Saturday, July 22, 2006

Unschooling Carnival

Joann over at A Day In Our Lives has started the Unschooling Carnival again! Yippee! I had to jump right in with the first question. And, as is typical, I'm a bit long winded. ;) Her question this month is...

How did you and your family come to unschooling?

The honest truth is that I was asking myself this question recently and couldn't come up with a detailed answer. How could *we* have come so far from our origins? Let me back up a little.

My mother taught pre-K for 20+ years at our church. She still works there today but has moved to office work where she (get this...) writes the curriculum, among other duties. [Yes, I'm pausing for the unschoolers to laugh at with me.] Actually, she's been much more understanding of our unschooling than I originally expected. After all, the proof is in the puddin'. ;) I have an uncle who is a retired professional teacher, another uncle who is a superintendent, a brother who went overseas and taught English as a second language and a sister-in-law who teaches college English, not to mention the cousins and other family members who are also in the teaching arena. For an even greater laugh, I'll even admit that I taught preschool myself for a few years. I worked in the day school throughout high school and college. I even played with the idea of becoming a teacher for a while but I just wasn't passionate enough about the subject to pursue it.

So my background is thus: I went to school. I hated it. I couldn't stand the social part of it ('you actually wear WRANGLER jeans?? Ewwww'). I couldn't stand the learning-just-because-I-said-so part of it (as I stated before, when has that frog dissection actually helped me in life, other than provide a somewhat humorous blog entry for which I'm not paid?). And I couldn't stand the pick-a-career-now-and-love-it-for-your-whole-life because it's-too-expensive-and-timely-to-change-your-mind-down-the-road of college. But I went to school because that's what we sheep did. Baaa. I paid my dues at two years of college and came out with a B average, something that was very beneath me but I just wasn't giving it my all because it felt, more than ever, like it was learning-for-learning's-sake.

Enter my husband. He also did school. I don't think he deplored it as much as I did and he actually has very fond memories of college life even though he was a 4.0 student and not a partyer at all. (I had to say that because I've never heard anyone else say they really enjoyed college who was NOT a hard partyer).

So here we are, two fairly intelligent people, both having done the college route and were in decent jobs. We went through several years of infertility before starting our family. When our son was born, life changed drastically, as it does for most people. Our son was a hands-on baby. And I mean that in the most literal way you can mean it. He. never. let. me. put. him. down. Ever. We quickly adapted to the attachment parenting style, simply from the fact that my son would have it no other way.

Sooner or later, we began talking about schooling. Preschool? Yay/nay? My husband had mentioned homeschooling within the first couple months we dated. Pictures of me hulked over the sticky jellied kitchen table, finger pointed out at the kids who were crying because I said, "Just DO the math worksheet N.O.W.!" sprang to mind and I immediately said I wasn't interested. He said he was open to either but knew it would be a major commitment for me and wanted to leave the decision to me since I would be most directly affected by it. Over the years though, that image had relaxed some and I had an idea that maybe, just maybe, I could actually DO homeschooling.

When my son was three, I was online (where else?) looking for worksheets for him. The typical pre-K coloring page with the letter A surrounded by smaller pictures of an apple, airplane, ant and alligator. Of course, he refused to pick up any writing utensil, especially a crayon. He didn't know his letters yet and I was concerned we were behind. True, he had a September birthday and would be one of the oldest in his class so there wasn't any reason to truly panic...yet. As I continued to research curriculums and remember what I used with my three year old classes, somehow, somewhere I [gasp] clicked on an ad.

There, I said it. I unabashedly admit it. I clicked. Once. Once in my life, I clicked on an internet ad. (I really hate to encourage those advertisers and I have since declared myself a non-clicker.) Fortunately for me and my kids, it was probably the best click of our lives. It led me to the book, Christian Unschooling. I found the ideas in that book like a breath of fresh air from the stuffy ideas I had in my head about homeschooling. So I did what any other computer junkie does - I found a message board about unschooling. ;) Then I found The Unschooling Handbook and entire websites dedicated to unschooling. Why had I never heard of this?

As I read more excerpts out loud to my husband, we realized just how different our learning could have been. This was what we wanted for our children. We've never looked back. And my three year old who didn't know his letters? Well, he's five now and has been reading chapter books for at least six months with no help from worksheets or curriculum or books with cheesy titles about 'teach your kid to read in 12 days'. No, he learned on his own. He learned because he wanted to. He wasn't forced to sit through hours of phonics lessons before he realized the big picture about reading. He wanted to learn and he learned...when he was four. the puddin'...that's all I'm saying.

No comments: