Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too lazy to unschool?

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

If you research unschooling at all, you will come across defenses that unschooling is not lazy parenting. Quite the contrary, unschoolers will say, sending your kid to school for six hours a day is lazy! Mainstream schoolers will counter, No, it's not! I invest in my kids' education as much as you do, and I put in time above and beyond the school hours! Then more structured homeschoolers will chime in, Well, we put in more work than all of you!

And I back away sloooowly…

Because…I am lazy.

There, I said it.

I hope you realize I'm being semi-facetious in my recounting of the various schooling arguments as regards parental effort — not every parent engages in such debate — but rest assured that it is out there.

In terms of learning, the philosophy that resonates with me on principle is unschooling, and it speaks to Sam, too. But we're just not sure we can pull it off.

The idea of unschooling, as we understand it and would (do, mostly) practice it, is child-led learning, where the children follow their interests and passions and parents come alongside to (all as needed) facilitate, guide, and encourage. I love this idea. It's how babies learn, for instance, modeling their parents' behavior and following innate cues. It's how I learn as an adult, pursuing activities and knowledge that please me, enrich my life, or pique my curiosity, not because of a grade or external praise. There's really no reason to think such a learning style skips over the preschool through college years and can't be equally applied to students of those ages.

Sam and I were very good in school — in retrospect, we realize we were too good. We were always the teacher's pet, striving only for that feedback of pleasing authority and earning the top grades. It took until the last year of college for each of us, with "real life" looming on the horizon, for it to break through that we could learn because we wanted to, not because someone was "making" us. I audited a Judaism class that year, and took beginning violin pass/fail, just to make a first break away from those ingrained habits of learning what was useful in terms of advancing to the next grade. Since I wasn't sure I would continue on to grad school (and I haven't), there was no next grade. There was only life, and I had missed out on 19 years of it by being obsessed with teacher pleasing and stellar GPAs.

So when I first heard about unschooling, as a parent-to-be, it was both eye-opening and familiar. It was the new way I was learning, as an adult, and I loved the idea of my children growing up with that sort of learning as the norm — without their having to unlearn the idea of school.

Sam agreed. But then you get into the whole lazy angle.

Here's a quote from Pam Sorooshian on SandraDodd.com:

"Unschooling is really impossible to confuse with being lazy. It takes a lot of time and energy and thought on the part of the parent.

… The parent needs to bring interesting things and ideas and experiences to the child and this means being always on the lookout for what the child might enjoy. It means becoming super aware of your child—not only getting a good sense of what might interest him or her, but how does h/she express that interest and what is the best way for you to offer new and potentially interesting ideas, experiences, and things."

There are two problems with how such lofty goals apply to us: One is the shape Sam's and my adult lives have taken, and one is our own motivation levels as parents.

Ideally our lives need to be interesting, to begin with, but in a way that's open to our children. For instance, if we ran a farm, that could be a consuming adult set of tasks that would also include many intersecting child tasks (that perhaps could not even be separated into adult vs. child). But the fact is that Sam and I lead pretty dull lives, at least for a child. We work from home, selling DVDs online. It's not exciting, but it pays the bills. For our own edification and amusement, Sam and I both do a lot of (mostly unpaid) writing on the side (such as this blog). Neither experience, with which we fill many hours of our day, has much yet to offer our child. Mikko does do some labeling of DVDs, and we hope he'll grow into helping us more with our home business as he is able and wanting to, but it's not a business immediately accessible to a three-year-old, and writing is mostly solitary (in real life — in virtual life, of course, I know all of you!).

To balance the adult-centered portions of our lives with keeping our three-year-old amused, we employ a few techniques. The primary one is having Sam and me switch off who cares for Mikko on any given day, which usually means the caregiver and Mikko go off somewhere else for the day, such as the aquarium or playground, or even just running errands. Another tactic is bringing Mikko along with us to some of our "adult" activities, such as meeting with friends. It's hard to say how entertaining he finds this. The third technique is, quite simply, not working very hard. This goes back to the lazy thing, but at least in this case it's for Mikko's benefit.

