This is the second post in my 2015 Top 3 Highlight Reel:
I want to talk about these things because they have all shaped and changed my life in a wonderful and real way.
This post is all about starting our journey in to unschooling.
Our eldest child turned 5 in 2015, and that meant that he was at compulsory school age. We had decided that homeschooling was definitely the way to go for us in 2014. We didn’t send our son to Kindergarten as I was concerned about the formal push down of education at such a young age. Then I read more and more about homeschooling, unschooling, and natural learning, and the more I read, the more I knew this was the right thing for our family. I loved the idea of natural, organic, self directed learning, it just made sense to me.
So we registered with the Education Department and within a few months met with our lovely, kind and helpful Moderator. I talked about our wish to follow a natural approach to learning and she was very open to this, and explained how she could help us. I was relieved to have a moderator who didn’t berate me for my choices or impose her beliefs on what educating our children should look like.
So with our first official duties taken care of, we were free to begin our first year of unschooling. (If you have not heard this term before, have a read here, here, and here to get you started). Basically it means that all our learning is organic and child led, and it happens every day in everything that we do. There are no subjects or timetables or routines. Our children are entrusted with the freedom and autonomy to shape their own learning, at their own pace.
It may sound a little scary; and that fear crept in on more than one occasion throughout the year – “How can my children possibly learn everything they need to without my input and control?” But I need not worry, because it has been an absolutely wonderful year of living and learning for both our boys – they are thriving.
Jack and Leo have created sculptures, painted artworks, and coloured countless pictures of dinosaurs, sharks and superheroes.
They have built their own simple machines and pulleys. They have created with Magformers, Lego and Spielgaben until their heart’s content. They have explored museums and playgrounds, and built endless ‘cubbies’ (I never realised how many opportunities there are to build cubbies…everywhere!)
They have dressed up as superheroes at least every second day, and even created their very own. They have read books, watched movies, documentaries, and explored iPad apps.
They have invited friends over to play, camped in our paddocks, and climbed countless trees. They have started rock collections, a bone collection and a tooth collection.
Jack has taken an interest in the alphabet and numbers, and is slowly building his repertoire of reading and writing letters, words, and numbers at his own pace.
This is just a snippet of what they have experienced, just living every day. And best of all, they have been inspired by something at least once. Every. Single. Day. It is such a wonderful way for them to spend their childhood.
The biggest take away ‘lesson’ for me after our first year of unschooling is to trust the process, and explore my fears.
Trusting the process sounds a bit vague, and what I mean by that is to trust the process of learning that takes place, just by living life and being curious.
My children know their own minds and are capable of learning and discovering and creating. In fact, they are wired to learn and discover and create – as we all are. They have been doing it since they were born; it is an intrinsic part of being human. If we are given the freedom, and the right environment (with guidance when needed), we are all capable of so much learning. We live, we learn. It sounds so simple. But whenever there is trust, there is always an aspect of fear.
I know in my heart of hearts that homeschooling and natural learning is right for our children, but that doesn’t stop the fear. Especially when it comes to something that goes against what has been deeply ingrained in us our whole life – that we need to go to school to get the best education, to prepare us for the ‘real world’, to learn how to ‘socialise’, to make friends, to read and write, to be ‘normal’.
These fears are always lurking in my mind, ready to pounce and catch me unaware. A wise friend once told me that it is never helpful to parent from a place of fear. So I have made a concerted effort to try not to react to the fearful thoughts, but to instead try to explore them. Why are they there? What can I learn from them? How can I work through them?
This is not an easy thing to do. Often, we will try to put as much distance between ourselves and our fears as possible – whether it be through denial, distraction, addiction – a lot of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it; I guess it is a bit of a survival technique. But it is only short term survival. It is only a matter of time until the fear confronts you again….and again.
So when those fears (often quite irrational) popped up throughout the past year I tried to reflect on them.
“My son is 5 and still doesn’t know the whole alphabet…I bet most other kids his age do…what am I doing, I’m depriving my son, he will never learn, I’m a terrible mother. He’s not going to learn unless I sit him down and teach him.”
Stop. Breathe. Reflect.
“My son is 5 and he loves books…he asks lots of questions….he has a great imagination…he doesn’t need to be measured against anyone else….he is eager to learn in his own time….I will guide and support him on his learning journey. Trust the process”
There are more fears and doubts.
Fears that outsiders or family won’t approve – this is an opportunity for me to explore my need to seek approval and please others.
Fears that I can’t provide my children with what they need – this is an opportunity for me to explore my insecurities surrounding being a good enough mother.
Fears that my children will miss out on something – this is an opportunity for me to explore my need to control everything.
The fear and doubt is always there, and sometimes I let it get the better of me. I react by snapping at my children, projecting my fears on to them, or trying to manipulate their learning experience. Of course this never ends well for any of us!
But I am getting better. I try to explore my fears as often as I can, not just surrounding homeschooling, but many other aspects of my parenting and life. I have gained so much from exploring my fears, breathing in to them and finding out what’s there. It can be a slow and scary process at times, but worth the discomfort. I always come out the other side surer than ever of my purpose, my passions and my self.
When I think about our future I am filled with excitement. We are not limited by four walls and a set curriculum. The whole world is our classroom, and it is an amazing world for us to explore and learn in together.
If you want to delve more in to this subject, here are just a few blogs you might enjoy. I have gleaned much learning and inspiration from them.
I’m sure there are many more. If you have any blog recommendations please let me know.