School is just starting on our district, and I’m very happy to not be participating. But even when my son did go to school, the following issue bothered me.
Why is it so well accepted that parents can’t wait to be rid of their kids?
Why isn’t it okay to want our kids around? Even when my son went to school, I missed him. I like him, and like spending time with him. I know there are parents who do miss their kids at school, and aren’t cheering that school has started. But there are just so many who are literally cheering that they are finally rid of their kids again.
Then there’s this horrendous handout given to a friend’s children at meet the teacher night.
So not only are we supposed to be thrilled they are gone from our homes, but we should also giggle at their back – to – school anxiety? Why would teachers or parents find this handout humorous? Because who cares what our kids are feeling? We felt this anxiety, too, as kids, and now we’re glad our kids have to feel it, too? That whole, “my kids should have the same painful experiences I had to endure” thing?
When School’s in Parents Win
Frankly, the chip bag in the picture above just makes me glad my kids can’t read yet. How depressing for our kids to be reading everywhere around them how glad their parents are to be rid of them again. Why do we have to be so disrespectful toward children? If we’re truly glad for our kids to be back in school, why can’t we focus on the good things we think our children are gaining and experiecing there? Is it because many parents don’t truly care about what happens at school as long as their kids are gone all day? Is it because it’s “cool” to complain about our kids, and makes us feel like part of the group? Or because we aren’t really sure what our kids are experiencing at school?
How about you? Are you bothered by the back to school cheering?
I grew up as an unschooler and I planned for my children to never go to school. Here I am, living in Mexico, and my children just finished their first week of school. I’ve ignored my conscience and it sucks. Yes, I feel like a hypocrite of the highest order.
I’ve just finished watching Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” with my 7-year old. It continues a rabbit hole we’ve gone down since we started homeschooling this year.
We pulled my son from school mid-year, and have mostly spent our time deschooling. He’s always learning, and we’ve followed his lead on topics of interest just like we have always done. His cousin introduced him to the song Thriller a year ago, which he loved, but his interest faded. Then a couple months ago he saw a children’s movie preview that included the song, “Bad,” by Michael Jackson. And we were off.
What we’ve done
We’ve listened to so much music. He’s watched videos and has spent hours practicing dance moves. We have read biographies. We’ve studied the map to see where Michael was born and where he’s lived throughout his life. He’s drawn portraits of Michael. Most recently, he directed his sister and cousin in recreating several music videos that he recorded, and he’s been working on designing himself a costume.
Some activities he has spent time doing on his own, and some we have done together at his request. That’s the beauty of not being at school. He can involve us, and we’re all enjoying his learning.
Delight driven learning
I know it may seem like a strange subject to a lot of people. But it has involved so much learning. It has encompassed music, art, reading, movement and dance, story telling, and so much more. He’s seen how music is made, what goes into music and concert production. We’ve checked out the map to see all the places around the world Michael Jackson has lived. And it’s also allowed us to discuss some difficult topics such as death, drugs, abuse, publicity, and fame (all in developmentally appropriate ways, of course).
My son loved this biography of Michael Jackson. We’ve started reading some of the other books in this series, and we’re both really enjoying them as well. (Affiliate link)
We had a lovely unseasonably warm day this week and headed out to the zoo after school. We enjoyed the mostly empty zoo at a leisurely pace. And I thought, why am I not homeschooling? I should pull him and homeschool. I see more signs pointing to this fact practically every day. Questionable things happening at school, more and deeper unhappiness at home in the evenings. I miss my son, and we’re experiencing negative behavior due to that disconnection between us.
I’m still struggling with the decision
I know all the above positives and negatives. And yet, I’m struggling to make the actual decision. Why? I’m still trying to figure that out.
Why am I struggling?
All of the reasons I laid out in this earlier postabout why I sent him to kindergarten in the first place. They all still hold true. We are still figuring the whole school thing out.
