’re doing otherwise. Lucy’s back, by the way, so we both want to know.

  2. Wow, I continued to be in awe of your ability to be so open in this forum. I so appreciate you sharing your internal struggle and how you came to a decision that you feel at peace with. I also struggle a lot with what other people will think of my choices and it is helpful for me to hear you affirm yourself. I admire your willingness to take a risk. Know that no choice is ever final and you can always make a different choice if you change your mind!

  3. I was unschooled, from 6th to 12th grades. Admittedly, when I entered college at 17 I definitely suffered from my parents’ tendencies toward social isolation (i.e., I didn’t have a date for two years because I was a big huge Keats-lovin’ nerd), but I eventually turned out okay. And my SATs looked like pinball scores. :o)

    Hope you’re well and getting some sleep! Big eLove and hugs to you….

  4. ooh, we need to talk! Have you written about your experience being unschooled? If so, maybe you could point me to a link? Self-doubt is already starting to sneak in.

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