Unschooling. Its what all the cool kids are doing. For the in touch, well read peaceful/attachment/evolutionary parent moving on from breastfeeding and co-sleeping, unschooling – or Autonomous Learning in the UK – is this year’s must have parenting accessory. If you are a progressive parent, this is the tribe you want to join.
Sadly, I do not think I will make the cut. I am not progressive enough. I am not radical enough, or am too controlling, or too focused on what I want for my kids rather than on what they want for themselves. To unschool I need to let go of all of my own expectations and allow my children to develop how and when they want to. I need to trust in their ability to learn for themselves, free from the pressures and and demands of parents and social expectations – many of them false – on how to achieve “The Good Life.”
I…I just can’t. I want to – it sounds so wonderful and free – and I love wonderful and free – but as much as I try, I cannot escape a small kernel of the Catholic schoolgirl/history teacher/lawyer from a big stinkin’ firm that once I was.
I want my kids to have intellectual and enriching liberal arts education. I want them to study arts and languages and sciences and math. I want them to have intellectual discipline. Can you have intellectual discipline when left to your own devices? Perhaps some can. I just don’t think I can and since I am a much better student than anyone else in my family, I don’t think it will work for us.
This is not to say that I want to recreate school at our kitchen table. I gave that up a while ago. I do not want to stand over my children while they recite Bible versus and John Donne. It would be great if they did but I would rather some of that did come autonomously.
What do I want? Perhaps that is the real question here. Whenever an adult asks what it is that she wants, she invariable puts herself – and not her child – at the heart of this journey. I get that and I accept it. And I am willing to let my expectations go. Just not yet.
For what it is worth, this is what I want: for each of my children to look back on their life and to know that they lived an amazing life. That it was full of adventure, and new ideas, happiness, contentment and determination in the face of obstacles. I want them to be resilient and self-sufficient and in control of their destiny. I want them to love and to know that they were loved unconditionally in return.
For a little while this will require some guidance. They need exposure to new ideas and help to discipline their studies. Learning can and should be fun but without some guidance and support it can become overwhelming. We live in an age of information and children need to learn to master the knowledge at their fingertips rather than being mastered by it.
So this is my declaration: we do radical homeschooling. We do not do school at home but nor are we unschoolers. I will adopt some of unschooling’s principles but not all of them. My children will have choice and freedom – as much as they and I can handle. I will be like a sherpa leading a party up a mountain. Yes there are many paths, but some are more direct and safer than others. They will know my views and I will guide their steps.
That said, I know I cannot walk the path for them. There are some things they will have to do for themselves.
Call me a radical homeschooler – we have no set curriculum and are free to meander as we like.`For me, that is as radical as I get.
At least for now.
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