What Type of Home Schoolers Are We, Anyway? Part 3

There is another reason, other than the older ones maturing, for me looking for an alternative method of learning for my guys.  My first four children have been incredibly lovely, easy-going, easy to train and well-behaved children.  I have never really needed to question too much what I was doing.  If they were unhappy they let me know and we would change it, often finding a compromise between what they wanted and what I felt they needed.  Gary and I considered ourselves strict but generally fair parents, a fact the children would agree with even now.  As they got older we have lessened our control substantially, encouraging them to make their own decisions and helping them deal healthily with any consequences.

Then B2 arrived.  She is the polar opposite of all my other children.  Noisy, stubborn and very sure she does not want to compromise her views in any which way, she has been a whirl wind of learning for me and Gary.  But what a joy!  I am so grateful God sent me my tornado.  She has made me rethink all my parenting ideals and I (hopefully) will become a better person for it.

I had never really had to pitch my will against another child.  Sensible discussion usually wielded results acceptable to all and if not I could occasionally pull the ‘I’m your mother’ card!  The problem occurs when that particular card is overused and life becomes a constant battle.  B was only two, but quite often I found myself lacking the energy required to go to war with her.  I could foresee many long years fighting senseless battles with a little girl it was my responsibility to nurture.  Cancer had already taught me that life was too short to be tainted by such pointless conflict.  But how to love her and help her become the best she is capable of being?

For years I had ruminated over the whole unschooling thing, and now it seemed to have a greater appeal.  Recently I have spent time each night researching its possibilities.  To some extent we do unschool.  At least, we school without curriculum (in the main) and it tends to be very child led, becoming more so as each year passes.  Unschooling, though, in its strictest terms takes it one giant step forward.  Unschooling is placing the education of one’s children in their own hands and trusting them with it completely.

In my research I have seen truly horrendous examples of the unschooling movement, and some truly wonderful ones.  Much like anything one looks into in any great depth, one will surely find those who do it well and those who do it poorly.  I can’t deny, however, that there is something appealing about unschooling as an educational philosophy (rather than a life style philosophy), and it is this I have been pondering since Christmas.  Funnily enough I offered the children an educational carte blanche over the next year or so and they were slightly horrified by the idea.  They have since then, as we have grappled with the concept together as a family, come to see its potential.

As part of my research I watched many you tube videos about unschooling, but I didn’t stop there.  I also read all of the comments people had left.  And there were many.  Some supportive, some defensive, some offensive and many questioning.  When I consider anything, I always enjoy looking at the anti-side of the issue and the comments allowed me to do just that; in many ways giving me very balanced fodder to chew over.  I came away slightly disturbed.  The fact is many people suggested this method was tantamount to neglect, some suggesting abuse.  These are strong words.  But more importantly, these represented the reality of some of the people my children might have to face if we did go down this route. I started wondering how much other people’s opinions actually should matter.  Do we give too much credence to what a friend or in deed a stranger thinks about how we live our lives?  Or do their opinions help us to develop a strength in our own thought processes, ensuring that the path taken, although not well-worn, is at least well thought out?

Again, do feel free to chip in with any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

23 comments

  1. We have a child who is very different from the rest of my children and we are looking into alternative ways to school her because we know what worked for her brothers is not going to work for her.

  2. I think the problem with using the label “unschooling” is that many people automatically assumes that it means the parents take no responsibility whatsoever for their children’s education. Indeed, as your research has shown, there are some unfortunate people who have mistakenly assumed that is what unschooling means and therefore are doing just that. In my own experience, these people tend to be the ultra-liberal types who allow their children to do whatever they like since toddlerhood.

    I don’t tend to use any labels to describe what we do, because the specifics evolve all the time. Most people tend to generalise too much once they hear a label, and generalisations seldom help anybody to understand what really goes on in a situation that is as unique as carving out individualised educational paths for each child.

    The fact is, no matter what label you choose, there’ll always be someone who will take an exception to it. I personally won’t worry too much about which label your homeschooling style fits under. It’s the content that matters, not the label.

  3. Just read all three posts on this subject. The whole family-all seven of you-are doing a GREAT job of growing and learning together. I saw that first hand last month and as long as you keep trusting God and following His leading, which I know you’ll do, He will complete the good work that He’s begun in you. I am also confident that while you will listen to others opinions, negative or otherwise, you will choose to follow your heart. We’re praying with you.xxxxxxxx

  4. I am catching up on reading the last two posts. I think unschooling (like anything) can be used wonderfully in some families and poorly in others. It really comes down to knowing your children and yourself. I often am attracted to unschooling, but doubt it would work in our family. With two of our children’s special needs, motivation and perseverance are not some of my kids strongest strengths. They struggle with motivation even with things they really enjoy. That is not to say, that we do no dabble in different forms of homeschooling through the years. I love your thought process. I look forward to seeing how your homeschool unfolds.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. You’re right, it comes down to your own children and knowing them well. And I think finding a general method that suits you all as a family. Sometimes the decisions can feel overwhelming!

  5. When I first homeschooled, I tried to replicate the way I learned in school. But, I ditched that method quickly. I was not in favor of unschooling, but later I incorporated it into our family because I learned that the younger ones did not need typical classroom methods.

    According to Thomas Jefferson Education, children up to age 7 or 8 need lots free time for play, imagination, discovery, reading for fun, and work (not hard labor, but small chores around the house). I agree with that.

    As they get older they should focus seriously on reading, writing, thinking, and math. And by junior high/high school, they could be self-teaching and directing their studies according to their interests w/ you near by for encouragement and correction.

    My almost 18-yr old told me at 15 that he was “done” w/ high school and wanted to attend junior college. He took the entrance exam, and did very well. Hence, since 15 he’s been taking college courses, and now he is full-time. That was all his decision.

    The great thing about homeschooling is that parents can tailor education to their child’s interest and learning style.

    Best of luck whatever you decide.

    1. I don’t do nearly so many academics with my younger two as I did with my older three and it does worry me sometimes, so thank you – what you have said sounds quite reassuring. At the end of the day we all want what is best for our children, whatever that might be. Thanks so much for your input!

  6. I find the concept of unschooling intriguing, but I’m not willing to go there yet. Right now my kids left to themselves would spend all of their time playing battles.

    For me at least, a combination of structure and delight-led learning is the way to go.

  7. I’m still a bit new at homeschooling. I started out with the classical model but found it did not work too well for me or the kids…too much structure. My two out of public school were behind in so much of the basics we had to drop Latin and memorizations…This year I tried out the literature approach with history and my crew can’t get enough. So does that make us Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick with a hint of Classical? I really do not know…

    I think being able to pull from different methods is the great advantage of homeschooling but figuring out which one works best for your family can be frustrating.

    I like to read comments too and for the same reasons!

    1. I’m so pleased you have found something which suits your family. We have used the literature/history approach for years, and I don’t think we will be changing that at all, it is just the freedom we will give our children which will change….I think!

      1. I let my kids pick one of the courses for the spring term and felt somewhat nervous about it at first. They are so excited I let them choose another course for next year and they chose a science through literature which is why I was asking you about that Thames and Kosmos kit. Oh Mercy!!! I just realized we are turning into unschoolers!!!

  8. Interesting. We aren’t unschoolers although I suspect that during the holidays we tend to dip into an unschooling way of working. Sometimes, the holidays are very successful and the children learn loads and sometimes, I’m tired and there might be other things going on so I miss opportunities to pick up on their interests or to strew properly.

    For us, at present, with issues around caring for an older family member, I can’t see how unschooling would work and a structure and curriculum means that learning happens even on complex days . For other families, particularly when exams are way over the horizon, it may be very successful.

    Looking forward to reading more about your journey!

    1. I’m sure you have found a lovely balance between academics and delight learning. I’m looking for a balance which meets all of our needs, including mine. Things are naturally changing without any help from me, it’s just figuring when I want to put the breaks on the changes (if at all)

  9. Aw. Yes. The road is smooth and the path seems plain, until…..along comes that little bump that disrupts the cart. But the blessings that bump can bring!!!
    Isn’t it interesting that just when we think we have it all figured out along comes change.

    I find it a wonderful opportunity to homeschool for the very reason you wrote this post. Meeting the needs of each child is such a benefit of homeschooling. When I taught in public school, it seemed we just got used to one curriculum and the district switched to something they thought was better. We would use that for a few years and then they would switch again. It didn’t matter if the children were learning or not, switch. All children. Same curriculum. Same tests. Same results. No wonder our school system is in such a state of confusion. I had second graders that couldn’t read, count, or spell. How is that good in any way, shape, or form?

    I applaud you for having the courage to change. By working so diligently to find what works for each child, and then to modify it as you progress along, is why your children are having such success in their studies. If a boxed curriculum is working for a child, then by all means, use it. If it is not, have the courage to step out of the box and do what works without worrying about what others will call it or think. You are responsible for your children – your gift from God. Follow your heart, Claire, and God will lead you exactly where He wants you to be.

    Praying blessings will come your way –

    Donna

    1. Yes, we are praying and feel peace about the direction we are heading. For me, it is deciding how far in that direction we want to travel. It’s not terribly clear yet.
      Thank you for your prayers

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