Day 14 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – What’s a Purple Thistle got to do with it?

When I think about unschooling the kids, I worry about the doors that may close because of it. I worry that they won’t be able to be part of the ‘System’ if they want to be. For instance, if they aren’t taught specifically how to pass tests, maybe they won’t be able to pass the kind of tests that would get them into the best universities, if that’s what they want to do – unless those universities can see past test results and see the person, the learning instead. Apparently more and more universities are doing this and way back when, Cambridge did with me – but I think I was very lucky with the individuals I met at Cambridge and that not all professors are like that there at all. It may have had something to do with the fact that I was applying to read Philosophy and that I was genuinely passionate about it. Perhaps the Philosophy Professors were also the kind of people to think a bit more ‘out of the box’ about applicants? I’m not sure. One day, I’d love to find the people concerned and ask them.

Anyway, what I think I should be thinking more about is the doors that will OPEN if the kids learn more naturally. I came across a place called the ‘Purple Thistle’ centre in Vancouver, Canada This place sounded a bit like my husband’s Environmental Faculty at York University in Toronto, where he did his Masters. Most people studying in this Faculty were what you might call ‘hippies’. They collectively ran an organic, vegan café. They wore recycled clothes i.e. from charity shops or handmade clothes. They smoked quite a bit of weed and so the stereotype went on. My husband and I didn’t fit the stereotype although we did have a lot of sympathy for a lot of their views.

The centre describes itself thus, “We are an alternative to school for many (a deschooling centre) – but you are totally welcome here if you are in school, college, university or some kind of training. We won’t think ill of you at all if you are in school” and “We are not a school (although we are often mistaken for one). We’re not even a nice school, or a democratic school, we are rethinking the idea of institutionalizing youth entirely”. The centre is somewhere that if we ever were to live in that area in Vancouver, our kids might spend some time. I found my husband’s Faculty quite intimidating because I felt that we weren’t living enough of the values we both shared, whilst they were. This was for many reasons, some very valid, some not. So somewhere like the ‘Purple Thistle’, would have intimidated me as an adult in my 30s, let alone a teenager. And yet, I’d have so much wanted to feel like I belonged. Our kids though, especially if we unschool them, giving them a deep understanding of our values about social justice, caring for the environment, the importance of critical thinking skills and given their opportunity to decide so much of this for themselves means that they could feel very comfortable at the ‘Purple Thistle’. They will hopefully not just feel very confident in their world view and but feel they are consciously living it and feel that their views and their actions are in harmony which is a very peaceful feeling.

I think that unschooling will open more doors for the kids than it may shut. And it may well not shut any of the conventional doors anyway, if they choose they want to go through them. I think unschooling will, above all, help the children to have the confidence to follow their true selves and how many people do I know who do that? Not many, I’m afraid. Furthermore, I think unschooling will help them follow their true selves whilst having a conscious awareness of how their personal actions effect the wider community in which they live which is the only way to live if one wants to contribute to a better world.

Please always feel free to post comments on any of the days you read, however old they are. Your views are valuable and it’s always good to have debate. If you’re busy but enjoyed that day’s blog, please do press the ‘Like’ button at the end of the post. It would be much appreciated as it helps encourage more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! Any comments about Maths teaching is especially appreciated and suggestions about resources warmly welcome!


About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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