Finding Our Path

WHEN WE BECOME parents, we begin a journey of choices that will inevitably go against somebody’s grain. Somebody could include your relatives, in-laws, former colleagues, or the general public. Our friends, of course, will respect our choices. Always. That’s why they’re our friends. Right? Un-learn that. It’s not true. You will most likely at times offend even your best friends with your parenting style or choices. That is okay. Getting to the point of saying those words- that is okay– is just another step on the journey of choice. It’s one I’ve grown more and more familiar with as I’ve forged my own way with my children.

Perhaps one of my most radical parenting choices is my decision to follow a path dubbed “unschooling” rather than send my children to school, cyber school, or even sit at the kitchen table over piles of textbooks and worksheets.

Unschooling is just as scary as it sounds. It is not schooling your children. In a country in which promotes classical education as paramount to a child’s success, and a culture that does not acknowledge learning outside of a classroom or without formal certificates to stamp the years of achievement, this is not an easy or light decision to make.

I will say that I am grateful to have witnessed many families successfully unschooling their children toward happiness, success, and the fulfillment of their life desires. I am grateful that I, as Parent, have learned to let go of my need to control, my belief that I am the one who knows the most, and my expectations that my children’s neurology and intellect will work on my timeline, presenting in the ways I think it should.

Many of us believe there is only one right answer to each question; we well-schooled have not been given the time or resources to search for other possibilities. This is a great tragedy; that cannot be overstated. It has become, and will  continue to be, the ever-outward-bleeding inkblot on the page of a nation founded by question-askers, boat-rockers, and risk-takers. We must stop taking everyone’s word for it- that higher and higher “education” is The Way To Become Happy and Successful- and begin again to see for ourselves. Ask a question. Observe. Think. Experiment. Analyze. Respond.

I have decided to create this blog for a few reasons. The first is because when I look at unschooling blogs, I am inspired, but also find a void. For parents like me, who wonder at some point: what does this look like?…how do I know my child is learning?…what are the hardest parts?, and all the other questions that come with making such a scary step, there are mostly books by John Holt, but no regularly updated blogs, for answers.

The second reason is to help my family and friends (and the general public) understand what we are doing; to open minds to something off the beaten path; and to give examine to both my own process in first deciding this path, and our process along it.

The third reason is to create documentation of my children’s learning for “end of year” evaluation by a certified Pennsylvania teacher, and review by the state of Pennsylvania. We will include many photos of our activities, book lists, and possibly some journal entries from my awesome kids.

While it is not generally a great idea to define what something is by what it’s not, I think that is important in this case. This not-list fits so perfectly with the negative prefix in the label of unschooling, with which I so struggle. Here is what this parent blogger is not about:

  • I am not an expert on unschooling, except by micro-experimentation and observation
  • I am not an expert on childhood development
  • I am not attempting to convince people to unschool
  • I do not identify myself as anti-school (I actually teach at a few), and this is not a school-bashing blog
  • this is not an attempt to make you believe that unschooling creates a perfect Pottery Barn photo-advertisement life. I promise to be honest about our struggles, as they are the hard rain and slimy earthworms of our organic growth.
  • this is not a guide to unschooling

My hope is that this blog brings inspiration, hope, innovation, and a sense of freedom to others living in our black and white, one-answer, textbook culture.

With that all said, I will end this introduction with two quotes by Albert Einstein, which have been a source of strength and inspiration during our transition away from traditional schooling. Ask questions! Don’t let your holy sense of inquiry and curiosity go to waste!

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry: for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe that it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

– Albert Einstein,  thinker and tinkerer