My son has mixed feelings. I’m not letting my 6-year old make this decision alone. But I am discussing it with him, because his input is important to me. And he wavers, depending on the day, about whether he wants to continue or not.
We are having a really negative teacher experience. You might think that would make me run even faster. And it is definitely a push, as it is majorly contributing to the negative feelings surrounding school. But she’s new and might improve. And she is not the entirety of the school experience. I hate to let her make us miss out on any positives he’s experiencing. And I met with the principal just days ago. He seems great, and really seems to understand the issues we’re having. He has a plan to help.
We’ll see more if we stay longer. My son is excited for the art show at the end of the year, where he’ll have one or more projects on display. He’s experienced a school party, a school book fair, and a couple school fundraising events. He hasn’t been on a field trip, or seen an assembly. There are a lot of school things he’ll see just this year that he won’t experience if we pull him. Overall, I think that’s not a huge deal. But I do want him to experience some of these things to know they exist.
I worry both of us will have a hard time keeping up with friends we will no longer see every day. My son and I both have friends that we see because he’s going to school. We can try and keep up with them, but once schedules change and we no longer see them by default every day, that’s easier said than done.
And I’m overwhelmed…
It’s a hard decision and it feels more permanent that it really is. I know that we can change what we’re doing and make any number of different choices, including public and private school, part-time school, or homeschool. No choice is permanent. But every change requires a lot of thought and effort, at least for me.
It’s hard to be different and go against the norm. Ahh, the biggest reason. It’s hard to know that this non-mainstream decision is the right way to go. I don’t have any experience with homeschool outside of the past couple years researching it, and many acquaintances who are homeschooling. It feels really overwhelming to opt out of the choice that everyone else is choosing.
The Silver Lining
All that said, I’m fairly certain we’ve already decided we’ll homeschool next year. Full-day school (as opposed to this year’s half days) is just not something I want for my family at this time. Knowing that, I feel more comfortable with my current indecisiveness. If things get worse at school, we’ll pull him. But for now, we’re floating along a little further on the cloud of indecision.
“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way. “–John Holt
I watched my son focus for close to an hour as he watched and tried to catch a frog at a local park. He was completely engrossed and working really hard. No frogs were harmed or caught, but it was such an illustration to me of the John Holt quote above. He was definitely learning, analyzing, and using everything he knew.
“If it hasn’t been in the hand and body, it can’t be in the brain.” –Bev Boss
Child-led learning works this way. No agenda from parents or teachers. My son was still learning, experimenting, and directing me how I could help. I was there to help if asked, and to share in the experience. To have a real conversation with him about what was happening.
Right now, while my son is in half-day kindergarten, we still have enough time for adventures. But it is definitely one of many reason I’m leaning heavily toward homeschool next year, when he’ll be in school all day. I can’t imagine not having the time or energy to take him to do these things that he enjoys.
I read so much on this topic, and think so much comes down to trusting our kids. And most people are too afraid to do that. It’s outside what is accepted practice in the US for educating our children. But why? Why is it so hard to believe that kids can know what they need?
And even if we choose that homeschool is the right choice for our family, I think this is still a conversation we can’t ignore. Children learn through play and hands-on discovery. Choosing to opt out of the system isn’t a viable option for everyone and most children are still being subjected to an educational system that doesn’t line up with what we know about how children learn. Parents are the ones who can change what schools look like and how they treat students. No more saying, “Well, I’m not hearing anything negative from my child. So it must be okay.” All our children deserve for us to stand up and challenge the status quo.
I am asked this several times a day, particularly from my 3 year old. If you have young ones who are talking, you probably hear this all day long, too. I answer the question. She asks why again. And again. And again.
I don’t want to squelch this curiosity. I answer as much as I can. If I am stuck for an answer, I suggest we look it up online. Kids ask hard questions sometimes! However, I do want the round of questions to end eventually, so I ask my 3 year old “why” back, in the context of the conversation.
“Why is the food I pulled out the oven so hot?” I’ll say. “Do you know why the food is so hot?”
