Help! Considering unschooling, and I'm a little freaked out about it - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-03-2005, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I really love the idea of unschooling, and I think I might want to do it with my kids. I love and believe in the idea of child-led learning, and I want my kids to have time to pursue things like music, art, and other activities outside the mainstream public school curriculum if they wish.

So why am I a little freaked out by the idea of unschooling? I've always worked (right now, part-time) and I really like my job. It's very flexible, engaging, and I feel like I'm making a difference in the world. I do research in academia though, so if I got out I think it would be pretty permanent. So there's that. Then there's the fact that dd (3) just started preschool and loves it! She really enjoys the activities, the people, everything. Would she be missing out on something if I kept her at home? Because I've always worked some, I've never had the full, SAH experience...sometimes my kids really drive me batty, and I hate to admit it but I look forward to the break I get from going to work. Could I be a good SAHM? Will I go insane?

Then of course there's the little kernel of doubt inside of me that can't help but worry if the kids will learn everything they need to...will they really do it all on their own? Does every parent of unschoolers at times feel insecure about this issue?

There's also my family...I haven't mentioned a word of this to any of them, but I AND dh come from families of public school teachers. They will flip their lid if we decide to go through with this.

Ugh, I have so many doubts but at the same time I've never felt so strongly about anything in my life. Did all of you who unschool know you were going to do this from the get go, or did it just evolve as your kids got bigger?

Thanks in advance, and sorry for the semi-rambling post...

~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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Old 01-03-2005, 09:41 PM
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You can work and unschool, especially part-time.

Preschool is really different from most regular school. In some places even kindergarten is really academic now. Some homeschool group activities are really more like preschool - lots of park days, and activities tend to be more open-ended and flexible.

You can always change your mind, too... I'd go with unschooling and see.

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Old 01-03-2005, 10:12 PM
 
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I'm with Dar. Try it and see. preschool is only a few hours a day a couple days a week. You can surely fit that amt. of time doing fun things with your child into your work schedule. I do doula work and still manage to unschool my 4 children ages 8-17.

It is scary for all of us in the begining, but I know you will find unschooling to be an exciting adventure and relaxed, enjoyable lifestyle.

Enjoy!
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Old 01-03-2005, 10:30 PM
 
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Hi Mere,

Our situation regarding schooling, homeschooling, and unschooling has changed and continues to change as we go along. We've done all of the above, and each of my children has done each of these things at different times! I have learned that flexibility is key, and to never to say never :LOL.

Most parents, as far as my experience has shown me: parents of schooled kids (both public and private), parents of homeschooled kids, parents of unschooled kids go through bouts of worry about their kids. No one has a guarantee of any sort. I think we all know adults who went to school, but are ill equipped to manage their adult lives well. School attendance throughout childhood is no guarantee of adult success, that's clear! OTOH, most homeschoolers/unschoolers seem to do very well in their adult lives, at least as far as the bit of research into adult homeschoolers has shown. If your heart is telling you that it's right to unschool, school will bug the heck out of you, and you will probably never be truly satisfied with it. At least, that's how it was for me.

Laura
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Old 01-04-2005, 02:09 AM
 
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I have heard and "met" quite a few online parents who work and unschool or homeschool. You said your work was flexible so that could lend itself well to unschooling Regarding what your family will think...well, you have to get good at a few calm but firm responses such as - "This is what my family feels is right. Thanks for your concern. We're all good though." Etc. Yep, I think every single parent has doubt about things sometimes. We are only human, and we want what is best for our kiddos. I agree with the others, it doesn't have to be a permanent thing if it turns out it isnt what you were looking for. Best of luck!

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Old 01-04-2005, 01:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mere
I've always worked (right now, part-time) and I really like my job. It's very flexible, engaging, and I feel like I'm making a difference in the world. I do research in academia though, so if I got out I think it would be pretty permanent. So there's that.
We are still a few years away from making schooling decisions, but I have been considering and starting to explore hs as an option. I am working on my dissertation now and I really want to keep career options open for when kids are grown. Some of my thoughts, FWIW...

I am thinking that any kind of hs will have chunks of the day where kids are doing self-directed or independent activities where I could get a few hours in my home office for work. Right now ds (2 yo) spends 10 hrs/week with a baby sitter and dd (2 mo) hangs out in the sling or whatever while I work. When kids are a bit bigger, I am considering a mother's helper...like a middle school kid for a couple hours after school to play with. Not necessarily someone I would leave the kids with, but someone to keep them entertained in another room so I can get some work done. At some point, the kids will be old enough to understand that mommy needs to work for a couple of hours and do their own thing (study, read, play, whatever).

I'm hoping once I finish my diss, I can find a way to stay in the research game (through my Ph.D. advisor or former classmates who now have their own research programs) and get out an occasional paper, etc., like a glorified research assistant or something. I'm not worried about advancing my own career now, just keeping my options open down the road.

I don't know if this is any help at all for the OP, but if nothing else lets me think "outloud" about my options. Good luck with whatever you decide!
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Old 01-05-2005, 01:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the feedback...I hadn't even considered that working some and unschooling was an option. Clearly though I hadn't thought it through! I'd love to hear from anyone who has actually done this...

~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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Old 01-05-2005, 03:03 AM
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I'm a single mom, and I've always been the sole source of support for our family. I've worked at home, outside the home, and a combo of both. When my daughter was younger I chose to wah mostly, but a p/t woh job would have been fine too... I just would have had to make more to cover childcare.

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Old 01-05-2005, 06:19 PM
 
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"Then there's the fact that dd (3) just started preschool and loves it! She really enjoys the activities, the people, everything. Would she be missing out on something if I kept her at home?"

