01 May 2008


I've had that comment thrown at me occasionally. Usually said in utter disbelief that 1) I thought I was capable or qualified to do such a thing or 2) What am I crazy? Wanting my kids around 24/7?

BTW, I hate the term "homeschool". If I wanted to do "school at home" I might as well put my girls in school. We don't do "school at home". We don't sit around the table with a pile of books in front of us and spend 45 mins on math and then we must do 45 mins of reading and then we must do 45 of science etc, etc. ad nauseam!!!!! Barf! I apologize to those of you who may do "homeschool" that way. But it is just not for us.

Unfortunately, we did start out that way. I didn't know any better. My girls started in Montessori, which I and they loved. By the time my eldest was a 2nd grader and my youngest was in K, I knew the costs of Montessori were more than we could handle. I could have gone back to work full-time and still not been able to pay the tuition. So "homeschooling" seemed like the next best thing. In Montessori kids are allowed the freedom of movement. They don't have desks like the public school. They have "work" they need to accomplish, but they can do it in whatever order they wish, and spend as much time as needed. Of course they still had the requisite gym, art and music classes, and those were on timetables. But the school was run completely counter to how they run the public schools. So I knew in order to continue fulfilling my girls ideal learning environment, the public schools were not for us.

But I knew nothing of "homeschooling". So of course, the experts (aka, other "homeschooling" moms) told me how it should be done. "You must get the "right" curriculum". "You must spend at least 5 hours a day on school". "You must have a schedule". Blah, blah, blah!!!!

It took me 3 or 4 months into our first year to realize this system was not for us. My girls and I spent the rest of that first year doing unit studies with library books. But next September, I was at it again. "Must have been the wrong curriculum" I thought, "this year will be better." Not! By Christmas we were once again ready to throw the curriculum out the window!

Around this time I started exploring unschooling. Such a controversial word, such a revolutionary way of learning! I spent most of the summer after our 2nd year of "homeschooling" reading everything I could get my hands on by John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. Wow! How come I had never heard of these guys before? How come this stuff isn't in the hands of every parent with children trapped in the system? It all made sense. It explained my feelings as a child trapped in the system. I actually did really well in school until around 8th grade. Then I got bored. And tired of being told what to do. And tired of doing the same things over and over even though I had already acquired the knowledge. As time went on in high school, I grew more and more resentful of being trapped in that building all day and treated so poorly. They talked about preparing us for adulthood, while treating us like small children. Being told what to do and when to do it. Even getting drinks of water and going to the bathroom were regulated by the "teachers". It was about crowd control. Nothing I did in high school prepared me for adulthood. If anything it prevented me from becoming a better adult.

So after reading books that validated what I already felt about the school system, I felt more than prepared to chart a new way for me and my girls. The last few years we have been learning through living. Another label I don't really care for, but the best way to explain it. We just live our lives and learn. Everyday is a new chance to grow and learn something new. Even adults learn something new everyday. I think I have learned more in the last 20 years out of school than I ever learned in school. And it was all self motivated, I wanted to learn. I sought out the information, found books, people (or the internet) with the knowledge, and learned it.

My girls have become experts on how to teach themselves. They know how to research, they know where to go to find what they need, or they know who to ask to help them reach their goals (usually me at this time : ) My youngest has begun drawing and building little homes for her small stuffed animals (Pokemon actually!) Her entire room has a become somewhat of an interior design studio. I didn't tell her to do it or teach her how. She enjoys it, so she does it. She has learned how to use space effectively, she has learned to sew blankets and clothes for her animals. She has learned how to combine colors for the best look. She is enamoured with all things Japanese. She has gone online and taught herself Japanese words. She asked for an Ocarina for her b-day, and has begun to teach herself to play it. She wanted to learn about poetry so we went to the library and got poetry books. I didn't "teach" her how to write poetry, she just read some classic poems. Then she wrote some, and they are wonderful considering she is only 11 and was never "taught" how to write poetry. My eldest is also into all things Japanese. She started going to an Anime club at our library. They view Anime and get to vote on whether or not the library should buy the video. The democratic process in action. She reads Manga. She know the difference between Manga for girls and Manga for boys. She also knows some Japanese. She runs online stores at Neopets and Subeta. She earns money (cyber money) and sells and buys items (real world math anyone?) She is a gamer, which uses many critical thinking skills. She can out game any girl she knows : ) She goes to a game night at the library and is usually the only girl there. I think she is comfortable in any situation, because she is comfortable with herself. She hasn't had to put up with the "mean girls" or feel like she can't be who she is or she won't fit in. I wonder why there aren't any other girls at the game nights? Could it be they are afraid of what others may think? My eldest is also a voracious reader. She reads about a book a day. I have never had to tell her to to read. She just loves it. So much can be learned by reading a wide variety of books.

I am not worried about my girls, although others think I should be. I am an anomaly in the world I am in. We go to a Christian co-op. I am the only unschooler there. Most people, at least other Christians believe unschooling to be wrong. It gives the children too much freedom. Children shouldn't have freedom, right? They need to be controlled and told what to do so that when they grow up they can find jobs and be good little worker bees and do what their superiors tell them too. Or if they are girls, they need to learn to submit and do what their husbands tell them to. GAG!!!!!! (Sorry again, if I offend, these are just my own humble opinions, what works for you just may not work for me).

I want to raise THINKERS. I want to raise girls who can solve problems, and think about solutions. I want to raise girls who are HAPPY. I have wandered aimlessly the last 20 years since graduating high school. I was never given direction or allowed the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do. I had a lot of different dreams as a child. Most were shot down by the powers that be as unattainable, irresponsible, unrealistic. So I became complacent and didn't know what I wanted to "be". So I really became nothing. Sure I am a wife and mom now, and I wouldn't trade that for anything at the moment. But my girls will move on, hopefully into happy meaningful lives. I am hoping in the process of unschooling with them, I have begun to unschool myself. May we all together grow and become what we were meant to be, in the freedom of teaching of ourselves.

Meanwhile, education--compulsory schooling, compulsory learning--is a tyranny and a crime against the human mind and spirit. Let all those escape it who can, any way they can.~John Holt Instead of Education


Stephanie said...


Awesome, I like you even more now!!!

I hope you know what I mean :)

Deanna said...

Wonderful post! It just makes me rather sad when I read stories like yours, though (and they seem to be way too common). I think I need to thank my parents, and perhaps a teacher or two. Rather than having my ideas, plans and aspirations shot down by them, I always heard the message that I could do whatever I really wanted to do. My David, however, didn't fare quite so well. I've spent years trying to instill in him the message I received as a child. How fortunate that your girls are learning that from you. Their spouses won't have all that damage control to handle later on.

jewlsntexas said...

Yay! I love it Donna -
I will come back here and read more later!
Your kitties are gorgeous!

Jenny said...

I enjoyed reading this ... I'll check back later!

WellManneredFrivolity said...

Wow! Our experiences are so similar I could have written this post myself.

Isn't unschooling great?


granola*girl* said...

I love your blog, Donna!