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!