When we remove something common from our diets, whether by choice or due to an intolerance or allergy, we often immediately find ourselves looking for substitutes. Like vegetarian bacon, veggie burgers… gluten-free bread or pizza crust… In essence we seek altered versions of the very things we are used to consuming, because we have not yet discovered the many protein-rich or naturally gluten-free foods that will not only meet our nutritional needs, but quite possibly be much healthier for us in the long run as these foods are closer to their natural state than most vegetarian or GF versions of our Standard Western Diet.
I feel this way about life learning. The most common question I get when people find out that some of my children do not attend school is “Who does the homeschooling with them?”… It is an understandable question, as most of us have an ingrained idea of what learning is and where and how it takes place. And for most of us (myself included at one point) this most certainly involves a modern school setting. It seems almost unfathomable that no one really has to “do” the homeschooling with the children, because they are constantly learning, constantly curious, constantly asking questions. I struggled with this for years, under the microscope of sceptics and my own insecurities and fears of damaging my children’s education if my instinct was wrong. Then I grew up, trusted myself, observed my children and how they learned, and chose instead to trust their natural desire to learn and grow.
It is amazing what happens when you stop trying to substitute. When you throw away the “school at home” and what comes with it, and foster the seeds known as your children with rich soil, water, nutrients and sunshine. I will always be asked what grades my children are in. Truthfully I forget and have to mentally associate their ages with grades in my mind for a second before I answer. They forget, too. They are too busy just learning and exploring to keep track. It used to make me nervous (it takes a while to shed conditioning that is so deeply ingrained). Now I think it’s kind of funny. I love how Dayna Martin put it when she said “We just live life as though school doesn’t exist”. Although I can’t completely do that as four of my children currently attend school and have schedules that we need to respect, it does apply to two of my boys at this point in time. One struggles with spelling, which has never been an issue for any of the older children, but instead of forcing spelling drills and worksheets on him as some would recommend, he simply asks me how to spell things, and is open to my correcting his spelling when he writes comic books or stories or sends me e-mails. Yes, my children e-mail me when we are in the same room. 😉
I respect my homeschooling peers who choose the school at home approach. We all do what works best for our family. If we are not comfortable or convinced of a path, we can harm ourselves and our children by taking it. There are perils to ignoring what our instincts as parents tell us. There are perils to ignoring who we essentially are and actively choosing not to be that person. For some mothers this means following a structured and set curriculum For others, like myself, it means learning as life happens and setting that example for my children.
Does this mean their education is neglected? Not in the least. It simply isn’t based on what the local schools are studying when they are studying it. It is a bit like the aforementioned vegetarian substitute meats & cheeses vs. what one would eat if they relocated to a country where the diet has never been centred around meat to begin with. Make sense? In those countries, the meat & starch & veggie dilemma is simply not an issue because that’s just not how they eat or structure their meals. It’s a completely different way of looking at food and eating. But it is a foreign concept to those of us raised in the Western world.
That is unschooling, or as I prefer to call it, life learning. And that is why while it is certainly a very different educational approach than what we as a culture are used to, it is a sound one.
I am enjoying this shift from Hesitant Homeschooler to Confident Life Learner. I am enjoying seeing my children thrive because I am no longer uncertain.
I feel like the world is our oyster right now…