I usually will get a silly answer when I do that. We laugh and move on until the next time someone is curious about something. Later, I’ll hear an earnest little voice say, “be careful, mama. The oven is hot.”
We have no formal schooling going on, at ages 3 and 4. Unschooling and the newer term world schooling (which I refer to as world unschooling from here on out) are my choices for educating my children. And even with their insatiable appetites for knowledge, it astounds me when they will tell me something I didn’t realize they knew.
“Did you know when ice melts that it becomes water because of the sun?” My 4 year old asked me the other day.
“That’s cool. I didn’t know you knew that!” I replied. When was the last time we talked about it? It could’ve been this summer when I was putting ice in our drinks. Or last winter, when it snowed. It could’ve been from the times I let the kids play with ice cubes and warm water for entertainment.
If you hold an ice cube in your hand, you can watch and feel it melting. You can see the water dripping off your hand. You can taste it. It firmly imprints in your mind exactly what an ice cube does when exposed to warmth. No one needs to sit you in a classroom and tell you that ice turns into water, while showing you a picture of ice melting.
What is World Unschooling?
If unschooling is child-led, informal education, than world unschooling would almost be a specific style under the unschooling umbrella. Traveling is important for stretching us out of our comfort zones and out of our daily routines. It can introduce me, the adult, to new things that I may not have even been aware of before. I can give my children more; more than I have inside my brain. More than my biases of the world. More confidence, more abilities, and maybe more languages.
While I dream of a longer, immersion style travel, starting somewhere in Europe, our travel is currently far more humble. We have been going on short weekend trips, along with regular trips to our local zoo and new (to us) parks. We are hoping to take our kids on their first international trip before the end of 2016.
Even if we can’t travel internationally this year, we can go to one of the natural history museums in our state. I’ve never seen a dinosaur skeleton. Neither have my children. We can visit a different zoo and see living animals we haven’t seen before, such as a hippo. Hippos are amazing and deadly creatures and they fascinate me!
Right now, I want to introduce them to the world I know, the world I don’t know, and always encourage them to keep asking why.
Natalie started the travel blog blissmersion.com in April, 2016. Blissmersion is combination of the words “bliss” and “immersion, because she loves combined words almost as much as she loves alliteration. Longer, slower, immersion travel is her goal because she wants to show her children the world. Blissmersion is the collection of their travel adventures, as a family, and also of Natalie’s past travels.
I love the idea of homeschooling, and have been researching it now for several years. I’ve visited co-ops, met lots of homeschooling families, and been active in homeschool groups online. But I still sent my kids to preschool.
I didn’t actually start out with any thoughts of homeschooling. My son started preschool at 3.5 because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. He had a lot of separation anxiety, so I chose my preschool based on that one fact. And it was possibly my best decision ever. Our preschool had wonderful articles on its website about how they dealt with separation anxiety. That they actually did deal with it, and talk to the kids about it, and let parents stay in the class or in the hallway as long as they felt was necessary. And while we visited and liked the school, it was really that one fact that got us there.
But even once I was interested in homeschool for our family, we stayed at this wonderful preschool. My kids and my parenting have benefited so greatly from being at this preschool and among the teachers and community. And there have never been any worries for me, because the school is a shining example of developmentally appropriate practice. My kids have learned such amazing things that I truly believe will help them into adulthood, through play in this supportive environment.
They’ve learned to speak up for themselves and to stand up for themselves. They’ve learned to make choices on their own, and be responsible for themselves and their belongings. And they’ve learned that they can trust and rely on adults other than me and my hubsand. We don’t have family around that helps care for them, and I want them to know that there are other trustworthy adults that will treat them with respect, take care of them, and even like them! They learned that all their feelings and emotions are valid. They learned to deal with conflict and rejection, all while being coached along by supportive adults. They learned that they can really be themselves and people will still treat them respectfully, even if they aren’t all friends.
I can’t imagine our lives without this wonderful school in it. I feel very fortunate that we we found it and my children were able to attend.