Unschooling is not about isolation, it's not about not doing things outside of the home. I would say that yes, if you did just keep her at home, she would be missing out on something. But keep in mind that preschool is not school. Preschool is (or should be) about play, adventure, mental stimulation, and social interaction. I would hope that any unschooler would have opportunities for all of those things.

"Because I've always worked some, I've never had the full, SAH experience... sometimes my kids really drive me batty, and I hate to admit it but I look forward to the break I get from going to work. Could I be a good SAHM? Will I go insane?"

Maybe. Does it have to be all or nothing though? Are your only two choices being with your kids 24/7 OR sending them to school?

"Then of course there's the little kernel of doubt inside of me that can't help but worry if the kids will learn everything they need to...will they really do it all on their own? Does every parent of unschoolers at times feel insecure about this issue?"

As far as I can see, the importance of the subject matter covered in schools is seriously over-rated. Looking back at my own schooling, there is so little of it that was/is of any real use to me. Most of my valuable learning happened outside of school, and it is obvious to me that given the necessary resources all of it would easily have happened outside of school. And most kids today do have access to those resources. So the pertinent question becomes, will they take advantage of them on their own, or do they have to be pushed or coerced into doing so?

To me, this is a no-brainer. The most complex skill most of us will ever accomplish is to learn how to talk, and little children do it without being taught how, and without being pushed or coerced into it. They learn it because they have an intrinsic desire to engage with the world, and that desire is all (aside from access to information) anyone of any age needs to learn everything they really truly need to know. I don't believe for a second that this desire mysteriously disappears at age 3 or 5 or 7. What evolutionary sense would that make? What I think is that we are made to be neurotic about it. People develop eating disorders when they experience unnatural stress in the act of eating, or when their eating is articifically induced. It's the same with psychologically-based social disorders, sleeping disorders, you name it. Isn't it logical that it would be the same for learning?

I guess I'm not insecure about it because it makes about a zillion times more sense to me than the schooling theory of learning.

"There's also my family...I haven't mentioned a word of this to any of them, but I AND dh come from families of public school teachers. They will flip their lid if we decide to go through with this."

I know, that's tough. They're coming from such a different mindset, they can't conceive of how it could work. It's not their fault, but geez it makes for a lot of awkwardness and discomfort when the subject comes up. We haven't really talked about how we are homeschooling, and I think that when they see our kids doing things like counting out change, it doesn't occur to them that our methods need to be examined and questioned. But none of our kids are reading yet (the oldest would be entering third grade this fall) and I know at some point somebody's going to figure that out and get in a tizzy over it. I figure I'll just bombard them with literature that explains our philosophy and hope that they don't want to get into a debate about it, because I have a LOT to stay about schooling (especially public) that would no doubt lead to hard feelings.

"Did all of you who unschool know you were going to do this from the get go, or did it just evolve as your kids got bigger?"

It evolved. I think that at first it was an extension of attachment parenting, my kids weren't ready to leave me all day, and I wasn't ready for that either. To me, there is something essential perverse and unnatural about coercively keeping children from their home and familly for most of the day. But then, as I started thinking about what kind of school they would go to eventually, I found that none of the schools in our area were acceptable to me for one reason or another. I frequented a progressive online forum at the time where a lot of people were talking about alternative educational theory, Steiner, Montessori, Holt, etc., and that was interesting enough to me to do a little further investigating. I thought for a while that a Waldorf or Montessori school would be the answer, but soon realized that we could never afford either, unless it was on complete scholarship. Then I read Escape From Childhood by John Holt and that deeply influenced my feelings about school in general, in particular leading me to question the popular belief that children must be forced to do this or that for their own good. The more I thought about it, the less able I was to justify putting them through any kind of schooling, until I got to the where I couldn't conscionably do anything *but* unschool.
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Old 01-05-2005, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks blueviolet! Everything you (and others) say makes so much sense.

It just feels sort of, well, SCARY to go against the mainstream beliefs regarding school! I'm sure though that the more I read and become comfortably in my beliefs it will get less and less 'scary!'

~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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Old 01-06-2005, 02:24 AM
 
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Mere - keep hanging out on this board, and reading, reading, reading all you can about homeschooling and unschooling. Doing this helped me ease my fears when I felt like we were jumping off a cliff! :LOL!

One of the best books to read (or give to a skeptic to read) about homeschooling is: "Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense" by David Guterson.

It's written by a man who, at the time of writing, was a public high school teacher who had three homeschooled sons. The book is written as a response to his father's skeptical questions about homeschooling. It's great! It's helped to ease the fears of many an uncomfortable father/grandparent, etc. The author also reassures readers that *all* homeschooling styles along the homeschooling-unschooling spectrum can be successful.

As far as needing alone time, and worries about your kids driving you crazy - I hear you! But having experienced both having kids in school, and homeschooling, I can tell you - school sucks up a lot of your time, but it sucks it up with activities not of your own choosing: homework, fundraising activities, working in the classroom, driving on field trips, parent club meetings, etc. Not only that, but the time you do have with your kids is often of a lesser quality. Kids can be cranky when they come home from school, and their after school activities. You may have homework battles in the evenings, and frustrations with getting ready for school in the morning. For me, homeschooling has been *easier* than having them in school was. And your kids will get older, and will occupy their own time more and more. I have several hours in a day now when they are doing their own thing, and I'm doing mine. We may be in the same house, but we're not necessarily in each others faces all that time. YK? Life with kids changes a lot as they get older.

Laura
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