But the fact is, when I think about having Mikko, and potentially another little one in the future, with us all day, every day, in perpetuity — I wonder how our boring adult lives fit into the picture. But mostly I wonder how we'd be able to convince ourselves to get up our duff and really engage our children, participate enthusiastically in their discoveries, and come up with creative directions to suggest. That's the second quandary.

Because right now? We do a lot of nothing. I mean, we do the outings to the science center and zoo, and train rides to the airport and bus rides downtown — but we also watch a lot of TV. Our arts and crafts projects, which we do every day on Mikko's urging, mostly involve Sharpies, glue, and stickers, because we're all three of us couch potatoes, and finger paints don't really work on the couch. (Neither do Sharpies and glue, to be honest, but we've adapted.) We can't even convince Mikko to play with toys on the floor, because — well, hey, the floor is really uncomfortable, but this couch is nice and cushy. So all the playing we do is couch-centric. (This is the same kid who [still] won't walk, after all.)

When I read other parents' blogs, and see the creative planned activities, crafts, science projects, and music times they prepare for their toddlers and preschoolers, or when I drop my son off or pick him up from preschool and see the ingenuity that goes into the kids' hours at school, I feel a little sheepish about how comparatively tame and unstructured our routine at home is. We do a little play dough if we feel like it. We try to read some books before bed. We sing Mamma Mia songs in the car. But I don't usually break out a big plastic tub of beans and bury animal figurines for a sensory dig. I don't always let Mikko join me in the kitchen or in doing household chores. When we visit the zoo or aquarium, we just wander around and explore and play; I never think to say anything profound about the exhibits or bring new knowledge to the table or get books out from the library about it afterward. I sometimes buy supplies for a specific craft project, but I never do get around to making anything planned, though we've made countless Mikko-designed "decorations" for Sophie, who's getting married, don't you know. (Or maybe you don't, if you haven't watched Mamma Mia umpteen times as we have. Mikko and Sophie sitting in a tree…)

In short, I feel like I'm already failing as an unschooler. Or, at least, the unschooler I would like to be, the unschooler I feel like Mikko deserves. Schooling, with all its drawbacks (and Sam and I can think of many), at least gives children stuff to do. Preschool, in particular, is hours of just plain fun.

On the other hand, Mikko doesn't always think so. And I was appalled when I was visiting my niece, who was in kindergarten at the time, to see that she had homework. Homework! In kindergarten! It slammed me like a sacrilege.

Right now, Mikko attends a half-day preschool twice a week, which gives him the immersion exposure to German that I wanted for him. Sam and I use those precious few hours twice a week to catch up on all the work we haven't been able to manage with him underfoot. And it's never enough time. The thought of six sweet hours of free (free!) childcare five days a week is enough to make me a little giddy.

But then I think what it would do to Mikko. He's such a homebody, so I know he wouldn't like the separation. He's slow to warm up socially, so I think a large class would overwhelm him. If he's anything like Sam and me, he'll be too good a student and fall into the same traps we did of equating learning with schooling, which is not the same thing at all. And I really do want better for him.

So there sits the conundrum.

  • In one scenario, we send him to school, continue our adult-centered lives in those hours he's away, and try to "make it up" to him at nights and on weekends by interacting with him more intentionally then. He will be exposed to multiple subjects and people and interests, as well as tedium and standardized testing and peer nonsense.

  • In the other scenario, we continue along our lackadaisical path, always short on time to complete our business tasks, and always guiltily sure we're coming up short in the unschooling department, for not offering enough variety and energy and oomph. Mikko will model himself after us and complete the transformation to total spud.

I mean, sure, I'd like to imagine a scenario wherein we unschool and completely change our natures, but let's be realistic here.

We're still in the middle of debating this in our own minds and out loud to each other, and we do have some time. Mikko can go to his current preschool through age 5. Then, I guess it's decision time.

