Unschooling myself.

On the path from public schooling to homeschooling to, finally, unschooling, I realized that what started out as a chance to educate my kids became a chance to reeducate myself.

It started when I read the “Principles of Unschooling” by Pam Sorooshian, who completely rocked my world. And what was my world at that time? It included ideas like my kids needed me to be in control over their lives so that I could make them responsible, orderly, respectful, productive adults. There was a great deal of fear, too. Fear about them not becoming any of those things. Fear about their failure, in all aspects of life…and my own for that matter. Fear about none of us being good enough. Fear for the future, and fear of the unknown. I don’t think I’m alone in this, because prescriptions for medications treating depression/anxiety has gone through the roof.

Do you remember the etiquette tips for women in the 1960′s? You know, the ones where wives were expected to tailor their day and especially their evenings around making their man the king of the castle by doing things like keeping everything quiet (especially the kids!), cleaning up the clutter and making everything look presentable (especially yourself!), making him comfy, speaking when spoken too, and by all means stopping all the complaining! Not that there would be anything to complain about all that, of course. ( I sooo should have been born a 1960′s housewife! I’d be SO GOOD at it!)

Things have changed for wives and mothers since then, but I don’t see that the pressure has lessened up at all. If anything, it’s increased. Because back in the 60′s, it was acceptable to set your kids outside when they got home from school and let them run around like hooligans until suppertime without any direct supervision at all.

That’s not an option anymore. Now, we not only fry the bacon in the pan (some after bringing it home, too) but are expected to make our kids into uber geniuses by joining them up with every activity and sport and hobby possible. And if they do not become uber geniuses, and if they remain completely unremarkable compared to little suzy and jonny down the street, then who’s to blame? YOU are, if you’re the mom. Because obviously you’ve been slacking on your wonder woman duties.

Fear and performance anxiety are a package deal with kids nowdays. At least, it was with me. In no small part around education.

That fear intensified when I started homeschooling, because all of a sudden all the stress and responsibility was on my shoulders and there was no teacher to blame except for me. Thank goodness I found unschooling before I shriveled up into a little ball of stress.

Pam’s article on the principles of unschooling point out things like, ‘learning happens all the time’, ‘learning is fun!’, ‘learning is meaningful, often incidental’, ‘learning doesn’t need testing’, ‘learning has a basis in emotion and trust’.

It was hard to start trusting my kids ability to learn. Mostly because my fear of the future stopped it cold. It was hard to let go of all the stress and worry…again, fear blocked the path. The path of unschooling isn’t a sprint, though. It’s not a race to see who can finish a test first, or pass a grade, or write a long essay on what you’ve learned. It’s more like a marathon–endurance, commitment, easy pacing…not so much about how many steps you’re taking but a quiet understanding that if you keep the faith and keep putting one step in front of the other, you’ll reach the finish. In this case, ‘finish’ is a longer term goal than public education which defines finish as the end of a school term, year, or series of years. In unschooling speak, finishing is when you draw your last breath.

As I began to understand that, I loosened up with my attitudes on control and performance. I stopped making decisions based on fear of the unknown or of some future that may or may not happen. And then yadda yadda yadda, our lives were turned upside down with this move, and here I am! In an RV, without much of a plan for the next chunk of time.

But you know what? We’re all still learning, we’re all still living, we’re all still exploring and loving and wondering. And that’s been my education while unschooling myself. And a thousand other facts that make me stop and think, “I never heard THAT in school! It’s so interesting!”. But the most important thing is the idea that the most important time we have is right now, in the moment. So when I had a chance to go with my friend to get her a tattoo, I got myself one, too. It reminds me to live it, do it, start it, finish it, hope for it, believe in it, fix it, break it, embrace it, stay with it, move on from it, love it…all…now.

Live it, do it, start it, finish it, hope for it, believe in it, fix it, break it, embrace it, stay with it, move on from it, love it...

There’s no room for fear when you’re so busy living life in the moment!

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19 Responses

  1. Tiff, Great post as always . I wonder if you are evolving into some other great person … you know .. from just being an unschooling mom :-)

    I am also realearning every thing in the process of learning with my kids. Did I learn all this in my school ? Did I look in these angles ? And how the hell did I score good marks without understanding anything . I wonder everyday !!!

    • I wonder that about myself, too!

      I feel like unschooling has been my path to the path of enlightenment. I’m still stumbling along, but I like where I’m going!

  2. Our family is on the fringes of unschooling. I love unschooling as a life style. My husband is on the fence. I feel like the more we educate ourselves on how unschooling works and the principles that are taught, we as a family move ever so slowly more in this direction.
    Thank you for your post. Your encouragement, and putting into words the fears that I experience, had not yet named.
    Now I will go to the library to look for the Principles of Homeschooling.

  3. Yeah, Pam hasn’t written a book yet, but the folks on the CA-HSC yahoo group have been bugging her to do it. ;^) However, I am delighted to be able to tell you that she will have a chapter in my book, Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and the Internet. (The title doesn’t include it, but there will be classroom stories too. My heart is with unschooling, but my goal is to get everyone, whatever their schooling preferences, to enjoy and play with math.)

    Tiff, you should put a book together yourself. It won’t be hard, with all these fab posts to work from.

  4. (I lost your email, Tiff. Will you email me, at mathanthologyeditor on gmail?)

  5. I love reading about your evolution to unschooling, Tiff.
    I like this point, too ” That fear intensified when I started homeschooling, because all of a sudden all the stress and responsibility was on my shoulders and there was no teacher to blame except for me.” That’s a good reminder for me, oddly, as certain naysayers in my life like to tell me I unschool because I’m lazy and hide behind my children–HA! Another great post!

  6. I could’ve written this post! That fear and anxiety drove me for a long time, too. We’ve had two “go-rounds” with home/unschooling. My style is definitely to unschool, and trust in the learning that’s always going on, but the first time we tried it I was racked with guilt and fear. Now that I’ve loosened up on that, and realized that this IS me and my kids, it’s going great. I don’t worry at all (ha ha ha, yeah right, but you know…not so much).

    Lisa

  7. I realized that what started out as a chance to educate my kids became a chance to reeducate myself.

    who completely rocked my world

    And what was my world at that time?

    Fear about their failure, in all aspects of life…and my own for that matter.

    Things have changed for wives and mothers since then, but I don’t see that the pressure has lessened up at all.

    Now, we not only fry the bacon in the pan (some after bringing it home, too) but are expected to make our kids into uber geniuses by joining them up with every activity and sport and hobby possible.

    Fear and performance anxiety are a package deal with kids nowdays. At least, it was with me.

    That fear intensified when I started homeschooling, because all of a sudden all the stress and responsibility was on my shoulders and there was no teacher to blame except for me. Thank goodness I found unschooling before I shriveled up into a little ball of stress.

    It was hard to start trusting my kids

    my fear of the future stopped it cold

    It was hard

    I loosened up with my attitudes on control and performance. I stopped making decisions based on fear of the unknown or of some future that may or may not happen. And then yadda yadda yadda, our lives were turned upside down with this move, and here I am! In an RV, without much of a plan for the next chunk of time.

    —-

    So, um, the moral of the story is that it was hard, so you gave up and now have no plan. You’ve turned your children’s lives upside down, but it’s okay, because now you have less stress and aren’t as afraid? Did you do the unschooling for your childrens future’s are because you wanted to make your life easier?

  8. [...] instance, Chris, aka The Book Guy wondered, after I blogged about Unschooling Myself: So, um, the moral of the story is that it was hard, so you gave up and now have no plan. You’ve [...]

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