Inspired by a recent conversation and this blog post, I thought I'd say a little something about my choices and our lives a home/un-schooling family. Many people haven't heard of the term and many that have, heard it spoken with condemnation and judgement. (I won't even bother to link that horrific train wreck of sub-substandard reporting that happened on ABC some months ago.)
What is "un-schooling"? For me, it's the philosophy that also undergirds democratic education - every person is born a natural learner and that they have the right to learn about what is meaningful to them and that they are to be treated with respect of the whole and growing person that they are.
You can find a more information about Unschooling here, but like other lifestyle choices, there are a myriad of ways that people translate the philosophy into their own lives and it's is very difficult to pin down any one way to un-school.
I personally don't even like the term un-school. I much prefer natural learning, learner-directed - even autodidact! Lately I find myself writing or saying "home/un-school". Even so, I don't volunteer the self-directed part to people unless they ask what curriculum I use, because then - depending on the person - it can get all weird and defensive and stuff: me explaining learner directed education and them feeling threatened by my rejection of what is "normal".
What was the point of this ramble, anyway? Getting to it!
One well meaning person asked me today "So, how is [homeschooling] with everyone?"
"You know, with society and the government?"
I told her that, "Lucky for me, I don't care what 'society' thinks and the Bahamian laws are vague enough to include home schooing (something like you have to "cause your child to learn") as legitamate, so we're good ... with 'everyone'."
How come I don't care? Well, I didn't (and still don't) always not-care. It has been a process - some seven years in the making - involving countless tedious steps. Some of which include crushing self-doubt, a terrifying sense of aloneness, and absolute humility at the megalithic responsibility of my choices to UN-SCHOOL our children in just about every sense of the term.
Yeah, it has not been easy. I had to dig and search and find something True that I could tether myself to. So I thought about how absolutely confident I was about my choice to nurse my children. And not just to nurse, but to go above and beyond what our society accepts as "normal" to what's actually closer to normal but called "extended breastfeeding". I didn't give a rat's ass what people thought about me nursing my baby or toddler. (<-- The best way I know how to say I couldn't care less!)
So I went back to that, and after "extended research", I found that same confidence about my choice to let my children direct their learning with me as a loving mentor and guide. And now, after lots of heartache and self-doubt, I really do not care one bit what people think about us being a home or un-schooling family.
Still, sometimes people - mostly relatives - tell me what I should be doing. "You need to give that boy a haircut." Not a decision about education, I know, but a choice we have left to the owner of the hair nonetheless. His head. His hair. Really has nothing to do with me, the way I see it. If I feel particularly fiesty I'll ask a simple matter of fact "Why?". When it's a grandma, I politely change the subject. (Probably reverse ageism, I know. But what can I do? I don't want to offend everyone!)
Coming Out and telling the world that I am starting a Democratic School has helped tremendously. That somehow validates what I do at home. I don't need validation, but now I have less explaining to do. I could have gone on quite happily living and loving life with my two babies turning into children, soon be turning to young adults. But at least now when people question me - generally speaking - it's more in the tone of "tell me more about this new, fascinating teaching style you espouse" than "good god woman, what kind of anti-social, agenda-ridden madness are you forcing on those poor children behind closed doors?". Though I still get the latter from time to time.
It's funny, really. That might just be me, however, as I have long been a fan (albeit unbeknownst to me) of non-conformism.
Either way. I love the life we have as natural learners all together. Am I ever afraid? Of course! It's the ones who never question even their own status quo that I'm worried about.