We'll see what we choose. It's a matter of following our convictions either way — just a burden of deciding which convictions take precedence.

What have you decided about schooling? Do you see a way out of our dilemma for us?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)


Laura said...

Love your blog! And I pretty much have the exact same feelings. I want my children to be unschooled, but I want to send them to school so I can do the stuff I want to do--plus my husband is against it.

But my daydream is to start a homeschool one room schoolhouse co-op where we hire teachers to teach in an unschooly way.

Luschka @Diary of a First Child said...

Ugh Dionna. I may well have written this for some of the points you make. Kyra is only 11 months, but we face many of the same questions. We both work at home (albeit mine is generally unpaid!) and I sometimes feel really guilty about the amount of time Kyra has to self entertain while we get on with things. Like right now. But in my mind I have made an 'agreement' with myself. Morning she needs to self entertain, play with her toys, read her books (yes, I said read - really only page through them pointing at things and talking to them!) and so on, and after her nap we do something together, whether that's out the house or in it.

I feel that way that she learns two things: Mommy and Daddy have to work for a living is the first and how to be independent and not need full time attention is second. Don't get me wrong, she's with us, in the room with us and we are entirely available to her, but she primarilly looks after herself.

I have considered putting her in to a playgroup or something a few times a week, for a couple of hours, just so she gets that other interaction, but to be honest, when we do go out in the afternoon I think she might get enough stimulation there!

I guess it's about taking it a step at a time. And doing the best we can in the situation as we're currently facing it?

Ceres said...

Singing with the choir on this one. It takes a lot of time and a lot of de-schooling to reach the point of acceptance that unschooling is more about being than doing. It sounds to me like you have a great balance there, in a family centred, rather than a child centred, life.

Deb Chitwood said...

It sounds like you’re doing a great job! If you decide you want something outside the home later on but without the focus on grades, you could always check out a school like a Montessori or Waldorf school. It sounds like you’re really trying to observe Mikko to discover what’s best for him. When you do that, I think the right path for your family will have a way of becoming evident.


Lindsay said...

I wonder (in my completely inexperienced-mom-of-a baby mind) if a structured homeschool could work...you could pick a curriculum you like and 1.) not have to come up with ideas and 2.) force yourself to stick (mostly) to it, except maybe don't worry about doing it in order-like let Mikko pick what to focus on when! And then enroll him in choir at church and stuff like that so he gets some hang out time with other kids and you get some hang out time with Daddy. No clue if that would work for you guys, but just a thought!

Seonaid said...

Oh, I hear you. As you know from my current post, I've decided (for now) to keep sending my kids to the school around the corner. A lot of that has to do with the fact that, when they are home for periods of time, I don't find that I can get it together enough to provide meaningful ongoing activity. Sure, we can cook dinner together occasionally, get out to the beach a couple of times over the summer, hit the local museum scene (which is pretty much done at this point) and get to the library. But when left to my own devices, I really want to either curl up with a book of my own, or sit down to get some writing done. I haven't figured out how to provide my children with a meaningful (and relatively comprehensive) learning environment and still have time and energy left to be the parent that I want to be.

I don't think I have the energy or organizational skills to unschool. But I'm willing to be proven wrong.

Jen said...

We are not homeschooling, and frankly, until a few years ago, I did not think about it/'know' it was an option. When I first really heard about it, we were living overseas. My kids were in a small, private international school run by a kind, caring staff, many of whom are now my friends.

There is absolutely NO way an education at home in Iceland would have compared to the experience they had at www.internationalschool.is. It was a school within a school (daily multicultural experiences) on the bay in Gardabaer, Iceland. The curriculum was project-based and much of it was self-led. My daughter was allowed to progress at her pace and still keeps in touch with the friends she made. She LOVED it. Staying home with me? We could have done a few field trips, but I couldn't come close to providing her with that sort of enrichment.

