BREATHE. LET GO.It seemed profoundly true. —Sandra
My son went from a vibrant, happy, magical kid to a joyless boy with little curiosity and a ton of anxiety. School wanted him on ritalin, they wanted him tutored, they wanted him in therapy, and like an idiot I went along with it. Fortunately for both of us, I eventually woke up and saw my actual child. He was miserable. His life was awful - one dreary obligation after the other, forced to do things he hated by those more powerful, stretching out endlessly before him into the foreseeable future. It knocked the wind out of me - I'd been making the demands of the system more important than the needs of my child! This realization forced me to rethink everything about learning and living—made me really look at the things I had just gone mindlessly along with throughout my life and his. It's a profound source of regret that it took me so long to recognize it. How could I be so blind? How could keeping to the conventional path be more important than his well-being? It really stuns me.
We also had a lot of conflict between us -- it seemed I was constantly engaged in power struggles over homework, bathing, food, bedtimes, practicing violin. In TV families, fighting and wrestling with your child like this meant you were a good, caring parent. The real-life truth was, he didn't trust me. Why should he? He was in my hands and his life was hell. I had the power to help him, and I wasn't using it.
He was 11 when I took him out of school and we started deschooling, big time. It's been about 18 months and we are just recently coming out of it into unschooling. He's needed the last year or so to heal and rediscover himself and his own interests. I've needed this time to reorient myself to a new way of thinking, not just about learning, but about love and relationships and how to be trustworthy. For about 8 or 9 months, Oscar just basked in the comfort of movies, TV, and video games and experimented with his sleeping schedule. He didn't want to "learn" anything (although he did learn a lot anyway from Dr. Who and Star Trek, the Suite Life of Zach and Cody and The Amazing Race and the hundreds of conversations we had as I kept him company). How could he think about learning when he'd been in in such distress for so long? How could he think about learning when he'd been cut off from his own curiosity by the adults around him who frogmarched him from one boring study unit to the next since he was five? He'd been too busy trying to survive emotionally to focus on anything else. That has now changed and he has many interests—baking, voice-acting, chemistry, comedy writing, the Rennaisance (thanks, Merlin and the BBC!), and on and on. He had to find a peaceful home in himself before he could start to decorate it with knowledge.
I am a single working mother unschooling. You can do it. Create a space at your business where she can nestle up and heal. Fill it with books and games, dvds, craft kits - whatever she enjoys when given a choice. Fill it with snacks. Order delivery to share a few times a week. My life with my child is absolutely wonderful now. I earned back his trust and he is just flourishing. His curiosity has returned with a vengeance. But it took patience from me, plus faith in my child's inherent worth and goodness. More faith than I had in society's methods and mandates.
And if you're worried about learning, Oscar just had to take a test as part of our state home shooling laws. He's right on target - around the middle for math and language and the top 20% for reading. That means that, without one single work sheet or pop quiz or mind-numbing lecture, he's doing as well as all those kids logging their 35 hours plus a week of institutional drills (and waking up at 7am, and needing permission to eat or pee, and some suffering bullying...)
Bring her home, surround her with peace and joy. Don't fight with her. Just love her. There is much more at stake here than her "education."
Pamela, in New York
Deschooling is working. We started unschooling in December. I was very excited and my DD was relieved. She was happy about not having to do texts. And my little guy was thrilled to have his sister happy again in the mornings!
About a month into it, I was still gung-ho, she on the other hand was having a hard time. She felt like she wasn’t learning anymore. Because I was not forcing her to do anything. She was worried that she was not learning the same things her best friend was, who is in school. She would ask when she could learn something again. We had a great discussion about learning vs. me telling her to do her math. In a nutshell I told her that she could learn anything she wanted, anytime she wanted. She said she didn’t realize that and took off again. She chose to learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and pioneering again. I think she will always love pioneering. We have been very busy doing more advanced pioneering crafts this time around, but in a completely new fashion. We have had a great time.
Then, about a month ago, I started to get that old feeling of-is she learning enough? Is she totally behind her age mates? Am I totally screwing her up? Luckily, my husband was homeschooled and can show me the light again when I start to fret. He said, does it matter? When she is 20 will she not be able to function in the world? No. My fretting is over for a time. But, it was still nagging in the back of my thoughts.
Then I saw the light with my own eyes. My daughter had a friend here for a week from our old neighborhood. They got along wonderfully, which is amazing, they have completely different personalities that tend to grate on each other after too much time. But, not this time. They have both matured a lot. Anyway, they decided to play a marble game that they made up. Their scoring was too complicated for me to keep up with. My DD was the score keeper and I was thinking there is no way she can add those numbers together. She has never learned how. Lo and behold, she COULD and DID! How did she learn that? If that was in a math workbook, she never would have done it. Hmmm…….Then they were playing Boggle and again with some wacky scoring. My DD’s friend was score keeper this time and said, “sorry I can’t do this, I haven’t learned it yet in school”. My DD then proceeded to teach her how and it was absolutely amazing to listen to.
That was step one of seeing the light, step two happened when I was lying in bed thinking over my day. I realized that, if we were still doing school at home, she would have been required to do three pages in her math book, three pages in her spelling and so forth. Probably whining and complaining the whole time. Instead she chose and chooses, on her own, every day, to spend an hour at “math” or “writing” or whatever and has fun and is leaning so much more than I could have ever “taught” her.
I decided not to break her life into subjects anymore (using Sandra’s deschooling solution from her web site), so decided to go into a self inflicted denial of subjects for a couple of months. And the other night, when I finally let myself break things down again into subjects, I saw that I have nothing to worry about at all! After my DD got on with her life and over her worries about learning, she has amazed me with her wealth of knowledge and ingenuity everyday. And the amount of learning I am doing is more than I could have hoped for.
I want to say that I so appreciate these boards, maybe someday I will feel like I am far enough in our journey to hand out my knowledge. At this point, I read here every morning before my children wake up to find some little nugget of knowledge that I can take with me through my day.