Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why We Unschool (Part I)

Very often, I am asked about why we home school our three boys. We live in a lovely town with top-rated schools, and the idea that I wouldn't want my kids to attend is very puzzling to people. I am not a religious zealot, and I have never been referred to as radical.
I guess the idea to keep my kids home was borne of my experience in La Leche league some years ago. I breastfed all three kids for two years or more. At that point, that was the most radical thing I had ever done in my life. If someone had told me when my oldest was born that he would still be breastfeeding at age two, I would have laughed....and blushed. LaLeche League helped me to "be the mom;" to make my own decisions about how I chose to care for my kids, rather than blindly conform to what was considered "normal." I grew up. Then I found out that school is the "formula" of early childhood.

Several years later when it was time for my oldest son to start kindergarten, I was thinking about home schooling, but not seriously. My second was just two, and we planned more. Kindergarten was not every day, and I thought he'd enjoy it. He did. He also went to first grade where he continued to make friends while I continued to ponder keeping him home. I missed him, and while he didn't seem unhappy at school, his spark for learning new things was being extinguished. He was an avid reader and writer so he was often sent to work independently while the teacher worked with other kids. Her mandate to bring the students up to a certain level for standardized testing left my kid sitting alone at a table doing worksheets. She was a wonderful, talented teacher who was not allowed to honor each child's progress. She had to toss aside her creativity and some of her compassion so that she could get the 6 year-olds up to snuff. Our real estate market depended on her. I also realized that no matter how good our school system was, they were never going to be able to provide my son with what I felt was the best learning environment; a place where he could explore his interests at will. He was already buying into the gold star mentality, sipping the Kool-Aid of test performance and reading rewards. And I was starting to hold the pitcher. EEK! I had to get him out of there.

Fast forward...By the end of first grade my husband had come to see the light and we decided our oldest child would not go back to school. We had also been sending the middle one off to preschool a couple of mornings each week, and I stopped that too. The school had a strong artistic slant, which I thought would be wonderful, but my middle one struggled with his motor skills and the sensory environment overwhelmed him. It was not a good fit. On his last day as the door was closing behind him he declared "Well, thank God that's over!" The issue for me was how to tell the other people in my world that I was seceding from normal society and becoming a freaky homeschooler.


Diane said...

Hurray for the freaky homeschooler families!!!

Joanne said...

Great post! may I suggest submitting it to Unschooling Voices?

JustFrank said...

I saw that same spark being extinguished in my son. Within a public school system, you think you're doing the right thing, being an involved parent and all, but you are just beating your head against the bureaucracy. Hurray for the freaky homeschoolers, indeed!

piscesgrrl said...

So, how did it all turn out? I'm dying to know. :) Did your friends all freak? Been there, done that. My mom recently revealed (after 9 years in) that some of her friends had told her "You can't LET them do that!" Yikes. Luckily, my mom told them it wasn't her decision and over the years she's come to really appreciate unschooling.

Great to read about your journey. :)