Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Unschooling?

Someone recently asked, "Why Unschooling?"

I have been asking myself lately how I came upon unschooling. I can't remember. Dh has always been pro-homeschooling but knew it was me who'd have to do most of the work so he left it up to me. My mom has taught pre-K for 20+ yrs and I taught preschool for a couple years too...and worked as an aide in the preschool for 5yrs. I was thoroughly entrenched. ;) I hated school when I was a student. No, hate isn't strong enough of a word...detested? There were many reasons, some good and some not so good. I wasn't sold on homeschooling though. So I said what the other people say when they really don't understand homeschooling, "I would worry that he'd miss the socialization". Somehow (and I really don't remember how or why), I started looking into homeschooling. I knew the thought of standing over my kids at the kitchen table, baby in one arm, a pointing finger in the other, threatening them to finish that worksheet...'or else!' was completely unappealing to me. I suppose I'm a realist. Image I knew that picture everyone has of overly cooperative, smiling, well dressed and mannered kids doing their work quietly and asking interesting questions of me was not going to happen. ;) Somewhere I stumbled across unschooling. I read a few books, read many websites, tried to grasp the idea. I thought about my own learning through life...when did I learn the fastest and easiest? Sign language class.
I took a signing class through the college over the summer when I was 15yrs old. Technically too young to attend, I snuck in. ;) I loved every single moment of it and it came in really handy that next fall...the first deaf person to attend our high school and I was the only student out of 2000 who could sign. We became best friends. ;)

I got stuck on some thoughts about unschooling where I didn't totally agree...maybe discipline...or food/tv issues. But I finally stepped back and said, "Hey, I like this big concept...we can tweak it to fit our family needs". So I'm somewhere inbetween hard-core unschoolers and school-at-homers. This is how my kids have learned from birth - why change it now? Who says they have to have formal education? I'm no dumb bunny and I don't need to be a genius today to teach my kids how to add and subtract. If they ever want to learn, say, physics...I'll find a resource for them (maybe a co-op or pre-college course) or perhaps have DH help them with it. But for now, what's stopping me? Dh is stoked on the idea of unschooling and has been onboard since I first mentioned it to him. He immediately started thinking about how different his life might have been if he'd been allowed to learn this way. Instead, we both learned how to play the school game and get A's. And while Dh retained all of it and then some, *I* just learned how to get by without really learning or remembering any of it. Study the chapter for the test, take the test, forget about the chapter. Repeat for 12 years and go to college and repeat some more.

Well, that's the semi-short answer anyway. ;) So I read about unschooling a lot. The Unschooling Handbook. Holt has great books that talk about learning styles. And John Taylor Gatto (NY teacher for 40?yrs and teacher of the year) talks about how bad the education system is and why schools were created in the first place (quite eye-opening for me). The book Christian Unschooling was a great read! I have found many Christian homeschoolers and many unschoolers but finding Christian Unschoolers seems a hard thing to do.

And when it comes down to it...did you teach your kid to crawl? Did you teach her to talk? Did you send her to school to learn how to put a fork into her mouth or walk up the stairs? Learning is so much like this...baby steps. You wait forever to hear that first "mama"...then a few other words show up one by one. And one day, you realize they're talking in sentences. How did that happen? You modeled it. They learned that speaking in sentences and more clearly helped them get what they wanted/needed. And they learned to speak. No matter how many hours you spent saying, "Say 'mama'", they did it when they were good and ready, right?

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