Every so often I go through a big learning phase, at the moment my attention has been focused on unschooling. I said it. Yes I am aware that images of hippies running wild with dreadlocks instantly comes to your mind, or perhaps worse. I’m currently fighting off the images myself. For some reason, and I’m not sure why yet, it appeals to me. It just feels right. Maybe I am actually a closet hippie – actually speaking of which, the other day I was on pinterest (as you do!) and there were quite a few hippie inspired outfits and such, and I wondered to myself whether that was something that I thought would ever appeal to me, and I dont think it is.. I’m more of a classic, clean cut with a bit of jazz going on now and again. Maybe I’m just a hippie with a better fashion sense. What makes a hippie a hippie… is it the clothes, the highness or the mindset – can I just be one third hippie, hmmm?
I came across this the other day and it made me warm inside.. It just made so much sense to me, almost like a lightbulb had gone on inside me… you actually have to read it quickly once and then slower a second time and really let the words sink it…
What people become under one set of circumstances does not tell us very much about what they might have become under another. Japanese gardeners, over many centuries, have learned to do things to trees, to clip their roots or trim their branches, to limit their supply of water, air, or sun, so that they live, and for a long time, but only in tiny, shrunken, twisted shapes. Such trees may please us, or they may not. But what could they tell us about the nature of trees? If a tree can be deformed and shrunk, is this, then, its nature? The nature of these trees, given enough of the sun, air, water, soil, and food they need, is to grow like trees, tall and straight. People can be more easily deformed, and worse deformed, even than trees—and more than trees, they feel it, it hurts. But this cannot and does not say anything about their nature. Only to the degree that people have what they need, that they are healthy and unafraid, that their lives are varied, interesting, meaningful, productive, joyous, can we begin to judge, or even guess, their nature. Few people, adults or children, now live such lives. Perhaps few ever did. There is no way to find out how much good or kindness there may be in human nature, except to build or try to build a society on the assumption that people are or would like to be good and kind, a society in which to be good and kind is at least not a handicap. Until we are able to do this, it would be more wise and fair, and even prudent, to give human beings the benefit of the doubt. – John Holt, Instead of Education
John Holt is almost the father of unschooling/homeschooling and he has many, many profound things to say on the subject and I just love his work. I have, until now, only read articles and bits and pieces but I recently purchased one of his books and am eagerly thumbing through it trying to soak up as much as I can. My darling husband has been on about this sort of thing for ages and as I do, I sort of said yea yea until I “discovered” it myself, and of course now its all the rage. So I have been soaking up anything I can find on it and I have joined all the Facebook groups and I even have a board on pinterest dedicated to all the unschooling treasures I come across (pssst go check it out!) and I am all ready to go.
Only one problem… I am scared as hell. I do not want an uneducated child. My heart is saying yes and my brain is tormenting me with images of a poor, unkempt, dirty nails, dont know how to read or write child whose life has been ruined because I fell in love with an idea of life. I have made difficult, life changing decisions before so this is not something new to me but its the most foreign. I dont know enough to confidently stride into this one. I am trying to calm myself though and remind myself that she is only 2 years old and the night is young, but the panic rears its head when I’m not watching.
I know the biggest problem here is that I, and probably 99% of the worlds population, am wired to not trust my child. I have come to believe that children will not choose to learn or better themselves unless they are forced or coerced into doing so. I have come to believe that children are innately bad and given the choice between right or wrong, they will choose wrong. Even as I type this I can see the error in my belief system, but nonetheless its there and thats what I’ve got at the moment. I can work on changing it, but today, thats what I’ve got. It is a constant battle between the heart and mind. Between what I know is right and what I’ve been trained to believe is right.
In a nutshell, unschooling is allowing your child to grow as nature intended. Helping your child figure out what makes their heart sing and providing the opportunities for them to pursue their interests rather than forcing them to comply to imposed regulations and learn a whole bunch of stuff that goes in one ear and out the other and they never use in their lives again anyway. Giving your child the freedom to be who they are meant to be. Not boxing them into an ideal or a system where they are forced to be something or someone they are not.
Unschooling does not believe in forcing or coercing a child to do anything. And I mean anything. Yes, there are different extremes and every family can set their own limits according to how they feel comfortable but proper, crunchy, O.G unschooling is letting your child be the master of their lives. See why I’m so scared!? My inner, suppressed, boxed in, self is screaming out at the absurdity of me even typing this kind of stuff out, let alone actually considering it. What has this world come to, I ask?! Actually, to be honest, when I think of the current state of the world I’m tempted to think we’ve been on the wrong path all along.. maybe a change will do some good. Unschooling does not mean uneducated in any way or form. It just sounds like it does.
Perhaps I will come to my senses, perhaps not… at the moment time is on my side and nothing is set in stone. I will check in and update my progress from time to time as I travel down this road and learn about this strangely exciting concept. Come along, it will be fun 😉
Meanwhile back at the ranch… Packing for Zambia is underway.. kind of.. oh yes, we’re off to Zambia – well one third of us has already gone and the rest will follow shortly.. first I need to stock up on supplies and get my nails done, the essentials as I’m not sure what I’m in for on the other side. And French lessons are well underway.. well not lessons per se but french lessons playing in the background at convenient times and the child and I are both actually learning quite a few words.. I can’t say for certain if this falls into the whole unschooling thing, but its not structured and there’s no pressure involved so its wonderfully rad but educational at the same time.. Two birds…
Note to self – take note of the blogging tips and tricks article which stated that using cliches should be kept to a minimal in blogs – I think I have over stepped the limit on this one.