OK – I have completely avoided this topic… for a long time… because:

  1. I don’t feel like getting into arguments with people about it.
  2. I don’t feel like defending our decisions to anyone else.
  3. I don’t feel like offering endless disclaimers as to why we’ve chosen this route.
  4. and… again… I don’t feel like getting into arguments with people about it!

But – I can’t avoid the topic any more because people keep asking questions about our kids and their schooling… and I can’t keep avoiding this conversation forEVER.

So here goes:  we are homeschooling the kids… not only homeschooling, but exploring the option of un-schooling too! exhales

It’s actually quite funny.  I was the person who vowed that I would never… EVER… homeschool my kids.  Ever!  Homeschooling was for uber-right-wing… ultra-conservative religious families… it was not for me.  Homeschooling was for the Amish – and the Blou Rokkie Colony in Benoni… not for me.  Homeschooling was for people who were “too scared” to let their kids venture out into the “Real World”… homeschooling was for bored mothers… homeschooling was for hillbillies and hippies and crystal-swingers and (insert long list of ugly judgemental stereotyping here)blah, blah-dee, blah.

Just shows what happens when you vow never EVER EVER to do something!  I am eating my words… and not only that, I’m very remorseful about all of my ugly, judgemental stereotyping!

Homeschooling (and particularly the unschooling movement) – I have quickly discovered – is one of those topics that gets people all heated up and foaming-at-the-mouth mad in just a few short seconds.  Mothers, especially, get very worked up.  It’s like the whole breast-feeding vs. bottle debate…. or the natural delivery vs. C-section debate… or the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate… (as if we don’t have enough to criticise each other about) we now have the schooling debate too!

Why are we so… on edge?  Why are we sooo defensive!?  Why do we feel that someone else’s decision (to do things differently) is a direct affront on our decisions to do things our way?

My friend Jana has 4 kids.  All of them were natural births without pain relief… 3 of those births were home-births.  The last child was an unassisted home birth (her husband delivered the baby because the midwife hadn’t yet arrived).  Jana also breastfed all of the babies for months / years.

Now – I’m not like Jana.  I like hospitals.  I hired a private room in a private hospital – and both of my kids were born via C-section.  I breast-fed both of them for only a few weeks until I switched to bottle. I’m also not a “Big Family” kind of mom…. I’m not planning on having any more kids – two’s my limit, thank-you (Jana, I think, could have 10 children and would manage just fine).

But here’s the thing… although Jana’s choices are completely NOT what I would have chosen… they remain Jana’s choices.  Jana’s body.  Jana’s children.  Jana’s family.  And Jana has the right to make those choices – and to NOT be attacked by all-and-sundry who don’t agree with her ways.

Can I please – reserve that same right – the right to give birth to… feed… raise… and educate my kids as I see fit… as their mother… who knows them better, cares deeply about their future happiness and loves them more infinitely than any stranger who has decided that she knows better than me on what my kids do – or do not – need.

OK – disclaimer over!

Here are a few reasons why we have chosen homeschooling:

  • The typical one-size-fits-all System of Education simply doesn’t make sense to us.  There is a brilliant manifesto by Seth Godin which goes into far more detail than what I’m prepared to (on this blog).  I also love the thoughts of Sir Ken Robinson whose book, “The Element” made me cry more than once.  Here’s a story that particularly moved me.
  • We want to travel… we don’t want to be tied down in one place.  Homeschooling / unschooling supports our particular nomadic way of life.
  • Nick and I are both Questioners… in that we find it really difficult to swallow a certain methodology or do things in a certain way because-that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been-done… or because-that’s-how-everyone-else-does-it.  Things need to make sense to us (and this includes Rules and Systems).  We don’t follow rules because somebody said “this is a rule and you need to follow it”… we follow rules that make sense to follow (i.e :”Don’t drive through a red traffic light” – is a rule that makes sense to us.  “Don’t bring your food into our movie theatre – you’re only allowed to buy OUR (overpriced) food” – is simply a stupid rule… and is thus ignored).  I want my children to be Questioners too.  I don’t want them to just simply swallow whatever crap is regurgitated by society / the media / politics / religion / friends / whatever.  I want to raise kids that think for themselves.  Now, I don’t know about you – but I used to get into lots of trouble at school for questioning the answers.  Teachers were happy when I answered the questions – but would get frustrated and annoyed when I questioned the answers.
Right now, I’m questioning the entire system!  Why do we learn this way?  Who made these rules in the first place?  Who devised the school curriculum and decided it was best?  Who decided that standardised testing was a necessary way to “measure” children against other children?  Does an institution with 4 walls, a curriculum, tests and report cards equal “education”?  Does it give our children a love of knowledge?
There are soooo many questions right now – and The Education System is not giving me any answers that make ANY sense.
And:  “well, this is just the way it’s done” is NOT an answer.
Now, having said that… I’m being careful to not say “never” again.  Am I saying we’ll “never” send our children to school again?  No – I’m not.  This is our season – for now.  Maybe there will be a time when we find a school that resonates with our values… and maybe our children will end up going to school.  Or maybe we’ll hire a tutor.  Or maybe not.  Who knows?
Nothing is set in stone right now.  This is the season we’re in.  It’s interesting, it’s fascinating and it’s a GOOD season… at least, for now.
Final Disclaimer:  Please, please understand that this blog is not meant to attack the choices that other people make.  Every parent knows their children – and every parent is entitled to educate their children in whichever way makes sense to them!  I have many good friends whose children are educated in the traditional way – and I don’t hold it against them or anyone else.  It is simply not the route that WE are choosing to follow.
Final-Final Disclaimer:  I hate adding all the disclaimers – but, as mentioned, for some reason – this topic tends to get strong reactions out of people… particularly parents… particularly (some) teachers.  I haven’t published this blog to be controversial – but since Nick and I are on this journey of experimenting with living differently… and since educating our kids (in way that makes sense to us) is a huge priority in our lives – I thought I’d share our perspectives in this blog.

By the way, to understand what unschooling is (and isn’t)… you can read a few great articles here, here, here and here.  Obviously homeschooling and unschooling is not for everyone… but right now, it’s our choice and we’re happy with it.