A month or two ago, I saw a phrase on line. It was something like: “Unschoolers: living life as if there was no school.” Of course, now I can’t find it – if you know a source, please provide it in the comments here! For some reason, this phrase really irritated me, so I kept running it around in my head.
I am not an unschooler, and my boys are not unschoolers. Really. they are SO much happier when I keep them busy. The older one likes a schedule, and the younger is happier when I make him do things, even tho he fights me on the transition in to a new activity. And i have trouble functioning without a schedule.
But i sometimes feel conflicted, because I really LIKE unschoolers. They are fun, laid back, less competitive, less likely to be pushy about their religion or lack thereof, and their kids tend to be very accepting. I like a lot of the philosophy about unschooling . . .accepting your kids as they are, listening to them, following their lead. But I just can’t live with the total lack of enforced curriculum. The ‘radical’ unschoolers I know will let their kids play video games all night and sleep all day. As a rule, not an exception! And yes, i know, there are unschooled kids who end up doing great in college. I’m not saying it’s not a valid choice, i just cant live that way – the thought makes me twitchy!
In some ways its like, you know, the rest of my life. I always had trouble finding a group I really felt at home in. I mean, I loved the hippies: they threw great parties, allowed me to explore various alternative lifestyles with no criticism, and I loved their clothes. But sometimes the total chaos and lack of responsibility drove me nuts. I loved the serious geeks: their games, their values, their humor mostly seemed like a good fit . . . but most of them eat junk food and are afraid of the dark woods and bright sunlight. Or the pagans . . . if they weren’t so in to that religion, I think I could really identify with them. And these aren’t just cliches, this was my life!
Back to that slogan. “Unschoolers: living life as if there was no school” (or something like that). It makes me feel like I must be crazy because I don’t WANT to live like there is no school, no matter how cool-sounding a slogan it is!
And then I remembered . . . in times when there was no school, or no state school, or no affordable school, or no schools open to particular individuals . . . plenty of people still studied books. Black slaves taught their kids to read from the bible, with the shades drawn, so no one could see. Poor kids borrowed books from teachers who took pity on them. My jewish ancestors so valued education that wives were allowed work outside the home in order to support the husbands in studying the Talmud. Studying is a FINE tradition . .. even without schools.
I continued to turn it over in my head. “Living life as if there was no school”. But, what if I liked school?
Well, maybe thats Ok. Each of us who home schools does it for a different reason. There are many DIFFERENT things we wanted to get away from, when we started home schooling. For some, it was mind-numbingly boring or frustratingly difficult seat work. For others, it was ‘values’ or bad teachers. Some wanted more academics, or less structure, or more religion, or just more time with their kids. For me it was primarily because my son’s emotional disability was not being handled effectively at school.
So when we choose to remove our children from the school system, we are free to choose what, if anything, we want to keep from the school model. Some don’t want to keep ANYTHING from the school model. But I think that, even if I’d never been to public school, I would still schedule activities for my children. I do so during the summer, and I did so when they were younger. It makes our lives run more smoothly.
So, I guess the final answer is, I CAN live as if there were no schools . . . but with books. and schedules. and discipline. And discovery streaming.