A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

Are unschoolers really nuts?

on November 24, 2014

When I first began homeschooling about five years ago, I researched everything to do with homeschooling. I attended co-ops, support groups, and meetings. I read every article and website. I watched A LOT of YouTube. I then decided to teach my children through structured homeschooling. This means that I re-created the public school experience at home. We had a tough schedule with grading and testing. I kept records and gave out rewards such as stickers and fake money. They used the money to buy things from the treasure box. It seemed to be going well – at least for me.
During this first year, I met all sorts of homeschoolers and unschoolers. The homeschoolers I could understand, but the unschoolers? They were completely bonkers. They actually let their children do whatever they wanted. There was no structure. There were no grades. There was no testing. This was insane! I did not want that for my kids. I wanted them to go to college and be successful. My son loved bugs so he would go to A&M and study entomology. My daughter liked art, so she would go to art school. I had everything planned out. There was only one thing I did not even consider. My children were miserable.
So that first summer, we regrouped. I took some of the structure out. We had school four days a week instead of five. We went on field trips with a local homeschool group. We went to SCA events. We still learned from text books and I still gave grades and rewards. But they were still miserable. What the heck was going on? Couldn’t they see that this was for their own good? They would be successful, by golly.
That next summer, we regrouped again. We still had text books. We still learned from them. But this time, I borrowed a bit from Charlotte Mason and others. It seemed to help but trying to raise the perfectly educated child stressed me out completely.
Fast forward to last year. I started a tech support job from home. I worked the 12-8 pm shift. My husband was attending college in the mornings. We still homeschooled, be it a little more relaxed form of it. So, many things did not get done. Grades were not kept, textbooks were used less and we spent more time together as a family. I missed my kids so we used our time together to bond and have fun. I noticed one very important thing. The world did not end. My kids did not revert back to a Neanderthal state. They still learned. Really? Could this be?
Well, we had many things happen last summer. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to leave my job to take care of my mother (she is in remission now and doing great). So I had more time on my hands, which disappointed my children. You see, I love research. When I start something, I get a bit obsessive about it. So I was back on the homeschooling kick. I got my husband’s college math book and taught my children college math. I also taught them college history. My kids are now 13 and 16 so they breezed through it all. Although my daughter absolutely hates math. I love it. I could factor polynomials all day long and giggle while doing it. But I am nuts. My son likes math though. He giggles too. He also likes Java (silly kid). How does my daughter work math problems? First she opens the book. Then she copies the problem. Then she cries. Well, not really. She does pout and cross her arms a lot. “But I HATE math!” is her mantra of the day. My son spends more of his free time playing video games and less time exploring. He does this to escape. He is not happy. My daughter spends all her free time writing stories and drawing. They were slowly withdrawing from family time. We were all miserable. What should I do?
Last week, I came across Ms. Gwen’s blog. Through it, she introduced me to Peter Gray. He is a psychologist who studies children and how they learn. He is a huge supporter of unschooling. His article titled “The Danger of Back to School” is eye-opening, to say the least. Seeing all of this gave me insight on how I could make my children happy. I realized that success should not be measured in how much money you make (although that is a nice bonus). It should be measured in how happy you are. They say if you love your job you will never work a day in your life. Why shouldn’t school be looked at the same way? We make children do far more work in school than we do at our jobs. They are micromanaged and taught to sit still and do the work. Really? Would you be happy if your boss treated you that way?
So the rest of this year will be spent on happier pursuits. My son will still work on his Java and math (because he likes them) and I will give my daughter a break from math. I will give her more time to draw and write fan fiction. I have even read her stories and they are pretty good. So what if she can’t factor polynomials? She wants to write, draw and act. I don’t think her lack of numeracy knowledge will be a hindrance. I now have the kids work together on projects. There are times when my son is working math on the board and my daughter will lend a hand. My son will also proofread her stories. They still learn but they have fun doing it and they do it on their own terms. I have found unschooling to be more than I thought it could ever be. It is a great way to raise happy kids. My son no longer wants to be an entomologist (although he still loves all insects and animals). He is more into creating digital art and games. My daughter wants to be a voice-over artist. I am done pushing college. As a teen, I had college pushed down my throat. I was the only one in my family to attend a university. I have done nothing with it. It was a great experience, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t use any of that knowledge today. It is really overrated. But that is a whole other blog post all together.
In the end, I have changed my views on homeschooling and unschooling. I have also found that there is a wide spectrum of people in each category. So are unschoolers really nuts? They just want their kids to be happy. So do I. So I guess I am a little nutty too.

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4 responses to “Are unschoolers really nuts?

  1. I can relate to everything you said here. Part of it is, most of the parents that are homeschooling their children were in traditional school for their education. So, we start out with the idea of making a school at home. We have to “de-school” ourselves. We have finally transitioned fully to unschooling, and my son has never been happier.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ms. Gwynne says:

    Thank you for the mention, Sonja! You might be interested in this story, pertaining to how unschoolers turn out: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/09/how-do-unschoolers-turn-out/
    (Hint: It will be okay! Your kids can definitely still go to college!) I really, really like reading this kind of thing, because there are a good number of days that I need reassurance.

    Like

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