Unschooling Voices blog carnival theme for February is deschooling. I first want to preface this with our homeschooling journey from the beginning.
I initially heard about homeschooling from my sister in law, who was homeschooling her then 2 boys, and 1 daughter. The boys were in upper grades, and daughter was probably about 2nd grade. I really thought she was crazy (sorry Deby, I did! But know much better now! Your kids are brilliant, btw) I asked a LOT of questions. My daughter Violet was getting ready to start kindergarten, and I even went as far as registering her at the local school, which was conveniently right down the street. She was reading at that time, and had been reading since she was 3, and reading very well by 4. I went to the orientation, and was kind of surprised to hear the questions they asked her for her orientation. They wanted to know if she knew her colors, how to count to 10, her alphabet. I got to thinking, this girl is going to be really bored in kindergarten! I decided this is not what I wanted for her, and withdrew our registration soon after. I picked up "What your kindergartner should know" and decided we were going to do this on our own. I even came up with a schedule for each day (that didn't last long!).
I started reading about homeschooling, I went to a CHN homeschooling conference, I joined a homeschooling play group. We made lots of homeschooler friends, and I asked a LOT more questions. I went ahead and signed her up for a charter school mid-Kindergarten year. I did this after finding that many other homeschoolers did this as well, and that you had the option to homeschool, and yet take the benefits of their resources, as well as take classes with them if you wanted to. I loved their Resource library and was able to check out books in many different areas, science kits, art supplies. We met with an educational facilitator once a month, and she was really great. We had to turn in samples every month, and categorize them by the different standards (social studies, language arts, math, etc......) As it being kindergarten year, it was not difficult. In the meantime, I started hearing about "unschooling". I was interested in the philosophies and agreed with the idea of child lead, interest lead learning that was involved. I could see how that could work in our home. I read many books about it, in particular John Holt, and I joined unschooling discussion boards, which are a wealth of information, and unschooling blogs, to see what kind of things people were doing and how it was working in their lives.
During 1st grade year, I started to feel that I was forcing her to do things, just so that we had samples to turn into the EF. Violet started resisting the work, and didn't enjoy it. I hated doing that to her. Earlier in the school year, the EF had suggested math texts and I found that Violet really hated the textbooks. So, I would turn in papers that we had done, be it on a scrap piece of paper, or whatever was available when the real life math moments came up. I found it more and more difficult to conform to the charter's requirements, as they did not fit in with our style of learning. Even though she tested well on the STAR tests, at the end of the 1st grade year, I withdrew her from the charter, and am now filing an R4 affidavit with the state, which basically states that you are a private school. Yes, you can do this.
Even though we were kind of eclectic homeschoolers, learning in many different forms, I can say now that I believe us to be unschoolers. I guess you can say we started deschooling, once I withdrew from the charter.
I completely backed off of the math, not even mentioning the word math, as it had a very negative reaction to it from Violet. I did not require any kind of writing from her nor any particular reading. I stopped restricting tv or computer time and stopped using it as a reward or limiting it in any way, and instead allowed her to watch it when she wanted to. I don't think it's been hard for the kids (even though Olivia is only 3). They're learning that what they consider interesting to them is going to be encouraged and nurtured. The hardest part of deschooling has been my own thinking. Having had 12 years of public schools and 4 years of college, I have been very indoctrinated into the way the school system and public believe children should be taught. It is my own thinking that creates road blocks in the way that I want to raise my children. And yet, when I completely give into this new way of thinking and learning, I am constantly shown that it works and can see the joy that our family receives from it.
For my non-unschoooling, non-homeschooling blogger friends, if you are interested in learning more about these ideas, please refer to the links on the right and some of the links that I provided in this post. I am not looking for controversy, I am simply sharing our experiences as unschoolers and how it works for us. I am not suggesting that it works for everyone, or that the school system doesn't work for others.