I also worked and volunteered at the school, so I never felt very far away or as though I didn't see them during the day. We are now back in the States, utilizing public schools, but we are very happy thus far. I volunteer as much as possible and, yes, my girls enjoy it...though we would reconsider if they didn't.

My youngest just started Montessori as I also need a break during the week. My husband has been deployed to Iraq since July and I have no other help at home. Yes, the kids help, but having a 3 hour break each day helps me keep it together a bit better (and get our newly moved into house more organized)...I can also plan events for the afternoon, have more energy for cooking together and we use the weekends for fun.

I can't say that I loved school as a kid, but I would have been miserable as a home-schooled child. My family life was not happy, and school was a good escape. Our current family life is quite different, but my kids LIKE school. They make friends, meet new people and enjoy being independent (my two older girls).

I say to each his own and do what you can do...but I don't feel that an attached parent can't send their child to school...nor do I think they should feel guilty if they need to do that for whatever reason. I should also mention that since we are in the Foreign Service, we move every few years...so our lifestyle is also somewhat dictated by my husband's job.

Unknown said...

I have no insights for you, no advice.

I just want to say I'm oddly happy to see that so many people are struggling with decisions about how to school (or not) their children. What lucky children to have parents who are being so thoughtful about these big decisions!

You are not alone.

Denise said...

I have a unique perspective in that I've already raised 3 kids. My oldest was never homeschooled. He breezed through public school as an honor student, went through six years of college...and then quit, a few credits shy of a degree. He's now 24, waiting tables, and working on his passion, producing music.

My middle two, now 18 and 20, were homeschooled--but not unschooled--for several years at the elementary level. They both went back to public school (at their request). One is now cooking in a restaurant and doing music with his brother. The other just started her first year of college. She's undeclared and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. And that's okay!

Then there's my little guy, who is now 8. He started public school and immediately struggled. He was suspended twice--twice!--in first grade, at the age of 6. After the second suspension, we pulled him out, and have been (mostly) unschooling ever since. I say "mostly" because I am asking him to do some structured math this year. (See? We all have our doubts!) I did the school-at-home thing once. It didn't work for my older kids.

I say all this to illustrate that there are no easy answers and no guarantees, and that you have to take it one day, one year, one kid at a time. No matter which path you choose, there's nothing lazy about any of them! Unschooling is challenging, dojng school-at-home is challenging, and enforcing a teacher's agenda is challenging. They all also have their advantages. Everything's a trade-off somewhere.

I have no regrets. I wouldn't change a thing. I've got four happy kids, with whom I'm very close, and in the end that's what really matters.

Melanie McIntosh said...

I love this post.

Our family has been through some public school, more structured homeschooling and gradually morphed into unschooling. I like to say we do it because all the demands of public school are too much for me. Especially since one of my four children is also slow to warm up. Getting out the door every day was a nightmare. Now we get to watch the morning school parade while we eat breakfast in our pj's.

I gradually filled my house with stuff - books, art & science supplies, building supplies and computer learning programs. The kids can pursue their interests with less involvement from me. As the kids got older, their interests became more diverse and I couldn't keep up with doing it all with them.

Now they say, "Mom, can we do xyz?"
My response is "Well, I can't. I have to work, make dinner, do yoga, etc. If you can figure out how to do it and clean up after, go right ahead."

This has led to catapults being built on the lawn, and many other adventures.

In my opinion, you only have to spark the learning when they are young. Soon enough, your son will find his own interests, and will have tons of energy to pursue it. Relax and take it easy while you have the chance! lol!

Have fun finding your way!


P.S. The kids are way better at finding things to be interested in and explore than they are with the clean up part. ;-) That's where I have to get involved more.

Jessica - This is Worthwhile said...

I'm planning on sending him to school and making the time we spend together as rich as it is now when he's with me all the time. My belief is that it's about un-plugging from the adult themed things and plugging into the relationship.