I am a Homeschooler at Heart. But I’m planning to send my oldest to kindergarten in the fall. And to public school. While I am doing so full of trepidation, the positives outweigh the negatives for now and we’re going to give it a try. Here’s why:
Half-day kindergarten—We live in a suburban district that offers both free half-day kindergarten and full day kindergarten that costs about $300/month. My son will go half-day, which is about 3 hours per day. It’s the only year he has the option to go to public school on a part-time basis, basically. He’ll still have time to do other things during the day, and plenty of down-time and play-time.
Small class size—There is only one half-day class at our neighborhood school because most parents choose full day. Therefore, half day is housed in a very small room, and the class-size is capped at 15 students due to size contraints. So far, we’ve heard the class will only have ten students this year.
Other kids—Strangely enough, 4 other kids from my son’s wonderful preschool class will be in his half day kindergarten class, even though the preschool is not in our community. That means, not only will he know them and feel more comfortable, but there will be 4 sets of parents with the background of this wonderful preschool. They are people who know and are willing to stand up for how children learn best and make sure that they are treated with respect.
Observation—My son and I both have been to the school to observe the kindergarten classes. I went without him and then took him with me more than once. While it took a lot of calls to initially explain what I wanted to the principal, she eventually agreed. And we were comfortable with the teacher he was to have. Unfortunately, there has been a last minute change and he’ll have a brand new teacher. And we learned just today that there will also be a new principal. But I’m leaving this in the positives list because it did influence our decision.
Confidence—Even if we end up homeschooling, I want my son to know that he can handle school. I want him to have the confidence to know if he has to stay in school or has to go back one day after homeschooling for a period of time, that he has done it before and survived, or even thrived.
We’ll all know—My husband and I haven’t been in public school in a long time. Much of what I read leaves me very hesitant about the school experience these days. Our neighbor friends constantly talk about how much they love the school, but much of what they talk about are after-school programs that I don’t even know my child will want to participate in. But we haven’t tried it, or experienced it first hand, at this school. Once we’ve tried it this fall, we’ll know a lot more. Maybe we’ll all love it. Maybe we won’t make it through an entire school year. Only time will tell.
I know there are arguments to be made against what I’m saying from both sides. Veteran homeschoolers will say we shouldn’t need to try public school to know that homeschooling is what we want for our family. And school families might say that it doesn’t sound like I’m planning to give it much of a chance at all. But the best part for us is that no decision regarding schooling/learning needs to be permanent, so we will work toward figuring out what will be best for our family.
About a year ago there was a post online discussing school options. Someone there used the phrase “homeschooler at heart” and it really resonated with me. I realized I am most definitely a homeschooler at heart. Does this knowledge mean I’ll homeschool my kids? I don’t know yet.
What it means to me is that I know I could. I know that my kids would be fine without school in their lives. It means I want a life for my family where we spend more time together than they spend with other adults. That my husband and I get to decide how and where we spend our time. It means that I know my kids can learn everything they need to know from me, the other adults in their lives, and outside resources we can access for them.
It comes down to both freedom and trust. Freedom to be in control of my family’s schedule. Freedom to let my kids be kids. Freedom for them to follow their interests in depth rather than learning what’s going to be on a standardized test. Freedom from doing something just because everyone else does it. Freedom to travel if we can. Freedom to discover who they are free from the confines and pressures that come with typical school. Freedom to develop at their own pace.
I trust that my children were born to learn and that they are learning all the time. I trust that when their brains are ready to learn how to read and write, they will learn. I trust that all of us learn best when we are interested in and enjoying what we’re doing. I trust that my kids will learn what they’ll need to be successful adults even without school. I trust my children to make decisions about their own interests and lives and to have a say in what and how they learn.
We have a lot of decisions ahead of us. But as far as schooling and learning go, no decision needs to be permanent and we can always try something new. And there is freedom in that fact, too.
Respectful parenting, Learning with kids, and Waiting for Readiness