18 August 2010

But Is THAT Unschooling?!

About a year ago, I remember having a series of conversations with a fellow homeschooler about choosing what is right for your own family, as far as education is concerned. The thing that made this conversation so memorable was that this unschooler was considering putting her young child into school because it was a structure that fit him and was what she needed to accomplish her personal goals. These conversations came up in a public forum, and there were several people giving their opinions on the matter.

The biggest question that continued to come to the forefront was, "How can you be an unschooler if your child is in school?" How can you claim that coveted title of living free from regulated education, if you allowed your child to be daily placed into the confined structure of a classroom? Can you BE ALLOWED to call yourself an unschooler or even a homeschooler? It was a heated discussion, and one that made me really think about my feelings on the matter last year. More so, it has continued to stay in my heart and my mind and has allowed me to do even more soul searching about it over the last year.

As we are back to the time of year when most of the public schools are starting their new year, it seems appropriate to bring it up again, and share what my soul searching has brought to me. Unschoolers have long proudly held to the fact that they educate their children in "different" ways. We have searched out what is best for each of our children, and tried to provide it. We have watched in awe and amazement as their daily play brings them through a natural course of education that rivals any public school. We take pride in our children's ability to learn without textbooks. We take pride in the other resources we search out for our children to provide a more organic way of learning.

Of all of those proud traditions of unschoolers, and indeed of homeschoolers in general, I believe the one that is most important is that we search out what is best for our children and try to provide it for them. If one child learns best by listening, then we find audio books and read out loud to them. If another child loves robots, then everything around them becomes robots. If another child takes quickly to the computer, then we find ways for them to use the computer, and internet, safely. If one child learns best in solitude behind the closed door of their bedroom, then we bite our nails and worry quietly and let them show us what they have learned when they are ready to. If another child loves to have direct teaching and do workbook pages, then we go buy workbooks, or make pages for them to do.

And if all of this is true, then why is it that an unschooling mom has to be harshly judged when she recognizes that one of her children may do really well within a structured classroom setting? Isn't this simply trying to provide what is best for that child? Isn't this still homeschooling, and even unschooling, as how the child learns best is taken into consideration and provided? And simply because a child is in a classroom doesn't mean that all learning outside of the classroom stops. A more organic approach can still permeate life outside that classroom. I believe that this would all fit into the title of unschooling or homeschooling if one chooses to have that label.. it is just a "different" form then most unschooling takes.

I have been thinking about this common theme of doing what is best for each person in the family a lot lately. Whether it is about what S.T.U.F.F. to decide to keep when decluttering, or what media to use to educate your child, it is always about doing what is best for each person.. including yourself. When we start to realize this, and allow ourselves the freedom to make these choices, we can really make a difference in our lives and in the lives of everyone around us. It is in this way that you can support the individuality, the uniqueness, of each of us. It is in this way that self confidence can be built and strengthened, and the development of self worth is supported. Personally, I believe that this is much more important than doing what other people expect or living by the guidelines that surround us all.

1 comment:

Wendy Priesnitz said...

Thanks for this! Well said. Rules and labels are some of the things that life learners are trying to avoid.