We'll see how it all works out, of course. I'm a BIG talker now ;)

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I have some similar fears, but mine are more along the lines of stick-to-it-iveness. I have problems starting things and not following through to completion (or starting things and not going very far with them). (However, I also think this is a direct result of the reward system in place in schools - I also was a stellar student, so as soon as I get a "good job," I mentally check out.)
MamanADroit said she wonders whether starting with some kind of schedule would work for you, and I think that's what I will end up doing - at least at first. Maybe not a set-in-stone curriculum, per se, but something to keep you accountable. If you did well in school, perhaps the accountability/schedule factor would be motivating?

Sheila said...

It sounds to me like you're doing great as you are! Your version of unschooling is a lot like what I hope to do: some activities we all enjoy, but plenty of unstructured time too. The whole POINT of unschooling is stepping back a bit to allow the child to set his pace and direction ... I think too much effort on your part might backfire into making learning something YOU do rather than something HE does. (As a teacher, I learned that whoever does the work is the one who learns... which is why I was learning so much and the kids were still staring at me blankly.)

I think you need to unlearn what you learned in school -- that you have to be "achieving" constantly in order to be learning. I myself was homeschooled. My mom was extremely structured in her approach, but we had a lot of free time as well. Everything I remember today, I learned in the free time part, in my own way, at my own direction, with my own effort. Sometimes my mom would say, "I don't know how to teach this to you, go find some way to learn it," and I would go to the craft closet and dig in. Hours later I'd come back with a board game or a model that "taught" me the material perfectly!

I think unschooling would do well to call itself "self-schooling." As in, the child uses both the structured (like field trips) and unstructured (like couch time) settings he is given to learn about himself and the world around him.

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

I'm pulled in several different directions on this subject. First, I went to public school and ended up doing pretty well in college, I totally pursued my own interests and was not just obsessed with getting the grade (even though I did get good grades).

But I also know that in public school I was indoctrinated into a mythology about American history and government that just was not true. I don't want that for my children - but I also think it would be awesome for my kids to be the 7 year olds telling the teacher that mommy said the idealization of Capitalism is an outdated relic of the fearmongering age of McCarthyism and ignores the materialistic greed inherent in a capitalistic system.

I really agree that grades and standardized tests are pretty much crap though ... so I'm not sure what I'll do when I have children. I definitely lean toward homeschooling and unschooling though.

Unknown said...

YAY! I'm not alone in our "lazy" feelings. Even with my boys being 1 and 3, sometimes I think we should be DOING more. Then out of the blue my 3yo will count something, name a color, or shape, ect, and I remember that it was just by talking him through our normal day. No worksheets needed, no planned activities. I think someday soon we might need to add these things, but it will be from his motivation and that is pretty hard to resist. Good luck!

The ArtsyMama said...

I love your honesty. I too feel like I fall short when I am home with my son. I have all this time and energy in my teaching job and then I come home to my baby and I feel like I have the equivalent of writer's block for what to do with him. I hope you will continue to share what you decide as you go along. Though, I've found the best tactic sometimes is no tactic.

Rachael @ The Variegated Life said...

One thing that I remind myself when I worry about my very boring adult life is that it is less important for me to give the Critter creative, stimulating experiences than it is for me to give him my full presence in whatever we're doing. And goodness knows he is fully capable of transforming an ordinary trip to the grocery store into a creative, stimulating experience....

However. Right now he is only two years old; I presume that one day the grocery store will not be enough. I, too, struggle with the public school vs. home school dilemma. In NYC, we have a lot of options when it comes to public schooling, but there is so. much. testing.

Marita said...

We are so lucky at this stage of my daughters education to be able to do a combination of both. Our school principal came from a Steiner based primary school and is bringing her fabulous ideas over to our mainstream school :)

She was very open to the idea of part time home schooling. My 7 year old is loving having one day a week at home where she can explore topics that really interest her in greater depth. We don't have any formal style of schooling we follow - although unschooling probably fits best. I just let Annie decide what she is interested in and we learn about it.

Thank goodness for the internet :) So many fabulous resources to help - plus now Annie can read I just suggest she googles her questions, then we sit on our couch together and read the answers. :)

Anonymous said...

