Unschooling: What it Means to Me

April 29th, 2012 Comments Off on Unschooling: What it Means to Me


Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school.” ~ John Holt

If you’ve read my post titled  Life is a School you know that I started my homeschooling adventure entrenched in the traditional school ways.

Afterall, I myself, had gone through public school. My husband had survived it.  So had my twenty-four year old daughter. But I had decided to homeschool my two boys for various reasons and I really believed that they needed to study in every subject – every day.

We set out on the path with spelling, math, literature, science and  history books in hand. I quickly realized that the boys were very willing and able to buck the system.  And buck they did, leaving me perplexed about how I was going to survive one year, let alone an entire education with each of them.

Thus began my inquisition into how people learn and how best to teach two young boys. MY two boys to be exact.

If you’ve Googled Homeschooling, you already know how much information is out there. I was overwhelmed to say the least.  And not only that, we had already spent a small fortune on age appropriate material for each of the boys. I really wanted to utilize those materials if possible.

While searching, I came across a few articles about unschooling. I was intrigued. The articles talked about letting your kids follow their own interest. They talked about just spending time with your kids and talking. They talked about staying present with your kids and really trusting them to learn what they needed to learn and encouraging them in the ways they wanted to go.

I absolutely loved this idea. I wanted to implement it immediately.

I did. . .

But, I got scared. I saw the school kids in our neighborhood learning multiplication facts and doing difficult science projects.  They had hours of homework, after having been in school for seven hours. My kids were playing with blocks and Legos all day long.

I pulled out the old school books and quick.

I was surprised that they could do the “grade level” worksheets I put in front of them, even though we hadn’t had any formal lessons on the subject. They would dutifully appease my fear by sitting at the table, pencil to paper, heads hung low and miserable, gazing longingly at their Legos, wondering when I would let up.

After several of these episodes, I realized that in order for unschooling to work for our family, I was going to have to unschool myself. I was going to have to let go of being attached to HOW my kids learned and TRUST them to learn by being who they are. I was going to have to listen to them and ask them what they WANTED to learn.

After years of teetering back and forth between unschooling and die-hard school work I’ve learned to let go of expectations and realize that my kids have many interests and that when they are pursuing their interest they are learning – math, spelling, grammer, history, science and art. When they are following something they are interested in, they are much more motivated to learn what they need to learn in order to pursue it.

So, we play video and computer games, we draw, we read books, we take walks, we cook, we clean, we garden, we take care of grandparents, we play games, we live, learn and love life – together, without grades, without agendas, without trying to get anywhere other than where we are right now. And it is wonderful!

It is really preposterous to believe that a child will not learn from the world around him. It’s really the only way that anyone learns. We have been brainwashed to believe that the only way to learn is in school.

It was slow moving and very difficult for me to let go of my upbringing and have the courage to do something different. But the rewards have been great.

My kids are very well rounded and happy. They are excited to get up every day and are living a life far beyond what I ever imagined was possible.

My husband and I are raising thinkers.

And questioners.

And implementors.

They will always think for themselves and never be afraid of asking the big questions.They will trust themselves to pursue what is in their heart and ask what they need to ask to get there.

There are no F’s in our house. . .or A’s, B’s, C’s or D’s.

As Thomas Edison said after several tries at inventing the light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

That’s the attitude I want my kids to have.  And you can’t get THAT on a graded paper at school.

Comments are closed.

What's this?

You are currently reading Unschooling: What it Means to Me at Michelle Conaway.