If you are an unschooler, you will be nodding your head (or rolling your eyes) here. We have all had this question, and somewhere along the deschooling journey, we have all thought or worried about this too. Will this be enough? In fact, as I read through forums and other blogs and interact with other home educators, it is the one area that I notice people have a reluctance to part with formal learning. ‘We unschool except for maths.’ ‘We do our own thing with a bit of maths each day.’
And to be honest, while I don’t agree with these concerns, I understand where they come from. Adults who have been through a traditional education system are conditioned to view maths education in a linear way that culminates in very abstract concepts you are unlikely to encounter naturally. It has left many of us feeling like this fountain of mathematical knowledge will only be bestowed upon the holder of textbooks and memoriser of principles.
The further down this road my family travels and the more studies I devour, the more confused I get. It is so perplexing to me that people still see unschooling and respectful parenting as a bizarre fringe movement. Unattainable for some? Sure. Physically impossible for others? Ok. Without merit? Now I disagree. How did we get to the point where treating children with respect and empowering them to make choices about themselves defines me as a change-maker? When did nurturing a love of learning become an illegitimate pedagogy?
I’ve sat on this for a while. Rewritten it. Thought about what it is that I really want to share. I guess it boils down to this growing unease inside me. Simmering frustration. I want you to see that this is not just some mommy-blogger with her wack ideas about child led learning and mutual respect. There is so much out there, and it would be impossible to include everything, but this post is heavily hyperlinked to examples of the books, articles and studies I have found useful.
We live in a world with access to extraordinary minds, an incredible amount of research and an ever growing understanding about the human psyche. Over time we have begun to piece together the optimum way that humans learn and the ideal conditions for emotional development.
Being in touch and able to lean in to emotion is a hallmark trait of emotional wellbeing, resilience and healthy relationships. Basically, all the good things we want for our kids. Yet, so many children are not allowed to feel negative emotions. ‘Don’t cry’, ‘don’t be sad’, ‘why are you upset over that?’, ‘calm down or we are going home’, ‘don’t get angry at your sister’, ‘if you cry over tv, I’m turning it off!’ When children get the message that they are not allowed to feel something, or when they attach shame or distress to those feelings, those emotions get suppressed. These emotions don’t go away, and living in the subconscious, they have the potential to lead to a whole range of emotional disruption.
This post was going to be about something else, but I got carried away with storytelling and we have ended up here. Passions.
Like most parents, we want our children to follow a path that allows them to explore their passions. Radical unschooler or not, I really believe that most parents want their children to find something that makes them truly happy and for them to be able to make that a big part of their life.
I didn’t think I would get to share this story. It is a big one for me. Sometimes these stories remain with our family because our children would prefer to keep them private and we obviously respect that. My son has decided that this time we can share because it might help other families, which is very brave. You will see what I mean.
There is a lot of fear out there. Do people actually believe that ‘screens’ are like heroin for kids? Apparently they do. Apparently a lot of people do.
Well, we have no limits on screen time and I am not worried about screen addiction in my home. I am assuming that the vast majority of you have found your way to this article on my blog because you are interested in respectful parenting. If that sounds like you, good news! There is a great chance you don’t need to worry either. What a relief!
I know it is difficult for a lot of people to conceptualise what unschooling ‘is’. Unschooling can seem like a pretty scary term, and for people who associate education with school, it can generate some inaccurate assumptions. You see a lot of catch phrases like ‘life learning’ and ‘child led’, maybe you see some photos and some articles featuring kids in nature or completing some project and it still doesn’t translate into ‘education’ in your mind. What is unschooling, really?
You might be surprised to know that ‘unschooling’, in essence, is a very well documented and researched method of learning which, when educators attempt to translate it into a classroom setting, is called ‘experiential learning.’