My daughter had her first day of kindergarten today, at our local public school. I'm so lazy that it didn't even occur to me to seriously investigate various public and private schooling options.

Seriously, though, I made the decision for several reasons. One is that my daughter has honestly enjoyed preschool and various classes she's taken. Another is that she's very outgoing, and I'm not so much, so school is an easy way for her to hand out with lots of people. And finally, I like that the school is local - it feels like we're taking part in our community, and we're getting to know families that live nearby.

As for you, here's what I would say: you can change your mind. I didn't personally attend kindergarten. I started public school in grade 1 and did great. You can try unschooling, and enroll Mikko in school if it doesn't work out. Or vice versa. The decision you make doesn't have to be forever, and it doesn't have to be final. So figure out what feels best when it's time for kindergarten, and then re-evaluate.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

This is something I've been spending a lot of time thinking about. my son is in preschool now and supposed to start kindergarten next year. For many reasons, I'm concerned about sending him to school. I don't love the public school system and I question whether my kid, who spends most of the day dancing around and standing on his head, will do well in a situation where he's forced to sit at a desk for an hour at a time.

On the other hand, I don't really relish the thought of immersing my whole being into his education and in order for me to be the kind of teacher I think I should be, that's what i imagine for myself.

I guess I'm lazy and a little selfish.

Jenny said...

:-) I don't think you're as lazy as you think you are. We are about the same, only we don't go to the aquarium and stuff because it's just way too far to drive and would cost too much. It's also harder to take a preschooler AND a toddler places, so oftentimes we stay home. I wanted to submit something to this carnival, but I thought, I don't have anything interesting to say! We don't do enough! I'm a slackerrrr!

We go over letters and numbers and practice counting plastic teddy bears, which Suzi loves. We read a book about going to the beach and Suzi is interested in crabs so we watch some videos about them (on YouTube, nothing fancy). Then we talk about what we saw and she draws pictures of it. You can't really tell what they are, but still. The other day I used some plastic beads someone had given us to teach her how to make a pattern, and then I let her string her own bracelet. So we do stuff, but we are not where I'd like us to be. I have a friend who is always taking her son out to the park, to feed the fish, to the library... It makes me tired just thinking about hauling both my kids to all those places on a regular basis!

I think we'll be okay, though, because it won't always be this hard. Eventually I'll have two big girls who can mostly do their own thing and sometimes even help me with the little one(s). And right now, my girls spend most of their days pretend-playing and reading and exercising their imaginations, which is what they should be doing. We'll work up to doing more as they get interested in it.

Lisa C said...

Figure out what will actually work for your family. Unschooling for me sounds idealistic, and great that people can actually do it, but it doesn't totally feel like something I want to do. I want to "sort of" unschool, and "sort of" homeschool in Montessori fashion, and also sign him up for classes. Don't hold onto the ideal of unschooling if you can make it happen...you can still partially do it. If only we could all afford nice private schools...then those who can don't have the time or motivation to homeschool but want a certain kind of experience for their child can just buy it for them. ha.

Anyway, good luck. Maybe check out a homeschool curriculum book and find out what style is going to work best for you guys. This is supposed to be a good one: http://www.amazon.com/100-Top-Picks-Homeschool-Curriculum/dp/0805431381

Also, I think the most important thing you can do for Mikko is teach him a love of learning, how to teach himself, and how to be resourceful. If you focus on teaching him those things at home, I'm sure the rest will fall into place.

kelly @kellynaturally said...

Hi Lauren,

Unschooling is awesome, and I agree with you, its not for the lazy. I know people for whom it would be ideal. I don't think it's me... or my husband. Though the idea - and for our children (and perhaps most children, in general) is also an ideal.

So... we send our children to Montessori. Which, doesn't do grades, or tests, or homework. And the very BASIS of the Montessori method - the most important attribute (in my humble opinion) is Follow The Child. It dove-tails so fluidly with uor ideas on parenting in general, it's perfect.

