Monday, August 2, 2010

Choosing To Unschool My Children

When I first heard my friend Sarah mention she was going to homeschool I thought she was crazy. What would she want to do that for? Her kids would turn into unsocialised freaks! The funny thing was that Sarah had had a successful schooling experience and was not going to send her kids to school, but I had had a traumatic schooling experience but was still going to send my kids! Gradually the more I learned about homeschooling, or unschooling in particular, the more it all started to make sense to me.

I started reading stuff online about homeschooling, but I still thought it was something I couldn't do. I wouldn't be able to cope with my kids at home all day. Then I read a blog post by Currawong describing the start to their day. They eased into the day with no rush to get to school. She wrote about how she'd missed out on those moments for years. That one post made me go "oh!", something just clicked and I started seeing it all a bit differently.

I started thinking what sending my kids to school would mean: six hours a day, five days a week with an adult that I might not trust, who they might not get along with. I thought about rushing out the door every morning and being away from them for that long.

Then I started processing my own schooling journey and realised just how much damage it had done to me. I was worried that if I homeschooled that my children would finish up with gaps in their education. But I realised that I had gone to school and still had massive gaps in my education, so there was that excuse gone. I was also worried about homeschooling on my own.

I never wanted to do schooling at home, I knew that wouldn't suit my children and the way our family works. The idea I had had of home schooling was us sitting around a table with me being their teacher and I knew that I couldn't do that. But the more I learned about unschooling the more it seemed possible and suited to our family.

I love the idea of my kids being able to follow their own interests for as long as they want. If they're interested in numbers then they can follow that for as long as they want, the whole day or the whole week, there's no point at which the maths lesson ends. Or if they want to spend a month learning about monkeys they can. They have freedom and autonomy, two things sorely missing from my education.

I didn't want Iris to think that she couldn't learn something just because it wasn't the right time for her to learn it. I had a discussion with my Dad where he remembered the exact moment at which he stopped bothering with maths. He was learning long division in grade three at school and he couldn't understand and he remembers a wall going down in his brain. Forty years later and he hasn't bothered with a single piece of maths beyond that. After that discussion and thinking "what if he was meant to learn it a week or a month later? He might have discovered that he really enjoyed maths and kept learning it. Maybe he would've ended up being a maths teacher instead of a music teacher?" I knew I wanted them to have the chance to learn things when they're ready.

The older Iris gets, the more I realise unschooling is the right choice for her. She is very sensitive and I just don't think most schools and teachers have the times or resources to deal with a child like her. I've been that sensitive child in that school environment and it is not nice! I struggle enough with Iris, having enough patience on a daily basis, and I'm her mother who loves her. I hate to think of how she would be treated in school because the people there don't have the same feelings for her that I do.

Now that the decision is made I'm really excited about our future! Because we're not restricted by school hours or school terms, we're free to travel or spend the day wandering around a museum or digging holes in the dirt in the backyard. Whatever takes their fancy! The possibilities are endless!


Anonymous said...

I loved your blog. I can totally relate to everything you said. Thank you

Tangela said...

Greetings Sarah! I just begun unschooling (in Feburary of this year) my 10 year old daughter (soon to be 11) and I'm beginning to have doubts about unschooling and whether it is working for her or not. I don't think it is. But, I am sure it's me not trusting her or the process,since I went to school also I can't seem to move past "school-speak". She has gone to school for about five years and I think we are both are in need of much deschooling. I'm blogging about my journey, stop by and see us at

Melissa said...

I've popped over from the Owelets, who I only discovered tonight. I'm interested in learning more about homeschooling and unschooling. I have a HF Autistic child, and he's incredibly sensitive. The roughness of boys his age, the snapping of teachers, the over stimulation around him, the inabiltiy for them to work with his needs (he reads 3-4 years ahead of his age but he doesn't even have regular access to the school library to get books out, rather than better school readers, it is so restrictive).

I'd love to learn more. Are there any 'official' (though that does seem to go against the concept) sites where I could learn more? I'm also going to follow some of your blogs.

I worry that as he's finishing up year 3, it's getting harder and harder for him socially (he is bullied and literal and upset easily bt people who are mean. He has interests he cannot pursue when he wants to and it frustrates me and breaks my heart for him) and if I'm going to consider this (hard for me with my disabilities) now is the time to learn about it.

Sarah Patricia said...

Hi Tangela, I'm only discovering your comment today, apologies! I know that for schooled kids, deschooling can be a long process (I heard it takes double the time that the child is in school to de-school...but can't remember where I picked that up from). I guess what I come back to is: what do I want for her/what does she really, truly need? When I'm clear on those two things I'm clear on her education path.

Hi Melissa,
There are some great books out there about unschooling/natural learning, some authors you might be interested in are Sandra Dodd, John Taylor Gatto and John Holt. There are also loads of blogs and websites (check out the "Resources" page linked at the top of this blog for some links :)

Also, we have a facebook page where we have about 90 fans who can also answer questions you have and let you know of other great resources.