Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Unschool: Part One

I thought I'd start off with a couple of posts on why we're choosing to unschool.  I feel I have to point out the word "we".  Plenty of people choose this for their own reasons and I'm surely not the end-all for reasons why.  What's funny is that the first listed reason here is the way this all came about, actually.  Then as I started to live this transition, mentally, many others came to light for me just by observation and seeing how I truly feel about them.  I'm a believer that our experiences and thoughts create our reality, but I love when I see it in action.  Very satisfying.  :-)

  • We wanna hit the road, Jack!
Jon and I are like so many.  We've dreamed of retiring in an RV and traveling the country, taking it slow, visiting family, seeing friends, boondocking on beaches, creeping up mountainsides, the whole gamut.  Then, a few months ago I was introduced-via bloghopping- to Families on the Road.  Wow!  Really!?!?!?  People do this when they're young and with their kids?  Suddenly it seemed a great disservice to work many years and set the kids free to their own independent lives then hit the road in our golden years.  Why wait?  Why chance being old and tired?  Why rip off the kids?  I bet they'd love the adventure too!  So, I realized if this is to come to pass we'd surely be home schooling.  I thought about home schooling this past summer but for vastly different reasons. Since I gained a new inspiration on why to home school I've not been nearly AS afraid of it as I was last summer.

  • I'm smarter than they are, anyway.
What!?!?  You say...  Well, everyone measures intelligence differently.  Just like everyone measures success differently.  I noticed last year, in Kindergarten, that only a few short weeks after Zane started school his grammar became terrible and he was using words that aren't real words.  Now, I'm a grammar nut to an extent.  I mess up plenty, but "ain't" doesn't roll with me, people fix things that are broken and not something they're preparing to do, meat is done people are finished, "she doesn't" rather than "she don't", etc.  Even then I was complaining that if the first couple years in school are focused on reading and writing (language) then shouldn't a large part of that be LANGUAGE?  But, I digress.  I don't believe that a child memorizing that ten blocks equals 1 ten and 4 blocks equal 4 ones, which means that the ten blocks next to the 4 ones equals fourteen has ANYTHING to do with learning math.  Mathematics isn't memorization or even even sequences of numbers.  Math is conceptual thinking, critical analysis, and problem solving.  I don't believe that teaching children that seeds sprout in a cup before you throw it all away is teaching anything about science or nature.  Nature is planting the seed and caring for it until the crop is harvested, THEN utilizing the remainder of the plant to compost to re-feed the soil for the next year's crop.  I don't believe that teaching children to keep their hands to themselves and not touch one another teaches respect.  Respect is understanding that everyone's different and if "so and so" doesn't like to play sword fight then find someone else to play sword fight with.  I don't believe that teaching children to be active in gym class is by sitting on a platform affixed to wheels and pushing themselves around by their feet.  Being active is moving one's whole body, usually fast paced to also incorporate the mind into being active by doing something that a child becomes engulfed in to a point that their imagination takes over and no end of the play is in sight.  I could go on and on, but I'd like to list a couple more here.

  • "They" are mean and forceful
Now, let me point out that in two years of school, we've attended two different ones due to a home purchase.  They were quite different schools and I actually like our current one so much I may continue to volunteer there next year, should we still be here.  That being said, I don't see a way around it.  There are too many children in a building with too many things and to allow them to be guided properly would take an enormous amount of adult interaction which the school systems (notice I don't point out public, because many privates don't differ too much on how overloaded they are) aren't designed or even capable of equipping.  So, that means they HAVE to be mean and forceful.  They have to tell them to be quiet in line in the halls, they have to tell them to stand in a straight line, they have to tell them to not speak too much during lunch.  Otherwise, life there would be nothing short of catastrophic.  I get that, I do.  But, I just think my kids shouldn't have to deal with that crap, because I'm willing to give them something different.  I'm willing to spend the time with them and GUIDE (a word I think is lost from child rearing but shouldn't be) them, to help them find inspiration, help them learn to RESOLVE conflict, not ignore it.  I want to be far more loving to my kids than I have before (no more morning hustle and bustle and Mom nagging for clothes, socks, shoes, brush teeth, eat quickly, etc).   I don't think they've done anything terrible that makes them deserve to be pushed around.  I wouldn't let other kids talk to them the way teachers often do...

  • NO freedom
Now this one isn't so much the doing of the school and their lack of available resources as it is of parents who overprotect their children and are quick to blame and sue.  But, should you spend a decent amount of time in a school (at least in this area) you'll quickly find that there is not one time during the day for the kids to just be free.  Prior to my extensive volunteer time there, I thought recess was free time.  But, alas!  Nope.  When I was younger, I remember maybe one or two teachers out there to stand guard in case any real fighting was happening or in case someone got hurt, so they could escort them to the nurse's office.  There are MANY teachers on the playground these days.  Kids are not allowed to jump off swings or play sets, may not play tag (I WISH I were kidding on this one), may not pretend to sword fight (or light saber fight as Zane found out), surely may not play cops and robbers or anything even resembling and sort of thought about a gun, and are supposed to "keep hands to self".  All of these things are perfectly normal kid-things to do, I think.  But, someone somewhere complained that their child got hurt playing tag, jumping off a swing, or by getting high-fived in their face on accident (probably from walking backwards or sideways or some other silly way kids like to walk).  Someone must have said that was the "fault" of the supervising party and surely not a "natural occurrence" of happy, healthy, active children.  Laugh...  Gym isn't anything resembling free either and while I don't see it as it should be FREE, I do think that it should involve a lot more in-the-moment-activity.  Sure, some kids might run into walls (refer to above statement regarding the ways children walk) when they're RUNNING from someone or something, they may trip when sprinting, or they may even throw a ball terribly and hurt someone on accident.  But, it's absolutely clear to anyone who spends time with kids when something is intentional and when it's not.  Don't each of those accidents teach us to run in the direction our eyes are looking, sharpen neurological pathways between our feet and brains, and increase our hand-eye coordination?  Isn't this all just normal development and if we're not allowing kids to experience these things aren't we holding them back, providing them a handicap from realizing their full potential and/or ability?  


  1. First off, I've really enjoyed your blog. Keep em' coming! Here is my question and general comments to you my friend:
    I have learned that I am a "Time and Place Freedom Enthusiast" (as I like to call it, haha). If Victoria is in an environment where I feel it is safe and appropriate for her to run around, lay on the floor, act like a general nut, I am totally for it. However, if we're in a hotel, school (during school hours), church, etc. I feel like it is not the time nor the place to have freedom. I mean isn't that our job as a parent? To, because we are wiser and more experienced, limit the freedom that children have to keep them safe from harm and teach them how to be respectful.

    What would have happened at the school dance if Zane would have been exercising his freedom, jumped over another kiddo, came crashing to the floor and broke his arm? I mean, a broken arm in the grand scheme of life is not a complete devastation but think of the hospital bills, doctor visits and MOST importantly physical pain of your child. Wouldn't you look back on that situation and say, "If I just would have told Zane to be free and have fun with limits I could have prevented this". Furthermore, what if the school board had spent money on the foil door-way thingys and planned to reuse them for future dances or functions? Even if it was a stupid idea b/c it was cheap and obviously in an area where children were passing through, is it any child's right to, purposefully or not, destroy those because in telling them not to we would be impinging upon their freedom? Isn't that another parental biggie?...to teach children to respect and take care of not only their own possessions; but also, the possessions of others?

    I am by no means judging your way of thinking, but the situations above are exactly what run through my head every time Victoria wants unlimited freedom and exactly why I am the parent you probably hate (hahaha) that is shouting "NO RUNNING".

    I hope you are well my love and I can't wait to hear about more of your un-schooling journey!

  2. So sorry! I didn't have notifications set up yet for comments, so I didn't see this until right now! :-/

    I like your "Time and Place Freedom Enthusiast" title! I'd say I'm the same way, but with probably different priorities than you or someone else may have, for example... I think the whole concept of "showing your best" in church is B.S. and I'm actually offended by it. So, there... no, if we went to church, I'd be all for Zane picking his nose if he felt like it. But, I'd also be all for "sit down during service" cause that's showing respect for the person at the pulpit. Respect is a nonstop here, because kids, as you well know, are naturally as selfish and disrespectful as can be imagined. ;-) I guess to sum it up, I totally agree with you that there are places for certain things and places for other things. But, I'm also in the belief that there are certain places not for kids, no matter how much we want them to behave appropriately and understand etiquette in an adult environment it's not in their nature and I think it's unfair to force something upon them that they simply CANNOT grasp.

    I'm not a "don't get hurt" Mom and never have been. I've a friend who's toddler just climbed HALFWAY up a chair only to fall and break her leg. I had already broken a bone, had stitches in my head, and received a third-degree burn on my leg by the time I was Zane's age. Jon's never experienced a broken bone, a severe cut or burn, or pretty well any sort of serious injury. Every person will experience things differently and every body is made differently, ya know? There is no way to keep our kids completely un-injured and in that way I'm such a "realist" that I guess it can come off to some as being cold. Each time Zane has gotten pretty hurt or Stori has fallen (500 times per day at this age) I'm there for a hug and a kiss and to hold them as long as it takes to feel better, but I think THAT'S my job as "Mom" to nurture them, not to stifle their charisma. Taking into consideration my kick-ass upbringing without Mom for most of it, I can only go instinctually here and what feels right to me is to say, "Hey, be careful...watch that step...are you sure?" and if things happen then they know damn well they have a safe place to lay their heads. I think staying out of the "control" mode when it comes to their activity levels (of course in appropriate places) allows me to not get mad at them for getting hurt, but rather understand that "damn, that hurts!"

    As for the foil thing, it was clearly not the type of thing that is intended for re-use. That's all I can say, LOL! And, I think that's where I'm coming from with the whole thing... We are the adults and we choose what we put around our kiddos. If we're going to buy a foil hangy-thingy (I love that we still have no idea what it's really called...) and put it in a doorway in an elementary school dance then we must have the intention of it being played in. These are 5-10 year olds, we're talking about. It is the responsibility of the adults to provide experiences for our kids and if we don't do that mindfully we'll find ourselves pissed off about something that really has no significant impact on anyone's lives but our own need to control.

    You've kind of inspired a new post. ;-)