It's a win-win situation. Our kids go to school on a farm, are exposed to tons of exciting, interesting, mind-expanding activities, and if they want to persue them, they are helped along the path to more intense focus in those areas. Or, if they aren't interested, they can choose something else. And, at the same time, I feel confident they are learning the things that would be more difficult for me to teach (i.e. math) in a way that is individually tailored & suited to their interest level. My daughter who is 5, is proficient in multiplication, and becoming so in division. Something I'd likely never have introduced her to - certainly not as early as she had been, because I'm so scared of math - but she excels because she's a natural at math concepts and it interests her, so she's encouraged to focus on it.

Anyhow, I think the preschool you're sending Mikko to sounds lovely, and I also think you're being realistic about your own limitations and desires. Keep in mind, as I always try to, that time is fluid. Things can always change. If a situation fits your child now, it may not later, and something else might. And don't sell yourself short... you can always do a combination of sorts too - some homeschooling, some unschooling, some more formal schooling - and leave the more formal schooling or homeschool groups to help with those topics you feel less confident in teaching (like myself with math).

DelightfulBirth said...

I hear ya!! I'm also too lazy to unschool or homeschool. Seriously, I want to believe that I'm not, but let's be honest with ourselves. :)

I was always one of those people who said, "I will never, EVER homeschool! Those kids are total dorks, have no social skills, etc! NEVER!!!!" And then something changed in me a couple years ago as we realized our son was, well, different. We know now he's on the autism spectrum (though very mild). I began to be concerned about my little boy slipping through the cracks in the public school system. And so I did the unthinkable: I started to consider homeschooling!

And I really like the theory behind unschooling, too. I thought if I did actually homeschool, it would be very loosely structured. But then something else happened: I got pregnant with our daughter. And that tooootally changed the picture. If I did homeschool, it would be with a newborn in tow. I was concerned i would lose my mind. :)

So in the end, we decided to send our son to our local public school. We are in a good school district and while it's not perfect, it has surprised me that's it been such a good fit for our son. He's in 1st grade now and tells me nearly every day how much he loves school. (Being on the autism spectrum, he looooves his structure! Structure that I realistically can't provide at home for him every day.) If anything ever changed significantly, and he was no longer thriving in public school, you better believe I'd pull him out in a heartbeat!

So that's my perspective. Thanks for sharing. I'm fairly new to your blog and it is such a blessing to read. :)

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

I've been thinking about your post for a while now, wondering what to say in response. Deciding whether or not to homeschool/unschool is such a big one, it can seem totally overwhelming. And I think, honestly, even unschoolers who are totally and completely convinced of the pedagogy and attachment benefits still have sleepless nights where they sit up and wonder if they're really DOING enough with/for their children.

I agree with previous comments that you can always change your mind - this is the approach we are taking too. We decide together whether or not to embark on the next year of homeschooling. Nothing is written in stone.

The only advice I have to help you with your decision is to go and meet some unschoolers. Hang out with them at their houses. Attend some co-op meetings or homeschool drop-ins. Sometimes our ideas of what people are doing or what we should be doing come from unrealistic expectations created by the polished-up view that is posted on various blogs, etc.

Good luck with your decision!

melissa v. said...

I can def. relate! I don't feel at all talented at the task of teaching my kids, or creating an enriching environment to stimulate their curiosity and learning....I'm so grateful when I see structured or well thought out techniques at school for them to engage with!!! But I am constantly aware of the negative side of public schooling. Especially in regards to an individual's style and timeline for development. I have children who don't fit the school system's 'box' for developmental timelines and learning styles!
But there are many advantages, and I try to make sure we spend as much time unschooling and being together as possible. You know the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? School is my village.

You're a thoughtful pair of parents, I'm sure you will make the best decision when it comes down to it! Good luck with that decision, and know there are lots of wonderful ways to educate!! I'll be here watching the journey, cheering you on...

Momma Jorje said...

