Since being on the Steve Harvey show, I have been asked so many questions about the way we educate our children. I received one email in particular that I really want to address, because I think it will answer a lot of other's questions as well! Here it is:
First of all, I was so touched by this email to see a mother who wants the best for her son. It's something so relatable to so many of us. Know that just the fact that you are looking into options and care to learn about the best ways to raise your son, already speaks volumes about you as a wonderful parent, no matter what you choose. As far as telling you if unschooling is right for you and your son and your situation, I don't know that I can confidently give you an answer. That is something I learned for my situation, for myself through research, trial-and-error, prayer, and meditation. I would encourage you to do the same. What I CAN do though, is share the journey I went on to come to this decision, and if any part of it resonates with you, that might be the answer you're seeking. If you come to the conclusion that it is, don't EVER let the fear of doing something differently hold you back! All the best people throughout history have stood out from the crowd! (That should probably be another blog post entirely, though...)
When my daughter was a toddler, she loved to learn, as all kids do! Every day I picked an activity, something on Pinterest or YouTube usually, and did it with her. It was fun to introduce her to something new, and it naturally led to meaningful conversations (yes, it's possible with a two-year-old) and curiosity about all different aspects of the activity we had done. Sometimes I looked up an activity I was interested in, to see if she might be too, but mostly I followed what she seemed to enjoy doing, and built my ideas for activities off of that. It was amazing to watch her learn and grow, and somewhere along the way, I started thinking about homeschooling. It made sense with the goals my husband and I had set for ourselves to travel as a family and be independent artists and entrepreneurs.
When it came time to think about Kindergarten, and really make a decision, I was pretty sure I would be homeschooling, but I wanted to get as much information as possible, so we started visiting the local public schools. This was extremely disappointing. We went to three public schools in the area we were living in Orange County, CA. They all seemed so run down and just had such a feeling of low energy when you walked in. No one at the front office really wanted to talk to us about the school or tell us about any fun programs they offered or why they loved their school. Everyone just seemed annoyed that we had questions, and honestly like they had lost hope in the school system they worked in themselves. At the end of the day, it just felt so wrong to put our daughter into that kind of environment to "learn" for most of the day!
Next we visited a local private school. My daughter was very excited by this school. They had all the latest technology, colorful classrooms, and a smiling vice principal who was happy to give us a tour and answer all of our questions. There were two problems. One was the cost. I'm sure if we REALLY felt strongly that this was the right place to be, we would have made it work, but it didn't feel right for some reason. It didn't quite align with our entrepreneurial, travel-minded goals.
us on our recent trip to the Grand Canyon! Learning without even trying...
It all led us back to the first thing that felt right, homeschooling. I started joining as many homeschool groups as possible on Facebook, to get ideas of different ways to homeschool, and to meet up for activities, field trips, park days, etc. It was a great way to meet new people for my kids and for me, and to ask lots of questions. In fact, this is how I met my best friend Jen who introduced me to unschooling. I'll let you check out her blog below! She just wrote a great post about what unschooling is for her family.
So back to the homeschooling... I heard about unschooling from some of these parents, but it scared me! What if I messed up my child? What if she didn't learn everything she needed to? What if she didn't go to college?? So I found a local online charter school. That offered us a common core curriculum found in all the public and private schools and the ability to do it at home. We did this for several months, plowing through the frustration and tears to make sure I gave it a fair chance. My daughter turned from a curious child who loved learning into one who was so burnt out by all this "learning" that she didn't want to do anything anymore if I mentioned the word "school". I had to fight her every day. She started to tell me she wasn't smart, and I felt like all we did all day was memorize things right before we took a quiz or test, so that she would remember the right answer. But nothing was sticking long-term! She wasn't able to remember the word that I just made her read ten times. She would read a book perfectly and then an hour later completely seem to forget every word. It just didn't feel like she was actually learning anything anymore. And I had to spend so much time every day reviewing facts that I never had a chance to explore her interests with her anymore. There just wasn't enough time or energy left in me at the end of the day.
before we realized how frustrating this was going to be... Lili SO excited on her"first day of school"
Through much soul-searching, more research, and some heart to hearts with friends and husband, I took the leap of faith and pulled her out of this school. It was a month or so of trying different things and freaking out a little about if I had made the right decision, when I really started to think about the core of what I needed to do for her, for her education. I had an epiphany one day and realized that the CORE of what she needed, and what EVERY successful adult needs, is to know how to set a SMART goal, and ACHIEVE it. In essence, that's what we have been doing ever since! Each goal she sets ends up covering and teaching her multiple subjects she would be learning in school, and it actually applies to real life. She gets to feel that sense of accomplishment in finishing something, and sticking with it even when it gets rough or boring at times. I also have to say that a BIG part of this working, is that your child has to see YOU consistently setting goals and achieving them too. You have to do your absolute best to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. I also set my own goals and rejoice in completing them alongside WITH my daughter. We are both gaining a LOVE for LIFE-LONG LEARNING. I finally feel like we are in this crazy flow and things are all coming together and working beautifully. I hope this helps answer your question, and good luck with your journey!
Next up, I will be posting about what unschooling looks like for our family personally, day to day. Every family is a little bit different, so as I'm getting that together in the next couple days, keep those questions coming!