You've left HOMEschooling out entirely! I mean, I know UNschooling is one form of homeschooling, but it isn't the only one! I homeschooled my daughter through 2nd grade. I chose curriculum that I liked for each subject, but yeah - it was a lot of work! (But it wasn't quite as much work as totally unschooling sounds.)

There is now an option that is seeming very attractive to my husband and I. There is a K-12 company that is making or has made arrangements with each state. They offer FREE online curriculum, get-togethers for socializing with "class mates", materials for studying like one of those magnifier thingies in science class I can't think of... all for free! It is basically a public school option. (You also left out private school... which is still school... but costs more!)

We plan to try this K12 option or at least look into it further when Sasha is older. She'll just be one tomorrow!

You're in WA, right? Here is the link for the company to which I was referring - for WA.

Emmanuelle said...

There is no ideal situation but every situation is an opportunity for our children to learn something out of it. Mikko will become so bored that he will become a marine biologist or he will write at 12 a stunning essay on Existentialism! We are so obsessed Doing things that we forget we are human Beings. Hug and cuddle your little one until he no longer wants it!

Jenn D. said...

I know how you feel! I was in that same place with my preschooler, who is now a 6 year old. I also have a 4 year old and 18 month old. After realizing that I didn't have the complete support of my DH and that I was really too lazy to unschool (or homeschool in any way) I opted for a charter school that met many of the standards I appreciated about alternative options like Montessori, Waldorf, Steiner, etc. but was still pretty mainstream. I knew that I was going to end up putting my kids in front of the TV way too much for homeschooling to be an improvement over compulsory schooling, so this was my compromise. You have some time to explore your options. Another choice might be to start a homeschooling co-op. They seem to be popping up all over the place around here. If you find that public or alternative schools are not an option for you, perhaps one of these co-ops might fit your needs. I found mine through yahoo groups. Best of luck to you!

kelly said...

First of all, when my babies were little the idea of homeschooling scared the shit out of me and unschooling sounded like hippie-dippie b.s. NO WAY. Even if someone could prove it was "better", I couldn't do it. I needed more time alone, I couldn't be so organized, I would stunt them, they needed "socialization", blah blah.

Fast forward and my kids 6 & 8 are unschooled (I prefer the term "autodidactic homeschoolers") and it has only, ONLY increased my personal, professional, marital, spiritual, etc etc well-being. I can't imagine anything else dovetailing better into my life as an adult. No one is bored and I'm not having to bend my life in some torturous way to do all this Awesome Stuff.

I'm pretty sure you can unschool and you don't have to be some awesome paragon of un-Lazy (and if you ever want specific advice or strategies please do email!). But you don't have to! And don't let anyone shame you into it either! Unschoolers/homeschoolers/APers etc. don't love their kids "more" or some other monolithic statement.

And please remember when you read unschoolers/life learners defending they aren't "lazy" and how much awesome stuff they do, they may not be as organized or Type A or creative as you may imagine in that way we typically think others are more awesome than us. They are just defending themselves against MUCH maligned speech against them.

Momma Jorje said...

btw, the think I couldn't seem to name was a MICROSCOPE. :-P

St. Louis Smart Mama said...

I love your description of what unschooling would look like in your home because that's exactly what I think it would be like for me too! I so wish that there were more options in the middle of the road - for example, schools for older children that were half-day or only 2 to 3 times a week so there could still be plenty of home/family time but also the time with other children and fun activities and time for you to accomplish some adult tasks alone.

If you're interested, I wrote a post about my decision to send my daughter to public kindergarten last year:

Anonymous said...

wow, i loved reading this, can so totally relate.

my sons are 4 & 6 & the eldest started kindy this year. i can't say i'm completely happy with it, there are all the issues your post covers & more, school seems to be so much about control. It makes me a feel a bit sick to be honest. But there are really good things about it as well, my son loves it & I love my job so that's that. I don't think I could do it if they really didn't want to go though . . fingers crossed with the younger one who starts next year.

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